By Dr. Laiba Mangang
According to Ningthourol Seireng (O. Bhogeshor Singh) PP. 32 – 33, the Tutelar Deities and the associate group of people who became Hillman in different directions are Marjing became Mao and Maram in the north, Chinghei Ningthou became Tangkhul in North – East, Nongpok Ningthou became Marring and Tarao in the South – East, Wangblen became Anal, Nanfous Moyon, Monsangs in South, Thangjing became Koirengs in South – West, Loyalakpa became Chiru in the West, Koubru becames Kabuis in North – West.
Thus, there are many writing and belief about the relation of Meeteis and other hill tribes like Tangkhul.
In Meetei’s dialect “Tangkhul” means dependent village or spear village or costly village and Meetei is also a Tangkhul’s dialect. Tangkhul believe that Meeteis were their real brothers who lighted fire on the top of bamboo post in the month of October (Mera – Hou – Chongba) at valley.
It is also believed that Tangkhul were the descendant of Tangkhu (the founder of original dance of spear or chingkheirol) – a born artiste of Nongpokthong (a range which stand between Somra Tract and Ukhrul) of Wung area, old compact area of the eastern zone of Manipur, extending from Tengnoupal right upto Somra Tract (now in Burma/Myanmar) in the North.
Manipuri language is the language spoken by the valley and hill people to communicate among themselves. There are numerous dialects among Tibeto-Burman speakers e.g. Tangkhuls have more than 300 dialects. It was due to the Tangkhuls being fond of head hunting, used such false words and names and became their village languages.
Some of the important pre-historic sites in Manipur are the caves like Songbu of Chandel district (about 40,000 B.C.), Kangkhui (30,000 B.C.) and Hundung of Ukhrul District, Tharon of Tamenglong District etc. According to Meetei’s Puya and belief, the Kangkhui (Ukhrul) was the altar of Lainingthou Achangba or Angom pokpa (the grand foremost father of Angom clan). Tangkhul is to believe that Meeteis were their real brother, who settled at Yaingangpokpi (Aokpokpi) and another strayed brother of Tangkhul is Maring. The foremost chief of the Nganbas (Poirei – Ningthou) and his wife Khamen Lokpam Chanu have two sons. They are Tangkhul and Khaba.
The Neolithic culture is found both in the hills and the valley of Manipur. Such examples are the Napaching Neolithic culture of Wangoo represented by the fully ground stone tools, arrow points and pottery consisting of tripod corded ware and spindle whorl. So, pottery existed before 5,000 B.C. and traditional handmade pottery without wheel is still found at Nungbi or Longpi village of Ukhrul. Some of the Tangkhul also believed that Khullei or Khurai pung is their original place.
Some of the famous Maichous (Scholars) during the reign of Nongda Lairen Pakhangpa were Tangkhul Nungkhoibi, Maring Ahal, Laha – Ngamba and Wangkheilakpa. They wrote Sagei – Puya (Clan’s chronology). Tangkhul Salam Pakhangpa – Nongtalai Pakhangpa is believed to have came down to the valley from Ukhrul through Iril river and became the King of Manipur. So, at the time of coronation of kings of Meeteis, the Tangkhul’s cloth was always decorated. Here mentioned can be made of “Lui-cloth” (according to the folk tale of Achon Meirapa, a goddess of Tangkhul had introduced their particular Lui – cloth”.
Lui – Cloth or Leiroom is a common religious cloth of Meeteis and Tangkhul. As we all know, the performance of Tangkhul Nurabi (The tale of Nongpok Ningthou and Ema Panthoibi) dance in Lai Haraoba Festival/Ceremony confirms the relation between Tangkhul and Meeteis. Not only this, the biggest family of Tangkhul society i.e. Akham family is also found in Meetei’s society as a Khuman clan. Here Tangkhul’s surname i.e. A.S. (Awungshi Shimray or big clan or chieftain) has some similarity with Mangang or Ningthouja of Meetei society. Likewise, the old culture and tradition before the adoption of Christianity, which took place at Ukhrul 1894 during the time of Pettigrew have many similarities with that of Meeteis society. According to Tangkhul dialects the name of seven salais are : –
1. Duidang, 2. Sadang, 3. Khodang, 4. Khapudang 5. Choudang, 6. Sithudang and 7. Kingdang
1. Saifu, 2. Saichal, 3. Rangla, 4. Rakhou, 5. Seilom, 6. Mariam and 7. Khailon.
Tangkhul local name and Maripuri equivalent lineages are :
Bhumrong (Tangkhul) Yek (clan) of Meeteis
1. Rajo (Rujo) = Mangang
2. Ela (Elu) = Luwang
3. Shimprui = Khuman
4. Shinglai = Angom
5. Ningshen = Moirang
6. Sheatlei = Khaba – Nganba
7. Lhenyea = Chenglei (Sarang Leishangthem)
(N.B. Here, some lineages like Horam, Shimray, Hungyo, Ningshen, Keishing etc. may be included somewhere as the above seven clans because a number of families of Meeteis are also included in one salai or clan).
The another vivid example of the relation between the Tangkhul and Meeteis is that the stone sculptured which cast the figure of a man or monkey near Meetei’s tank at Chatrik Khunou installed during the time of Sir Churachand Maharaj, the king of Manipur.
Moreover, Lainingthou Sanamahi (The origin of soul) is worshipped by Tangkhuls in Luira – Festival before the sowing season as Thuiruikhong kept in the house of Wungva or piba or chieftain of each clans. According to Meeteis philosophy, soul (Sanamahi) means yaibi – thawai (element from stars) and image of God (Almighty God) means Meerel (Shadow of God) are two important matters of human being. Human body is regarded as a temple of God, where yaibi-thawai (holy spirit of god in the form of fire fly or Tandal) used to haunt. Thus soul was implanted inside the first human body by Almighty God (Sidaba Mapu) and it was done after thumping on the top of the head (forehead / cortex) at 5 month baby kid and at the age of 6 month, the shadow (Meerel) was implanted at the body of kid. Here, we can refer the similarity to the last function of death ceremony o f Tangkhul i.e. Thisham or Sarat (transportation or sending off the souls of the dead). It was celebrated at the end of the year and one astonishing feature was that the number of lights (like a row of fireflies in the darkness of the summer night) seen was equal to the number of persons died in the village that year. Prominent persons were seen with big lights and children with dimmer lights. Still, it is believed that these row of torch light were seen moving farther and farther away like a row of fireflies on the slopes of Ango hills (Ukhrul) in the darkness. Not only this pakhang phal (boy’s dormitory) and leisa phal (girl’s dormitory) are also found in Tangkhul society. In short, the Tangkhul and Meeteis are the sons of the soil.