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History of Manipur


The Early Period

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].

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.
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.