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Friday, February 11, 2011


(Including a Sample Survey on Bishnupriya Manipuri Literature)
 - Pratibha Sinha -

Preserve Literature, Save Language”

Literature is one of the finest aspects of proliferation of the human civilization. Literature enlarges the horizon of human experiences and develops sensitivity towards various occurrences in life. In other words, ‘Literature’ is a reflection of the society and ‘Literary Works’ are the portrayals of the thinking patterns and social norms prevalent in the society. Literature describes both reality & value-addition. The creative association with literature motivates the individual to express himself/herself in a creative manner.

Language and Literature are inseparable. A community can save its language by preserving literature. Language is one of the indicators of the development of a society. Well-acquaintance with language is the base of developing Literature. But the study of literature cannot be restricted to only studying languages or confined only to an educational curriculum. Language is enriched with the great classical works in the literature. Language helps the individual to get acquainted with the immortal treasure of literature, creates awareness, inculcates high moral, social, spiritual as well as aesthetic values and develops power of appreciation and creative expression. This is how language aids to the literally development of the individual.

Literature always serves as an enormous and authentic source of information base. Research works and literary works often narrate stories of historic events, discoveries and developments. Ongoing developments & changes in various fields are documented through literatures in multi-languages so that the world can be aware of all these historic records. So, preservation of literatures is an important aspect for human civilization.

Some of the great epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Chanakya’s “Arthashastra” Rabindranath Tagore’s “Gitanjali”, among other literary works; still provides society with the guiding principles of life. Every book that a person reads leaves a deep impression on him/her. Even a casual reader, who picks up a book just to pass time, also acquired some knowledge. While an individual reads for pleasure, he/she gathers little bits of information and wisdom from books and all these fragments of information together form a vast store of knowledge, which reflects on the individual’s personality.

Bishnupriya Manipuri(BM) literature has been one of the media of information and spreading message among the people of the community but it’s existence has been restricted only within a limited section of the people. Bishnupriya Manipuri literatures are available in the form of prose, short story, novel, folk tale, drama, lyrics, essays, fictions, autobiography and biography, literary critical appreciation, travelogue, educational, journal, magazine, newspaper, narrative form of literature, linguistic etc. Many translation works also took place in Bishnupriya Manipuri from the classical works of Sanskrit and others languages, like Srimad Bhagabat Gita, Ishoponisad, Rubayaate-Umar-Khayam, Kalidasa’s Meghdhootam, Sri Ramkatha, Poems of Rabindranath Tagore etc. which are great efforts made by the writers. There are literary works made in other languages too which are very less in numbers.

Bishnupriya Manipuri(BM) literature developed a lot in the last ten decades but in a very slow pace. Serious literary work of the BM language began during the period 1981-1990 onwards. Whatever is the present status of BM literature, it has become possible only because of the contributions and sacrifice of the dedicated authors/poets, who wrote on different subjects of their interests which shows their serious inclination towards literature. Inspite of various hindrances like personal, socio-economic problems, linguistic problem, political etc., the contribution of Bishnupriya Manipuri writers in developing BM literature is commendable.  Though many printed publications of BM Literature are coming up but the volume is not at all in good numbers as compared to other literary works done by writers of other established languages like Bengali, Hindi, English, Assamese etc.. Writers/Authors like Mohendra Kr Sinha, Dr.K.P.Sinha, Brojendra Kr.Sinha(Dhananjay Rajkumar), Jogendra Kumar Sinha, DILS Lakhsmindra Sinha, Biresh Ranjan Singha, Ranjit Sinha(from Bangladesh), Prabhas Kanti Sinha, Sudhanya Sinha, Indra Kumar Sinha, Birendra Sinha, Champalal Sinha, Chandra Kanta Sinha,  Mathura Sinha, Shyamananda Sinha, Haridas Sinha etc. did maximum literary works in BM literature.

We remember Gokulananda Geetiswami as a great litterateur besides being a Kirtani, a politician, a composer and a social reformer and the present generation came to know about him and his contributions through his biography “GEETISWAMI GOKULANANDA JIVANI BARO KARAPEC in three volumes written & edited by Haridas Sinha (from Tripura). From these 3 volumes of the book, we can read Geetiswami’s life-long drive and contributions to bring awareness and upliftment of the community and being a litterateur, his contributions towards literary activities like writing dramas, poems, songs, composing songs had put a great impact on people’s thoughts and social reform. The contribution of such a multi-faceted personality in diverse fields in the society is a source of inspiration for today’s generation. The development of Bishnupriya Manipuri language and literature owe a great deal to this great person.

Generally, BM writers publishes their writings in the printed book form on their own expenditure, as there are no publishers for BM literatures as well as no market/platform for wide circulation. However, in recent past few self-help groups, associations, Nikhil Bishnupriya Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Bishnupriya Manipuri Sahitya Sabha, Pouri (from Bangladesh) and other interested individuals are coming forward to finance the authors in printing & publishing the books. As there is no market for BM literatures, the circulation of such printed books is very poor or in otherwise, it is seen that when a book comes out after final print from press, the circulation of these books are done through hand to hand through friends, relatives, distance known persons or in some special social occasions with large gatherings. So, the volume of number of printed BM Books are very less in number and in time of need on searching such books by interested persons, it is found difficult to trace the books easily. On today’s date, due to all these reasons there are large number of manuscripts of various writers still lying unpublished in printed book form.

In such situations, it is also found that there are no proper and formal preservation or archiving system of BM literatures. It is very common to find collections of BM literatures with very few literally inclined persons/writers who keep interest in keeping collections of such books for record but not in any library or any bookstall. If such literary treasures are not preserved properly & safely in time, we may not find any trace of such books in the next 50 years.  Bishnupriya Manipuris have already lost the written documents of Bishnupriya Manipuri literatures of older periods as these old records and historical books including literatures had been destroyed or efforts had been made to destroy them.

In the 21st century, BM literature is still lagging far behind from the reach of each & every sections of people of the community and among people of other communities of the society. The preservation system of literatures is also very poor. There should be well-managed proper library facilities with quality books which may attract more readers of different categories like children, students, adults, aged etc. and encourage the writers to canvas their thoughts through their creative writings which may result in increase in the volume of BM literature. This will also encourage more young writers to come up with the modern form of writings.

For easy access of books, Mobile Library, Digital Library and Public Library System may be introduced so that the public can obtain books under a single roof system. Along with safe custody of the literatures, there should be digital archiving of literatures with the help of modern IT technologies like Computerization of library operations (Library Database), web-based online literary directory/ public access catalogue, e-book etc. for record & information. It will also help in proper analysis on the standard and quality of books written from time to time so that necessary steps and initiatives may be taken to develop the BM literatures.

A Sample Survey on Bishnupriya Manipuri Literatures

On the above context, I have made a maiden effort to conduct a sample survey on Bishnupriya Manipuri(BM) Literatures. The survey was made on a sample of about 400 BM books written and published by Bishnupriya Manipuri Writers on various subjects to get an imminence on the volume of literary works done so far. The history of Manipuri literature began in 1925 with the literary magazine “Jagaran” edited by Falguni Singha, then from 1933 onwards a number of journals like Manipuri (1933), Mekhali (1938) and Kshatryajyoti (1944), Amaar Akhor(1949) by Swetbahon Sinha etc. As, I could not amass much information on pre-1951 era works, I have taken the samples of book published during the period 1951 to 2010 (60 years).

For recording information of all these book details, first of all I have designed a computerised programmed “Literary Information Database”. With the help of this database, many reports can be taken out for summarizing and analyzing.  I have made some analysis based on the database report as under:-

From Fig.1. below, we can see a comparative position of BM literatures published during the last 60 years (based on the sample of 400 nos. of books). During the period 1951-1960(1% books), 1961-1970(4%) & 1971-80(8%), the percentage of books published is very poor.  There is a sudden increase to 24%( 95 books) during the period 1981-1990 which shows the growth of interest in literary work seriously among the BM writers. This is the most crucial period when the community people were putting pressure on the Government demanding recognition of Bishnupriya Manipuri language. The trend in growth continued and development in the BM literature can be found during the period 1991-2000 with 29%(119 books) and 2001-2010 with 29%(117 books, there may be more books). This shows that both the writers and readers are showing more interests and giving more efforts to develop literary works in Bishnupriya Manipuri.

From Fig.2 below, it can be seen that BM literatures have been written on various subjects during last 60 years (1951-2010). The highest literary work done can be found in Poetry writing by BM Writers with 28% (110 poetry books based on the sample of 400 books). Secondly, writers had shown maximum interest in writing articles, poems, biographies etc. through Magazines, like monthly magazines, quarterly magazines, annual magazines, Souvenirs etc.. From the fig.2 it can be seen that Magazine publications is the second highest literary work done with 22%(89 books). Other major literary works were done through Story writing(7%)- 28 books, Linguistic (6%), Song Lyrics(6%), Dramas(6%), Biography(4%), Essay writing(4%), Translations(4%), Novel (2%), Historical (2%), Travelogue(1%) etc.

From the sample collections of 400 books, it can also be seen that there are about 114 writers/authors (may vary) who have contributed to the BM literatures and also in other languages like Bengali, Assamese, Hindi, English etc.. Out of them, maximum published books available are of - Dr. Kali Prasad Sinha(39 books), Brojendra Kumar Sinha(16 nos.) & as Dhananjay Rajkumar – 22 nos., Jogendra Kumar Sinha (23), Bidhan Sinha(13), DILS Lakhsmindra Sinha (13), Biresh Ranjan Singha(11), Ranjit Sinha(from Bangladesh-more than 09 books), Prabhas Kanti Sinha(8), Sudhanya Sinha(7), Shuvashis Sinha(7), Indra Kumar Sinha(6), Birendra Sinha(>=6 ), Champalal Sinha(6), Chandra Kanta Sinha(5), Shibendra Sinha, Silchar(5), Mathura Sinha(8), Shyamananda Sinha(5), Haridas Sinha(6) and many more. There are many other writers who have published their writings (poem, story, dramas, songs, essays, articles etc.) through different magazines. There are many manuscripts still lying unprinted and unpublished in a compiled book form due to lack of financers or publishers. Click here to see the list of BM Writers.

            As the aforementioned analysis have been done based on a sample of 400 books only, the figures may be assumed to be in close proximity which is likely to vary if analysed on a wider perspective. I ought to make another detailed effort after being able to assimilate as much possible, information on the literary works of BM.

 When we confer about digital archiving of literatures with the help of modern IT technologies, Bishnupriya Manipuri literatures had already taken it’s space on the internet world, better to be mentioned that Bishnupriya Manipuri word is available on almost all the major Internet search engines like google, yahoo etc.. Many websites are available on the internet providing a glimpse on Bishnupriya Manipuri’s literature, culture, society, etc, informations  which are included in wikipedia, web encyclopedia(English edition) too. There is also a Bishnupriya Manipuri Language Edition of Wikipedia (http://bpy.wikipedia.org), the free encyclopedia on internet containing about 24,747 articles written in Bishnupriya Manipuri Script. This is highly remarkable & incredible feat for the BM language(Emar Thar) and literature. Yes, it is really a true fact and nobody can deny that the efforts made to popularize the Bishnupriya Manipuri Community on the internet were the two whole-hearted dedicated persons  Uttam Singha (from USA) and Ashim Singha (from Bangladesh) since 1997 onwards. Their service is highly commendable. There after, many Bishnupriya Manipuri News sites also started coming up on the internet which are maintained on individual level. All these websites are helping in digital archiving of informations about Bishnupriya Manipuri community, which will serve as significant records for future till the Internet exists. 

In order to have a collection and an archive of all informations on BM literatures, a Website named BM Books Gallery Online (www.bmbooksgallery.blogspot.com) has been designed in the meantime by me. From the website, anybody can gather information on BM literature by searching the name of book, author’s name, subject-wise, year of publications and books written in different languages by BM writers. At present, no texts of the books are uploaded in the site. But, in the next phase after obtaining due permission from the authors, selected written text of the published books will be uploaded on the site for making the people more aware with BM literatures. This will also help the young generation to become more familiar with BM literature and come up with something new and contemporary.

Our dedicated writers, Sahitya Sabhas/Parishads and publishers have to take some initiatives to evaluate the latest status of Bishnupriya Manipuri literature so as to provide a baseline conclusion highlighting those areas so that appropriate future work can be undertaken and steps can be taken for manual or digital preservation. Traditional libraries become the initial economic preservation system. Side by side, digital library through computerised programs may be implemented for archiving for information.

In conclusion, the necessity for revitalizing and preserving indigenous languages audio-visually, written documentation through literary works or any other media thus becomes obligatory. As language has certain terms and expressions describing things or ideas that reflect the knowledge gathered by one people over generations, the documentation of language and language use within different situations (e.g., story telling, songs, rituals, everyday life) can be a first step towards developing and preserving colloquial languages. It is imperative, however, that as language is an irreplaceable source of cultural knowledge and serves to transmit cultural & social traditions, the process of language revitalization and preservation of literary works must take place within the society and linguistic context in which it makes sense.

I intend to convey my heartiest gratitude to Shri Sunil Kr. Sinha, a professional artist cum writer and social activist of Guwahati who helped me all along to prepare a database of BM literature by providing me all the required informations of Bishnupriya Manipuri literatures from his well-maintained & nice collection books. With his co-operation & suggestions, I have been able to compile the information on books, scanned the covers of and details of the books for the “Literary Information Database” and for the website BM Books Gallery Online (Bishnupriya Manipuri Sahitya Sangraha)www.bmbooksgallery.blogspot.com.  I also thank him for referring me a nice literary collection work done by Shri Sudhanya Sinha, Ex-Assistant General Secretary, Nikhil Bishnupriya Manipuri Sahitya Parishad/Central Committee and a writer, where he gave a list of all BM books published during the period 1949-2000 in his article “Fongonir Patabe Bishnupriya Manipuri Lerikor Porichiti Purelhan” in NUWA ELA, a two monthly Literary Magazine in Bishnupriya Manipuri (in 7 issues -18th year 5th Issue Mar-April 2000  to 19th year 6th Issue May-June, 2001).

Secondly, I am ever grateful to Shri Santosh Sinha, Lecturer(Deptt. Of Bengali) of S.K. Roy College for the immense cooperation and support extended on his behalf by providing me with myriad information about the Bishnupriya Manipuri literature, details of various publications/books, authors’ details and scanned images of many book covers. Being a young writer, a budding poet, a Phd, student and educationist, he is very updated regarding the present scenario and current affairs about literature. I received his all out co-operation in making the sample survey on BM literature and information compilation successfully.

I also express my vote of thanks from the core of my heart to all those who have contributed, supported and co-operated in the making of this anthology.     




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