(Last Updated on : 26/09/2014)
Thang-Ta and Sarit-Sarak are the two most popular Martial arts
practiced in the Manipur
state of India. The term 'Thang-Ta' also called 'Huyen Lallong' is a well-known form of the ancient Manipuri Martial Art. This form of art originated from the war environment of the north-eastern state of Manipur, previously an independent kingdom from the early Christian era. This state played a prominent role in the geopolitical surroundings of medieval era in between China and India with several independent states at war among themselves. Continuous struggle for life between tribes
, clans and states led to the invention of various means and ways to safeguard the citizens lives soldiery and also developing an inward approach to various problems of death, life and afterlife.
History of Thang-Ta and Sarit-Sarak
The origin of Thang-Ta and Sarit-Sarak goes back to the seventeenth century. According to history
, the dragon god-king named Lainingthou Pakhangba, predestined King Mungyamba, in order to kill the fiend Moydana of Khagi by a sword and spear. Thus, the god
constructed the sword and spear at the time of creating the world.
Practice of Thang-Ta and Sarit-Sarak
Thang-Ta is the use of sword against one or many challengers while Sarit-Sarak is the procedure of taking on armed or unarmed competitors. The kings of Manipur comprehensively used the martial arts forms to take on the British. Thang-Ta can be played in three ways. The first is in sync with the tantric practices, in the second there are sword and spear dances
and the third way is the real fighting technique.
'Thang' or art of the sword emphasizes Phidup or coil, lowering the body of the fighter to the ground to help him get a spring action in order to expand and attack. 'Ta' means spear which emphasizes Phanba, opening out the body of the fighter with two forms; Nongphan causes the expanse of the sky, and Leiphal vying for the stretch of the earth
at the ground level to stretch out to all directions. The spear uses almost seventy five percent of the lower extremities while in motion, and the wielding of the sword usually takes about seventy five percent exercises of the upper extremities.
The Thang-Ta requires vigorous use of the body to reach out to the opponent, and the use of sword and spear are derived from the cultural and physiographic environment of the Manipur hills and the plains. The pre-dominant ethnic group called the Meitei is able to use both spear and sword in its weapon system. The sword is most commonly used to protect the body from any attack, while the figure of eight is largely used to guard all insecure parts of the body.
Thang-Ta a Communicative Art
The art of warfare simultaneously visualized a deep value system settled within the culture of the little ethnic communities which was struggling for survival due to constant attack from unfriendly neighbours and also to hold a social order as per rank, status and kin affiliations of a kind. The individual always enjoyed deep bond with the community
with the help of ritual as a means of frequent regenerative action according to the movement of the divine world of ancestors outside human life. Mans world was an outward exposure of the inner self of the universe and the natural world. Great harmony between the external action and inner forces made way for the use of the body in several forms of expression.
Thang-Ta or the art of sword and the spear therefore became a communicative art form which however maintained its fighting character in the secret home schools of teachers and gurus, after being disallowed at the time of the Colonial Rule.
Performance of Thang-Ta and Sarit-Sarak at Festivals
This art form also survived at the time of the integration of Manipur with the Indian Union in the year 1949, where the art was displayed in festivals and performance platforms out of the country since 1976. The people of Manipur not only excelled in the use of weapons but also they were trained well in special technique of unarmed warfare called Sarit-Sarak. Each and every swordsman is required to excel his art of Thang-Ta by getting trained perfectly in this special form of unarmed war. This unarmed form of combat is so effective that the most offensive and evasive moves are very much effective to check any form of attack without or with weapons.