Ashangbam Minaketan Singh
Ashangbam Minaketan Singh is regarded as the founder of Modern Manipuri literature. He was born as the only child to Ashangbam Jivan Singh and Medhabati Devi on 2 May, the year 1906. His grandfather Ashang Kut also known as Ashangbam Phura Hongba served as a soldier in The Maharaja of Manipur's army. In March 1891 he played a part in the assassination of British officials and was thereby sentenced for transportation on charge of murder. He was sentenced twenty five years of life imprisonment at Kalapani Jail, which is now located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India.
Early life, Education and Career
Minaketan was born at Wangkhei in Ashangbam family but was brought up in the family of Royal descendents of Maharaja Nara Singh by Sanajaobi Devi, the grand daughter of Maharaj Nara Singh at Moirangkhom Sougaijam Leirak. He graduated from the University of Calcutta in 1930 and by that time he had mastered English, Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit and the old Manipuri languages with utmost fluency. He belonged to the generation which had grown up and saw the difficult times of Manipur in the socio-economic condition under the monarchic system of Govt shaped by the colonial rule of British Empire. But at the same time, the early part of the 20th century was a glorious year, a transcendental period what we call the renaissance period of Manipuri literature. Minaketan worked as Secretary, Board of Secondary Education, Manipur, Lecturer of Manipur College (1962-82), Principal, Thoubal College(1982-83);
His Works in the Field of Lliterature
Minaketan left his footprints on every field of literature and touched every aspects of literary products: poetry, prose, essays, translations, mythology, biography, autobiography, criticism. His published works numbered more than 25 books on these different branches of literature. Some of his works are Basanta Sheireng (Poetry), 1928; Asheibagi Nityaipod (Poetry), 1976; Asheibagi Sheirol, 1977; Tonu Laijinglembi (Play); Bharatki Lonsingi Marakta (Essay); Meitei Upanyas (Criticism). Ashangbam Minaketan Singh is a name to reckon with among the pioneer poets of Manipuri literature. He had associated himself with many State advisory committees. The list is endless and it is beyond the purview of this column to write all. In short, Minaketan himself was an institution, a school of variety of thoughts. When one thinks of Minaketan, the list of literary works and knowledge in other subjects spring to one's mind, he or she will find that each book or price of writing of Minaketan in each is weightily enough for a comprehensive article or an academic thesis. Any approach to him will end up only to find a facet of the whole diamond. One inimitable quality which keep Minaketan apart from other poets, which make him to occupy a special place in the annals of Manipur literature is his invention of new words purely from old Manipuri languages spoken in the old days. In Minaketan's poetry people come across obscure and recondite words or references which is too difficult to understand at the first reading. The vast learning and the vast knowledge he had acquired is expressed in such a twisted manner that it becomes difficult to follow what the poet really intends to say. About Minaketan's style and choice of words poet Shree Biren has this observation - It is a fact that any reader will find himself a kind of push which violently thrown out at the very threshold. In order to know the true Minaketan a reader must face this kind of repulsion and must try to open the door and if one had succeeded to open the door of his treasure house then he will surely enjoy the beauty in the writings and words of Minaketan. Minaketan had the power of impressing the imagination by lines of splen-dour and magnificence suggesting some half-expressed thoughts, some dimly shadowed emotions. People come across many suggestive lines of beauty and mysticism in his poetry. In the twilight years of his life he had seen the mother in every woman even in his own daughter. In his poem 'Sanarik Pareng' he penned 'My loving daughter/ you are my mother/ My mother in you darling'. The sense of vastness and immensity is suggested in several lines of his poem 'Bidai Ashirbad'. The mystery of life is exquisitely and yet mystically suggested:
Premna Lingba Jagatnido Puba-nido Premna/ Pubanido Premna Tengbal Hingba-nido Premna
(Love makes the universe love binds the universe/ love gives soul to the world) The body and the soul are united for him with love to the whole of universe. He has expressed in a way no other poet has done, the hunger of the human heart for love and beauty, the hunger of the human soul for those in palpable mysteries that touch the horizon of human heart.
In his last poem 'Yachang Sheirol Khameen Tengtha' there is an expression of a communion with god with his love of motherland. He almost lost himself in a dream, in the land of his forefathers, that stands aloof from others with barriers of hill ranges put as a crown on the head of a beautiful lass that is none other but Manipur, the land of his fathers.
During his lifetime he was honoured and decorated with many titles and awards 'Sahitya-ratna' (from Manipuri Sahitya Parishat(1971), 'Sahitya Academy Award' in Asheibagi Nityaipod (Poetry)(1977), 'Soviet Land Nehru Award'(1977), 'Kavi Samrat' (from Thangal Marup, Hailakandi, Cachhar 1980), the most eminent citizen of Manipur (1985), 'Padma-shree' (1985),'Shubharna Jayanti Sanman Award'(1986), 'Jamini Sunder Guha Gold medal' (1988), 'Thoibi Award' (1988), 'Lalit Memorial Gold Medal' (1990) and many, many more prestigious awards.
Death and Legacy
Minaketan lived a fruitful long 89 years even having to see and play with his youngest grandson, encompassing the whole of the 20th century. He died of Heart Attack in the year 1995 leaving behind his family and above all his legacy in Manipuri literature. He was rightly the representative of the Manipuri Literature in the whole of 20th century. On his death it was rightfully reported that "The Colossus of Manipur Fell."
Ashangbam Minaketan State Level Celebration Committee, Imphal observed the 100th birth anniversary of the poet throughout the year 2006, beginning from the 2nd May 2006, the birth day of the poet. The celebration committee comprising people of literary figure of Manipur included representatives from Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Naharol Sahitya Premee Samiti, Cultural Forum Manipur, Writers' Forum and Manipuri Literary Society. ..