In an effort to revive the legacy of the Manipuri tradition of Wari-Leeba, a unique storytelling art form which is not found in any parts of the world, a five day Wari-Leeba festival will be organized at the Hojai town in Assam’s Nagaon district from May 24.
Wari-Leeba is a narrative form of storytelling that has been a living tradition over the past few centuries in Manipur.
Wari-Leeba which forms an integral part and parcel of the Meitei culture is now on the verge of extinction due to lack of patronage as the storytellers of the older generation passed away with the rapid urbanization and global process.
In view of the development, the Repertory of Wari Leeba Manipur, a body of promoters of Wari-Leeba in the region has been organizing Wari-Leeba festival from time to time across the state of Manipur and other Meitei inhabited areas of the globe.
Director Takhellambam Shyamkanhai of Repertory of Wari Leeba Manipur speaking to Northeast Now said that they’re organizing the event at the Krishna Mandir of Lanka and Peepol Pukhuri of Hojai in Assam from May 24-28.
“For this some of our members are planning to leave for Hojai today,” he added.
According to experts, these oral stories would serve as a grand repository of memories and histories of the respective societies through the power of the spoken word as long before the introduction of the writing system, it was the power of the spoken word that ruled the human societies in different parts of the world and such stories were disseminated from one generation to the other, thus creating a storehouse of spoken words.
At the Hojai festival, altogether 13 story tellers including four from Repertory of Wari Leeba Manipur and the rest from the surrounding areas of Hojai will share their oral rendition of a section of the famous epic ‘Mahabharata’, longest epic poem known and one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana.
According to Repertory of Wari Leeba Manipur, the arts form of Wari-Leeba is slowly dying in Meitei inhabited areas of Bangladesh and Tripura while it is picking up in places like Hojai and Cachar in Assam.
It is said that a handful of storytellers numbering around 200 are trying to revive this art form in the region at different levels and capacities.