Chongtham Sanatombi Devi - A Singer profile

* Daniel Chabungbam

Chongtham Sanatombi Devi

Chongtham Sanatombi Devi

"Eeta Amuba Kajolse Muthapiro
Pamjadre Amuba Jaatse ..................

This are few lines from a late eighties song, sung by one of the finest singers of Manipur. The singer was Chongtham Sanatombi Devi who debutted with this song on the All India Radio (AIR) Imphal. It is also a fact that the song continues to be a hit even today. The sensational voice of Sanatombi was hailed as different from other Manipuri singers in the genre of 'Manipuri Adhunik', now more commonly termed as 'matam eeshei'. She often smiles to the tune of the music while performing on stages.

It was at Nabadwip in Bengal at the age of 9 when she was initiated to the world of music by her Adi Guru Smt. Wangoi Chaobi Devi in the year 1947. She was a musically gifted child. With lessons in various singing styles of Nimai Sanyas, Naoka-Bilas, Man Bhanjan, Manipuri Adhunik, etc. from learned Gurus like Wangoi Chaobi Devi, Guru Anandamay Bandhopadhyai, Guru Japan Tonu, Sanatombi Devi still captures the imagination of various music lovers of Manipur.

Thokchom ningol Chongtham ongbi Sanatombi Devi was born in the month of October 22, 1938. She was born at Sylhet Khunou in Bangladesh to her beloved parents (Late) Shri Thokchom Joykishan Singh and (Late) Srimati Dhanabati Devi. She is the fourth amongst five children. She had two elder brothers, one elder sister and a younger brother.

The whole family of Sanatombi Devi migrated from Bangladesh in the year 1947 fearing the repercussions of the Indo-Pak partition. They settled at Nabadwip in West Bengal, India. While staying in Nabadwip in 1947 when she was just 9 years old, she was initiated to the world of Music by her Guru Wangoi Chaobi Devi who was also residing at Nabadwip at the time.

She also learnt Manipuri Classical dance 'Ras Lila' from Guru Wangoi Chaobi Devi and has taken up the role of Radha in a 'Ras Lila' play under her Guru's guidance. Thus her talent and skill in dancing and singing came to the notice of the public and from then on, she started to flourish as a young child dancer and singer.

In 1956, Sanatombi Devi took lessons in singing of Nimai Sanyas from Guru Anandamay Bandhopadhyai at Nabadwip. She met Oja Moirang Ningthou who was on a visit to Nabadwip and learnt Man Bhanjan from Oja Moirang Ningthou in 1957. In the same year Sanatombi also completed learning the chapter of 'Naoka Bilas' from Guru japan Tonu while on a tour to Nabadwip.

After her learning from her Gurus, she frequently visited Manipur as a part of conducted tours of dance and song shows based on the above Nimai Sanyas, Naoka Bilas and Man Bhanjan and she became quiet prominent in this field. Pas Khela (originally Paasa Khela) a dice game evolved out of these shows.

During her frequent visit to Manipur, she came to know with her future husband, Indramani Singh. In the year 1958, she got married with Chongtham Indramani Singh and moved her residedce permanently to Yaiskul Chingakham Leirak in Imphal. Her husband Chongtham Indramani Singh passed away on December 17, 1999. He was serving as Deputy Superintendent of Excise to the Government of Manipur.

Chongtham Sanatombi Devi

Chongtham Sanatombi Devi

In 1960, Sanatombi became an approved singer of Manipuri Adhunik (Matam Eeshei) songs at the All India Radio Guwahati Station. She work as a music instructor at the Manipur State branch office of the Indian Council for Child Welfare at Moirangkhom. She also served as music instructor at the Bhaktivedanta Institute Mission Higher Secondary School at ISKCON. On the other hand she also teaches music to the members of ISKCON Women's Forum.

She was honoured in the field of Arts and Culture, Manipuri Adhunik (Matam Eeshei) by the Chief Minister of Manipur in the year 1991. Arts and Culture Dramatic Association Moirang honoured Sanatombi Devi with the title 'Sangeet Ratna' and a gold medal in 1999.

Sanatombi Devi was awarded Lifetime Achievement 'Maibam Haricharan Award' in the 2000 by ROOP RAAG on it's 40th anniversary celebration. For her contribution in the field of Manipuri Matam Eeshei, Sanatombi Devi was given the Certificate of Recognition by Apunba Manipur Matam Eeshei Kanglup (AMMIK) in the year 2005. Manipuri Sahitya Parishad conferred Sangeet Bhusan award to Sanatombi Devi in 2010.

Sanatombi has toured India extensively giving outstanding performances at places like Benaras (Varanasi), Jaipur, Delhi, Gaya, Allahabad, Kashi, Bhagalpur, etc. ISKCON Manipur in recognition of her enthusiasm, dedication, experience sent her on an international tour as Sutradhari to countries like Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Barcelona and Sicily in 2001.

To her credit, four audio albums (in cassette form) has been released so far. The audio cassettes include Geet Govinda Volume-I, Geet Govinda Volume-II, Bhajan Mala and Thariktha (along with late Nongmaithem Pahari).

Eeta amuba kajolse muthatpiro pamjadre amuba jatse written by B. Jayantakumar Sharma and Chinglon Laana Leikhraba nangbu cheklai saklon loukhraba nangbu written by Chandam Shyamacharon are the most famous songs sung by Sanatombi Devi.

Nowadays she enjoys singing Sankirtan on different occasions in various parts of the state. She also performs in stages to enthrall the crowds at various musical shows across the valley of Manipur where she sings her golden hits to music enthusiasts.

Chongtham Sanatombi Devi aged about 70 years now is living at Yaiskul Chingakham Leirak in Imphal with her four sons.

A group photo with Chongtham Sanatombi Devi

A group photo with Chongtham Sanatombi Devi

See a Photo Gallery on Chongtham Sanatombi here

* Daniel Chabungbam is presently working as Manipur Correspondent of guwahati based Frontier TV 24 x 7 news channel
This profile was first webcasted on August 11, 2012


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