The Manipuri (Metei) people reside in Asia and number about 1,760,000, with 20,000 professing Christianity. According to the 2011 census, Christianity closely follows the major religion of Hinduism, while other prominent religions include Islam, Sanamahism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Despite their variety of religious practices, the Manipuri people experience unity and harmony because of their common heritage and language.
William Carey translated the original Manipuri Bible in the Hindi-Devanagari script in 1827, which is now only seen and read in museums. However, it was the first American missionary to the Manipuri people, William Pettigrew, who developed the first Manipuri dictionary in 1895. In 1936, Baptist Mid-Missions missionaries began to translate the Manipuri New Testament in the Bangla (Bengali) script. The local Bible society took the manuscript of this translation and printed the first Manipuri New Testament in 1969, and those missionaries, with the help of native speakers, began translating the Old Testament in 1971. After the founding of Bibles International in 1981, the national translation team started a new Manipuri Bible translation in 1982. Meanwhile, the local Bible society finished the Old Testament and published the first Manipuri Bible in Bangla script in 1984. However, as the churches matured and grew in their knowledge and understanding, they discovered many translation problems, such as errors and omissions with the current translation, particularly in the Old Testament. Finally, after more than two decades of labor, the translation team completed the new Manipuri Bible in Bangla script in 2010.
The ancient language of Manipur originally used a script called Meitei Mayek for more than 3,500 years until the 18th century, when the Bangla script began to replace it. Schools and colleges began to teach Meitei Mayek in 2006, and the use of the original script has quickly surpassed that of the Bangla script. As a result, young people today can no longer read books and newspapers published in Bangla script, including the Manipuri Bible.
As the stock of 2010 Manipuri Bibles diminished, the question arose over which script to use for the reprint. Many pastors who cannot read the Bangla script desire to use a Manipuri Bible in Roman script, because of the difficulties and inconveniences caused by translating the Manipuri Bible in Bangla from the pulpit while preaching and teaching. Bible teachers who cannot read Bangla script also face difficulties conducting vernacular short term Bible schools in Manipur. Taking these concerns into consideration, the translation team decided to slightly revise and reprint the Manipuri Bible in Bangla script for the older generation, and then transliterate that Bangla script revised Bible into Roman script for the younger generation. The Manipuri held a dedication for the revised Bible on August 28, 2019, with all of the translation team members from 2010 present. The transliteration into Roman script now advances towards its completion.
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