Mythologies of a gigantic python

Mythologies of a gigantic python

By WEB DESK | | 28 July, 2015
Poubi Lai devours a man.

The phrase “dream logic” can never be adequately explained. It’s one of those things that experiential reality still monopolises. Snakes, for some reason, are a fairly popular motif in dreams. Carl Jung reckoned that his snake dreams were sexual (“The daemon of sexuality approaches our soul as a serpent”) but they were also a wake-up call from his most natural, creative impulses. The scientist Friedrich August Kekule dreamt of a pair of serpents

devouring each other, tail-in-mouth, a vision that led him to propose the molecular structure of benzene, which forms a roughly similar shape. Clearly, the gears of the human brain can move with serpentine ease, given the right motivation. In 2002, Karam Dineshwar, a Manipuri wood carver belonging to the Karigar class (the craftspeople who served what was once the royal family of Manipur) had a dream in which he saw a giant serpent slithering around. This was Poubi Lai, a mythical horned python important to the folklore of Manipur’s culturally dominant indigenous group: the Meitei people, who comprise more than 60% of the total population of Manipur despite occupying just about 10% of the total land. Inspired,Dineshwar carved out a 21-ft-long wooden snake from the root of a large tree near the bank of the Leimatak River, the first time that Poubi Lai was seen outside the realm of theatre, music and dance. The expression, according to K. Sobita Devi of the Manipur State Museum, was based on the dream. The late Dineshwar would have been proud to see his

The scientist Friedrich August Kekule dreamt of a pair of serpents

magnum opus on display at Delhi’s National Museum, where it was unveiled on Tuesday evening. The sculpture will be on display until 31 August. The one-object exhibition is the

"result of a collaboration between the National Museum and Bhopal’s Indira Gandhi Rasupe from Manipur who interpreted the story of Poubi Lai through an elaborate yet very"

serpent’s consumption. And so it continued, until a shaman named Kabui Salang Baji killed Poubi Lai with a nine-pronged javelin. The sculpture is accompanied by a series of paintings  based on Meitei folklore: these can be considered ancillary narratives to the story

of Poubi Lai. IGRMS possesses (in collaboration with Manipur State Museum) Paphal Lambuba, an illustrated manuscript containing 364 diagrams (paphals) of Pakhangba (Poubi Lai is believed to be an incarnation or an aspect of this god-king, who features prominently in the origin myth of the Meitei people). The paintings on display at the National Museum include works by the royal guild as well as more modern-day interpretations made by contemporary Manipuri artists. Some of these paintings are quite instructive about the 


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