Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Dept of Environment and Climate Change
Creative writing tradition in Manipur

Manifestation Of Love In Shingen Indu: Separation And Union – Part 1

This is the third in a series of essays by renown Manipur literary critic, Prof. Nongmaithem Tombi Singh, carried in parts. The original essays are in Manipur and has since been translated into English by B.S. Rajkumar and published in a volume: “Confluence: Essays on Manipuri Literature and Culture”


The main theme of Mahakavi Anganghal’s canto poem Shingen Indu remains the pain in separation and happiness in union in love. Like in Kalidasa’ s Meghadoot, the epic shows mainly the various aspects of the pangs of separation in love, expression of tenderness, and feelings of extreme sorrow. Anganghal remains an outstanding poet in giving air to the pangs of separation in love. We find this element in hjs other works as well. The canto poem mainly shows the separation of Jatra and Keina, Gopal and Indu as well as Gopal’s separation from his parents. Union in love is just momentary. Haobam Gourdas wrote-” Shingen Indu is a koruna rasa centered Iong narrative poem completed with shingar rasa.” The predominance of separation is insinuated here. But if we Look at the poem from the angle of rasa we may conclude that the predmninance of shringar is clearly felt.


The poet could depict the extreme forms of separation and union. Shri Khumanthem Gourakishore writes-“The filthy layers of union are consumed and purified in the fire of separation. At the time of separation the veena af human heart gives off the sweetest music ..,.. The most melodious song, the most beautiful poetry, the most striking picture, the most attractive scenery are to be seen when we are suffering from the agony of separation .….. Separation is the harbinger of union, it is like soaking a length of cloth in alkaline solution before dying a cloth,Union after separation is the sweetest.” 2

In this canto epic Anganghal shows the true colour of love between Indu and Gopal. But such love between the two is against social custom, poses serious questions regarding morality and ethics. Jatra had been committed to bring up Indu as his own child and gave her hjs own home. She was taken under his wings as a sister to his own real son Gopal. Love between a brother and sister, a physical attraction is not acceptable, a society does not give cognisance to such relationships. It also poses serious problems in social customs.

The poet Anganghal understands well this problem. But, he had skilfully managed to suppress this kind of resentment. He had been successful in countering against this sort of transgression using the innocuousness of the two youngsters, their candid unalloyed love, their human feelings in their hearts which have successful1y triumphed against all opposition. Instead of feeling angry we are filled with sympathy for the two lovers. This is something that remains buried deep inside human heart, something that is soft and mellow, as it were. Anganghal had not depicted Indu and Gopal as rebels challenging social customs. Their belief in traditional values and their worship of true love could a communion of true hearts washed and cleaned with tears of human tension. Ultimately this kind of union inspite of social scruples has been given acceptance from the side of their parents as well as the King himself. Indu’s mother Leipaklei disclosed Indu and Gopal’ s pure love to her husband Jatra before her death. It changed Jatra’ s outlook. Leipaklei had also disclosed certain secrets to the King Chandrakirti before her death. As a result the King brought Indu in the royal household and gave her in marriage to Gopal as if he would a princess. As they  feared there might arise public outcry against it, they convened a royal durbar to pass approval of the act. After that every hurdle on the way was cleared, all restrictions were removed. All is well at the end. Such a happy ending was created as a result of the pure love and all unbracing nature of that love between Indu and Gopal. We are emable to begrudge the happy union of Indu and Gopal, neither could we become angry with lndu nor feel offended with Gopal’s act. So, we are made to shed tears of happiness instead of anger and protest against the two young lovers, the hero and heroine, who had been living under the shadow of time and place as well as fate.

The large gathering shed tears

Seeing the emotion filled hearts, the King

Himself was seen with tears brimful

Drops of tears he shed like pearls falling.

Elders, brahmans, all and sundry

Seeing the girl they blesses her

Be prosperous in your life

For so many years you had suffered

Let the Lord Hari bestow his blessings upon you!


Describing the purity of the love between the two, Haobam Gourdas writes–“It was indeed a great contribution Angangha[ to be able to touch upon such a myth of inexplicable love between two youngsters who grew up as contemporaries in which they knew no degrees of differences in ranks, knowing only a purity of innocent love that could bring out the softer side human hearts.” 3


In order to distinguish Anganghal’s view on love in this canto poem two separate opinions are set side by side – Opinion of Elders and Opinion of the Younger. The elders opine thus-

Love and desire like a river is,

Today is uncertain what will be tomorrow.

As one becomes one’s own, love sprouts between the two

Desire rules not always, must think of the future.

Does it grow like a b’ee bearing the beloved as fruits

Partaking of which one fills one’s stomach?

Can one act out one’s will because one loves someone,

Shouldn’t we make our mind lead the way.

Before mind we must keep our thought as a guide

Choosing the right path, act we must all the time.

To think love is all what \vill be the result

To think desire is more important correct always it won’t be!

We can’t leave alone sightless mind,

This light hearted eye how could we say it’s good enough!

…                    …                    …

Should we live for our own sakes alone

Should we not think of elders too

Inexperienced children they are unaware of hardships

Innocents setting foot on adolescence.

…                    …                    …


Remain far from love and desire, mark my words

Let blind mind be led by thought.


The above lines are quite clear and these follow a traditional and moral value based view of love – the poet looks disdainfully at Indu-Gopal’s relationship. Then again, youngsters exclaim in passion –

Food I care less if 1 could reach my beloved’s side

On a mat I will lie, will make no complaint for poverty

Let me be united only with my beloved further protests I won’t make

The dowry mattress turns into straw in the unloved one’s house

Gold loses meaning and charm in that house

Let me be at my beloved’s place with him whom I love,

Penury and poverty I will wish them away,

…                    …                    …

Could we grow it like a flower plant

Or transplant it like a sapling!

Is it sold a fruit in the royal market,

Could money buy it the fruit of love,

Could we exchange it selecting a better place?



Thus the poet sings of love’s priceless quality. There is a strange force in love and it is also guided by a spirit of freedom. Anganghal remains impartial to both these two sides. He simply lays face both these sides which had been seen through the ages before us-“Two sides, one for the elders; the other for the youngsters are seen, these two are followed since the beginning.” It is not that Anganghal approves of Gopal’s behaviour. So he expresses his dislike indirectly by expressing the disavowal of the dislike of bumblebee’s behaviour by the flowers. Jatra regards his son Gopal as one who is dead, because he was angry with him. But the way the poet could manage to keep such an immoralistic behaviour in love within the frame of human love in an exalted way shows a uniqueness in their love. In order to show such complex love which in fact is filled with myriad problems it won’t do to give emphasis on desire, infatuation and romance; it may rather invite a flaw in the literary creativity. For such intrusion into the bower of love bv an unconfined heart against customary laws the perpetrator must suffer agony, humiliation and curses from the general public in silence. He must undergo such hardships inside his heart like a person under a spell of curse. The Yaksha in Kalidasa’s Meghdoot had sinned against his duty due to his excessive uxoriousness, thus he was sentenced with a year long separation from his beloved. In the Mrischakatika (The Little Clay Cart) of Sudraka, the noble hearted Brahmin Charudatta took to wife the royal courtesan Vasantha Sena after facing a number of hardships. And the Shunga Emperor Agnimitra’s love for the slave girl Malavika in Kalidasa’s Malavikagnimitra is beyond the bounds of customary laws. The courageous and powerful King Agnimitra was turned into a coward by this act. His innocence and pristine love for Malavika opened the way to his getting his dear Malvika as his wife, what is more even his own wife, the queen herself was enthused to offer the slave girl with her own hands to the great King.

There is no place of sexual desire in Shingen Indu. Nowhere in this long poetic narrative we find any romantic communication between Gopal and Indu. At the time of Thabansana’s betrothal to Gopal! when he was about to leave Manipur for good as a protest against the arranged marriage, Gopal took Indu’s hand in their garden in order to give her his golden ring. Indu was unable to accept it for modesty and it was the first and last physical contact between the two during which the two communicated their love. We could not find any instances where Indu had expressed her love for Gopal nor any reply from her heart. Indu remained a mute statue for that matter. Instead we find her stupefied with a sense of amazement, confusion and loss of consciousness to face the strange action of Gopal. She was carried unconscious inside the house by her parents who had adopted her.


Though the poet could depict the empathy of Indu’s caring for her baby brother after the death of their parents like Khamnu did of her younger brother Khamba in the Moirang legend, though he could bring out with masterly strokes the agony in Jatra’s heart after the death of his beloved Keina that made him depart from Malugram in Cachar for Manipur, though he could excel in describing the sentiments of love and separation between Gopal and Indu, though he had been able to pen many aspects of Meitei festivities related to its society and culture with consummate artistry and power of imagination, we come across instances of failings and weaknesses in the creation of the sequences in the love relationship between two of the most important characters in the canto poem, Gopal and Indu. It certainly appears most awkward for Gopal to fall into love with Indu at first sight when she was brought from Malugram by his father Jatra who had become a great and honoured nobleman under King Chandrakirti. The matter was made aware to the readers when Gopal talked about it at Malugram after his separation from Indu-

When my father brought home this little £lower

As she reached the porch at my house

Her beauty struck my heart at first sight,

The tendrils of her eyes crept up to encircle me.

Then we grew up together the time flew,

We became inseparable strangeness gone.

And thus love the creeper grew up

Seeking succour from the tree nearest.

(p. 111)

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