Manipuri Women's Dress
Story of Manipur
Documented history of Manipur begins with the reign of King Pakhangba when the seven clans of the Manipuri society were unified. The introduction of Vaishnavism brought about a significant change in the history of Manipur.
The early history of the region is set forth in the Cheitharon Kumbaba, a chronicle of royal events.
Manipur came under British rule as a princely state in 1891. British rule ended the independent status of the Kingdom which was the last kingdom to be incorporated into British India.
During the Second World War, Manipur was the scene of many fierce battles between the Japanese and Allied forces. The Japanese were beaten back before they could enter Imphal and this proved to be one of the turning points of the War.
After the Second World War, the Manipur Constitution Act, 1947, established a democratic form of government with the Maharaja as the Executive Head and an elected legislature. In 1949, King Prabodhchandra was summoned to Shillong, capital of the Indian province of Meghalaya. After much persuasion, the King signed a Treaty of Accession merging the kingdom into India. The legislative assembly was dissolved on the integration of the state with the republic of India in October, 1949. Manipur was a union territory from 1956 and later became a full-fledged state in 1972.
British rule ended the independent status of the Kingdom which was the last kingdom to be capsized by British India. Modern day Manipur is a state of the Republic of India.
Names of Manipur
The indigenous name of Manipur had been known throughout the ages as Meitrabak or Kangleipak or Meeteileipak and also by more than twenty names.. Sanamahi Laikan mentioned that the new nomenclature Manipur had been adopted in the eighteen century during the regime of Meidingu Pamheiba. According to Sakok Lamlen the name of the land had different names in different Chaks as follows - Mayai Koiren poirei namthak saronpung or Tilli Koktong Ahanba in Hayachak, Meera Pongthoklam in Khunungchak, Tilli Koktong Leikoiren in Langbachak and Muwapalli in Konnachak . But in later part of history, this land and her people were known by different names to her neighbours - the Shans or Pongs called her Cassay, the Burmese called her Kathe, the Assamese called her Meklee, and in the first treaty between East India Company and Meidingu Chingthangkhomba (Bhagyachandra) in 1762, the kingdom was recorded as Meckley. Bhagyachandra and his successors issued the coins engraved with the title of Manipureshwar, the lord of Manipur while Meckley was discarded. Later on, the Sankritisation work, Dharani Samhita (1825–34) popularized the legends of the derivation of Manipur.
Prehistory of Kangleipak or Manipur:
Geologically and geographically Manipur is situated on the tertiary ranges of the branch of eastern Himalayas going down the south and is a part of the compact physiographic unit following the great divide between the Brahamputra and the chindwin valleys. The north east India holds the key to the understanding the scope, depth, dimension and cultural diffusion between South and South east Asia which played the crucial role in transforming the North East Indian ethnographic canvas from prehistoric times. Manipur appears to have received Bronze Age culture traits from Thailand and upper Burma where indigenous early metal age culture developed at a comparatively early date around 4000 BC.
Old stone Age :
Khangkhui Caves- four caves are located near Khangkhui at a distance of eleven kilometer south east of Urkhul bordering upper Burma. Archaeologist excavations found out stone, bone tools and animal remains which are sufficient evidence of habitation of stone age men in these cave. The first evidence of the Pleistocene man in Manipur dating back to about 30,000 BC. Other notable caves near the place are – Hunding caves 11 km south of Urkhul, Purul Cave in Purul and the Song Ring rock shelter of Beyang village of Tengnoupal.
Machi - One of the most valuable finds of Archaeologist O.K. Singh is Pebble Chopper (tool) found on the Maring Naga Village of the Machi in Chandel district. The Marings are the one the oldest tribes of Manipur. This find has been considered as a landmark in the Paleolithic archaeology of Manipur as it confirmed beyond doubt that Manipur was inhabited by stone Age ancestors since the early stone or the lower Paleolithic period.
New Stone Age :
Haobinhian Culture - A large number of Neolithic Celts have been discovered throughout Manipur and preserved in state College, Museum, Archaeology Dept. The Celts are mostly edge ground pebble and flake tools. These evidences have clearly established the fact of the existence of the New Stone Age ( Neolithic) culture in Manipur.
Tharon Caves - The first concrete evidence of Haobihian culture is represented by the finds of the caves at Tharon in Tamenglong district. Haobihian culture is the Mesolithic culture pattern of south east Asia, based on the historic finds of the village of Haobihian in north Vietnam. The similar relic are found in Thailand (Spirit caves), Burma and other places in the south east Asia. Tharon is a Liangmei Naga village and the caves were first explored in Dec. 1979 by the state Archaeology Dept. The explorer discovered five caves and rocks shelters. The cave site is located at 93.32’ longitude and 25.3’ latitude in the midst of thickly forested Reyangling hills at a distance of about 4 km towards the north of Tharon Village. Locally the caves is called Kalemki (Kalem=bat : Ki= house) = that is the house of bat. It discovered five caves and rock shelters. A stream Kalem-ki-magu is following near these caves. The rock type f the area is sandstone of Barail series. The caves and rock shelters were probably formed due to rock weathering. These edge-ground pebble tools are similar with the finds from Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines. In these countries, these tools were used at about 7000- 8000 BC. The Tharons have distinct affinity with the Haobihian culture. In this case, before the advent of the present Tibeto-Burma inhabitants of the area, the Proto – Austroloid must have been in occupation of these caves. The proposed date is around 5000–4000 BC.
Napachik - A stone age site od second millennium BC Napachik is a small hillock near the Meetei village of Wangu in the southern part of Imphal valley, located on the right bank of Manipur river which flows into Chindwin rever in Burma. The edge of ground tools and corded wares of Napachik have affinity with the edge ground tolls and corded wares of the Spirit Cave of Thailand, Padubtin cave of Burma and Haobihian sites in Vietnam, but in one the Haobihian sites, tripod wares found. The possible dating of Neolithic age in north east India is between 500 BC early Neolithic of 2000 BC. It is quite likely that while a culture that has affinity with Haobihian and handmade corded tripod wares which have affinity with the Chinese Neolithic culture arrived at the Napachik around second millennium BC. Thus, Manipur valley was already inhabited by the Neolithic men in or around 2000 BC.
Kangba, the First King- He was the first king about whom the chronicles give some details. He was born at Koubru hills in north west of Manipur Valley. He was the son of Tangja Lila Pakhangba. The name of Meeteileipak was “Tilli Koktong Leikoilel” in Kangba Period.
Moriya or Maliya Phambalcha - The next king whose historicity was fully established was Maliya (or Mariya) Phambalcha. According to “Kangbalon”, Koikoi, the first son of Kangba ascended the throne assuming the regnal title of Mariya Phambalcha. Many scholars fixed the era of Maliya Phambalcha in 1379 BC and established the Meitei Calendar during this era. According to Thiren Layat, there were nineteen rulers till the joint reign of Nongdanhan and Taohuireng. The ancient text Numit Kappa compares the two brothers as the two Suns. The hymn of Numit Kappa used for a rite known as Chupsaba and sometimes sung as a ballad narrating the historical events.
The source for this era comes from the Chaitharol-Kumbaba, the royal chronicle of Manipur or Kangleipak.
Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (33–154 AD): Nongda Lairen Pakhangba was an extraordinary gifted ruler. Pakhangba was truly the maker of Manipur ( or Meiteileipak or Kangleipak). He was the first coroneted historical ruler. According to “Cheitharol Kumbaba” Pakhangba’s date has been fixed from 33 AD. Cultural Development – Sagol Kangjei (POLO) - The Meitei culture took its roots during the reign of Pakhangba. Sagol Kangjei (Polo) was started during his reign with maiden match between the chiefs of different regions. This game was played in the imitation of the old game played in the traditional age known as Hayachak. Laisna took a great role in organizing the game.
Khuiyoi Tompok: Pakhangba was succeeded by his son Khuiyoi Tompok in 154 AD. His reign was peaceful. He was known as the inventor of the Drum (Pung). Technical innovation in metallurgy was also recorded in the chronicle. During the reign of Naophangba ( 428–518 AD) the treatise on the construction of Kangla, Kangla Houba is believed to be written by Ashangba Laiba.
Loiyamba (1074–1122 AD), the great law Giver : Loiyamba’s reign was an important period in the History of Kangleibak. Along with the military consolidation of the kingdom Loiyamba introduced administrative reforms which provide the steel frame of the administration of the kingdom for about seven centuries. He systematized the administrative divisions of the country by creating six lups (Division). He introduced the Pana System. Loiyamba Shinyen has projected a well organized society and economy of Meeteileipak.
Meidingu Ningthou Khomba (1432–1467), conqueror of Tamu:
His earlier name according to Ningthourol Lambuba, was Charairongba. On of the most romantic events of Charairongba’s reign was the raid of the Tangkul tribe from Tuisem village in his absence and the courage and skill demonstrated by his queen Linthoingambi in the hoodwinking the raiding tribesmen into defeat and captivity. The Meitei state was completely formed during his reign.
Meidingu Kiyamba (1467–1508 AD), the Conqueror of Kabaw Valley:
Thangwai Ningthouba was the earlier name of Kyamba. The credit for the military and territorial expansion of the kingdom was rightly given to king Ningthoukhomba and his illustrious son Kiyamba who was a worthy son of worthy father and equally colourful mother, Linthoingambi, the warrior queen of Manipur’s history. The Medival Period in the history of Manipur brings forth the name of Medingu Senbi Kiyamba, who became king in 1476 AD, at the age of 24. He was a friend of the King of Pong (Shan Kingdom), who presented him with a stone, known as PHEIYA (Almighty). It was after this that worship of God, in the form of a sacred stone, was started.
Meidingu Khagemba (1597–1652), the conqueror of Chinese:
He was really a great conqueror who consolidated his father’s kingdom and expanded the kingdom of Meitrabak and defended her successfully from the several foreign invaders like the Muslim, Kachari and the Shans of the Kabaw Valley. Khagi Ngamba means (khagi=Chinese, Ngamba = conqueror ) that means “ Chinese conqueror “. According to chronicle, the Meetei king attacked the principal Chinese village (or town) along with the many brave Meetei warrior and defeated their chief Chouopha Hongdei. Khagemba introduced bell metal currency in the kingdom. Some coins of his reign have been discovered. His reign was considered to be the golden age of Manipuri Literature. He was a great patron of Traditional Lainingthou Cult. A contemporary text, Khagemba Langjei is the expression of the supremecy of Sanamahi as the Universal God of the Meeteis. The Learned scholar who were well known authorities and religious and theology and who attended his court were Apoimacha, Konok Thengra, Salam Sana, Yumnam Tomba and Langon Lukhoi – sort of six jewels of Khagemba’s court. He was succeeded by his son Khunjaoba in 1652 AD Khunjaoba was engaged in the fortification of Kangla and excavted the moat in the front of the brick gateway constructed by Khagemba. Paikhomba ascended the throne in 1666. Paikhomba consolidated his power in the valley. His kingdom extended as far as Samjok in the east and Takhel Tripura in the west.
Meidingu Charairongba (1697–1709):
With the dawn of eighteenth century, Meitrabak achieved the full development of her culture, economy and state system. In this revolutionary change in the Meitrabak’s life, three kings, father, son, and a great grandson : Charairongba, Pamheiba and Chingthangkhomba played very significant roles, the stamp of which was imprinted on the history of Meitrbak. After the death of Paikhomba, his nephew Charairongba, the son of his younger brother Tonsenngamba ascended the throne in 1697 AD. His reign was the beginning for the transition period from traditional Meetei social situation to a Hinduised Meetei Society. There was constant trade contact and social relationship between Manipur and Burma. In 1702, the of Toongoo dynasty of Awa (Burma) sent emissaries asking for the hand of Meetei Princess. Charirongba gave his daughter Chakpa Makhao Ngambi in marriage to the Burmese King. He constructed several temples for Meitei deities like Panthoibi, Sanamahi and Hindu deities. The relation with Burma deteriorated and more strengthened with India after conversion into Vaishnavism.
Era of Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism came to Manipur during this period. It caused a significant change in the history of Manipur. The Meitei script was replaced with Bengali.
Meidingu Pamheiba (Garibnawaz) (1709–1748):
Pamheiba ascended the throne on the 23rd Day of Thawan (August) 1709. The Persian name Garibniwaz meaning “ Kind to the poor” was given to him by Muslim immigrants and was adopted to be used in the coins issued by him. No other ruler in the eastern India could boast of such a glorious military conquest in the north east India and Burma in the early 18th century. Military Conquest- The fame of Pamheiba for his military conquest can be divided into three phases – The first phase (1710–17) was towards the hill tribes for internal consolidation, The second phase (1728–33) was the war against Ava, and the third (1745–48) was the war against Tripura. He extended his kingdom from Kabow valley, in the east, to Nongnang (Cachar), Takhel (Tripura), in the west.
Conversion into Vaishnavism -
He was a great religious reformer, under his royal patronage Cheitanya’s school of Vaishnavism was propagated in Meitrabak. Cheitharol Kumbaba records that in October, 1717 Graibnawaz was initiated into Vaishnavism by Guru Gopal Das. Afterward, he switched over to Ramanandi School of Vaishnavism.
Meitei Puya Meithaba (Burning of the Meitei Puyas) -
At the instigation of Santidas Gosain, Meitei Puya (Holy book ) had been consigned at Kangla Uttra to flames at around 9–10 a.m., on the 23rd day of wakching in 1729 AD.
Sanamahi Laikan recorded the events of Sanskritisation. The event paved the way of Sanskritisation and the name of the country “MEITEILEIPAK or KANGLEIBAK” had been changed to “MANIPUR”. Many other Meiteileipak places name in Meiteilon had been changed to Sanskrit. Hinduised Gotra introduced for the Seven Yek/Salais of Meiteis. From 1717 to 1737, the Parvas of MAHABHARATA and RAMAYANA were translated to Meiteilon (Manipuri Language) and many other Sanskrit Parvas were written by Angom Gopi, the renowned scholar and poet in the court of Pamheiba. The king and all the Meiteis were converted as Kshtriya by relating to Mahabharata’s Manipur. Pamheiba’s reign of forty years marked the Zenith of Meiteileipak in all aspects – religious reform, military conquest, cultural and literary achievement and sound economy. He issued several coins during his reign with his different names engraved like – ‘Manipureswar’, ‘Mekeleswar’, ’Garibaniwaza’. He abdicated the throne in favour of his son Chit Sai (1748–52) in 1748. He was driven out to Cachar by his brother Bharat Sai in 1752. Gourashyam (1753–58) ousted Bharat Sai in 1753 and ascended the throne. In 1758, Alaungpaya invaded Meiteileipak.
Meidingu Chingthangkhomba or Bhagyachandra (1749–1798):
Gourashyam abdicated the throne in favour of his brother Bhagayachandra in 1759. Bhagyachandra restored normalcy in the kingdom and tried to regain the lost glory of Meeteileipak/Kangleipak. In 1764, the new Burmese king Hsinbyusin (1760–73) invaded Manipur again in Kabaw Valley. The Meetei force were defeated at Tamu and king fled to Ahom kingdom in Assam. He regained the throne of Kangleipak in 1768 with help of Ahom king Rajeshwar and ruled more than 30 years. He signed a treaty with East India Company in 1762. His reign was a landmark in the history of Meeteileipak for the propagation of Cheitanya’s School of Vaishnavism. Since then Meeteileipak was more influenced by Bengali language and literature. He earned the name of Rajarshi.
Origin of Meitei or Manipuri Classical Dance, Ras Leela -
According to Cheitharol Kumbaba, in February, 1776, king went to Kaina hill in search of the Jackfruit tree. The four images of Lord Krishna were made out of Jackfruit tree wood. The ritual installation of Shri Govindajee was performed at the Rashmondal of Langthabal palace in 1780. The Meeteis worshipped God through dance as performed in the Lai Haraoba ( Merry Making of God). As revealed in the dream and with the help of his daughter Princess Bimbabati known as Shija Laioibi who was symbolically married and dedicated her life to Shri Govindajee, helped him to composed the Ras Leela. Meidingu Chingthangkhomba dedicated three forms of Ras Leela to Lord Krishna – Kunja Ras, Maha Ras, Basanta Ras.
There were a number of significant wars during this era between the Manipuris, the Burmese and the British.
Meidingu Marjit (1813–1819) with the help of Ava invaded Kangleipak in 1813 and defeated his brother- Chaurajit. He then ascended the throne in 1813 and ruled for six years.
Chahi Taret Khuntakpa,the Seven Years Devastation (1819–26)-
Meitrabak had never before faced such a national catastrophe brought about by the Burmese conquest. The new ava king, Bagidaw, invited Marjit to attend his coronation ceremony and to pay homage to him. Marjit refused to attend the coronation, which offended the Burmese king. The Burmese king sent a large force under the command of General Maha Bandula to humble Marjit. Marjit was defeated and he fled to Cachar. Thus Meitrabak was brought under the Ava rule for Seven Years (1819–1826) which is known as Chahi Taret Kuntakpa in the history of Meitrabak. The flight of Marjit from Meitrabak and Ava conquest in 1819 marks the end of madieaval period in the history of Meitrabak.
Meitrabak Princes in Cachar -
In the early nineteenth century, the meitrabak princes after being dislodged from Meitrabak made Cachar a springboard for the reconquest of meitrabak. In 1819, three brothers occupied Cachar and drove out Govind Chandra to Sylhet. The kingdom of Cachar which was divided between Govinda Chandra and Chaurajit in 1818, was repartitioned after the flight of Govind Chandra among the three Meitrabak princes. Chaurajit got the eastern portion of Cachar bordering Meitrabak which was ruled from Sonai. Gambhir Singh was given the land west of Tillain hill and his headquarters was at Gumrah, Marjit Singh ruled Hailakandi from Jhapirbond.
Meidingngu Gambhir Singh (1826–1834):
With the strong 500 Meetei Levy and with the help of British East India Company, Gambhir Singh expelled the Ava / Burmese from Meitrabak beyond the Ningthi Turel ( Chindwin River). He ruled the country from Langthabal Capital. He died on 9 January 1834 and was succeeded by his infant son Chandrakirti / Ningthem Pishak ( 1834 – 1844).
Meidingngu Nara Singh (1844–1850) :
He was the second cousin of Gambhir Singh and was the regent. Kumidini, mother of Chandrakirti, was not satisfied with the arrangement and fled to Cachar with her son. As desired by people of Meitrabak ascended the throne in 1844 at the age of 51. He shifted the Capital from Langthabal to Kangla. He constructed the two statues of the Kangla Sha at Uttra as that Burmese dismantled and destroyed which had made by Meidingngu Chaurajit. Meidingngu Nara Singh died on 10 April, 1850 and succeeded by his brother Meidingngu Debendra Singh (1850).
Meidingngu Chandrakirti (1850–86) :
Chandrakirti came from Cachar and defeated Debendra and regained the throne in 1850. During his reign, all the sacred and holy places inside Kangla were developed and maintained. Kangla thus became a well-fortified palace surrounded by five barriers, including the inner and outer moats, brick walls, and earthen rampart and citadel surrounding the palace in the centre. He died on Friday 20 May 1886.
Meidingngu Surchandra (1886–90) – Succeeded his father on the throne in 1886. There were revolts against him led by Sana Borachaoba and Dinachandra. The revolts were not successful. But on 21 September 1890, Princes Zila Ngamba and Angusana with the able support of Senapati Tikendrajit revolted against Surchandra. Surchandra abdicated and left Meitrabak for Brindaban. His brother Kulachandra Dhaja ascended the throne in 1890 and Tikendrajit became the Yubaraj. Surchandra requested the government of India to reinstate him on the throne. The British refused his request and decided to recognized Kulachandra as king of Meitrabak and to arrest Yubaraj Tikendrajit. The Chief Commissioner of Assam, Mr. James Wallace Quinton, came to Manipur to execute the order of the Government of India with 400 strong escort under the command of Colonel Charles Mac Donald Skene, D.S.O. This event led to the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891. On hearing the news, Meidingngu Kulachandra sent Kangabam Chidananda (Thangal General) with seven hundred Meetei sepoys to Mao Thana, a Meitrabak outpost at the border of Nagaland, then called the Naga Hills, to received the Chief Commissioner of Assam and to make arrangement, for the large escort of the Chief Commissioner. On 22 March 1891, at about 10 a.m. Mr. Quinton arrived at Imphal with his escort. Meidingngu Kulachandra Dhaja with his younger brothers welcomed him at western Gate of Kangla. Mr. Quinton informed the Meidingngu Kulachandra that at noon there would be a Durbar at the Residency. Thus Mr. Quinton tried to apprehend Yubaraj Tikendrajit. But it was not successful. Mr. Quinton consulted Mr. Grimwood and colonel Skene and decided to arrest The Yubaraj forcibly. The Political agent, Mr. Grimwood was speared to death. Subsequently, Mr. Quiton, Col. Skene, Mr. Cossins, Lieutenant Simpson and bulger were beheaded by the public executioner in front of the Kangla Sha. As soon as the news of the failure of paln to arrest Yubaraj Tikendrajit and execution of the British Officers reached the Government of India, three columns of troops were sent to Meitrabak from Kohima, Silchar, Tammu under the command of Major General H. Collett, Col. R.H.F. Rennick and Brigadier General T. Graham respectively. It was the column moving in from Tammu which faced the strongest resistance from Meitrabak. The great hand-to-hand fighting took place at Khongjom on 25 April. Maipak Sana, Wangkheirakpa, Yengkhoiba, Chongtha Miya, Paona Brajabasi, Khumbong Major, Wangkhie Meiraba, Chinglen Sana, Loitongba Jamadar, Keisam Jamadar, Heirang Khonja and number of brave Meetei soldiers sacrificed their lives on the battlefield and defend their motherland. Meitrabak lost her freedom at the hands of the British on 27 April, 1891.
nd Singh (1891–1941): The British Government selected Meidingngu Churachand, minor son of Chaobiyaima as the king of Meitrabak. A new palace was constructed at Wangkhei and Kangla was kept under British occupation. During British Colonial period, Kangla was known as Manipur Fort and a battalion of Assam Rifle was stationed there. The British left Manipur / Meitrabak in 1947.
Merger with India
Meidingu Bodhchandra ascended the throne in 1941, after his father, Churachand, died at Nabadwip in November 1941. Bodhchandra’s accession was to mark a new and traumatic period in the history of Manipur. Since the world political scenario had changed, it impacted directly to his administration of the country. In Jan. 1942, he convened the first meeting of the National War front in the palace and he and his queen both urged the people to support the war effort. In February 1942, Imphal was bombed for the first time. Many people killed and many people including most of the administrator and traders fled from Manipur. The Imphal valley was deserted temporarily. There was inevitable escalation of price, and the destruction of houses and goods. It was for the first time, Indian National flag was flown raise by INA general Malik in the Sub-continent at Moirang in the south part of Manipur valley on the 14th April 1944. The social pollution Mangba-Shengba was broke down during the War. The old world of feudalism and Brahmanism was passing ; and the end of colonial power resulted the princely state into democratic change. In Jan. 1946 the council of princes was recommending the establishment of popular elected governments in Indian states. Within Manipur too this movement was already initiated. Irabot returned to Imphal in March 1946 and quickly reestablished contact with his former political colleagues of the Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha for the future political party of Manipur. On 12 December 1946, Meidingu Bodhchandra announced the composition of committee which would draft the constitution for responsible government to Manipur. With the great trouble, the work of the constitution making committee was completed by July 1947. On the eve of Indian independence, Bodhchandra issued the order promulgating the interim Manipur state council. The brother of the Maharajah, MK Priyobarta was appointed as the first Chief Minister of Manipur. Thus Bodchandra declared that Manipur was now a sovereign state, linked to India only by the Act of Accession. Eventually, the Pakhangba flag was raised, first in Kangla and subsequently in the Palace compound. First election poll of Manipur was held on June 1948. The participated parties were – Congress, Praja Shanti, Krishak Sabha and other alliance. The Praja Shanti invited to form the government in coalition with Krishak Sabha and hill members. The Post of Chief Minister was offered to Priyobarta who was the C.M. for the outgoing interim government. The democratically elected state government of Manipur was destined to endure for less than a year. On 15th October 1949, the Manipur state Assembly and council were dissolved and the hand over ceremony took place on the polo ground of Manipur. On the same day, Rawal Amar Singh became the first Indian Chief Commissioner of Manipur.