Thursday, 18 October 2007

Khuttei: Symbol of Bishnupriya Manipuri

By Ranita Sinha, Kolkata, India

Khuttei (towel) can rightly be denoted as the trademark of a Bishnupriya Manipuri. It is an inseparable part of a Bishnupriya Manipuri house. It has a distinctive feature of its own. The texture of a Bishnupriya Manipuri house is not complete without a khuttei put in the courtyard to dry in the sun.

Khutteis are mainly used by the male members of the Bishnupriya Manipuri family to wrap around as a dhoti or lungi at home. It is also used by the male and female lot to dry their body and hair. It is very convenient to use as it is very light and does not take time to dry.

Khutteis in earlier days were weaved at every Bishnupriya Manipuri house by the female members for their own use. At present, as khutteis are available in the market; many houses have stopped weaving at home and soon this custom of weaving khutteis is loosing its popularity. But for many it has become the source of income. As our khutteis are convenient to use, it is in demand not only among Bishnupriya Manipuri's but also among other communities. Now a days weaving of khutteis is prevalent only among those who think of earning by selling it and those who cannot afford to buy and the rest prefer to buy from the market.

Bishnupriya Manipuri Khutteis are of different colours such as ranga (red), mahong (pink), napu (orange), basonta (yellow), hawaiya (florescent yellow), tanwalang (parrot green), nil (blue), sanglel (bottle green), khoiyari (coffee), jaroli (violet) etc. the khutei are weaved and given a fixed texture. A khuttai has a border of an inch or two on both sides of the length. The body is again given the structure of small boxes mixing the above colours.

The Khutai of Bishnupriya Manipuries are again of different length and sizes. Sare panch atti (7 feet 7inches length) and sare chari atti ( 6 feet 3 inches length) are used by the males to wear. Teen atti ( 4 feet 3 inches) Khutteis are used by both the male and the female lot to dry their body, face and hair.

Bishnupriya Manipuri khuttai are made by a fixed procedure. The instruments used for weaving a khutei are – tereng, terengor jang, natua, jatar, laltum, yepu, gulli, haal, langchak, jaka, singkak, pacheng, chena, bow, gilla etc.

To start with the procedure to weave a khuttei, firstly the threads (luri) is weaved and it is washed and starched and put in the sun to dry. After the threads are dried it is rolled finely using a tareng, jatar and laltum. After that, depending on the number of khutteis to be weaved, the threads are stretched at an open area and given the basic structure using konnapa, chena, gulli and pacheng. Then the stretched threads are gently rolled and put on the weaving machine (haal) and thus it is ready to get weaved. The weaving is done by using a weaving shuttle(langchak). After this lengthy procedure it takes three to four hours to complete a khuttei.

Khutteis also plays an important role in the Bishnupriya Manipuri religious ceremonies. Khutteis are gifted to the Isalpa (singer), Dakulla and Palla (musicians) to perform in marriage and shrada ceremonies, popularly known as “dahina”. Khuttei is also used to wipe the feet of the groom by the bride's younger brother during a marriage ceremony.

Thus, khuttei plays an important social role in the life of a Bishnupriya Manipuri. In many cases it happens that after seeing a khuttei put to dry in the sun, we come in contact with people of our community in foreign land.

Has it ever happened that you saw a khuttei and you come to the conclusion – yes, this is a Bishnupriya Manipuri house. Do tell and do comment.
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