FISHING IN MANIPUR: SOME TRADITONAL IMPLEMENTS AND ITS TECHNIQUES
Dr. John Mao
Material culture is a product of geographical environment. The quest for food forms but a part of a very much wider cultural scheme by which human groups adopt themselves to their geographical environment and fashioned objects of material culture. In a strict sense, material culture of course is not a part of culture at all but only a result or product of it. In short, material culture one means all the objects used or made by an for his survival or for supporting and improving his life. In other words, material culture of man is represented in his technology. Material culture as has been said as the product of geographical environment even the superficial survey of culture of such people like the Eskimos have revealed the intimate relationship between geographical environment and material culture. For example, the Eskimos built their house with snow and this is because of their locality in which there are not woods or other materials. Man is dependent on various objects for his livelihood, comfort and luxury. The objects which are present in their environment together with the tools which are necessary for producing these objects are the subject of technology.
Technology refer the sum total of the techniques possess by members of a society. That is, the totality of their ways of behaving in respect to collecting raw materials from environment and processing these to make tools, containers etc. Technology is the combination of techniques common to a group devised by man for his existence on this earth. Technology is a cultural screen that man sets out between himself and his environment. He makes tools of wood, stones and metals to increase his efficiency in working the environment; he built shelters and manufacture clothing to protect him from weather. He frequently grows food, plants, and domestic animals to supply the needs. As a result man is able to live almost anywhere on the earth’s surface.
People differ widely in the complexity and efficiency of their technology and hence in the degree to which they may fully exploit environmental resources. Many societies are restricted by their technology to a simple use of their environment even though other uses are possible. For example, the Plain Indians of North America obtains much of their food from the buffaloes which are supplies skin for clothing and shelters and numerous other needs. Lacking efficient devices for cultivation, the Plain Indians made practically no use of their agricultural potentialities of their environment, part of which today is one of the best farming areas in the world. Societies having more advanced technology exploit their environment more fully. For example, the Iroquois Indians practice hunting, fishing, food collecting and horticulture.
In European societies, technological advances permits an almost exhaustive exploitation of environmental; resources. In short, techniques vary obviously from one culture to another and the ranges of variation are great from the crude stone technology of the Australian aborigines to the complex industrial technology of modern Europe and America.
Manipur, “the land of jewels” is a small state situated in the north-eastern corner of India. It is bounded on the north by the hills of Nagaland, on the west by Cachar, on the south by Lushai hills and Burma and on the east by Burma. It lies between 23.50’N and 25.30’N Latitude and 93.10’E and 94.30’E Longitude. Topographically it is a part of India covering an area of about 8,638 sq miles of which 700 sq miles constitute the valley. The Valley is inhabited by the Meiteis and the 29 recognized Scheduled Tribes inhabiting the Hills.
Many tribes and castes on the mainland India live by hunting, fishing nd gathering. So also are the case of the Meiteis and the tribals of Manipur where fishing is one of the main occupations for them. It will be interesting to note as how fishes are caught with their traditional fishing implements. The different types of fishing as found in Manipur can be of four types. They are (a) by poisoning the water (river, stream etc.) (b) Net (c) Traps and (d) Spears. One of the common methods of fishing is by poisoning the water. That is to say, bombs locally made are thrown into the rivers, streams, resulting in explosion and thus poisoning the water. Those tribes practicing these types of fishing are the Tangkhuls, Koms and Marings.
Fishing nets are of different kinds. There are the weirs nets used by the Chirus, the seine and cast nets by the Meiteis etc. Let us see some of the traditional fishing implements as given below.
(a) LANG or SEINE NET: This type of net is made of fine cotton threads. The upper line is provided with wood known as the floats. The length of the float is 14.4 cms. The length of the network is 1.9 cms. The lower line is provided with roasted clay which serves as sinkers, the length of which is 7.0 cm. With the help of the poles it is used in the water. The two ends of the net are tied to the poles and spread so that the net stretches as a wall with the help of the floats and sinkers. Fishes are caught automatically. It is used for catching small as well as big fishes. The material used is cotton thread, wood and clay.
(b) NUPA EEN or CAST NET: This is a manipulative type of fishing net which is conical in shape but when thrown over the water it will spread in a circle. The lower edges of the net are provided sinkers which is made of lead and allows the net to sink down quickly to the bottom of the water when operated. The upper conical end is attached to a long rope. The rope allows the net to be thrown way from the manipulator and also to pull up the net from the water. The lower edge of the net is folded up so as to form pockets for allowing spaces for the trap fishes. It is used in lakes and rivers. The material used is spun thread and lead sinkers. The Meiteis and the Tangkhuls used it.
Traps are of different kinds. The description is given below.
(a) LONGHUP or PLUNGING BASKET: Longhup or plunging basket is made of bamboo strips in the shape of a dome. That is, the top end which is provided with a collar (13.9 cms in diameter) is a small opening where hands can be put inside. The bottom end is open. The manipulator catches hold of the longhup by the right hand at the collar region and enters the river or pond. As he sight the fish he then plunge the basket which enters inside the mud. Then he put his hand through this small mouth. In this way fishes ate caught. The Meiteis used it.
(b) LONGKHRAI: Longkhrai is also a kind of fishing trap made of bamboo strips. It is semi-circular in shape. This type of trap is used mostly in the paddy fields and swampy places after a heavy downpour. The longkhrai is taken out where small fishes are caught.
This trap is a traditional item. But nowadays this longkhrai is used as sieve for screening the washed sand and as room decorative piece. The Meiteis used.
(c) KABOLOO or SINGLE-VALVED AUTOMATIC TRAP: Kaboloo or the single-valve automatic trap is made of bamboo strips. It consists of a cage-like basket with a valve made in the idle. The trap measures 59.8 cms in length and 18.6 cms in breadth and is broader at the middle. One end tapers and is tied with bamboo strings. The other end is open with a hole which acts as a mouth. The valve is made of thin bamboo sticks and is made in such a way that once the fist enter through this valve it cannot come out. The trap is placed with the valve directed against the current of the water. The mouth of the valve is closed with straws. As the fish swim along with the current of water, they enter through this valve. Afterward the manipulator takes out the fishes by removing the straws. The Meiteis used it.
(d) TAIZEB or AUTOMATIC VALVE TRAP: Taizeb or the automatic valve trap is rectangular box-shaped. It is made of bamboo radials and cane strips. On one side (length-wise) a valve with many comb-like sticks are provided which is arranged in a criss-cross pattern. The trap is covered on all sides with bamboo radials set parallel to one another to form a rectangular pattern. One end of the trap is opened for taking out the fishes. Once the fish enters the trap the valve is closed. First of all barrage is made in running water or in stagnant water. The trap is then placed in the middle after removing a portion from the middle. Sometimes baits are also placed inside the trap. As the fish swim it enters through the trap as all sides are blocked. The trap is taken out and from the opening side of the trap fishes are taken out. It is used for catching small fishes. The Meiteis use it.
C. LONG or SPEARS
Long or spears are also used for fishing. The Long or spear is divided into two portion. They are (a) the shaft or the handle and (b) the head or the splitted part. The iron head is pointed to which the splitted shaft is introduced. The length of the splitted shaft is 53.0 cms. Just at the meeting point of the two shafts there is a swollen portion which is guarded by a ring. The cross-section of the shaft is circular. The total length of the Long or spear is 155.5 cms. It is held by the right hand to the shaft and aimed at the fish in water and thrown with great force. The Long or spear are of two kinds. They are (a) Double-headed spear and (b) Multi-headed spear. The former are used by the Purums and the latter by the Thangas. The Long or spear us used for catching large fishes. The materials used are iron and bamboo split.
- 1. Mao, John (1991). Manipur: A Cultural Region. Ph.D. Thesis. Department of Anthropology, Manipur University, Imphal. India. (Unpublished).
- 2. Mao, John (1991). “Traditional Craft and Technology of Manipur.” In J.P. Singh and Gautam Sengupta (Eds) Archaeology of North Eastern India. Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd. New Delhi. India.
- 3. Saraswati, Baidyanath (1972). “Material Culture A Trend Report.” In A Survey of Research in Sociology and Social Anthropology. Vol III. Popular Prakashan. Bombay. [Photographs: Author’s Collection]