The Origin of Manipur

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By: Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh

The empirical demands of history, much worse, prehistory, when it is allowed to assert them by its practitioners, drawing us to empirical evidence from archaeological evidence (if there is any) or texts, at least writings from non-archaeological contexts, is flawed with mistrust especially when it has taken a few decades emphasising the evidence. However, the usefulness of empirical work is that a hypothesis can be made from data collected that is essential to the research.

The present Manipur is home to the majority Meiteis who live in the Imphal valley. Manipur is also home to a variety of ethnic groups such as Tangkhuls, Kabuis, Kukis (Thadous), Paites, Gangtes and Hmars, koms and so on, altogether 36 tribes, who inhabit the surrounding mountain ranges.

I use the word ‘tribe’ as a biological noun to mean – a group of people related by blood or marriage, united by language and culture with shared lineages, and not as used in anthropological literature, which some people regard it as derogatory. This was exactly the concept of Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha/Congress Party, during the merger of Manipur with India.

As we know the total area of Manipur is 23.327 sq km. The valley accounts for only 2.238 sq km. Manipur shares 350 km of international border with Myanmar in the east.

The Meiteis constitute 60 per cent of the population but occupy less than one tenth of Manipur’s area in the valley only, because of ‘protective racism’. Immigrants from the eastern part of undivided Bengal during the British period, known as Pangals forming about 8 per cent, settle in the Imphal valley. The rest known as Mayangs (non-Manipuri Indians) came from different parts of India and also settle in the plain.

How the Meteis and other tribal peoples of Manipur came to live in Manipur is speculative. In the absence of a more cogent explanation, this article attempts to reconstruct the origin of Manipur from a geo/archaeological perspective.

To emphasise the prehistoric nature of Manipur – a Mayang word coined in the early part of the 18th century, I prefer to use the original name Kangleipak instead, until I come to the 18th century Kangleipak

Cuttlefish
Cuttlefish

To quote W Ibohal in his great book, The History of Manipur (An Early Period) – “The mountain chain where Manipur is situated belongs to the great Himalayas.” To prove his geological point he writes that ‘in 1952-53 AD one fossil of a sea living creature, cuttle fish, now extinct, was found at Kangpokpi in the northern part of Manipur.’

Further, he cites that recent findings in the tunnelling for Loktak Hydro-electric project, clays (representing the bottom of the sea) were discovered instead of hard rocks (expected from mountain ranges). The examination of different layers in the soil profile of the diggings strongly indicates that some 5,000 BCE the entire valley was submerged in water. He concludes: “so the land masses of Manipur is now 60 million years old since its birth from the bottom of the sea.”

I agree with Yumjao in the new light of the Theory of Plate Tectonics. What I try to do in this paper is to individuate a few aspects of geological and zoological analysis to draw a modicum picture of how Kangleipak was formed. Recent scholarship suggests that Manipur was part of the Himalayan belt.

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