The Bishnupriya Manipuris are a group of Indo-Aryan people that lives in Assam, Tripura, and Manipur States of India, Central Myanmar, and North Eastern Bangladesh. The Government of Assam and Tripura categorised them under the Other Backward Class (OBC) Category. In Bangladesh, they come under Scheduled Tribes categories. Banana Leaf is an essential natural element for the daily affairs of the Bishnupriya Manipuri Community. This community is one of the most nature-loving communities in the world. In the days of hazardous environmental pollution, Bishnupriya Manipuri community always uses bio-degrade-able Banana leaves for the community occasions such as marriage, Sradha occasion, or any other auspicious occasions of their day-to-day life.
The banana leaf is a banana plant’s leaf, which can grow up to 30 leaves at a time. The leaves are useful for a number of tasks because of their size, elasticity, waterproof characteristic, and aesthetic appeal. In tropical and subtropical regions, they are employed in a wide variety of ways such as cooking, wrapping, and serving food. In many ceremonies of the Bishnupriya Manipuri Community, they use the banana plant’s leaf for decorative and symbolic purposes. Dry banana-leaf thatch is used in tropical traditional home construction for roofs and fences. Historically, the primary writing surfaces in many countries of South and Southeast Asia were banana leaves.
Laamor Dow Homadana
A very rich culture is a blessing for the Bishnupriya Manipuri group. Across the length and width of the communal lives, a wide range of traditions and rituals are observed and performed. A custom of the Bishnupriya Manipuris is the “Laamor Dow Homadana,” which is observed annually on the last day of Chaitra, the last month of the Bishnupriya Manipuri calendar. This ritual involves offering food to their ancestors and the dead in order to obtain their blessings. This is a custom that the Bishnupriya Manipuri group practices. They used to serve food to their ancestors on the top of a banana leaf, which may have been decorated any way they saw fit.
Vegetarian meals of all kinds are produced. Odd numbers of dishes with vegetables, legumes, and herbs used 108 different types of components in the final dish. For the production of the specialties, they selected a range of vegetables from their vegetable garden. Laamor Dow Homadana is usually offered in a public place. The family’s head male member performs the puja first, followed by the remaining male family members kneeling in respect.
The Bishnupriya Manipuris generally pay tribute to ancestors in Haridwar and other sacred locations during shraddha. The first day of Durga Puja, Mahalaya, which falls in October or November, is when the Bishnupriya Manipuris show tribute to their ancestors. Either at home or in a public location, Ganga Jal is served with flowers as mantras are chanted with flowers, diyas or Bartis are lit, and incense is burned. The relevant Brahmins make reference to the person’s gotra, and over time, they invoke the dead souls extending back generations and ask for their blessings. In the local temple, offerings known as “Sidda”—raw rice, pulses, spices, vegetables, etc.—are made in honour of the ancestors.
These are employed in the process of making bhogs, which are afterward offered to the temple’s deities and the parties along with neighbors. They eat the bhog and the sweets served as “prasad.” Depending on their financial situation, many people travel to Haridwar and other holy riverside locations. Here, the Sidda is set up in a lovely arrangement of vegetables, and pulses with banana leaves and is being given to the Brahmins for preparing prasad or bhogs.
Apokpa Homa Dena
Aapokpa is also honored by the Bishnupriya Manipuris, they call it “Apokpa Dou Homa Dena.” In villages, towns, and cities prayers are held at the location of the in-house granary, or where Anna or rice grains are stored, and with lighting Barti (a unique kind of cotton-made candle) and incense. This is performed inside. The first gift is made to Apokpa, the Kuldevta of the Bishnupriya Manipuris, when they pay prayers to their ancestors during Shraddh or at a marriage ceremony at home, which is necessary in order to obtain blessings. Apokpa does not need a brahmin for his worship, as he lives in the granary house. Families arrange pujas with fruits and sweets in banana leaves.
Who is Apokpa?
Bishnupriya Manipuri is a community in the northeast, mainly in Assam, Manipur, Tripura, and Meghalaya. Today, they are scattered throughout India and various parts of the world and are descendants of Pandava Prince Arjuna and Manipuri Princess Chitrangada. During his exile, Arjuna visited the Northeast, where he married the Manipuri princess Chitrangada. Apokpa belongs to the 7th generation of Arjuna and Chitrangada. A detailed description of this is given in one of the many ‘Puranas’, the ‘Kumal Purana’.
The Vishnupriya Manipuris are probably the only Sanatani Hindu community that has never converted to either Islam or Christianity despite being attacked and tortured. 99.99% of Bishnupriya Manipuris are still Hindu.