By: Sanajaoba Meetei
Imphal, October 15: After decades of the reign of Christianity among the tribal of the state, discovering of a lost traditional dress for women called Ngalengjei of Kom community has enthralled the people of this community.
As different ethnic groups and communities have their own traditions and dresses, the Kom community too has its own tradition and dresses which shows their unique identity. Likewise, headdress is one of the inseparable dress of every men of the Kom community. The name Kom itself was derived from ‘Lu Kom Akhom’ which literally meant community who wears headdress, according to the narrative history of the Kom community.
One octogenarian from Khoirentak called K Kurpu Kom told Hueiyen Lanpao that the Kom community does not have written history. Instead, they keep alive their history in folksongs or folklores and inscription on dresses. Every traditional items of the Kom community has its own associated folksongs, he said.
Since the coming of Christianity, most of the traditions and culture of Kom community have been lost in due course. Even if it is late, now they have realised that they can’t identify themselves without their tradition and culture even though they have followed a more widely accepted religion.
In such situation, it is not an easy task to retrace the lost history and rediscover their traditions and cultures. However, relentless efforts of some youths of the community to rediscover their lost traditions have proved successful when a nonagenarian woman brought out a dress of women whom the Koms have not seen for the past decades even though they have heard of it. Ngalengjei, the traditional dress of Kom women was brought out by the old lady and also taught them how to weave such dresses. They were overwhelmed on finding a lost property of the community.
The Kom community has three different types of headdress which are Wanguram, Chararam and Karangam. While the first one is used only in wartime, the other two are used in festivals and mourning ceremonies respectively. They have also a unique tradition to dig up the skull of their dead ones and dressing a headdress during their first death anniversary (Phiroy).
If a Kom person is seen with one edge of his headdress on the back, one can know that he is a king. While people with both edges on the right side of the head denoted that they are elder people and people with both edges on each side are youths of Kom community, according to their tradition.
Unfortunately, the inseparable tradition of wearing headdress among the youths of the community has been distinctively lost. Moreover, many traditional dresses of men like Punthei, Peisapen, Pundabo, Pundum, Punchai and Punchai Ayok are also gradually losing their foothold among the people of Kom community. Out of the different dresses, Punthei and Punsapen are special dresses worn by special persons of the community. Certain religious rituals are performed at the start of weaving process and in times of cutting of the clothes from the looms.
Secretary, Kom Cultural Dance and Research Centre S Achem Kom told Hueiyen Lanpao that they faced many problems in rediscovering their lost traditions and culture. However, most of the problems are not insurmountable since it has only been a few years that the Kom community had adopt Christianity. He also urged the people of other communities to hunt down their lost traditions and culture before the invasion of Christianity gulped down all their traditions and culture irrecoverably.
An 18 years old Chingkip told Hueiyen Lanpao that she felt immense pleasure in taking part in the effort to weave the lost Ngalengjei. She expressed the need for every youths of the community to work hard and regain the lost traditions and culture.
Source: Hueiyen Lanpao