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Saling- a memorial of the ancestral past * From the Kom tribe of Manipur Kom is an important tribal group among

the 33 Scheduled Tribes of Manipur. This hill tirbe inhabits in Churachandpur, Chandel, Senapati and Bishnupur districts of Manipur. Majority of their concentration is in the Churachandpur District. Fr om the available oral tradition of the tribe, they believed that their ancestors have come out to present land from the Khurpui (a cave) by piercing a ferocious tiger that stood on their way. This is well reflected in their folk songs, myth s and legends. Kom tribe are fondly referred to as the turbaned people because t hey adorn their Lukom (traditional turban) symbolizing a prestigious head dress among every male of the tribe.

The tradition of erecting memorial pillar as a symbol of status for a noble or r ich person in a village was prevalent among the Kom tribe of Manipur in their an cient past. Such kind of memorial pillar, traditionally known as Saling represen ts a unique structure of Y -shaped post having two equal branches rising upward from a single pillar. This Y-Post possesses beautiful carving laid with traditional mot ifs on one of its side. Since the post appears the Roman letter 'Y', people of t his tribe also fondly call it as Wairo. The geometrical motives carved on the tw o branches of the post symbolises their prestigious gown called Pasaipon signify ing that the person had a number of Pasaipon in his possession. A projected circ ular motif on the body of the post is called Sumlaipong representing the Gong, w hich is also an item of pride possession in those days. Below this motif another geometrical motif is carved called Borhui. This represents the strap of carryin g basket carried by women. This motif shows that the person was able to host com munity feast and he was successful in arranging quite a number of festivals for the youths of his village when he was alive. A rich man among the Kom tribe is known by the person; who get the richest harve st of crops in the village and he is the one who stores sufficient grains surplu s to the annual consumption of his family. He is the person who can afford to ho st feast to the villagers and the one who can arrange rice beers, meal and also can sacrifice Mithun for celebration. According to the Kom tradition unmarried boys and girls in a village who desire to celebrate a festival of dance and joy and merriments, have to visit the house of the richest person of the village by carr ying a pot full of Ju (rice beer) and request him to host a feast for celebratio n. The person then has to seek the consent of the village chief and with his per mission the formal announcement of commemorating the ceremonial rites to locate the tree, carve and prepare as sacrificial post at the forest starts. In an open space or a decided place of celebration, the Y post or Saling has to be erected for sacrificing Sithik (Mithun) and a grand feast is hosted by the ri chman. The celebration is called Saling Phun (the festival of erecting Saling) w hich is celebrated day and night varieties of dance performances, songs, traditi onal games etc. In the olden days Kom tribe used to perform Lukshun a ritual ceremony associated with the dead. During this ceremony Saling (Y post) is erected in honour of the departed soul and in memory his noble deeds. It is believed that, unless this r itual is performed the soul of the dead will never get a place in to the spiritu al world of their ancestors. The body of the dead after the burial is unearthed again after 6 months or a Year to perform purification rites. The skull is separ ated from the body and sanctified with the application of pure Ju (rice beer) an d Lukom (traditional turban) is wrapped around it. The skull is then kept under a pitcher and buried separately near the body and Y shaped memorial pillar is er ected on that. The ritual ceremony of this kind was performed under the consent of the village priest. Now, Lukshun - ceremony is no more performed and practiced after the adoption of

Christainity among this tribe. However, preparation of Sanka (a sacred platform ), Saling (memorial Y post), and Berphun (Bird shooting ceremony) becomes a symb ol of festivity and cultural identity among this colourful tribe.