Jewelries and ornaments add on to the beauty of a person like apparels. They have always remained popular, Indians and Indian women are generally well known for their beautiful ornaments and some of the costly metals that make them is considered to be a security for women, and is referred to as “Stree Dhan”, literally it means wealth of woman or wife. Jewelries have a number of, relevance in the city of Manipur, where women are considered fair as well as beautiful. The Manipuri traditional jewelry makes them look even more elegant. The land of Manipur was known as a state of ‘Subarna Bhu’ to the rest of India, signifying the Land of Gold. Which means that the gold was available in abundance and the land is known for consuming gold. Either way, the land is linked to the precious yellow metal since its mythical age. In the modern term “Manipur” means the land of gems.
Different Manipuri Traditional Jewelry
Beads and Gems used in Ornaments of Manipur
The use of beads in the making of Manipuri traditional jewelry is very common. Beads are generally used for making necklaces, which is made by making the garlands by passing thread through the beads. Designs in these are several and several garlands are also combined to make a single necklace.
The Meitheis also knew the use of gems. Many of the traditional gold ornaments are basically studded with gems of various types. It is also said that the basic local gems are also available in the Chandel and Ukhrul districts. Traditionally, the Meitheis also used to buy the raw gems from tribes, cut and polish them in their own way and also use them in jewellery. Sometimes they bring gems from Burma as well as from the rest of India. But in the recent past, many have acquired the knowledge of gem cutting into the modern technique. It is said, that the gems from Manipur are all of international standards. Gem dealers from Jaipur, as well as Mumbai, are getting their products finished from Manipur. As it can be done in a fine way at a very low cost. Thus, the ornaments of Manipur, have a better dazzle.
Many of the Manipuri traditional jewelry are still very popular. Some of them are like Kiyang-Likphang, Marei, Heibi Mapal, Khimahurn etc. are known for its popularity. Marei and Heibi Mapal are one of the most popular, very distinctive and highly artistic. These exquisitely rich, as well as intricate jewelry designs, are finding a new clientele among the urban women. The material that is used is from the ranges of gold, silver, as well as brass. Popular ornaments also include brass and silver necklaces, earrings as well as nose studs.
Tribal Ornaments of Manipur
The tribal, Manipuri traditional jewelry is typically very different. While making ornaments, the tribes rarely use metals. They mainly procure ornaments which are made of metals from the Meitheis or from Assam. Their exclusivity in the ornaments lies in the bead ornaments, ivory armlets and ornaments from seeds or beetles.
In tribes, the armlets are mostly made of hollowed ivory rings or rings from the shells, either made by them or procured from outside. Brass, as well as bell metal armlets and the bangles, are usually obtained from the Meitheis. Necklaces and the necklets are usually made using the beads, which are either made from the bone of an animals or seeds of certain kind of plants. The beads are basically round or even cylindrical, polished by their hand by rubbing against stone, with a hole at the center.
Necklaces are made by passing the strings through the beads with help of needles. As variation in the design, cowries are occasionally used in between. Beads are basically of multiple colours as well as necklaces are made of several layers depending on the design. These bead necklaces are the part of their dancing attire. One such bead necklaces, are red, black and white beads.
Often, the wristbands are generally made out of beads in the same way as the necklaces. They match the necklaces which are made. Bead hair bands are also very appealing. Many tribes also use bamboo or even cane legging dyed with vegetable dyes as the ornaments. These leggings are basically coiled after the heating according to the size of the wearer. Cane or even bamboo ear, as well as nose studs, were very common, along with the cane armlets or the wristlets dyed and adorned with the bird feathers.
Manipur, thus, has a very rich as well as the vibrant tradition of Manipuri traditional jewelry and ornament making, some of them flourishing while some others are languishing, depending upon all the social changes and the market demand.