Manipuri dance is one of the major Indian classical dance forms. Manipur presents a mosaic of traditions and cultural patterns. Particularly, it is world famous for the Manipuri style of classical dance, forms very much distinct from other Indian dance.
Pung or Manipuri Mridanga is the soul of Manipuri Sankritana music and Classical Manipuri Dance. It assumes an important ritual character, an indispensable part of all social and devotional ceremonies in Manipur – the instrument itself becoming an object of veneration. Pung Cholom is performed as an invocatory number preceding the Sankirtana and Ras Lila. In this style, the dancers play the pung (a form of hand beaten drum) while they dance at the same time. Dancers need to be graceful and acrobatic at the same time. It is a highly refined classical dance number characterized by the modulation of sound from a soft whisper to a thunderous climax. There is the interplay of intricate rhythms and cross rhythms with varying markings of time from the slow to the quick with graceful and vigorous body movements leading to ecstatic heights. This dance may be performed by men or women and is usually a prelude to the Ras Lila.
The traditional Manipuri dance style embodies delicate, lyrical and graceful movements. The aim is to make rounded movements and avoid any jerks, sharp edges or straight lines. It is this which gives Manipuri dance its undulating and soft appearance. The feet move is viewed as part of a composite movement of the whole body. The dancer puts his or her feet down, even during vigorous steps, with the front part touching the ground first. The ankle and knee joints are effectively used as shock absorbers. The dancer’s feet are neither put down nor lifted up at the precise rhythmic points of the music but rather slightly earlier or later to express the same rhythmic points most effectively.
The musical accompaniment for Manipuri dance comes from a percussion instrument called the Pung, a singer, small cymbals, a stringed instrument called the Pena and wind instrument such as a flute. The drummers are always male artistes and, after learning to play the pung, students are trained to dance with it while drumming. This dance is known as Pung Cholom. The lyrics used in Manipuri are usually from the classical poetry of Jayadeva, Vidyapati, Chandidas, Govindadas or Gyandas and may be in Sanskrit, Maithili, Brij Bhasha or others. The graceful and slow movement of the dance makes it one of the most acclaimed classical dances of India. The costume is elegant, as there are nicely embroidered clothes that give luster to the beauty of the art.
Manipur is known for its rich culture, which has maintained its links with the culture of the rest of the country. The most famous Manipuri traditions are the Manipuri dance, games and the bright festivals. Manipur presents a mosaic of traditions and cultural patterns.
Manipuri Dance – the Manipuri style of classical dance is world famous and is very distinct from other Indian dance forms. The Manipuri School of dancing whether folk, classical or modern, is devotional in nature. The rich culture and tradition of Manipur is also depicted in its handloom clothes and handicrafts. The Manipuri handloom and handicraft are world famous for its craftsmanship as well as ingenuity and colors.
The language used is called Meitei-lon. It belongs to the Tibeto-burman family of languages. Literally it means the “language of the Meiteis”. But for some time now, it has been known as Manipuri. Since 1992, the language is in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution. Commonly the text is written in the Bengali Script. The original script, called Meitei-mayek, has been out of use for a long time but revived recently. The script and language is taught in the schools and colleges at this time in Manipur and has been implemented compulsory with an aim to replace the Bengali script completely within few years.
This much improvement was strongly gained after the Meetei leader Mr. Chingshubam Akaba, who was murdered in connection with the development and popularity of his name in the state on the 31st midnight of December 2006 at his resident gate in Imphal.
People are trying to bring this script up to the international standard as it is the only lone script of NE India.
The Meeteis or Meiteis are the majority ethnic group of Manipur, India, and because of this are sometimes referred to as Manipuris. Generally speaking, Meitei is an endonym and Manipuri is an exonym.
The Native State of Manipur or Meeteileipak or Meitrabak or Kangleipak geographically lies between 93.20 E and 94.47 E longitude and 23.50 N and 25.41 N latitude. It is situated on the North-Eastern part of India bordering Myanmar on the East and South. Majority of the people of Manipur are the “Meeteis” who mainly inhabit in the plains whereas the hill tribes dominate the hilly areas who are commonly known as “chingmis”. All the native ethic groups of the present state of Manipur had, at one time, been the cognate of Meetei in Meeteileipak. Meiteis are also written as Meeteis.
Manipur is a State in North East India, with the city of Imphal as its capital. Manipur is bounded by the Indian States of Nagaland to the north, Mizoram to the south and Assam to the west; it also borders Myanmar to the east.
Traditional dress: The traditional dress of the women folk is a sarong called “phanek”. It is worn at the waist down to the ankles, or under the arms, covering the breasts and down to mid-calf. Traditionally women do not wear a blouse when the phanek is worn in the higher position. This is complemented by a blouse and a wrap. Men wear a “khudei” which is similar to the Thai and Khmer men’s garment which is a knee-length cloth wrapped in folds at the waist. In recent years, men’s formal wear is a longer and ankle-length version called a “pheijom” which is similar to the Indian “dhoti”.
Meeties men and women use Khamen Chatpa Phi (a printed cloths with seven different colours) a traditionally very important cloth during the ritual ceremonies. These cloths are in the form of Shirts – (kurta) and cloths – (kumis). There are seven different colours of Khamenchatpa with a single colours in each Cloths based on the colour code of seven clan of the Meetei. These types of cloths are rare and keep with care.
And for the casual Meetei women created their designs in the form of Wangkhei Phi, Moirang Phi, etc.
Manipur is a land of festivities and merriments all round the year. To the Manipuris, festivals are the symbols of their cultural, social and religious aspirations which, besides removing the monotony of life by providing physical diversions and mental recreation, help them lead a better and fuller life.
- Ningol Chakouba: The social festival of Manipuris is a remarkable festival of the Meiteis. Married women of the family, married off to distant places, come to the parental house along with her children and enjoy a sumptuous feast. It is a form of family reunion to revive familial affection.
- Yaoshang: The premier festival of Manipur Hindus: Celebrated for five days commencing from the full moon day of Phalguna (February/March), Yaoshang is the premier festival of Manipur. The Thabal Chongba, a kind of Manipuri folk dance where boys and girls hold hands and sing and dance in a circle, is associated with this festival. Yaosang to Manipur is what Durga Puja is to Bengal, Diwali to North India and Bihu to Assam.
- Cheiraoba (Manipuri New Year): During the festival, people clean and decorate their houses and prepare special festive dishes which are first offered to various deities. Celebrated during the month of April, a part of the ritual entails villagers climbing the nearest hill tops in belief that it will enable them to rise to greater heights in their worldly life. The Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) also observe it.
Manipur has made some progress in the setting up of small scale industrial units of which some 7700 have been set up. A joint sector plant to manufacture drugs and pharmaceuticals has been commissioned and electronic goods, Steel fabrication articles and plastic goods are being produced in the state. A cement plant has also come up in Manipur. Among other industries a spinning mill, a ghee manufacturing unit and similar factories to make other consumer products.
However, agriculture is still the single largest source of livelihood, for a majority of the rural masses, and the state economy depends on it. Paddy is the main crop grown. Manipuri rice is very sweet. It can be eaten without curry. Other crops are wheat, pulses, maize etc. The soil in Manipur is considered fit for all kinds of grain crops, vegetables and fruits.
The Meitei society has shared with the Nagas and Kukis, the other two dominant communities settled mainly in the hills. The seven clans of the meiteis ruled in different principalities, mainly in the valley. The Meitei feudal Kingdom started in 33 AD when King Pakhangba of the Ningthouja Dynasty united all the seven clans and ascended the throne. The term Meitei now refers to four social groups now – the Meitei marup (believe in only Meitei culture and God), Meitei goura (believe in both Meitei and Hindu gods), the Meitei Brahmins (locally called Bamons) and the Meitei Muslims (called Meitei Pangal or just Pangal). All of them have Meiteilon as their mother-tongue.
Meitei women have always enjoyed high economic and social status in Manipur, and today they work in nearly every social and economic sphere of society. In particular, they control traditional retail, including the Meitei markets and the trade in vegetables and traditional clothing. ‘Nupi Keithel’ are markets run by Meitei women only, the most prominent one being the royal market, Sana Keithel (also known to tourists and non-Meitei Indians as Ima Keithel) in Imphal.
The Meitei people are well-known for their sporting prowess, hockey and polo are traditional and the Meitei form of martial art, Thang Ta, has recently been recognised as one of the official forms of international martial arts. ‘Polo’ which has well known place in international sports is known to be originated from Manipur which original name is ‘Sagol Kangjei’ a royal game used to be played by kings and royalty of Manipur
The major population is concentrated in the Imphal valley of Manipur, Cachar valley of Assam, Tripura, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Few of the Meiteis are also followers of Vaishnavite Hinduism without leaving their ancient Meitei religion, recently known as “Sanamahi Laining” (Sanamahism). All Meiteis follow Lord Sanamahi (a divine god) and every family prays Lord Sanamahi every morning and evening.
All the Meities belong to their native Religion Sanamahism as a part of their livelihood. A section to almost half of the total Meiteis follows Sanamahism without mixing with other religion. There are some individuals who follow religions like Christianity and the Bahá’í Faith. The original religion of the native Manipur is Sanamahism. It is still followed and worshiped by the valley and Hill based people even though they are partially converted to Christian and Hindu in recent centuries (1800 and 1700 A.D). Revivalism of this native religion is more or less started by the growing number of educated native people to stand themself stronger in the world of religion.
In the religious history of Manipur, the 14th of May, 1945, the Meetei Marup (Organisation of Meetei Body) was formed in Manipur unanimously. This led to the revival of Meetei traditional, cultures, scripts (Meetei Mayek), customary practices, and traditional religious ceremonies related to the Meetei society. At the end of the 20th century Sanamahism gained a strong foothold owing to the coming of modern education, increase in population and many other social factors. The gap between Sanamahism and Hinduism and Christianity became almost abandon. During this period the impact of Sanamahism became more and more embedded in the hearts and mind of the people at large.
As a result it gave a new hope and dimension in the process of the revivalist’s movement of Sanamahism. Old beliefs and religious bindings were untied and the beliefs of emerging movement began to take their place. Many books on how to conduct religious ceremonies with rites and rituals are being published. Holy Books for Sanamahi religion were selected. All these are the advancement of the growth and development of Sanamahi religion. With the establishment of many religious organizations disposed to Sanamahism several interpretation of religious ceremonies, functions and prayers have come up.
On the other hand the influence of other religion like Hindu, Christian, Islam are increasing day by day in the Hill and Valleys which is simply indicated by the growing number of Hindu Temple, Church, Mosques etc. For Meetei/Meiteis it can become a strong threat to the native religion as Native worship places are not taken care of by the Govt. and local people like other religions.
The Manipuri marriages are inevitably as colorful as the other traditions of the land. The Manipuris prefer marriages in their own community but are open to inter-caste marriages outside Manipuri community too.
Costumes: The bridal dress is unique. It is essential for the bride to wear the Raslila skirt. The bridegroom’s dress is white dhoti, kurta and turban. Kirtans and Shahnai music are played when the bride and the bridegroom have completed their seven rounds. The bride follows the steps in rhythmic styles with the music.
Ornaments and cosmetics: Among the Manipuris, there is very limited variety in the ornaments that tribal women wear. In north Bengal they wear almost similar ornaments. Santal and Oraon women wear ornaments in their hands, feet, nose, ears and neck. Oraon women tie their hair in a peak style and wear a tikli on the forehead. Chakma women wear bangles and anklets, as well as coin earrings and necklaces. Garo women do up their hair in bun style, which they then adorn with flowers. Magh women use a kind of herbal powder or wood paste to lighten their faces.
Marriage customs in Manipuri wedding
Manipuris erect colorful wedding pandals, and the bride and groom move round the pandal to be greeted with paddy and durva grass. A Manipuri bride comes to visit her parents for the first time after five days of her marriage thus providing an occasion for a sumptuous feast. According to tribal custom, all members of the clan are invited to this ceremony and they come with presents of rice, meat, fowls, pigs, money and alcohol.
Marriages are performed in accordance with the customs. Before the marriage parents of the boy go to meet parents of the girl. This starting approach is termed ‘Hinaba’. The horoscopes are matched and if both the parents agree then the next date for the meeting is fixed. On the next meeting, called Yathang Thanaga, the consent is given by the girl’s parents. The next stage is ‘Waroipot puba’, the groom’s family members bring food, and the contract is finally sealed. Finally the engagement is declared amongst the friends and relatives; this is called ‘Heijapot’. Friends and relatives from the boy’s side then go to the girl’s parents with fruits, food and presents.
The girl’s parents invite their friends and relatives. The Brahmin decides the marriage date and rituals. A Manipuri marriage party is of a great show but little is wasted for giving meals. Not less than thirty cars will attend a marriage in a Meitei house in Imphal. A marriage attended by a convoy of cars is considered as a status symbol. The men dress in dhoti and kurta with a shawl wrapped around and women in pink ‘fanek’ and white chader.
The reception ceremony is very formal. At the entrance of the gate a Meitei woman offers a Thali containing a banana leaf in which the betel nut, pan and tamul is arranged. The arrangement for sitting is made around the Tulsi platform. In each Meitei house the Tulsi plant is grown over a raised platform. All the auspicious ceremonies are conducted around this plant.
The Manipuri groom is welcomed by lighting a pradip and a young boy washes his feet. At this time kirtan is sung and tradition music is played. Two women from both sides release a pair of taki fish symbolizing the groom and the bride into water. It is an auspicious omen if the pair of fish moves side by side in the water. In a similar ceremony among the Garos, a cock and hen with throats slit are thrown to the ground. It is a good omen if, while they are in their death throes, the two come together to die. Otherwise, it is an ill omen and must be remedied through prayer and spell by a khamal who is the mendicant.
The gods and other deities are offered exceptional food on the occasion so that they may bless the couple in abundance. A Manipuri bride comes and visits her parents for the first time on the fifth day after marriage, providing an occasion for a prolific feast. According to tribal custom, all members of the clan are invited to this ceremony and they come with presents of rice, meat, fowls, pigs, money or alcohol.
In earlier times, people living in the Manipur valley commonly built their houses, cooking huts, out-houses and granaries with bamboo and thatch since both the materials were available in abundance. The post World War II era saw changes in the architecture of the Meitei houses. The bamboo supports and pillars began to be replaced by wooden ones. However, the Hoomdaang or lower roof support and the U-ra or the upper roof support of houses with thatched roof survived the immediate changes and continued to be made for sometimes. Although all the bamboo pillars were replaced by wooden ones, one bamboo pillar has been retained in the south-western corner of the house where a secluded space is reserved for worshipping the Sanamahi (the Meitei household Deity). The lone bamboo pillar is referred to as the Utang-wa, and it is more or less a symbol of the vanishing Meitei architectural tradition of using bamboo pillars in the construction of houses.
There are more than a hundred names for the pillars, supports, roof-supports, and a host of other parts necessary in the construction of a typical Meitei house.
The important feature of the architecture of a typical Meitei house is non-use of nails or any other metallic objects to secure or fasten the beams and the other supports. Cane and bamboo splits soaked in water are used for this purpose. To secure the beams and other supports firmly to each other, holes are drilled on the bamboo, and Pungjeis (sharp pointed bamboo objects, about 30 cm in length.) is driven into the holes. A Pungjei functions like a modern nail. The tips of the bamboo pillars are cut just above the node so that it provides strength.
The people inhabiting the hilly regions of Manipur cut bamboo and wood from the hills to make their houses. The pillars, the horizontal support beams and the roof support beams are all of wood and bamboo. The upper roof supports are mostly of bamboo split. Thatch is used for covering the roof. The Chin-Kuki groups commonly build houses in the pile-dwelling style, which is normally referred to as Kangthak-haaba. Bamboo is extensively used for the Kangthak-haaba. The houses have an extended verandah made of bamboo, and the platform for this extended verandah is improvised with mats made of bamboo. Temporary walls as well as permanent walls are constructed with bamboo-mats. The Naga groups living in the Tamenglong District build houses having roofs made of bamboo splits. Big bamboo poles are vertically split into two, and the bamboo splits are arranged in alternate turns, i.e., the pieces face up and down alternately. In some areas of Jiribam, the bamboo poles are cut into pieces. The cut pieces are then smashed. Starting from the fringe of the roof, rows of the smashed bamboo are laid out one upon another to cover the whole of the roof, in the same fashion as when thatch is laid out to cover the roof.
The favoured food among the Meiteis is rice, fish and a lot of vegetables. Food stuffs include “Ngari” meaning “Fermented preserved fish” in the native tongue. Due to the fermentation involved, Ngari has a sharp smell and taste, and is principally used in a delectable dish called ‘Eromba’.
Manipur valley Meitei has a tradition of keeping ponds at every resident has enough preservation of water and fish as a tradition. So, when they like to eat fish dishes they can just fish from their own ponds. A huge water accumulation in low-lying areas (swamps) as well as number of tributary streams received enough water during the rainy days mainly in the monsoons which helps fish migration and breeding. A huge varieties of fishes bears in this mentioned water bodies including paddy fields and canals. During the flood fishing is very popular in most part of the valley where fishes are wash out from private fish firms and ponds to the shallow lands surfaces but this water and fishes ultimately goes to rivers and then to the “Loktak Lake” a world famous wetland at the south western part of the Valley.
Landscape, climate and vegetation, environment of the valley gives an ultimate food habit of eating fish with different varieties with time to time. For example Dry-fish “Nga Ayaiba” generally prepared drying in sun as well as on fire to preserve in earthen pots to eat during other seasons where enough fish is not available in fresh in part of the valley and foothill regions of Manipur. Examples of Nga Ayaiba are Ngamu, Ukabi, Ngachou, Ngakrijou, Fabounga, Pengba, Ngakup etc. Nga Ayaiba means a lot for Meitei food as it can give a good taste to a kind of curry called “Kangsoi” prepared by simple boil with vegetables and pieces of Nga Ayaiba or Ngari along with salt, chilly, ginger, onion, green corianders etc. This is most popular cook food among the Meitei family as it controls overweight and fatness with good digestion capacity.
The Meitei people living outside Manipur i. e. , other state and Countries import Ngari and Nga Ayaiba when they feel homesick and miss home food. Due to the dry and fried without oil involved, Nga ayaiba has a distinct smell and taste. It is found in low quantities in many Meitei dishes.
Another dish contains “Hawaizar”, meaning, “preserved Soya-beans”. Soya-bean is boiled on low heat for a time, washed, packed in leaves and let to cool down for several days where it ferments. It is wrapped in banana leaves and distributed. Both the food forms are a cottage industry in Manipur.
Other world distinct dishes of Meiteis include Eromba, a generic name of the dish prepared with crushed boiled vegetables, fermented fish with chilly. This taste is different depending on the type of vegetable used, for example with Bamboo shoot it is called “Soibum eromba “with Giant bean “Yongchaak eromba” with young banana stem “Laphu eromba” and so on. Where “Ametpa or Morok Metpa and Singju” meaning dry crusted with Ngari with chilly, Chilly with fresh vegetables is even used in the fast food in the local restaurants, it is a hot and tasty preparation. Eromba by its nature is usually on the higer side of hotness when it comes to the amount of chilly used. Oo Morok is a special type of chiily that enhances the taste and it is known to be the hottest chilly in the world. The sizes of these chilly ranges from one to two inches with pista green colour that turns into orange/red when ripe. Although available round the year, Oo Morok has a preserved version called Oo Morok Akangba, prepared simply by exposing to sunlight.
Other food stuffs are well cook with Masalas i. e. , Athongba as generic term Cook with oil and masalas for example Fish dishes cooked with fresh fish with oil and proper masalas are famous for example, Sareng thongba. Ooti thongba (Peas and green leaves with soda (oot), Chagempomba (fine fractions of rich with Hawaizar and green vegetables” makes Meitei food have a distinct taste. Ataoba is also a generic name where every vegetables or meat are fried then we call as Ataoba. Nga-Ataoba (Fried Fish) is most popular food items among Meiteis.
Geographic Location of Manipur
Manipur is one of the eight north eastern states of India. Its boundary is surrounded by Myanmar (Burma) in the east and south, and Nagaland state in the north, Cachar (Assam state) in the west and Mizoram state in the south-west. Manipur is a meeting point, epicenter, between South East Asia and the Indian sub-continent. The Manipur valley, in the middle of the state, is at a height of 790 meters above the sea level and is surrounded by nine hill ranges in circles creating a hill and trough geography. More than 60% of its inhabitants are Meiteis including Bamons and Pangans who settled mostly in the valley and the remaining are hill tribes, namely, Tangkhul, Thadou, Zeliangrong (Zemi, Laingmai, Roungmei – Kabuis), Mao, Maram, Poumai, Paite, Hmar, Maring, Anal, Aimol, Angami, Chiru, Chothe, Gangte, Monsang, Moyon, Kom, Purum, Ralte, Sema, Simte, Salte, Vaiphei, Lamgang, Zhou, etc. Each group has its own language, tradition and culture. Meitei-lon (Meitei language or Manipuri) is the common language adopted by all tribes for communication. Imphal is the capital and a major trading centre. The present political system in the state includes nine districts with headquarters at Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal, Bishenpur (Valley Districts), Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong, Chandel and Churachandpur (Hill Districts) bearing similar names for the districts as well.
The history of Manipur Meities is chronicled in Puyas or Puwaris (stories about our forefathers), namely, the Ninghthou Kangbalon, Cheitharol Kumbaba, Ningthourol Lambuba, Poireiton Khunthokpa, Panthoibi Khongkul, etc. in the archaic Meitei script, which is comparable to the Thai script. The historical accounts presented here were recordings from the eyes and the judgment of the Meitei Kings and Maichous (Meitei scholars). Hill tribes have their own folk tales, myths and legends. Manipur was known by different names at various periods in its history, such as, Tilli-Koktong, Poirei-Lam, Sanna-Leipak, Mitei-Leipak, Meitrabak or Manipur (present day). Its capital was Kangla, Yumphal or Imphal (present day). Its people were known by various names, such as Mi-tei, Poirei-Mitei, Meetei, Maitei or Meitei. The Puwaris, Ninghthou Kangbalon, Ningthourol Lambuba, Cheitharol Kumbaba, Poireiton Khunthokpa, recorded the events of each King who ruled Manipur in a span of more than 3500 years until 1955 AD (a total of more than 108 kings). Ningthou Kangba (15th century BC) is regarded the first and foremost king of Manipur. There were times when the country was in turmoil without rulers and long historical gaps in between 1129 BC – 44 BC. In 1891 AD, after the defeat of the Meiteis by the British in the Anglo-Manipuri war of Khongjom, Manipur’s sovereignty for more than three millenniums was lost. It regained its freedom on August 28, 1947 AD but did not last long. On 15 October 1949, Manipur was annexed into the Indian Territory.
“Many a history has now been written. But none is so authentic as it seems. The reason is, of course, not far to seek. Manipur was absolute all through its past. Its society evolved on its own course or got revolutionized in its own way. So did its religion. And its government followed the suit. Neither India nor Burma had much direct influence thereon, but for a tint from time to time. Its history flowed on in its own course with little disturbance from outside until as late as the eighteenth century when several cults of Neo-Vaishnavism flowed into this soil and wrought the present-day Manipur. Its activities and its achievements are all recorded in its own scripts unintelligible to the world. So the writers however profound scholars they may be, had to work at a forfeit, no less considerable since the building of history of Manipur must need call for a study of some of them at least. So, their works turn unauthentic. Some indigenous scholars also have produced some works. But they are students more of Purana than of history. So their works fall more in the category of Purana than that of history. So is the case, this country badly needs an authentic history of its own. ” [A. Minaketan Singh (1958), Forward p. vii, in “History of Manipur” by Dr. Jyotirmoy Roy, 1958, 1973 editions].
Taangja Leela Paakhangba Waai-Chat-Lam,
Hang-Goi Konthing Nuraabee Waai-Chat-Lam,
Hao-Rei Laina Paangba-Lam,
Paat-Lou Lai Makol,
Kak-Len Seenaang Sang-Kon,
Lam-Yen Konbiraa…. ”
In Short, this piece of script expressed a part of the ancient history of Manipur in a concised manner. [K. C. Tensuba (1991): An Approach to the History of Meiteis and Thais, page 54].
Periods in the History of Manipur
A careful study of a language may reveal a considerable amount of the historical events, the origin, migration, the art and culture of the people. Sir William Jones, a British judge in India in 1786 while studying the Sanskrit literature revealed that it bears a striking resemblance with other two ancient languages – Latin and Greek. The Sanskrit word for father – Pitar – is astonishingly similar to the Greek and Latin – Pater. Similarly, Sanskrit – ‘Matar’ – Latin and Greek ‘Mater’ and English – mother – and Hindi ‘Mata’ share a considerable affinity. Two hundred years of linguistic research had provided evidences that one-third of the human race might have come from this Indo-European “common source” – probably between 3500-2500 BC in the central Europe from where people migrated to the West and East.
In case of the Meitei people, since there were no modern system of recording, where the sense of originality was always contemplated with the modern history, the reconstruction of the ancient manuscripts and languages has yielded a considerable knowledge on the history of ancient Manipur. The following is a brief history or Puwari of some prominent Meitei rulers with a view to bring out an understanding of the various developments in Meitei history, art, culture, tradition, sports, etc. The account is not complete but hope to provide an overall grasp on the history of Manipur.
The history of Manipur may be divided into four main periods: (i) The Ancient (before Christ), (ii) The early period (1st-13th AD), (iii) The Medieval period (15-18th AD) and (iv) The Modern (19-20th Century AD).
(i) The Ancient (before Christ)
(a) Ningthou Kangba (1405-1359 BC): Tang was the 14th generation ruler of a tribe known as Qi who inhabited the central part of the present day China. He founded the Shang Dynasty (1523-1027 BC); therefore, also known as Tang-Shang dynasty by the ancient Meiteis. They were known as the upper or higher class of people. They domesticated horses and used them for transportation. The rulers paid due attention to agriculture. They also developed glazed potter, silk weaving and making of bronze vessels. It appeared that a group of people from the Tang-Shang dynasty might have moved West following the Yangtze river, and came down the Ningthi turen (the Chindwin river), now in Myanmar, passed through the Somra hill range and settled somewhere at the origin of the Ireel river in Manipur. After settling there for many years, a leader from that group followed the Ireel river and reached Koubru hill ranges to the north-west (~35 km) of present day Imphal. The Tang-Shang people settled along with Lei-Hou tribes, an Asiatic Tibeto-Burman group, who were original inhabitants of Koubru.
The Chief of Tang-Shang group married the daughter of Lei-Hou Chief, Sinbee Leima and established his kingdom around 1445 BC. He became to be known as Tang-Ja Leela Pakhangba (1445 BC-1405BC) (Tang-Ja=short name for Tang-Shang; Leela=who followed the Ireel trail; Pa=forefathers, Khangba=knew his forefathers, the Tang-Shang people). His wife gave birth to a son, named Kangba. Thus, the first Mi-Tei kingdom was established. Mi-Tei later came to be pronounced as Mee-tei, Mai-tei or Mei-tei at various period; but carries the same meaning.
Kangba, son of Tangja Leela Pakhangba, ascended the throne after his father’s death. He named his kingdom – Tilli Koktong and constructed a Lai-Yum (a temple) for Saree or Sannamahi God at Waroiching. He ruled over his kingdom for 46 yrs. His wife was Leima Taritnu, daughter of Nongpok Ningthou at the eastern hills of present day Imphal. This indicated that the contact between the people of the North and the East started very early although these places were separated by water until the begining of the 1st centuary AD. At that time Manipur valley did not exist. King Kangba gave the name “LOKTAK” (LOK=water or stream in hillocks; TAK=vast or the end) for the vast water covering the valley. They used dug out boats to communicate between them. King Kangba and Leima Taritnu gave birth to a son- KOIKOI. It was expressed that King Kangba introduced “Sagol Kang-jei” the horse polo. Hence the name Kang-jei for the stick and Kang-droom for the round ball. The story of Ningthou Kangba, his father and his descendants were written down for the first time in a Meitei script “Ningthou Kangbalon” by one Maichou (Meitei scholar) named Thongak Kurumba on Thursday, the 3rd of Kalen (May) during the time of Khu-Yoi Tompok (2nd Century AD), the son of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, which was transliterated into Bengali script by Nongthombamcha Angou Luwang and published by Thokchomba Ibotombi in 1976.
(b) KOI-KOI, also Known as MARIYA FAMBAL-CHA (1359 BC-1329 BC): Koikoi ascended the throne at the age of 25 yr. From this day, the dating of Meitei calender (Cheraoba) known as Mari-Fam was introduced. Hence, 1359 BC will be 25 MF, and 2000 AD will be 3364 MF in Meitei calender taking the birthday of KOIKOI as 00 MF. The surnames Koikoijam, Keirambam, etc. were started from this time. Mariya Fambal-Cha (Koikoi) and his wife, Lee-oi Nungoibee had two sons. His first son, Pong left his parents early to start his own kingdom, so his second son, Kaksu Tonkonba (Born on 3rd November, Meitei Hiyangei month, 1355 BC) became Meidingu (Ningthou or King) around 1329 BC. Meidigu Tonkonba was born prematurely at 8 months, hence the nickname Kaksu (for dwarf or not matured) was given when he was a child. Urum Khou-Chonbi was his Queen.
(c) Korou Nongdren Pakhangba (~934 BC ?): There were no recording of Mari-Fam (dates of kings) at this period. Meidingu Korou Nongdren was a great Pa-Khangba (he who knew his forefathers). During his time, all people lived peacefully and other groups also respected him. His Leima, Queen, was Thadon Leima Lairembi. They had two sons. Kuptreng, the elder was taught the art of administration whereas the younger, Sentreng was taught the art of leadership by his father. Accordingly, Sentreng became the king and Kuptreng became the administrator.
(d) Chingkhong Poireiton (34-18 BC): The region where Myanmar (Burma), Tibet and China meet was once known as Khamtilong or the region of Khams when there was no name for Burma, China, India, etc. Khu, Nung, Lei, Hou, Chakpa, Mon, Lotha, Nga, etc. were the tribes who lived in the region of Kham in the old days. Tai-Pong-Pan was the name of the present Manipur known to the people of Kham-Nung. For about 700 years, there were no rulers in what was known as Tai-Pong-Pan. So some people of Tai-Pong-Pan invited Thongarel, Kham-Nung Saowa, the great man of the Nung tribe, to rule over Tai-Pong-Pan.
By that the time Thongarel was old enough. So he asked his younger brother Chingkhong Pireiton to go there and rule over the region. Poireiton had already lost his wife after having four sons and two daughters. Thongarel offered his second wife Leima Leinaotabi to accompany Poireiton who also accepted the offer. They crossed the narrow Chaukan pass from the region of Kham and sojourned in the Hukawng valley and followed the course of Chindwin (Ningthi) river and then trickled through the norther region of the present day Ukhrul district of Manipur to reach the source of Iril river. Poireiton settled somewhere near northern Kanglatongbi from where a vast water extent and swampy areas could be seen stretched towards the south.
Poireiton worked hard for the unification of the people inhabiting along the Koubru hill range. In his journey from Kham, Poireiton was accompanied by tribes of Chakpa, Nung, Kham, Mon, Khu, Nga, etc. who were all neo-Tibetans. Under the leadership of Poireiton, all the people including the original Tang-Shang people lived and inter-married together. It appeared that they were Buddhists in approach. During his reign, the kingdom was known as Poirei-lam (the land of Poireiton) and the people were called Poirei-Meetei. The accounts of Poireiton and his followers’ migration were recorded in a msnuscript called “Poireiton Khunthokpa” in a perfect prose.
(ii) The Early Period
(a) Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (33-153 AD or 1431-1551 MF): Nongda Lairen Pakhangba was the son of Leinung Yabirok (mother) reigned in the 1st century AD. He married Laisra, a daughter of the line of Poireiton kings. Nongda Lairen Pakhangba and Laisra ascended the throne in 33 AD on one Monday at Kangleipungmayol, the name of his kingdom, after making bards sing “Ougree” a song sung in praise of the god for prosperity of the King and his people. Meidingu Pakhangba was an able descendent of Ningthou Kangba and Tangja Leela Pakhangba; but, the accounts of his father has yet to be traced although Tupu Likleng alias Luwang Langmaiba was suggested his father in “The History of Manipur” by W. Ibohal Singh. He started moving his kingdom toward the low lying areas after the water in the valley started draining slowly at Ching-Nung-Hut in South-West Manipur. He named his palace Kangla [dry land]. From him, the Mangang clan originated. When he was a young boy, he used to catch fish at the source of Ireel turen. One day he came across Kouba Angang-nga who tried to invade his father’s kingdom. He stopped the approach of the enemy. He was a great patronage of Sanna-Mahi. During his long life, Meiding Pakhangba was known as Leinung Lonja Pakhangba and Lolaang Pakhangba and attained the status of a Lai-Ningthou (God King). Cheitharol Kumbaba chronicle started from Nongda Lairen Pakhangba.
“Here, one should not be confused with Meidingu Nongda Lairen Pakhangba and the PAKHAGNBA GOD of Meiteis, the younger brother of Sanna-mahi, the son of Yaibirel (Atiya Kuru) Sidaba and Leimaren Sidabee. The story of Sannamahi and Pakhangba are of religious concept reflecting the origin and the creation of life on earth. The story of Sanna-Mahi faith of Meiteis is briefly desribed. “When there was nothing in this Universe, it was known as Ting-Ka-Kok or total emptiness in the Ancient Meitei verson. Atiya Kuru Sidba (Atiya, the vast and empty sky; Kuru, the round or circular hemisphere; and Sidaba, never ending or no birth and death ever present) asked his elder son Sanna-Mahi (the liquid of life spreading in all direction like the rays of the Sun, so also the Sun God) to create all the life forms on earth. After Sannamahi created the living beings, Atiya Kuru Sidaba, the god-father wanted to appoint a leader to protect the living and to lead a happy life on earth. Accordingly he sent his son Pakhangba to earth to sustain and propagate life there. ” In course of time, Pakhangba became the protector, the king, and was also represented with the symbol of a Dragon God. The Sannamahi laishon (also the worship of Sun) became an everyday life of Meiteis with verbal chantings and singings and was common to all people. On the other hand, Pakhangba laining (mediation) became an art of looking into the self by the self for the self, which was coined as Nung-da Hee-ri Kon-ba. No verbal chanting was allowed in Pakhangba laining and required deep concentration and meditation; therefore, it was performed by Kings, Nobles and Maichous (scholars) to enlighten his self and to be able to rule the kingdom prosperously.
With the Sanskritization process of Meiteis, after conversion of the Kings to Hinduism toward the beginning of the 18th century, Meitei Gods were transformed to align with the Gods of the Hindu mythology. So, Pakhangba became Siva Mahadev and the representation of the Dragon God was dubbed to the snake god, Ananta of Hindus. Panthoibi, the God of prosperity and of war became Durga. Thangjing, the Supreme God of the Moirang Kingdom, was attempted to be personified as Vishnu. Nongpok Ningthou, at the eastern hills of Imphal, was substituted for Barun or Baruni for the rain god of Hindus. Atiya Kuru Sidaba became Atiya Guru Sidaba. But, Kuru is not exactly Guru, the Sanskrit meaning of a Master. In Meitei, Kuru would also mean a scholar of all round knowledge, taking the concept of the limitless semi-circular hemisphere, Kuru Koiba. Mangang Kuru, Luwang Kuru, Khuman Kuru, etc. were the titles of scholars of respective Meitei clans. The process of Sanskritization and Hindunization among Meiteis reached its peak between 1890-1930 AD. With the revival of the Sannamahi faith among some Meiteis in the 1930s, the desanskritization process, supported by Meitei Marups or Phurups, began. Nevertheless, the battle continues till today between the Vaishnavite scholars who cling to their passion for belonging to a larger Hindu religion and society, and the ethnic conscious Meitei Marups of the Sannamahi and Pakhangba faith to resurrect their forefather’s religion and scriptures.
“Before 1891, there was not any remarkable social or religious reform movement in Manipur. Yet the acceleration of the 3:37 pm Sanskritization of Manipuri society was notice during this period. Therefore, it will be worthwhile to trace the historical background of the advent of different cults of Hinduism in Manipur. The worship of Vishnu was strated in Manipur in the 15th century during the reign of King Kyamba (1467-1508). According to tradition, the idol of the Vishnu sitting on a Caruda was presented by Tsawba Khekhomba, the Shan king of Pong in 1474 A. D. ; even, now there is a Vishnu temple at Bishenpur. But the kings of Manipur were not converted to Hinduism till the reign of Charairongba (1697-1709), the presence of Hindu mode of worship in Manipur could be easily implied due to the migration of Brahmins in this kingdom. However, the attempts made by some scholars that Vedic religion was prevelant in Manipur in the pre-historical or historical period are simply excercises on futility. ” [Dr. G. Kabui, Professor of History, Manipur University, Imphal, in “History of Modern Manipur (1826-1946)”, pp 89-90, 1991].
“A small section of Manipuris strongly believe that they are western and Hindu descent. On linguistic and anthropometric grounds this idea is quite untenable… in this respect the Puranas cannot be relied much because they were very much influenced by the Brahminical Purana stories. ” [Dr. Jyotirmoy Roy, Vice Principle of D. M. College, Imphal, in “History of Manipur”, p. 4, 1958 and 1973 editions].
(b) Meidingu Yanglou Keiphaba (965-983 AD or 2363-2381 MF): Khamlang Atonba, the son of Meidingu Chenglei Lanthaba, ascended the throne after his father in 965 AD. One day he went for hunting to a place called Yanglou Louchipan and caught six tigers alive. Henceforth, he became to be known as Yanglou Keiphaba (Kei=tiger; phaba=to capture). He married Lairenjam Chanu Mubisu, the daughter of Louthog-pak Chief. She was a great Sinbee, a master of weaving and embroidary. She invented the Khoi-Mayek style of Meitei Phanek Mapan Naiba [Manipur ladies dress similar to the Sarong of South East Asia]. Still today this design is a favorite for Meitei ladies.
(c) Meidingu Loitongba (1121-1149 AD or 2519-2547 MF): When king Loiyumba, Loitongba’s father, ascended the throne, his mother Sum-Leima was pregnant with Loitongba; hence, the name Loitongba= who ascended the throne together with his parents. He was a man of games and sports. It is mentioned that he invented the game of “Kang-Sanaba” of meiteis. Some scholars argue that Kang-Sanaba had already existed and Loitongba was a master of the game. His son Atom Yoireba ascended the throne (1149-1162 AD) but his brother Hemtou Iwang-Thaba invaded him and drove him out of the Kingdom.
(iii) The Medieval Period
(a) Meidingu Senbi Kiyamba (1467-1507 AD): Medingu Senbi Kiyamba, the son of Ningthou Khomba and Leima Linthoingambi, became the king at the age of 24 in 1467 AD. He and the king of Pong (Shan Kindom) were good friends. Sanna Langmeirembi, a princess, was married to the Pong King, Chaopha (Tsatwa) Khekhomba. The King of Pong visited Manipur and presented Kiyamba a golden box containing a stone, known as PHEIYA (Almighty), having the power of God and a sacred spear to guard the stone. At that time, the people of Manipur did not know about the worship of God in the form of a sacred stone. King Kiyamba in respect of the King of Pong built a brick temple at Lamangdong, 27 km south of Imphal, in 1475. Later, a Brahmin, migrated from Cachar understood PHEIYA as the Hindu God, Bishnu. He announced that rice boiled in cow milk should be offered to the deity in order to bring good fortune to the King and the people of his kingdom. Accordingly, Meidingu Kiyamba appointed this Brahmin in the service of the deity. Afterwards, the followers of the Brahmin were known as Bishnupriya and the place was named Bishnupur.
In 1485 AD, King Kiyamba introduced the system of CHEITHABA in which the name of an entire year will be taken after the name of a person so that even illiterate citizens can remember the year. Hiyangloi was the first person whose name was used as the first Cheithaba, which meant he would volunteer to bear the burden and sufferings of the kingdom fell during that particular year.
(b) Meidingu Pamheiba (1708-1747 AD or 3106-3145 MF): Pamheiba was one of the sons of Meidingu Charairongba and Sapam Chanu Ningthil-Chaibi. He was born on 22nd Dec. (Poinu in Meitei month), 1690 AD. After his father’s dead, he became the king on 23rd Aug. (Thawan in Meitei), 1708 AD. Pamheiba had 8 wives and many sons and daughters. During his 39 yrs of reign, he extended his kingdom in the east to Kabow valley, to the west to Nongnang (Cachar), Takhel (Tripura). At one point it was considered that Chittagong hills came under his rule. In 1734 AD, King Pamheiba invaded Takhel and captured 1100 people and brought to Manipur. These people inter-married with the locals and joined the Meitei community. Pamheiba was one of the greatest Meitei kings of Manipur. He was so intensely involved in extending his territory and warfare that he did not pay any attention to Sanna-Mahi laishon and Pakhangba laining religious rituals. He latter was influenced by Hindu religion which had reached to Manipur around 15th-16th centuries. He stopped poultry and piggery in the country in 1723 AD. He excavated all Lupungs (burial grounds for kings, his forefathers) and burnt the remains on the bank of Ningthi turen (at that time Meitei territory extended upto Chindwin) on 20th March, 1724 AD. This began the cremation of dead bodies among meiteis. On full moon day of Mera (October), 1732 AD, he collected all the Holy books, Puya related to Sanna-Mahi religion and burnt them. This is known as Puya-Meithaba among Meiteis. In 1737 AD, he himself was converted to the Ramanandi Sect of Vaisnavism with the help of Shantidas Gosai, a preacher from Sylhet (now in Bangladesh). King Pamheiba expelled all his Maichous (scholars) and those who opposed to this new religion to far away villages. Some of the prominent meitei maichous were Louremba Khongnang Thaba, Langol Lukhoi, Konok Thengra, Wangoo Bajee, etc. He introduced the term “MAHARAJA” in place of “MEIDINGU OR NINGTHOU” for the King.
(c) Ningthou Ching-Thang Khomba (Maharaja Bheigyachandra) 1763-1798 AD or 3161-3196 MF.: Ningthou Ching-Thang Khomba was the son of Samjai Khurai-Lakpa (the eldest son of Pamheiba). Chitsai, Pamheiba’s anonther son, killed his father in Ava (Burma) and became the king (1747-1951 AD). He was expelled by his brother Borot-sai. Chitsai went to Tripura (Takhel) and then to Chittagong. He approached the British East India Company to help him (1751 AD). However, he did not get their help. This was the first contact of Meiteis with the British. Borotsai ruled for 2 years and Gaurisiam, Ching-Thang Khomba’s brother, became King. Later in 1762 AD. , the British and Manipur sign a treaty (signed by Gaurisiam and Mr. Venositart, Governor of Bengal), which spelled that British and Manipur will encourage trade and commerce. The British will give necessary help to protect the kingdom from outside invaders. And Manipur will provide a piece of land in Manipur for the East India Company posting.
In 1763 AD, after the dead of Gaurisiam, Ching-Thang Khomba ascended the throne. The Burmese attacked Manipur in 1769 AD and he fled to Cachar. At last, in 1773 AD, Manipur was taken back. He established his capital at Lamangdong (Bishenpur) in 1775 AD. He moved his capital to Langthaban (Canchipur). When he moved his capital he made the image of Govindaji from a Fig-Tree growing in the Kaina hill. On the coronation, 11th Jan. 1779 AD, (Wakching month) RAS-LEELA was played for five days continuously in the open grounds of Ras Mandal Pukhri.
The name “MANIPUR” for “MEITRABAK” or “SANNA-LEIPAK” came to existence in 1774 AD when Warren Hastings was the Governer General of India. Mr. Rendel assigned the name and the kingdom extended from Ningthi in the east to Chittagong in the South and up to Brahmaputra area in the North and Cachar in the East.
During his reign Chaitanya sect of Vaisnavism was established. Yaosang, the great festival of Meiteis, was invented by Ching-Thang Khomba on the full moon day of Lamta (March). The image of Nityananda was curved and coronated on Thursday March 5, 1779 AD. His brother Ananta Sai and his decendents were made responsible for Sri Bijoy Gobinda and the annual festival of HEGRU HIDONGBA (boat racing) held on the 11th of Langban (September) every year. In 1796 AD his capital was moved from Langthaban (Canchipur) to Konthoujam Yumphal (present Governor’s Bungalow). In 1797 AD, he handed over the throne to his eldest son Labeinyachandra and went on pilgrimage to Nabadweep. He died at Murshidabad, India in 1798 AD.
(iv) The Modern Period
(a) CHAHI-TARET KHUNTAKPA, 1819-1825 AD (seven years of Manipur anarchy, 3212-3218 MF): When Marjeet was the king of Manipur, Burma invaded again in 1819 AD. At that time the princes of Manipur were fighting for controling the throne and the country was in a political turmoil. Manipuris faced the invasion fiercely for seven days. But they were defeated by the Burmes and the people fled to different places in the West. The king went to Cachar which was ruled by two of his brothers – Chourjit and Gambir Sing – who were appointed by him.
During this anarchy, Burmese occupants destroyed the country badly. The palace was leveled to the ground. In 1825, Manipuris attacked Burmese occupation led by Gambir Sing and drove them beyond Ningthi (Chindwin) river. On 26th Inga (June), 1825, he declared himself as the king of Manipur and constructed his palace (Konung) at the top of Bishenpur hill in April, 1826 AD. Later, he shifted his capital to Langthaban (Canchipur).
At the request of the British Government by Governor General, Mr. Scott, Maharaja Gambir Sing went to Khasi hills to help the British who were unable to fight the Khasis. In the month of May 1829 AD, he died at the age of 49 years at Langthaban.
(b) Maharaja Chandrakirti (1834-1844 AD or 3232-3242 MF): The only son of Maharaja Gambir Sing and Maisnam Chanu Kumudini Ponglen-Khombi, ascended the throne at the age of 2 years with his uncle Narasing as a caretaker. Previously, before Gambir Sing died, he and British Government made an agreement that Kabow valley will be leased to Burma for cultivation and Maharaja of Manipur will receive a sum of Rs 6000/- per annum as a tribute. This story was recorded in the Cheitharol Kumbaba by Meiteis, but the actual fact was that the British ignored the Meitei sentiments and tried to please the Burmese by giving the controversial Meitei Kabow valley, which had been in the Manipuri territory for several years. On hearing the news, Maharaj Gambir Sing died of heart-attack. So, the agreement was signed on 12th January (Wakching), 1834 AD by Narasing, as a representative of the child king, and by British political agents, Captain Grant, Captain Pamperton and Mr. George Gordon. For the first time a table clock and a big wall mirror were brought from England and presented to the King. On Jan 27, 1844 AD, when Maharaja was 12 years old, his mother ran away with him in Cachar because of a revolt by Nobin, a descendant of Pamheiba, against Narasing. However, Narasing defeated Nobin and he became Maharaja of Manipur. He moved the capital from Langthaban to Kangla at Yumphal (Imphal) on May 9th, 1844 AD. He died on April 10, 1850 AD.
Chandrakirti Maharaja came back from Cachar and became King again (1850-1886 AD) at the age of 19 years. In December, 1857 AD, Sepoys at Chittagong revolted against British, and the news was spread in Manipur by the British Government that Hindu sepoys will invade Europeans and take over Manipur. Maharaja with 600 Meitei soldiers led by Nameirakpam Menjor went to prevent the sepoys. A number of sepoys were arrested and handed over to the British. For the first time in 1868 AD photography was introduced in Manipur.
Re-demarcation of Manipur’s boundary (present day map) was done again on 13th Dec, 1873 AD with Dr. Brown (FRCSE) and Thangal General as leaders from both sides. The British considered the Meiteis very illiterate who did not want to be educated. They did not know that Meiteis had a very long history of its own and education system, and the maichous and puyas were prohibited by the Maharaj not so long ago. Dr. Brown published the Meitei script for the first time in 1877 AD for the Asiatic Society of Bengal. The then Bengal Government donated a few books and started teaching Bengali script and English. The Meitei script became obsolete. Naga rebels, in the north, at Khonoma killed Dr. G. H. Damant on October 4, 1879. Lt. Col. J. Jonstone, the political agent in Manipur and Thangal General subdued them. Maharaja Chandrakirti was given the title of K. C. S. I. by the British Government for his help and friendship to the British. He also introduced “Sagol Kangjei”, Manipuri Polo, to the British. He died in 1886 AD at Kangla in Yumphal.
(c) Maharaja Surchand Singh (1886-1890 AD or 3289-3294 MF.): Maharaja Surchand, the eldest son of Chandrakirti ascended the throne after his father. He ruled for 5 years. In 1890, his younger brothers, Zillangamba and Angousana revolted against him along with Jubaraj Tikendrajit. Kullachandra, the elder brother of Tikendrajit, became the king. Surchand and his brothers left for Calcutta in the pretext of going to Brindabon. He requested the British Government to restore his throne. Lord Landsdowne, the viceroy of India ordered Mr. J. W. Quinton, Governor of Assam, to recognise Kullachandra as the King but to arrest Jubaraj Tikendrajit. Accordingly Mr. Quinton and his army raided the residence of Jubaraj without prior notice. However, they could not capture Tikendrajit. In further attempts, Mr. Quinton, Mr. Grimwood, the political agents along with five other British officers were killed.
The British Government waged open war against Manipur. Three columns of army were sent to Imphal from three directions: 1. Tamu (Moreh)- in south-east, 2. Kohima (Nagaland)- in the north and 3. Cachar (Assam)-in the west. In this Anglo-Manipuri war, the forces from the west and north advanced to Imphal after strong fighting. But in the south at Khongjom (40 km from Imphal), Paona Brajabashi and his army resisted repeatedly in spite of the larger and superior British Army. Paona lost his life on the war and British conquered Manipur on 27th April, 1891 AD. Thus, Manipur lost its independence. Jubaraj Tikendrajit and Thangal General were hanged by neck on 13th August, 1891 AD at Mapan Kangjei-bung (Polo ground).
(d) Maharaja Churachand Singh (1891-1941 AD or 3289-3339 MF): On Thursday 22nd of Langban, 1891 AD, the political agent of Manipur called Maharani Moirangthem Chanu and Jubaraj Churachand (8 yrs old) and made him the king. At this time Sri Govindaji was brought to the newly constructed Palace at Imphal. During his reign, NUPI LAN I (Woman’s war, 1904 AD, a revolt against the forced labor) and NUPILAN II (1939AD) occurred.
(e) Maharaja Budhachandra Singh (1941-1955 AD or 3339-3353 MF): After his highness Maharaja Churachand, his eldest son Budhachandra became the king of Manipur with Ishori Devi, the princess of Nepal as Leima or Maharani. World War II broke out in Manipur from April 1942-Jan. 1945 AD. Manipur was bombarded continuously for two years and the country was destroyed completely including Imphal and the Maharaja’s Palace. Markets were closed and paddy fields were not harvested during the war. People were suffering but Manipuris were too proud to beg for help. Several movements led by Neta Irabot sprang up in the demand for self rule of Manipur against the British Government. He went undergound in 1946 AD and died in 1955 AD in Burma. After the war, at 12 midnight of Thursday 28th August (Thawan), 1947 AD, the British handed over Manipur to Maharaja Budhachandra Singh and Maharani Iroshi Devi. Maharaja entered Kangla at Imphal and hoisted the National Flag of Manipur bearing the Dragon God Pakhangba. Top-guns were fired 18 times in honor of the Sovereign Kingdom in the presence of a large crowd. However, it did not last long. The newly formed independent India and its Government in New Delhi pressured the King to sign a merger agreement with India under very unusual circumstances. Maharaja signed the documents on 21st September 1949 AD at Shillong without prior consideration and approval from elected members of the Manipur Assembly. On October 15, 1949 AD, Major General Rawal Amar announced the annexation of Manipur at the Assam Rifle’s ground. Thus, Manipur’s status was lowered to a Part C territory under the Indian rule. In 1953, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru discontinued the payment of Kabow valley agreement to Manipur. This angered many of the local people. Budhachandra Maharaja died in 1955 AD.
(f) Present Manipur: On 21 January 1972, Manipur was granted Statehood after several years of demand by All Manipur Students Union and several political organisations. The ceremony was performed at the Palace Polo ground in Imphal. In 1992, Meitei-lon (Manipuri) was included in the Eighth Schedule as one of the 18 official languages of India. Manipur has yet to see an industry and a proper road connection to the rest of India. Air transportations are provided from Calcutta, New Delhi, Guwahati and Silchar but much beyond the reach of commoners.
The Meeteis introduced two Martial arts in the human society i.e. , “Sarit Sarak” and “Thang-Ta” which are still exist in the Manipur. The self defence Martial arts “Sarit -Sarak” is a martial art which is very important among the Meetei people who love to defend themselves from any stranger’s attack. The Sarit Sarak art of unarmed combat is quite distinct from other martial art forms. It is simply flawless in its evasive and offensive action, as compared to any other existing martial art of the same school.
Thang-Ta is most popular Meetei Martial arts which is at present seen in most part of the Meeteis introduced two Martial arts in the human society i.e. , “Sarit-Sarak” and “Thang-Ta” which are still exist in the Manipur. The self defence Martial arts “Sarit-Sarak” is a martial art which is very important among the Meeteis’ world through demonstration in cultural programmes. Fight with the equipment including sword, spear, axe, etc.
The history of Thang-Ta and Sarit-Sarak can be traced to the 17th century. Thang-Ta involves using a sword or spear against one or more opponents. Sarit-Sarak is the technique of fighting against armed or unarmed opponents, but on many occasions there is a combined approach to the training of these martial arts. These martial arts were used with great success by the Manipuri kings to fight against the British for a long time. With the British occupation of the region, martial arts were banned, but post – 1950s saw the resurgence of these arts.
Thang-ta is practiced in three different ways. The first way is absolutely ritual in nature, related to the tantric practices. The second way consists of a spectacular performance involving sword and spear dances. These dances can be converted into actual fighting practices. The third way is the actual fighting technique.
Legend has it that Lainingthou Pakhangba, the dragon god – king, ordained King Mungyamba, to kill the demon Moydana of Khagi with a spear and sword, which he presented to the king. According to another such legend, God made the spear and sword with creation of the world. This amazing wealth of Manipuri martial arts has been well preserved, since the days of god king Nongda Lairel Pakhangba. The fascinating Manipuri dance also traces its origin from these martial arts.
GAMES & SPORTS
Meetei introduced Horse-Polo to the world of game which is originated from the Manipur Valley of NE India almost more than 1000 years back. The original name of the game is Called Sagol Kangjei. Sagol stand for Horse and Kangjei stand for hockey stick.
Mukna-Kangjei wrestling-with hockey stick is also a game which is much older game still played in Manipur. It is a big competition with a group call “Pana” where clubs like body compete at this game.
“Kang-Sanaba” it is an indoor game play in every locality at present too.
Like polo, Khong Kangjei, is also a very popular game for the Manipuris. The game is played with seven players on either side and each player is equipped with a bamboo stick about 4ft. in length made in the form of modern hockey stick. The game is started with a throw of the ball made of bamboo root in the field of 200 x 80 yards in area. A player may carry the ball in any manner to the goal, he may even kick it but he has to score the goal only by hitting the ball with his stick. There is no goal post and a goal is scored when the ball crosses the goal line fully. A player often encounters with an opponent in his attempt at carrying or hitting the ball towards the goal. The encounter may develop into a trial of strength which is indigenously known as Mukna. The game requires much physical stamina, speed and agility. In the olden days players excelling in the game received royal favours and prizes.
The sport, which arouses most enthusiasm among the audience with an “apparent lack sporting interest”, is the Hiyang Tannaba (the boat race) in which the different Pannas often compete. It receives direct royal patronage with the king once sitting in the boat. The royal boats, two in number, carry the symbols of Chinglai (dragons) at the helm. To see this race with spectacular audience on both sides of the ditch where about seventy rowers display their skills is indeed an experience. The object of the race is for one boat, to foul the other and bore it into the bank. The boats are thus close together and the race is generally won by a foot or two only. This kind of game is patronage by the kings of Manipur and is regarded as one of the greatest popular sport in Manipur.
Thang Ta & Sarit Sarak (Manipuri Martial Arts)
These are the Manipuri Martial Arts, the traditions of which had been passed down over the centuries. It is a very energetic and skillful art and is a way to hone one’s battlecraft during the peace time in the olden days when every Manipuri was a warrior who is required to serve his country at the time of war. Long and precise practices are required and only the brave and athletic could excel. The art as seen today observe elaborate rituals and rules which are strictly observed by the participants. Besides, the above, there are other games like Lamjel (foot race), Mangjong (Broad jump) etc.
Sagol Kangjei (Polo)
The Manipuri Sagol Kangjei has been adopted by the International Community as Polo and is now being played worldwide. The ‘PUYAS’ trace it to the mythological age when the game was played by gods. The game is played with 7 players on each side mounted on ponies which are often not more than 4/5 feet in height. Each player is outfitted with a polo stick made of cane having a narrow angled wooden head fixed at the striking end. The ball, 14 inches in circumference is made of bamboo root. The mounted players hit the ball into the goal. Extremely vigorous and exhilarating the game is now played in two styles – the PANA or original Manipuri style and the International style i.e. Polo. It is exhilarating to see the Manipuri players in their sixties and even seventies riding ponies at full gallop and playing Sagol Kangjei with gusto. The ponies are also decorated fully with various guards protecting the eyes, forehead, flanks etc. The British learned the game of Sagol Kangjei in the 19th Century from Manipur after refinement it was transplanted to the countries as Polo.
Yubi Lakpi (Manipuri Style Rugby played with a Coconut rubbed with edible oil)
“Yubi” is the Manipuri for coconut and “Lakpi” for snatching. Played on the beautiful green turf of the palace ground or at the Bijoy Govinda Temple Ground, each side has 7 players in a field that is about 45 x 18 metres in area. One end of the field has a rectangular box 4.5 x 3 mtrs. One side of which forms the central portion of the goal line. To score a goal a player has to approach the goal from the front with his oiled coconut and pass the goal line. The coconut serves the purpose of a ball and is offered to the king or the judges who sit just beyond the goal line. However, in ancient times the teams were not equally matched but the players, with the coconut had to tackle all the rest of the players.
Mukna (Manipuri Wrestling)
The game is the Manipuri style of wrestling played between two male rivals for trial of strength by sheer physical strength and skill. Athletes of the same or approximately the same physical built weight and, age are made rivals. The game is an absolute must for the closing ceremonies of the Lai Haraoba festival. Mukna is a highly popular and prestigious game. In the olden days the game enjoyed royal patronage.
Played on the mud floor of a big out-house, fixed targets hit with “Kang” which is a flat and oblong instrument made of either ivory or lac. Normally each team has 7 male partners. The game is also played as a mixed-doubles contest. Played strictly during the period between of ‘Cheiraoba’ (Manipuri New Year’s Day) and the Rath Yatra festival, Manipuri religiously adhere to its time-frame as popular belief holds that if the game is played beyond its given limit, evil spirits invade the mind of players and spectators.