PHIRUK: A CEREMONIAL BASKET OF MANIPUR



Phiruk/Phingaruk/Phinairuk and Tabu are the special the special kinds of storage baskets used in Manipur. The Meitei use it as an indispensable item for marriage ceremony. 

The Maring tribe of Manipur are specialised in this traditional craft. They have got mastery over the production of this beautiful designs which they attain by using naturally dyed fine splits of bamboo. According to a local version, 'Phingairuk (Phingang; red cloth, luk- basket) is named after a group of Maring tribe who used to wear red-bordered cloth. Woven by the hill tribe, it is indespensably used by the Meiteis to commemorate the rituals and ceremonies of marriage functions. This age-old basket undoubtedly narrates the cultural history of harmonious social relation with the people of the hills and plains.

Phiruk (Phi - cloth, luk/ruk - basket)/ Phinairuk or Phingaruk is a ceremonial basket available in two different sizes. The large one is used in the worship of the family and village deities and also for keeping valuables while the small one which is about the half large Phiruk is used at the time of marriage function for carrying sweets, betel leaves and nuts, fruits and flowers, clothes and ornaments, from the residence of the groom to the bride groom. Womenfolk in traditional attire carry these marriage presentations during the procession held by the family of the groom during Heichingpot (a ceremony held prior to marriage function) and on the auspicious day of Luhongba (Marriage). According to a customary practice, the woman who led the marriage procession must have her parents, parent-in-laws, husband and children alive. This symbolically marks the attainment of fertility and prosperity for the couple who are entering a married life. This Phiruk should contain some quantity of rice, tobacco leaf, raw cotton containing seed, Pan-manao (a small tuber of the species arum), Shing-manao (small ginger) and two cakes of Meitei Thum (salt) overlapping one another with two coins inside. These items will be wrapped and tied with white cloth and stuff in the basket. It is then covered with white cloth from the rim and lidded to represent the first Phiruk carried in the procession. On the 5th day after marriage family and relatives of the bride groom visits groom's house to open the Phiruk and observes all those items to spell the fortunes of the newlywed couple.

The basket is beautifully constructed with a square base made of flattened bamboo. It is woven with double -wall structure that flares out into a circular rim. The lid is semi-spherical and contains beautiful geometrical designs at the marginal space from the rim. This diamond shaped designs are ingeniously prepared where naturally dyed black colour wefts are skillfully inserted in the weave. The designs are believed to have been taken out from the traditional textile motifs!.





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