With the income earned from making various iron tools such as Thangjou (machetes), swords, spears, knives axes etc, blacksmith KS Koba has been maintaining his family comprising of two daughters and one son for many years.
51-year-old Koba is the son of Korung hailing from Sandang Senba Maring village in Senapati district.
“I have been making various iron made tools for the last 20 years and it is the only means of earning for me. Under the guidance of some local elders, I learnt the profession of blacksmith which is one of the traditional professions practised by almost all the people of Maring ethnic community settling in Manipur. The popularity of Maring Houthang (Maring machete) in Manipur testifies the expertise of Maring people in making iron made tools. Like Gurkhas are noted for making Khukri, Marings in Manipur are famous in making Maring Houthang. With the income earned from making these various iron made tools, I have been maintaining my family,” Koba said.
Sitting inside the work-shed located at his house, Koba makes various types of iron tools such as Maring Thang (machete), Tangkhul Thang, Khukri, Louri Thang, Thangol (sickle), knives, axes etc. Maring Thang is one of the most popular iron made tools in Manipur.
KOBA’S RATE LIST
He sells Maring Thang at Rs600 to Rs800, Louri Thang at Rs800, Khukri at Rs1000, and sickle at Rs300 a piece respectively.
Machete is known as Shon while sickle is known as Langpui in Maring dialect. For making various types of iron tools, charcoal is one of the most requisite raw materials, because a blacksmith requires softening the iron materials so that it can be shaped in any design or model by heating them through charcoal flame. Bags of charcoals are procured from nearby Andro village. Sometimes, he collects it from his local men who are professional charcoal producers. Koba himself knows all the necessary proceedings about how to produce charcoal. But he does not do it as he is always busy with his present job of making iron tools.
KOBA IS A CARPENTER TOO
KS Koba, besides his expertise in making iron tools and weapons, is also an expert carpenter. He was working as a carpenter in a furniture house located at Palace Compound. He left the job as it could not afford to maintain his family. The carpentry house paid him Rs100 as daily wage. He used to go to his carpentry house daily by bus. After deducting the bus fare, the balance money was not sufficient enough for his family maintenance. As a result of this, he thought of leaving the job and started a new venture on making various iron tools at his home.
The iron tools such as Thangjou, Khukri, Lourithang, Yotpak, Thangol, Tangkhul Thang etc made by Koba are brought to the valley villages for sale. He goes here and there for selling the tools. The worn out iron springs of heavy and light vehicles such as bus, truck, van, car etc are the best raw materials for making machetes, swords etc. He used to collect these raw materials from workshops and vehicle owners, Koba said.
Koba passed matriculation from Langdum High School. After passing matriculation, he did not continue his studies while helping the day to day maintenance of the family. His father did some contract works. Almost all the properties of the family were sold out when his father suffered huge loss in his business.
“Right from the days of my childhood, I have been helping my poor family by working in our Pamlou (shifting cultivation) located at hill instead of attending school. Being the eldest son in the family, I had to look after my younger brothers and sisters in the family by doing many manual works. As a result of this, I had to stop my further studies after passing matriculation to help them. I earned for my family by working in Pamlou and sometimes, running piggery and poultry farms”, he recalled.
ABOUT MARING TRIBE
He said that the word Maring is derived from the word Meiring or Meiringba which means ‘The people who keep the fire burning’. Maring ethnics are one of the oldest Naga tribes who are settling in the South Eastern part of Nagaland, bordering Myanmar. Marings mostly inhabit in Chandel district of Manipur. They are also found scattered in other districts like Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Thoubal and Imphal East etc. Marings are generous, simple, neat and clean and brave. Making various iron tools like machetes, swords and spears and making of bamboo crafts like baskets, Polang (hamper), Phiruk etc. has been one of the traditional professions practised by this particular community for years.