The Oral Folk Literature of the Ancient Meiteis of Manipur: An Analysis of its Cultural Significance
Oral narratives are the earliest forms of storytelling as they exist in every culture as a part of religious rituals, folk music and songs. They include ritual texts, curative chants, epic poems, musical genres, folk tales, creation stories, songs, myths, spells, legends, proverbs, riddles, tongue twisters, word games, recitations and other narratives not recorded in writing. With the invention of writing, the ancient forms of oral narratives have undergone a lot of changes and have become valuable works of literature. However, the charm of oral narratives often told by improvisation and even gestures as a part of tradition cannot be transcribed into literature. As oral stories are brought down from generation to generation and are committed only to the memory, the various stages of the growth of such narratives give an account of the culture of the people. These are the sources of popular entertainment and are closely associated with festivals and religious ceremonies. At present, our society feels the need to safeguard and protect these indigenous forms of arts from the danger of extinction due to the impacts of globalisation and commercial entertainments. The exploration of the meanings and themes of ancient narratives, in a broader social context, and the significant role of the variant folklore genres in maintaining collective wisdom, national identity, solidarity and traditional moral values are points of great concern in this study.