Wari Leeba: The Declining Storytelling Tradition of the Meiteis of Manipur and Tripura
By Sukla Singha
There is a popular notion that ‘literature’ is primarily written or printed. Another western concept is that it is the written word that is legitimate or valid and modern or progressive, whereas the spoken word is a representative of the primitive or uncivilized world. These notions have been challenged time and again by alternative textualities such as oral traditions, paintings and illustrations. The oral tradition of storytelling has been in vogue since time immemorial across many communities of India as well as the rest of the world. These stories would serve as a grand repository of memories and histories of the respective societies through the power of the spoken word. But with rapid urbanization, these stories are faced first with distortion and then with extinction, as the storytellers of the older generation pass away. This paper attempts to understand the storytelling tradition of Manipur, popularly known as the Wari-Leeba (that forms an integral part and parcel of the Meitei culture) as well to find out probable causes of its declining/deteriorating status in the adjacent state of Tripura that is a home to a good number of Meitei population.