INN-KI- A CEREMONIAL HOUSE OF THE MARING TRIBE

Inn-Ki- a decorated ceremonial house 
Maring is one of the important tribes of Manipur. They are largely found in the Tengnoupal sub-division of the Chandel district of Manipur. According to the oral tradition, they trace their origin from a cave called "Nungmuisho”. The Maring society is patriarchal in nature and they are divided into four major clans clans. Traditionally, Maring tribe had strict social norms and laws breaching of which had to face severe consequences of "Mungna". It is imposed in several instances as per the traditional laws and the one who is convicted of Munga had to pay heavy fine or penalty and sometimes excommunication from the village also. Maring people were known for their unique skill of magical rites in their past. They believed in the existence of spirits and the control of which were held by known practitioner or shaman who had a dignified post in the society. Strong kinship structure among this tribe led them to unite and face the hardships. Dormitory life in a village live played a pivotal role in voluntary support of smooth functioning of Maring social life. Known for their mastery over cane and bamboo craft they are greatly cherished in the folk sayings of the Meiteis as " Maringna Saba sangbaidi namma hoba hounade" means- the Sangbai (basket) made by Maring shall never get any defect.

The Maring tribe used to celebrate a large number of festivals before they adopt a new religion. Yayao is one such traditional festival which were celebrated with great chaos by the Maring people in their ancient past. The festival is devoted to showcase the economic prosperity of the village. Yayao literally means the festival of hunt and it socially marks the sanctions their economic credibility, power and status. The village which successfully organises Yayao festival gives a social message that the village is healthy, powerful and prosperous. When a village attain bumper harvest with surplus yield of crops, a grand celebration of Yayao ceremony is performed to appease the village deity. The celebration is held with the collective effort of every member of the village. The first attempt of Yayao celebration marks with the symbolic erection of Yadang (ritual poles) and this ritual conduct is commemorated in the name of a ceremony called Chelim. The head of boy's dormitory- Khangshillak takes responsibility for successful organisation of the festival. He manages all the events related to the hunting expedition, sacrificial rites and keep watchful eyes on the hunted animals to avoid any kind of incidence that can hamper the successful conduct of the ceremony.

Celebration on the valedictory function of the workshop
Yayao festival in the successive year is performed with the construction of a ceremonial house. This phase of development again embarks upon the economic prosperity of the village people. Yayao festival of another year is commemorated with the construction of a ceremonial house symbolising their bigger achievement. This ceremonial structure is called Shangklang. This ceremonial house like structure is uniquely represented by the presence of six pillar which contains a segment of branch in each to hold the horizontal poles firmly about 3 to 4 feet from the ground. This raised structure has wooden floor beautifully laid above the ground and it is thatched from above. The walls are kept open. The structure is raised in a specific location of the village where Yayao festival has to be celebrated. Shangklang as a symbol of their economic progress and blissful life also marks the successful conduct of Yayao for two times in the village.

Yayao festival takes a grandeur look when it attains the stage of constructing Inn-ki (decorated house). Inn-ki is constructed with decorated horn like projections with colourful paintings on the the wood carvings. It marks biggest achievement and successful celebration of Yayao for three years in the village. One more important aspects of celebration according to their believe is to appease their village deity- the Thembung Lai (Lamal Thrai) who bestowed them to all his blessings to live a prosperous and healthy life. Before the commencement of Yayao festival it is important that purely brewed rice-beer is offered to the deity to seek permission for successful conduct of the festival. This ritual is performed by the priest of the village and the clan who look after the shrine.
With the passage of time the celebration of Yayao festival is no more seen in Maring villages. Hunting expedition for celebration of Yayao festival declined and also the prevalence of strict Wild Life Act in the areas. Most of the Maring tribe have now adopted a new religion. Last Yayao celebration in the Sandangshemba Maring village was reported some 3 decades from now.

Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya explored this age-old heritage of Yayao celebration from the Shandangshemba Maring village during the field visit conducted by the curatorial staff of the Museum. In order to preserve the structure of the ancient heritage of Maring tribe, a workshop was organised to reconstruct the structure at Maring village for installation in the Open Air Exhibition premises of the Museum.

A BRIEF NOTE ON THE EXPLORATION AND COLLECTION OF INN-KI IN THE MUSEUM
The tradition of celebrating Yayao festival by erecting traditional ceremonial structure among the Maring tribe of Manipur is no more  in existence. What is Inn-ki?. The question itself was a mystery to the museum and many others who witness the structure from an old photograph. From archival photographs of the Tribal Museum and Research Centre, Imphal, IGRMS explored to unravel the mystery of this beautiful structure. According to available information of the Tribal Museum &
Research Centre, the structure was perhaps a gate. The photographs were shown to young generations of the Maring tribe but they could not reveal the structure. The photograph was taken by the Director, TMRC and his team some three decades from now. IGRMS started exploring to know about this traditional structure in Maring inhabited areas of Manipur. Few of the remnants of ruined Inn-ki structures were found but the complete structure were no more in existence. IGRMS revisited the
place where the photographs were taken and came with an astonishing result that there were several variations to of people to explain about the structure. Some said, “a gate” few other said as "Shangklang while some other gave their view as memorial structure. It was with the help of a person Mr. Angdun Maring of Shandangshenba village and the elderly members of the tribe that IGRMS could draw a concrete plan to explore  the cultural background of the structure.

The glorious celebration of Yayao festival was cherished in the minds of the elderly members of the village who were very enthusiastic to learn the reconstruction of this traditional structure through a workshop. IGRMS had successfully organised 15 days workshop on preparation of Shangklang/Inn-ki at Shandangsemba Maring village in the month of January 2014. It was from the memory of the elderly members and support of the villagers that the mystry of Inn-ki from the cultural glory of the Maring tribe was revealed. It is now successfully re-erected and preserved in the open air exhibition premises of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal.


This article is based on the field work and informations collected from the Maring tribe, Shandangsemba village, Senapati Distt. Manipur.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The author expresses deep sense of gratitude to all the members of the Sandangshemba Maring household who extended all possible support in conducting the field work successfully. The Museum is indebted to the Village Council, Sandangshemba Youth Club, Tribal Museum & Research Centre, Imphal, Centre for Youth and Cultural Activities and Department of Forest, Govt. of Manipur for giving all possible support in the successful implementation of the documentation programme, workshop for recreation and installation of Innki-Yadang (a ceremonial house of the Maring tribe) in the open air exhibition campus of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya
(National Museum of Mankind),  Bhopal.

Steaming of rice for a feast (Shandangsemba Maring village)



An old Maring Lady


Maring women participating the the festival


Old Maring women rejoicing to the preparation of Inn-ki
at their village






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