Who knows the origin of the Meiteis?- NO BODY

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By: Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh

Nobody knows where the Meiteis came from. Some Europeans (Pemberton et al) skewed this idea that the Meiteis probably migrated from somewhere in the Sino-Tibetan region in the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

As the Tibeto-Burmans are Mongoloid, they empirically inferred that the Mongoloid tribes in northeast India must have come from a common source somewhere near to or in China, and therefore must speak a Tibeto-Burman language. This is not true.

The Khasis of Meghalaya and the Danwars of Nepal terai are Mongoloids but they do not speak Tibeto-Burman. The Meitei do not speak Tibeto-Burman. Yet they tried to link the Meiteis somehow with the Tibeto-Burman group.

It is a sort of non-tribal person’s thinking, which is linear in sequence: if A is the foundation of B therefore C must follow. It is an example of garbled logic, ranging from glaring to more subtle misrepresentation of information derived from the study of medieval Tibeto-Burman languages.

It seems to me that it was a desperate attempt for some ersatz legitimacy. Since then, as there was not anybody interested to challenge them, every one swallowed the story hook, line and sinker.

Never has the hunger for historical truth been more intense for me. We owe this to our ancestors as a part of defining reality. Two and a half million Meiteis within and without Manipur are not few Tarzans and ‘Man Fridays’ whose origins are obscure.

I am trying without prejudice, to establish the legitimate origin of the Meiteis as the primogenitors of Manipur, by scaling the Meitei history as its tectonic plates moved slowly over the centuries. To me it is the most important and possibly the most hopeless debate around.

The proposition I am making contains a subject and a predicate. The point of the debate is basically to rebut the notional ‘history’ of the Meiteis as having migrated from somewhere in the Orient, just because we have Mongolian features. It is as incredible as the acceptance of some tribal people from Manipur and Mizoram by a Chief Rabbi from Israel in 2005, as one of the ten “lost tribes of Jews” from Israel.

I can not conceive of any cogent prehistoric necessity for groups of people to traipse hundreds of thousands of miles all the way to Manipur, which was then filled with water unless they fancied some Manipuri Pengba fish (osteobrama belangeri)??

The recorded history of the Meiteis goes only as far back as 33CE, just after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It was during the reign of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba who began the dynast and kingship of Ningthouja family. Any ‘historical’ accounts before 33CE are speculations which are conjectures without a firm base. They are based on oral traditions which are not verifiable.

It is quite possible to construct a credible history out of oral traditions. Oral tradition was communal and communities had leaders who exerted control over the tradition. Before the invention of written language, and before the advent of widespread literacy, oral tradition was much more used for transmission of stories.

Oral transmission is so primitive that it can not reliably transmit anything except short, memorable phrases, such as the ‘short sayings of Jesus’, which in itself is a supposition
without any evidence. The short sayings of Jesus were the only ones recorded, but they circulated by word of mouth for 20 years before being written down.

The Bible, meaning a “collection of writings” is the most scientifically studied book. It was written 20 years after the death of Christ. There are many books debating for and against the authenticity of the Bible, which is a recorded book of oral traditions. Oral traditions are typically passed on by word of mouth, which usually entail variations in lesser or greater degree.

Prof Gangumai Kabui in his well researched ‘History of Manipur’ (1991) mentions that the origin of the Meitei tribe is obscured, which we all know, and that the Ningthouja origin of the Meiteis is a myth. I have reservations about the latter.

The mythical nature of the Pakhangba legend of the royal clan was described by Hodson (The Meitheis p5). James Johnstone wrote: “The early history of Manipur is lost in obscurity but there can be no doubt that it has existed as an independent kingdom from a very early period.”(Manipur & Naga Hills p80). So did E W Dunn (Gazetteer of Manipur p37).

However, since Cheitharol Kumbaba –Royal Chronicle (33- 1897 CE) was translated into
English by Bama C Mukherjee (1897), it became clear that Pakhangba became the king of Manipur in 33CE (Joychandra, The Lost Kingdom 1955).

However, the dates entered in the Cheitharol Kumbaba antecedent to 1485 CE are forged. (W Ibohal, The History of Manipur p15).

Recently, an historian P Lalit in his “Brief history of the Meiteis of Manipur” has taken the Meitei history as far back as 1405- 1359 BCE. This dates back to about 3,000 years ago.
He has apparently traced the origin of the Meiteis to the Tang- Shang dynasty of central China (1523-1027 BCE). According to him, “apparently a group (Tang Shang) might have migrated and settled in the Koubru hill ranges along with the Lei- Hao tribes who were the original settlers.” (Ref unknown)

‘Its Chief married Sinbee Leima, the daughter of the Lei Hao Chief and established his kingdom, circa 1445 BCE. He became known as Tang-Ja- Leela Pakhangba (1445- 1405 BCE). His wife gave birth to a son named Kangba, who established the first Mi- Tei kingdom.’

‘In (34- 18 BCE) Chingkhong Poireiton came to Manipur with Leima Leinaotabi from a region then called Khamtilong, somewhere between the present China, Burma and Tibet. A few other tribes who were neo-Tibetans, like Chakpa, Nung, Kham, Khu etc followed him. He reached Ukhrul and then Kanglatongbi where he settled as there was a vast stretch of water and swamp spreading southwards.’ “Poireiton and the original inhabitants of Tang- Shang people intermarried and the kingdom came to be known as Poirei-lam and the people as Poirei-Meetei.”

‘Nongda Lairen Pakhanba (33- 153 CE), a descendent of Tang-Ja-Leela Pakhangba married a Poireiton princess, Laisna and ascended to the throne in 33 CE. He moved his kingdom to the valley when the water drained away through a tunnel called Ching-nung-hoot in southwest Manipur.’

Another equally fascinating account is given by Heishnam Nilakanta in his paper, “The
Meiteis were the hill people in the remote past…mainly inhabited Koubru ranges and…Kanglatombi and Kangpokpi… Nongpok Keithelmanbi… However they came down from the tableland…..entered the present Manipur valley.”

He adds that “The Tai (Shan) ethnic groups who came to Manipur … were the Kakching, Kabo…etc. A horde of Shan immigrants led by Poireiton came to settle in Manipur and were forced to acknowledge Pakhangba’s suzerainty.”

According to Wahengbam Ibohol (The History of Manipur, Early period, p9) Kangba physically lived in the 11th century and part of the 12 century CE. And that the indications were that hey came from the south.

After reading this book I have a complete disorientation of time and space with regard to the early Meitei history.

A more evidence-backed book (A history of Kangleipak part II p7) by Wangkhemcha Chingtamlen, mentions: “The written history of Kangleipak began around 2000 BC. And this is supported by clinching evidence of Kanglei Iindigenous written literary evidence.”

The late Soroj N Arambam Parratt (originally from Sagolband Meino Leirak, Imphal) has a different interpretation of the Meitei origin. Parratt is one of the great contemporary Meitei scholars.

She writes in the English translated Cheitharol Kumba p12 that in Manipur there was a ‘proto-Meetei’ known as Poireiton and Manipur was known as Poirei lamdam. Pakhangba’s group arrived (? wherefrom) and the Poireiton inferred to them as Meetei (Mee=people, tei=other).Eventually Pakhangba married Laisna, the sister of Poireiton.

The two clans merged and Manipur became known as Poirei-Meetei lamdam and the language as Meetei lon. Poireiton is believed to have brought fire to Manipur, which was taken to the Andro village. It is indeed true that the eternal flame, meihoubirol is still burning in the Andro village.

I have quoted the above passages from just a few authors whose scholastic writings I do not dispute. The reference is in support of my argument that there is blurriness in the oral traditions of the origin of the Meitei and even in some of the records in Cheitharol Kumbaba. Oral traditions expose the contradictory legends on false traditions.

There is also lack of agreement among the Meitei scholars about the early history of the Meiteis as to who came first? Was it chicken or egg? Was it Pakhangba or Poireiton? Did Poireiton come from the east or the south? Where did Pakhangba come from? Who were the Lei Hao tribes? And where did they come from? According to Parratt and Cheitharol kumbaba, Poireiton’s settlement was much earlier than Pakhangba in 18-34 CE. This date has already been recorded by the eminent Meitei historian K C Tensuba.

Capt Pemberton considered the Meiteis to be descendents from a Tartar colony. “We may safely conclude them to be descendants from a Tartar colony from China.” (The Metheis p6). On the other hand when I was a small boy, young mothers used to pacify crying babies on their backs saying that “the Tartars are coming.” More reliably therefore, the Meiteis could not have been the descendents of the Tartars. Otherwise, how could the mothers lull their babies to sleep, out of fear of the Tartars?

The British rulers found the Aryan invasion theory useful as it carried the western cultural dominance over the Indian natives. The British also found it useful to group all the Mongoloid people of northeastern India and the Himalayan belt as Tibeto-Burman- a classification intended for the wild/ savage animistic and shamanistic tribes.

In obedience to oral traditions, which it will be vain to unsettle, the studies now indicate that there exist stories of prehistory of the Meiteis that are more interesting than their history. But they are not without problems. At which date prehistory becomes history is different around the world. British history did not begin until the invasion by the Romans in the first century BCE.

The Meitei prehistory is antiquity (historic period before the middle Ages, 1154- 1485). The trouble with prehistory is that it has another prehistory (a funny Greek word).

Somewhere between prehistory and history of the Meiteis, an uneasy accommodation must be made for my premise that the origin of the Meitei is lost until we have the genetic discovery of the Meitei genome that will trace us back to the autotochnous status of the Meiteis

As an interlude, has anybody ever thought of the possibility of considering that the
Meiteis might have been the original inhabitants and responsible for exporting various population groups with various modified languages to Southeast Asia?

The writer is based in the UK
Email: imsingh AT onetel.com
Website: www.drimsingh.co.uk

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24 COMMENTS

  1. If we r mongoloid then why don’t we take part in the mongoloid race. Some scholar try to prof that we r not mongoloid. Why do we accept the outside scholar…. Are they our forefathers or god. What a shame..

  2. But i am still confused that why there are many similarities in between hindu religion and our faith or religion. Story of two brothers Ganesh and Kartikeya is quite similar to that of Sanamahi+ and Pakhangba who are also brother. How is this possible. If the similarity is only this one; we may say it is just a coincidence They worship and celebrate Durga Puja, we do it for Panthoibi. So on. Sir Scientist pliz clarify on this

  3. The comments are on fire. It’s satisfying that there are very intellectual and educated Meiteis too. Keep progressing on these fields and in a few years we could be one of the news journalist and anchor on timesnow and ndtv doing debate in politics. Meanwhile the not so bright minds like me will strive on art and business to bring laurels to the state.

  4. I have been to some parts of North East India and I personally think Meitei people are of Bengali + Mongoloid clans. They probably interbred and that’s how Meitei Group was created. It’s not the skin tone or anything because skin tone can change due to the climate change. But except eyes(Which I believe is still somewhat bigger than the other Mongoloid clans of India) their whole facial structure resembles to Bengalis. The Jawline, the cheekbone etc. Don’t get me wrong there are some of them who look more mongoloid than the others but an Average Meitei looks somewhat Like a Bengali + Mongoloid.
    Correct me if I am wrong.

  5. It took me in confused state. Wy u published this paper without any conclusion or an answer . Wy its a big issue of origin of meitei
    For me we originated from this place itself kangleipak. So no need to discussed anymore otherwise we are alwys in the confusion state. Most important things is that wy we are in the degradation state of human race ? Stop mayangnised and stand our true meteism

  6. The demographic history of India was studied by a team of scientists from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and their findings are published online. They investigated mitochondrial DNA base sequences of 101 Indians, in light of the recent synthesis of global genetic history of humans by Cavalli-Sforza and his co-workers. To this population genetic evidence they added fresh insights into linguistic and anthropological pattern based on the People of India project of the Anthropological Survey of India. They concluded that the Indian subcontinent has been populated by a series of migrations around 65,000 years before present. The likely major migrations include (i) Austric language speakers soon after 65,000 ybp (years before present), probably from northeast. Tribes like Korkus, Mundas, Santhals and Khasis speak Austric languages. 98% of all Austric speakers are tribal communities populating South East Asia, and they are the ones using the most primitive technology. (ii) Dravidian speakers around 6,000 ybp from mideast with the knowledge of cultivation of crops like wheat and domestication of animals like cattle, sheep, goats. Tribes like Gonds and Oroans speak Dravidian languages. (iii) Indo-European speakers in several waves around 4000 ybp with control over horses and iron technology, Tribes like Bhils and Varlis speak Indo-European languages. (iv) Sino-Tibetan speakers in several waves around 6000 ybp with knowledge of rice cultivation. Tribes like Nagas and Kukis speak Sino-Tibetian languages. Meitei language is of the Sino-Tibetian family. There is probably no doubt whatsoever that ancestors of Meiteis inhabited parts of North East India thousands of years before the so called Aryans set foot in India, so called Aryans were in fact the last wave to have come to India. The interesting point to note here is that people migrate because of pulls from their destination and pushes in their homeland, often propelled along by some technological advantage. Thus in 16th century Europeans came to India in search of spices, pushed out by the little ice age that had gripped Europe, equipped with superior seagoing vessels and guns. Movement of people signifies advancement and positivity, staying rooted in one place signifies stagnancy and backwardness. This is the reason why the earliest man is still rooted in the poverty of Ethiopia and Somalia, while the latest wave of migrants to USA rule the world. Is it not food for thought about emotional attachment to one’s lands?

    see more 0

  7. this did entertain me. i would say, i really like the last para.. now we can expand our horizons to this one,””” has anybody ever thought of the possibility of considering that the
    Meiteis might have been the original inhabitants and responsible for exporting various population groups with various modified languages to Southeast Asia?”” .now some groups might come up and introduce a new theory that would lead to a new, never ending debate.LOL.NICE work :p

    • What about Tibetan and burmese language are Kanglei based!So other way round is it!

      Why do you think you need to lean on tibeto-burman!I!

      Most people who talk about linking Kanglei and language with are those people who sheepishly dependent on foreign authors.Crux is if I write about mayang culture definitely I write something or the other with no regards to credibility.Finish and present to “queen”!

      • Is there any historical or archaeological evidence that our culture and history is older then china or tibet? I will be thankfull to let me know more about the above .

        • If hundreds of people keep on asking this stupid question without much home then I dont think there will be ever a solution.Read some books and articles.Its nicely given there good and bad!

          As I have mentioned that you need to ask question with back ground in a sense that reasoning,logic,evidence,facts,excerpts,material etc …We need to ask how much we know about our culture and history!That will be a yardstick!Lets not blabs whatever comes and concoct inside our mind!I can say absolute accuracy that most dont have even basic knowledge of history of Kangleipak!

          I do strongly agree with Dr Irengbam on the stands that Kangleipak cannt be catagorized in tebeto-burman stufffs.Refer those paras again.

          I have even seen that the most author of those old days were solely relied on foreign writers to generate ideas and evidence.-“the meithei”,see the word itself!What “meithei”?There is nothing like meitheis!They way pronounced the words and the way have written is questionable.

          Instead of relying on indigenous script and puya,which is blessing of our forefathers to us to understand and know the roots we have.I keep a records of my day to day activities to track myself and use it for good purposes.In long term it is called history and civilization recorded.Question is why we should rely on someone about my personal life(written by someone)???Question come up about credibility etc!

          We should we proud that Kangleipak is uniquely blessed in many ways.Not to say about “unique history” but more that everything in the form of ample amount of manifestation.One among is scripts-“eyek”.We know time came when sheer out of jealousy mayang preacher knowing the height of cultured way of life of people and its administration,they have severely unleashed there poisonous,insidious cultural desecration.Downfall came when right away!We have always been excelling in many fields wether its arts,sports,creativity….one can see these in present day too.Now,ask anywhere what “manipuri dance is”?,Ask about Kanglei martial arts?No question about Sports!We dominate in Sports in India!

          Now dont look at the words here but see the sweats,bloods,hard works,day and night toils,strength,stamina,background…..what not!that our forefathers have bestowed to us.Really,its surprising that you sound very sarcastic and menacing rather than productive.!

          Just take time form day to day activities and share some indulgence in studying about your own roots.This will lead us to common goal and less argument unnecessarily!

  8. It mean burden for young people like us to go over his history anf finding out that he is indeed a Kanglei!

    So,see the importance of name!(loosely say)

  9. Think about it Dr Irengbam in a local vernacular tommorow announces that he is going to denounce his long old burdensome name which is purely from no angle looking like Kanglei name!

    Question is individual like him need to show to the people of Kangleipak that he stands by his golden words!

    Its common to think and having brainstorming seesion inside our mind specailly Our belove Dr Erengbam that as cited below:

    1)I have all my certificates in my mayang name so its so difficult.

    2)Second one is very morally disturbing in some ways.How my friends and family will react to my “childish” manifestation!

    3)I can do this as I just feel so feel shy and more over at this advance age!

    I dont have more ideas.

    My solution is very simple and truely believe to be guided by reasoning and logic!

    If I think that “all the golden words” that one have learned and have been learning so far with great pro founding conviction then,one should never be outweighed by those mere points I mentioned!

  10. Dear Sir,

    Indigenous names are good and always preferred. It denotes and describes the biography of a person to some extent. But, naming a person with a non-meitei name is of no great issue in the present Manipur. By present Manipur, here I mean the present day dependent Manipur which depends on other for every piece of livelihood. Days had gone by, when Manipur was an independent nation on all aspects of life, but time has brought in a huge change in the state scenario. By and by we have traveled far enough with time. The call you make at the moment would have been entertained with priority and dignity at that time. Also, we can still be down to our legitimate root by holding a non-indigenous name and no one would raise a voice against it. In a situation where neither the State Govt. takes care of the commons nor the other Government wouldn’t stop demanding for an independent Manipur, we should not render our minds on such things. Things can be taken care of at an early stage but not at this stage. Whistleblowing is needed when someone sees some wrongdoings in the society. You can be a whistleblower on some other important or crucial issues for the welfare of Manipur.

    • I ve seen some website named with mayangnized in everyway!I stopped going there!One person lost whatever they say!And I ve seen even that most with mayangnized website are dwindling in their popularity.How many time u go to manipuronline?People knows it but they lost half of growing roots conscious people.This is bound to happen and will culminate!

      So,ban these people and groups who promotes wrong culture.I m telling not to do any forceful coercion but acting on own volition!It is indeed growing!

      • Man, this is ridiculous! It seems You are not happy with the nomenclature of the websites. This is another issue of yours. There are some important platforms where your such calls are to be sought, not at this juncture. U should not have asked me – How many times I have accessed manipuronline? I do have a regards for those who bring their personal ideas in front. Let it be like this…. U can’t change. Our respectable Dr. Irengbam is abstracting on the legitimate root of meiteis by siting there at U.K. I mean to say that whosoever you are, or whatever your name is… you can be a meitei at heart and still can be down to our roots. Please don’t get torrented away by your emotional attitude. Anyways, its great talking to U. Hope we may encounter again on some other issues. Please don’t get hearted.

  11. Meiteis are the earliest man on earth according to our oral history… Origin of family and marriage is not known for sure inspite of many efforts by Anthropologist for so long because they did not do research on our oral tradition and language………Nongpok Chingkhei Apanba and Panthoibi started Yumballon…. Koubru started the institution of marriage..called Luhongba……. if not the earliest humans Meiteis are those who know the history of their origin… it predates all known histories of the peoples of the world….

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