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Mayanglambam Gourachandra, the man behind the iconic "People's Museum" at Kakching

The Legacy of Eminent Curator Mayanglambam Gourachandra, an Institution by Himself and Beloved of Many

Bon Adieu to our doyen, founder of Peoples’ Museum Kakching.


Scholar, Lyricist, Cultural Enthusiast, Curator, Founder and Director of People’s Museum, Kakching has left us on 30th January, 2023. Perhaps, its time heaven do need him more than us! A connoisseur in the holistic value of things, artefacts and artforms. Exemplary was how he imparts appreciation, poetic and aesthetic outlook of the surroundings- biotic and abiotic. Adventurous worth wherever dales and hills we travelled together imbibing the exquisite assortment knowledge of plants, dying artefacts and related anthropological narratives with humour pudding repartees. Reminisces in me of how he see things- Once he exclaimed seeing a computer performing certain works, modelling, customizing and printing – See, How lovely it is! (Yengu! Nungsidra). He didn’t just talk about utility but the aesthetic and emotional attachment even to inanimate things, is lively and vibrant still.

During tete-a-tete instances, emphasised the almost extinct artforms like Khunung Eshei, Khulang Eshei, Phousu Eshei, Tengtharol, Naoshum, etc. and their mood resonating intonations and inflections be recorded and preserved. His interest, experiments and analysis on various sounds though unprofessional, well-timed recalling and emulation of anecdotal events captivated me spellbound. Those dimensions and subtleties ignites in me a peculiar momentum for interconnectedness of science, art and spirituality.  Exacavation, extensive exploration and documentation of our manifold dying artforms and traditions, unflagging collection of relics, showcasing into limelight the folksongs, dances, traditional instruments, handicrafts, cultural programmes of Aimol, Maring, Meetei( Chakpas, Kakching, etc), Tarao, etc. are a delight and eye-opening for many. Seminars and workshops (extensive and intensive) on cane-bamboo handicrafts, weaving, exhibition of manuscripts, earthenware, traditional iron-smelting of Kakching, traditional time keeping of our forefathers,  installation and inauguration ceremonies- pung hongba etc., extending outreach exhibition programmes inside and outside state conducted were once-in-life time experiences.

His planning and execution by dateline is striking. Keen was in his organising and delegating the parts and shared responsibilities for any event and function to be a symphonic orchestra. No doubt, to an artist self- works was never a perfect masterpiece.

When it comes to plants, it’s not just about knowing names but let me to experience the plants by smell, taste, touch, shapes and impart relevant infos be it medicinal or web-of-affiliated stories . Emphasised note-taking and recording of things and events. Indeed an institution in himself apart from collection of relics and manuscripts, creating an educational ecosystem overarching a humongous range of areas.

He has acute observations of people in relation to their social adhesion and inhabited regions. The rich collection of artefacts and manuscripts embodying Peoples’ Museum will haunt his feat to every visitor. A prolific author of 30 odd books (including compilation, transliteration, documentation) on toponomy(Lammitlon), myths and legends, history, culture, anthropology, traditional practices- hymns and rituals, various ceremonies, festivals, commentaries on some aspects of our land and people, etc. He ever encouraged the existing and budding troubadours and Asheibas and help liaised amongst them. His scientific outlook and curiosity, busting many myths in prevalent and obsolete practices amazed me time and again. His living works are known and acclaimed, hence I better not enumerate here much.

Listening him how he educate himself, the hard trials and tribulations, hit and trial efforts to refinement, then excellence in certain domains is sheerly indomitable. In one of his incitement to get fond of books and sharing his experience, he said he read and scan through almost all the books in the People’s Museum Archives and Library, a huge collection of various disciplines and languages, many hardly understood but learned to anyhow read for the zeal of curiosity and hope of acclimatizing whatever possible.

Once we came across a child crying dolefully on the road, he persuade the accompaniment to pacify the child, then turned to me phrasing, we already had enough woes and cries in our land. It hurts him a lot when children heartily weeps whatever be the reason. On our visit to many hill villages, requested and suggested them to preserve their costumes, customs and traditions that defines their identity even though they subscribed to Christianity. He criticise the superstitions and torments of do’s and don’ts that adhere along with practices of Hinduism in the valley and the need to pluck off certain wedges.

When it comes to having meal in someone’s house, to always plan with the host beforehand was maintained. Had the strict opinion of never to seat on someone’s bed when one visits to someone’s house. An early riser, never let someone wait before a journey was his indulgence. He had a versatile and jovial relationship in spite of age differences, always a friendly fondness in close proximity, yet a mentor, guide, teacher, brother and father. I had the privilege of having myriad encounters when any stranger to him was never a suspense, hesitation among strangers were dissolved at will being the bridge, the beau model of breaking the ice.

Narrated the stories of hardships and ill-treatment faced by people of Kakching some decades back, when certain past generations went to Imphal for education and learning other art-forms. That was how people of Kakching strived and set-up many educational institutes, many existing till today, without government’s help but by public funding and co-operation. Much water has flown down the Sengmai River since then.

Observed that most of the All Manipur based unions are based in Imphal and its effects has far reaching consequences, in this regard he wished the critical need for being properly heard the voices of far-flung peripheries too for the much emphasised united Manipur to come true in spirit. Opined that unwedging has to happen in certain spheres for a better progressive future in our land.

He was a visionary too, conveyed what trajectories might trace out if we pay heed or if we didn’t. Though a curator and proponent of ancient and dying realms, never was he a luddite. Curiosity for learning, reading and writing hardly fades till his last. A way to look is both museum and him, symbolises institutional and human time-machine. In every conversation, eliciting forth and back the related associations, drawing interesting anecdotes on any topic will be dearly missed and peter out in the sands of time.

Eating with him- fruits and dishes, always senses an appetising trigger. Whenever I visit his abode, offered and presented me sapling of various plants- mostly indigenous. Had a Midas’ sprouting hand in seeding (Khut Thumba). Sometimes made me to relocate the saplings to a suitable spot in his premises. When it comes to flowers, reminds me of G.B. Shaw’s tag- ‘I like flowers, I also like children, but I do not chop their heads off and keep them in bowls of water around the house.’ Adventures and volumes of travelogues will be missed and cease to unfold thenceforth. Moments to behold when you see him communicating effectively with people of no lingua franca. His welcoming and guiding heart will be missed forever. Those were the days, those were the days…

Now flashed remind me of his observation on bestowing and felicitating old persons for their notable works at their ripe age who can barely walk, being called-up on stage to confer awards and recognition behind-time amounts to public parading (Khongoinaba). When in full-swing and vibrant, hardly dare to support or recognise from concern authorities, which he posited as rather the deserving, opportune and right time.

The ardent journey of being an independent collector, curator and archivist was a highly precarious affair on the part of the family in spite of being a bread earner. Few philanthropist had tried their best to the rescue and support from time to time. The toils and turmoil faced was voluminous, unfortunately ends tragic and continue to trails on to the bereaved family.

Lest we forget the left behind treasure trove for the present and generations to come- preservation, curation and conservation to sustain is a persistent effort. Torch bearer has passed away and the question remains- seek ye apropos for that once derelict, never a replicating archetype!

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