GUWAHATI: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi began addressing the nation on Tuesday, what instantly caught the attention of people in faraway Manipur was his mask.
The “lengyan” that he was wearing is a traditional scarf held in high esteem by the Meiteis (Manipuris). Like the Assamese “gamosa” which the PM often wears, lengyan signifies love, dignity and respect.
The Manipuris viewed Modi’s gesture as recognition to the tradition of weaving in Manipur and felt that it would augment lengyan’s marketing.
“My sincere appreciation and salute to the Hon'ble PM @narendramodiji for using Manipuri Meitei Lengyan which is a traditionally and culturally symbolic one, while addressing the nation today. It shows how much our PM loves and care for the NE particularly Manipur,” Chief Minister N Biren Singh tweeted.
RK Shiva Chandra, a traditionalist and convenor of Act East Policy Committee, said Modi’s gesture was heart-warming.
“He (PM) often says we (Manipuris) guard the border for the nation. By wearing the lengyan, he extended his love and respect to everyone in the country guarding the border,” Shiva Chandra said.
He was optimistic that as Modi is an icon, his gesture will augment the marketing of lengyan.
Well-known Manipuri fashion designer Robert Naorem said by wearing the scarf, Modi recognised the tradition of weaving in Manipur.
“That the PM wore it means a lot to us. It is a pride that he recognised our tradition of weaving. It was a huge support not only to the people of Manipur but also the weavers. It will inspire and motivate them,” Naorem said.
Lourembam Bedabati, who is a world-renowned Manipuri folk singer, said it was a matter of pride for the people of Manipur. Lengyan is a symbol of unity of all indigenous communities in the state, she said.
Congress spokesperson Ningombam Bupenda Meitei said it was a moment of pride for all Manipuris.
“Proud to see Prime Minister @narendramodi ji wearing our traditional Meitei muffler (called Meitei lengyan in Manipuri, which is popularly known as leirung phee) while addressing the nation,” he tweeted.
Worn mostly by men, lengyan consists of different colours and has a red border line. It has a history and the use of it is very common in Manipuri wedding ceremonies.