Saling- a memorial of the ancestral past

* From the Kom tribe of Manipur
Kom is an important tribal group among the 33 Scheduled Tribes of Manipur. They are found largely in Churachandpur & Chandel and Senapati districts of Manipur. From the available oral tradition of the tribe, they believed that their ancestors have come out to present land from the Khurpui (a cave) by piercing a ferocious tiger that stood on their way. This is well reflected in their folk songs, myths and legends. Kom tribe of Khoirentak village are fondly referred to as the turbaned people by the neighbouring villages of Manipur valley because they adorn their Lukom (traditional turban) symbolizing a prestigious head dress among every male of the tribe.


The tradition of erecting memorial pillar as a symbol of status for a noble or rich person in a village was prevalent among the Kom tribe of Manipur in their ancient past. Such kind of memorial pillar, traditionally known as Saling represents a unique structure of ‘Y’-shaped post having two equal branches rising upward from a single pillar. This Y-Post possesses beautiful carving laid with traditional motifs on one of its side. Since the post appears the Roman letter 'Y', people of this tribe also fondly call it as Wairo. The geometrical motives carved on the two branches of the post symbolises their prestigious gown called Pasaipon signifying that the person had a number of Pasaipon in his possession. A projected circular motif on the body of the post is called Sumlaipong representing the Gong, which is also an item of pride possession in those days. Below this motif another geometrical motif is carved called Borhui. This represents the strap of carrying basket carried by women. This motif shows that the person was able to host community feast and he was successful in arranging quite a number of festivals for the youths of his village when he was alive.

A rich man among the Kom tribe is known by the person; who get the richest harvest of crops in the village and he is the one who stores sufficient grains surplus to the annual consumption of his family. He is the person who can afford to host feast to the villagers’ and the one who can arrange rice beers, meal and also can sacrifice Mithun for celebration. According to the Kom tradition unmarried boys and girls in a village who desire to celebrate a festival of dance and joy and merriments, have to visit the house of the richest person of the village by carrying a pot full of Ju (rice beer) and request him to host a feast for celebration. The person then has to seek the consent of the village chief and with his permission the formal announcement of commemorating the ceremonial rites to locate the tree, carve and prepare as sacrificial post at the forest starts.

In an open space or a decided place of celebration, the Y post or Saling has to be erected for sacrificing Sithik (Mithun) and a grand feast is hosted by the richman. The celebration is called Saling Phun (the festival of erecting Saling) which is celebrated day and night varieties of dance performances, songs, traditional games etc.

In the olden days Kom tribe used to perform Lukshun a ritual ceremony associated with the dead. During this ceremony Saling (Y post) is erected in honour of the departed soul and in memory his noble deeds. It is believed that, unless this ritual is performed the soul of the dead will never get a place in to the spiritual world of their ancestors. The body of the dead after the burial is unearthed again after 6 months or a Year to perform purification rites. The skull is separated from the body and sanctified with the application of pure Ju (rice beer) and Lukom (traditional turban) is wrapped around it. The skull is then kept under a pitcher and buried separately near the body and Y shaped memorial pillar is erected on that. The ritual ceremony of this kind was performed under the consent of the village priest.

Now, Lukshun - ceremony is no more performed and practiced after the adoption of Christainity among this tribe. However, preparation of Sanka (a sacred platform), Saling (memorial Y post), and Berphun (Bird shooting ceremony) becomes a symbol of festivity and cultural identity among this colourful tribe.

* Based on the information collected by the author during field work and documentation on Heritage of Kom tribe organised at Khoirentak Khuman village, Churachandpur District, Manipur.

6 comments:

Mohammad Rehan said...

Saling- a memorial of the ancestral past

is an interesting article

Ravindra said...

This is a wonderful blog that i have seen today. i hope this blog will grow to a new hight. And i will remain to be the regular reader of this blog. And also share my view in the blog.

Ravindra Kumar Gupta
Indira Gandhi Rashtirya Manav Sangrahalaya
National Museum of Mankind, Bhopal M.P. INDIA

Anonymous said...

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With best wishes
Srikant

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nishtha

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N.K.Mangang