The glory of Shiroy river: a narrative from the Tangkhul Naga potters

Clay work prepared by Tangkhul Naga potters of Longpi village
According to a Naga folk story, the dispersal of the whole Naga brothers to the Naga Hills took place from a sacred place called Makhel (located at Pudunamei) and they came to this place from the East (Myanmar) crossing the Irravaddy river.
There is a common folk belief among the various sub-groups of Nagas that in the mythological past, three of the Naga progenitors departed in three different directions from Makhel tracing different routes of river and settled to different parts of the hills and valleys. An age-old tree growing near Makhel village and also at the Shajouba village called Chatebu Kaji is still preserved by the people of this region. It is their general belief that the eldest brother of the three Naga progenitors erected his walking stick on the ground before their dispersal to different directions. This walking stick, in course of time got sprouted and grown into a huge Chatebu Kaji (departure tree) and it is revered and venerated by the Nagas even today.
Painted by the Tangkhul Naga potters on a three sided triangular panel, this painting describes the cultural importance of Shiroy River and a sacred tree Chatebu Kaji. Front side of the panel shows the origin of Shiroy River from Shiroy Mountain and other two sides depicted their belief system through different scenes of village life one showing the prosperity and other the disaster. It is believed that, the divine tree at Makhel when started bearing leaves on its branches tells the onslaught of disaster. The direction in which the branches bear abundance of green leaves shows the sign of prosperity while the side of other branches without leaves shows the impending danger of disasters.
The Tangkhul Naga Potters sing in glory of the Shiroy Mountain and Shiroy River;

Painted by the Tangkhul Naga artists of Longpi Kajui village on a tri-panel, this painting describes the glory of Siroy river. It also narrates their age old belief  on the bearing of leaves and branches on Chatebu Kaji (an age-old tree at Makhel) that can foretell the impending danger of calamities. 


Oh! Shiroy wui kong
Shiroy kaphung wui agato
Na, hakhama ha okothum wui kaphanga naona

Nana yangmikhavai nganingchinga
Longkatha thara,
china khawung
Mi thing thing wui kharing kharak ngachonmi

Shiroy kaphung wui iena haophok laga
Longkatha thara chi Shiroi kong hoya
Kala Iram wung kakam tharakongchi
Ithum na leikashiya Chauwi hoya

Oh! Chauwi wui kong
Nawui kha, khalatva khami kachina
Ithum wui luili, nana chirchum ri ngaksaka
Kala thui shirai khamatha miya

Ithum khamasai iena mahan unganana
Nawui pangli
Nana chipemmi, han,
Ham ngalui kathum iena

Longpi ham kasabingna, nail matekzim
Thei chinga, maramua na tharza kahai,
Kala, naovai kaphung avail na na
Somitha, mathakhak kahai kala nao Khamatha pharakhui ngasaka

Oh! Chauwi wui kong
Nava pangshap khaleiyana
Nali khipanakha malung mavat pai mana
Ithumna, nail leishi lak iena, Har, Hok
Chikat chinga, Ithum mirin ringpha khavai

Free English Rendering
Oh! Shiroy River
The brother of Shiroy Mountain
You are mighty sons of the mother Earth

One stands to guard
And other tends to flow
Across all the valleys
To fed thousands of lives

Starting from the Shiroy Mountain
You are called Shiroy River
Passing to our village
We love to call you Chauwi

Oh! Chauwi River
Chauwi means the provider
You fed all our paddy fields
And give us healthy crops

We never came back
Free hand from your lap
You shape our pots
With your fertile drops

We the Longpi potters
See you ever green
Because you are clean
Expecting mothers pay visit to you
For a holy dip
With your divine blessing
We get healthy and beautiful child

Oh! Chauwi River
You are powerful
We don't want you wrath
Heartily we do offer
Pigs and Hen, to make us prosper
Tangkhul Naga potters from Manipur at IGRMS (National Museum of Mankind), Bhopal

Oh, Shiroy Wui Kong , nawui khamatha,
Na na kaphung li haokaphak thada
Ithumla kaphungli parasanga
Kaphung, kateo teo iena
Longkatha thara china kong
Kaphungli pantha khalei ithumla okthunja
Na iena ithum mi kumo mangapak

Oh! Shiroy River
The King of the River
You are traced to begin from the Mountains
We are blessed to live in the Mountains
You flow across the chain of hills,
where our brothers live.

Song collected from the Tangkhul Naga Potters of Longpi Kajui village, Ukhrul district Manipur. Documented and translated in English by N.S.Singh

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