“THANG-TA”, a Manipuri Martial Art as a Hobby and as a Career”

By THANGJAM PINKY CHANU

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A person without HOBBY is like food without salt. When your hobby becomes your work, you’ll meet happiness. At the same time beware of the hobbies that’ll eat you up.”   

Thang-TA is an art of sword and spear (where thang means sword and ta means spear). It is an ancient, indigenous, traditional martial art of Manipur, a small state in Northeast India. Well this indigenous art form of Manipur shows some resemblance with other styles of Indian martial arts like the ancient Shastra Vidya and Vajrmusthti of Kerala; Gatka of Sikhs ; Silambam of Tamils, etc. But this art form is distinct and unique in its own forms from the rest of its contemporaries. Moreover, this art form is a good hobby as it imparts discipline, good habits, punctuality and physical fitness. Most importantly, discipline, sincerity and punctuality are the keys to win this art form. This art form is closely related with the culture and tradition of Manipur. The mesmerising dances of Manipur have also been derived from this martial art form. Today, it is a well-known Meetei martial art practiced by both men and women. Also, it is a well –known sport played all across India and other foreign countries. It portrays the rich and unique Manipuri culture to the world. It had been a great part of the glorified past of Manipur. 


               Thang-Ta had been a part of the great heroic tradition and the glorified past of Manipur. Its origin lies in the pre-historic period before the Christian era in Manipur, which was an independent kingdom in the Southeast Asian subcontinent. It were used by the kings of Manipur both in times of war and peace.  It was once the household occupation of all men in Manipur. But with the occupation of Manipur by the British colonials in 1891, this indigenous art form was completely uplifted. There was a ban upon the use and practice of this art form and those abide by the rules were seriously entertained with harsh punishment. This was regarded as the black era of Manipuri thang-ta. However it survived during the integration of Indian union in 1949 but it took more than a century to completely revive its ancient glory. Legends have to say that the world famous Manipuri classical dance, the splendid pung and pala cholom, the graceful Lai haraoba (merry festivals of Meetei dieties) dance all trace their origin in the moves, gaits and postures of Thang-ta.

               Thang-Ta is a unique martial art which synchronizes worship, physical balance and fighting skill into a single art form. Moreover, it can be performed in three different ways. It is practiced- firstly, as a sync with the tantric practices; secondly, as sword and spear dances and lastly as a real fighting technique. In fact, it is one of the best hobbies one can have in the 21st century, the era of stress and anxiety. As it imparts physical, moral, spiritual education besides giving bodily exercises and training in the form of martial art. It also aims at implanting habits which will be beneficial through life and useful both individuals as well as the Nation. It is a good hobby for fighting drugs addiction and prevent oneself from negative thoughts. Most importantly, it is a great tool for self-defence for girls and it also boosts their self-confidence to tackle any circumstances strongly that come their way.

Apart from being just a good hobby, thang-ta can be pursued as a career too with flying colours if their will and determination are as strong as the steel (raw materials used for making sword and spear). In this field, one can only think of a physical education instructor in schools, colleges and universities or as a sportsperson to participate in national and international competitions as job opportunities. But it is not so as the domain of thang-ta is diverse and one can also seek entrepreneurial prospect in cultural tourism and health tourism as well. Many researches had pointed out the health benefits of practicing thang-ta. In this era of stress and anxiety, practicing thang-ta where prayer, respect, discipline, meditation, physical and mental fitness is of prime importance. Keeping the above prospects in view, one can pursue this art form as a career successfully. In fact, thang-ta is a good career option for both boys and girls. Besides, their career it will be; for boys as a defence tool from the doom of drugs and for girls as a self-defence.

                     The most prominent institution where one can take professional courses on thang-ta courses is the Thang-ta Federation of India. It is a government recognized and registered organization having its headquarters at New Delhi. It is the only National governing body to run, promote and control the Indian (Manipuri) martial art sports. It has its branch offices in all the states of India. It regularly organizes state, national and international levels championship. One can also take professional courses from the Sports Authority of India. Recently, the Government of India’s Khelo India Games included Thang-ta as an indigenous sport in their Fit India Campaign and it is a huge achievement for thang- ta players.

                              Thang-ta is not just a sport item but also provide many job prospects. Now, it is a part of cultural educational system. It has been included as a supplementary subject in the syllabus of BOSEM and COHSEM, board for conducting high school and higher secondary examinations respectively in Manipur. So students can offer this subject from their high school levels and make a good career out of it by continuing their courses further at higher educational levels. Recently, the Manipur Legislative Assembly passed a bill in consideration of the importance of implementing the practice of thang-ta in schools, colleges and at university levels. So there are undergraduate and graduate courses each of three years in the Manipur University, Imphal. Thang-ta provides various job prospects in the following fields –

Cultural tourism
Health tourism
Self-defence centre
Sports tourism `
Attire and equipment’s trading
Higher education sector

 jobs. It can be a solution for the unemployment problems in and across India.

The martial art sector in many countries have gain the momentum because of its  impact on well –being. India’s popular martial art, Thang-ta is a sport where only practitioner knows the benefit on health. It is high time to motivate younger generations to practice this art. The day will soon come when thang-ta is included in the medal games at Olympic Games and our youths will earn name and fame for the nation. Hence, thang-ta, the martial art of Manipur is a good hobby and a good career option and we need to further improvise to make it better.

By THANGJAM PINKY CHANU, IMPHAL

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