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Carved in eternity

Meren Longkumer visits Mopungchuketa, a native village in Nagaland, famous for its legend of two lovers carved in stones.

india Updated: May 14, 2008, 19:22 IST
Meren Longkumer
Meren Longkumer
Hindustan Times

Two towers stand in a village that may first seem to a stranger the landmarks of the quiet place but they are memorials of two lovers standing for posterity.

20 kilometers from Mokokchung district town of Nagaland, Mopungchuket village — where the two lovers Jina and and his beloved Itiben lived– has now become one of most frequented tourist attraction in this northeastern state of Nagaland. <b1>

Folktales abound among the tribals here but this story has stood the test of time and it has been the inspiration for many lovers and littérateurs.

With growing popularity of the tale especially among the Ao tribe — one of the major tribes in Nagaland—the lovers’ story is also dubbed as Nagaland’s Romeo and Juliet.

Unending breeze greets the tourists after the pleasant ride up to the vi1llage. There is a museum that exhibits memorabilia and books not only of the lovers but also important materials of cultural and historical importance.

“After the state government initiative to develop this village as a hot spot, tourists not only from India, but also from far-off countries like Australia have come this season” the caretaker of the museum says of the increasing tourist flow.

There is a lake and a lawn nearby where one can find majestic sculptures carved in wood depicting the two legendary lovers besides others.

“The sculptures are majestic and craftsmanship very authentic,” said Imkongsunep, one of the tourists, as he admired one of the many sculptures that on the lawns.

Telltale signs and the romance
Many people consider this tale a legend.

According to the story, the lovers traversed many mountains and villages as their romance bloomed. Some villages even have footprints and telltale clues and marks that testify that the lovers really existed.

All the ingredients of a classic Shakespearean work are there in this tale—from pure lyrical flow to the drama and romance that ends tragically.

The love story is laced with a lot of lyrical element that even in school there is a special teacher to teach this paper which is prescribed as one of the mother tongue language paper.

Folklore boom
Mr. Nukshi, a school teacher who teaches Jina and Itiben talks about the scope and entertainment folk stories from the northeast can provide says, “there are many folktales that can be compiled properly with research that can instantly be a big hit even in a film industry”

A PHD scholar in folklore from JNU, Mr Walunir says, “There are folklore centers in the norteastern states of Guwahati and Shillong, but books need to be penned on the subject and developed”.

But for now, lovers and people alike seem to be keen on drawing parallels to the famous couple whose love could not be consummated till the end.

Folklores are part of any tribal heritage but this legendary romance Jina and Itiben, stands tall among all and continues to enthrall for many generations.

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