By: Nelson Elangbam and Rajkumar Somorjit
The Andro village, about 27 km from Imphal along the Imphal-Andro road, is located in the midst of a valley surrounded by the Shandangshenba hill in the south-west, the Nongmaijing hill in the north west and the Uchanpokpi hill in the west. It is one of the oldest villages in Manipur.
The Andro village is inhabited by a loi community. The term loi is very controversial. It is a term given to those people who were exiled by the kings of Manipur. According to Chingakham Ghandharaj Meetei, the present Khullakpa (chief) of the village, their forefathers (the Chingakham family, which is one of the biggest families in the Andro village) migrated to this village as they refused to accept Ramanandi School of Vaisnavism during the reign of Pamheiba (1709-1748 CE). The Court Chronicle Cheitharon Kumpapa gives us the vivid account of how Pamheiba misused his imperial power to convert his subjects into Hinduism. The opening page of the genealogy work entitled Sangai Phammang reads:
“On 7 November 1734 CE Pamheiba divided his subjects into castes- Lukun thangba Ksatriya (Hindunized warriors) and Lugun Thangdaba Ksatriya ( Non-Hindunized warriors). The Brahmanised warriors are Ningthoucha, Angom, Moirang, Luwang, Khuman, Kha-Nganba and Sarang-Leishangthem. The non-Brahmanised warriors are Khamaran, Takhen, Mayang, Kapo, Kapui, Thagkhul and others. He also prohibited intermarriage between these two castes.”
Pamheiba also discontinued the Meetei way of life. He prohibited cow-slaughter, meat-eating, brewing wine and domestication of pig and fowl in the capital. The court chronicle recorded punishments inflicted to those who disobeyed his order. It is possible that Pamheiba classed the people of Andro as loi as they refused to accept Hinduism.
The Andro village existed long before Pamheiba. According to the Royal Chronicle the village was recognised for the first time during the reign of Naokhamba (411-428 CE). Some scholars say that the people of Andro are called loi because they were subjugated by the Meetei kings. The term loi is also given to those villages which were conquered by the kings of Manipur. The people of Andro prefer to call themselves as Chakpa who were probably pre- Meetei autochthones. According to Moirangthem Norendra Singh in his book Meihourol the Chakpa rose in rebellion until the reign of Charairongpa( 1697-1709 CE) who finally subjugated them. Accordingly they assimilated into Meetei.
There is a mythological clue about the amalgamation of Chakpa with Meetei in the pre-historic period. It is a well-known fact that long before the proto-Meeteis descended upon Imphal valley, the area was the centre of the Chakpa civilization. The myth of Chakpa Sawangpa Menongpa ascending to the sky in pursuit of a deer shows that the Chakpas had worshipped the unseen forces of nature, symbolised by Sangai (Brow Antlered deer). Around first century CE, however, there was a profound change, as the gods began to be seen as dragons, a snake with antlers upon its head. This could be taken as symbolically telling us a historical phenomenon of the subjugation of the stag worshippers (Chakpas) by the snake worshippers (Meetei).
Occupation of the village:
The people of Andro are agriculturists. Each house have their own pottery factory, brewing hut, pig-pen and its surrounding by a little kitchen garden in which culinary vegetables are raised in large quantity.
Andro is famous for its hand-made pottery.
In the past they provided mortuary vessels for the royal family. Andro is one of the seven pot- making community of Manipur. The others are Chiren, Thongjao, Nongpok Sekmai, Ningthemcha Karong, Nungbi and Oinam.
An ancient M.S. entitled Chakpalon Khuntaba refers the first creation of pot in the shape of the thalamus of a flower called Nura Khundonglei (Melastame Malabathricum). Married women play monopoly in making pottery. It is a taboo from men for practising this craft. The materials used in making pottery are Leicheng (weathered rock used as temper) and Leitan (black clay). The collection of raw materials is customarily started after a ritual performs by pepa (social head) of three lineage on the 5th day of the lunar month Fairen (Jan/Feb). The collection of clay continues till the month Kalen (May/June). The Andro village produces a variety of pottery. Some of them are Mera Kharung (vessel for storing water), Lai Chaphu (ceremonial ware), Maring Kharung (storage vessel), Mera Chaphu, Yuyaphu (liquor brewing vessel), Thumkharung (carrying vessel), Ngangkha (cooking vessel), Yukhom (vessel for drinking liquor), Ngangkok (steam cooking vessel), Wangkam ( serving vessel), Kamuk (serving vessel), Thagmei makhong, Meikoichaphu (use for funeral rite) etc. Nowadays they produce different terracotta figurines and other decorative items.
Brewing liquor (Yu) is a household industry in Andro village . Three types of Yu are produced. They are Waiyu, Atingba and Kalei (also known as Yu Ngou). Waiyu and Atingba are rice beer and the last one the distilled liquor. The ingredients use in making Yu are rice and hamei, a mixed product of rice flour and a kind of hop called Yangli. Their wine jars are very similar to those wine vessels found in ancient Greece.
Many Yumjao( traditional Meetei houses) and Sanggoi can be seen in the Andro village. These houses are made of slatted bamboo. The roof is thatched with local grass called ee.
The population of Andro is divided into two panas- Ahallup and Nahalup- according to their lineage. The Khullakpa is the social head of the village.
In the past the Khullakpa was appointed by the kings. Today the post of Khullakpa is elected by the elders of the village. He is assisted by a council of Phamdao Ningthou. There are seven Phamdou Ningthou . Khullakpa is the most powerful status of the village. Below him there are Lupllakpa, Khunjahanba, Khabamlakpa, Yupanba , Pakhanglakpa and Nahalakpa. The majority families of this village are Phanjaobam, Chingakham and Salam. There are around sixteen extended families in this village. These families are organized into two social groups called Nahalup Pana and Ahallup Pana. There are two Shangs (departments) for Naharup and Ahalup. All the sagei (extended families) are equally affiliated to the Panas. For instance, the Chingakham family is affiliated to Ahanlup and Khunungmayum to Naharup. These two Pana organise all the religious ceremonious such as Lai Haraoba, Langban Lai haiba etc. A man is enrolled in his Pana after 6 months of his marriage. He is declared a member of the Pana after he offers one hen or 100 rupees to the department.
During the period of kings the power of Khunlakpa (village chief) had a big responsibility in executing the law and order of the village. In 1964 CE Panchayati Raj is introduced by the India Government. Under this Act the Andro village has become Nagar Panchayat and the judicial powers and functions are executed by the Panchayat. The powers of Khunlakpa and his council are confined only in religious and customary functions with the abolition of the royal dynasty of Manipur after the state was merger to India in 1949 CE.
Religion and Rituals:
Fire worship is a typical characteristic of the people of Andro and it is evident from the shrine of Panam Ningthou, which is one of the three main shrines of the Andro village. The other two shrines are Pureiromba and Chingsonba. The villagers preserve a sacred fire place inside the temple of Panam Ningthou. It is popularly known as Andro-gee-Mei, “The fire of Andro”. According to their oral tradition this fire has been kept burning since it was brought by Poireiton and his wife Reima Leinao Tabi in the first century CE. The villagers keep the fire uninterruptedly burning on daily rotation. There are around four venerations for ancestors inside the temple. All the rituals are associated with agricultural cycle. The Lai- Haraoba ritual of Panam Ningthou is restricted for outsiders. It is observed in the spring. In the temple complex there are two buildings or Shanglen for Ahanlup and Naharup. There are also two youth dormitories known as Koso, where unmarried boys and girls hang out during the Panam Lai Haraoba.
Cultural complex of Andro:
This cultural complex is managed by Mr. Mutua Bahadur and the villagers of Andro. In this omplex there are many artefacts of historical and cultural significances.
There are also many prototypes of traditional tribal houses, rock engraving, totem poles etc. There are also many 19th century paintings including the paintings of Badra Singh and Yunjao Sana.
The Travelogue “jourNE to Andro” was filmed on 28th August 2011 with a hope to share the beauty of Andro, Manipur. The film has already been broadcasted in ISTV on 10th Oct 2011 at 7pm.
The same is also available online at the below links :-
2/ ISTV :-
1) Manibabu Mayenglambam, Pottery of the Andros of Manipur: A study on Ethnoarchaeology, (Manipur University: Ph.d. thesis, 2005).
2) Ibungohal .L and Khelchandra, N (ed), Cheitharol Kumbaba (Imphal: Manipur Sahitya Parishad, 1967)
3) Parratt Saroj Nalini Arambam (ed), The Court Chronicle of the Kings of Manipur, vol I (New York: Routledge, 2005).
4) Sana Rajkumar Somorjit, The Chronology of Meetei Monarchs: 1666 CE to 1850 CE (Imphal: W.Ananda Meetei, 2010).
5) Ibemhal Thounaojam , Haoreima Sambubi (Imphal: Arambam Samarendra, 2000)
6) Narendra Moirangthem, Meihourol (Imphal, 2005)
7) Hemchandra Chanam, Meihoural Sangai Phammang (Imphal, 2004)