The Myth Of Manipur: A Study

Sir Robert Reid, Governor of Assam (1937-1941) thus wrote in his book ‘˜History of Frontier areas bordering Assam, 1883-1941-(1942). ‘The State of Manipur consists of a central valley some 700 square miles in area surrounded by 8000 square miles of hills.

In the valley there lived 300,000 Manipuris and a few hillmen, while the hills are inhabited by 160,000 hill men and no Manipuris. The contrast between the almost fanatically strict Hindus of the valley and beef eating, dog eating tribesmen of the hills cannot be too strongly emphasized. The boundaries of the state do not enclose a cultural unit.’(pp. 87, 88)

Jyotimoy Roy also writes in his book ‘The Meitheis’ ‘Of the total area of modern Manipur, the valley covers 700 square miles; the rest is covered by hills. The Manipuri community lives only in the valley. The hills are the abode of the Nagas and Kukis.’ Manipuris or Meiteis first came to the present area in the 15th Century whereas the Nagas were in the present area thousands of years before the Meiteis. Prof. Gangmumei Kabui says ‘it is reliably believed that these (Naga) tribes were in occupation of the present habitat in the early centuries of the Christian era or even centuries before Christ. The Meitei historical and literacy works refer to the Naga tribes as having been occupation of the hills of Manipur (before them) (History of Manipur, 1991 p.23). Shri O.Tomba a prominent Meitei writer also says ‘the entire Manipur Valley was underwater 500 years ago. There is no authentic archaeological finds to show that the Meiteis settled in Manipur before 14th Century A.D. (A need to rewrite Manipur history, 1993 p.2)

For the Nagas of the south, four epoch making events occurred in the history of the Meitei people during a period of more than some three hundred years. The events happened independently in an intrigue of greed, shame and appeasement. The Meitei’s greed and the government of India’s appeasement policy apparently grieving for the sins of the Brahmins of Puri have ensured that the voice of the Nagas of the south is not heard. The four episodes are thus;

a) Conversion to Hinduism on a Brahmanical lie, 1704 A.D.

b) Treaty of Yandaboo, 1826.

c) Renaming Manipur as Imphal- Late 18th Century.

d) Discovering the brahmanical lie- Mid 20th Century.


a) Conversion to Hinduism on a Brahmanical lie, 1704

The term Manipur was coined by the Vaishnavite Brahmin missionaries of Puri, Orissa in the year 1704, apparently so that they may draw an allegory to the Mahabharata at a later date. ‘In ancient times, the Meiteis called their land Kangleipak, Poireipak and Meitrapak (Prof. Gangmumei Kabui, History of Manipur p.1). However, the Brahmins convinced the king that when the Hindu gods in heaven descended on earth to celebrate the festival of gods in present day Manipur, they saw the land turn to gold with ripening paddy fields of autumn. The reflections of the sun from the numerous water bodies made it appear like a golden land studded with diamonds. The Hindu Gods thus called the land Manipur or the land of diamonds. Thus said the Brahmins of Puri.

‘The first Meitei King to be converted to Vaishnavism was Charairongba in April 1704 A.D. by a Brahmin called Krishnacharya from Puri.’ (R.K. Jhalajit Singh, A short history of Manipur, 1965 p.115). ‘After his conversion Chairairongba adopted the Sanskrit name Pritambar Singh.’ (Prof. Gangmumei ‘˜A History of Manipur’ p.237). However ‘It was during the reign of his eldest son Gareeb Niwaz (earlier called Kayaamba) that in order to boost ego of the king, the Brahmins told King Gareeb Niwaz that he was the descendant of Arjun, the third of the Pandava brothers of Mahabharata.’ {M. Jhullon Singh, Bijoy Panchali(in Manipuri) 1947 p.22} They said during the fourteen years of his exile, prince Arjun visited Manipur, and married princess Chitrangada daughter of King Chitravahan of Manipur. After leaving Manipur and traveling north Arjun married Uloopi, a Naga princess. King Gareeb Niwaz swallowed the Brahmin’s lie lock, stock and barrel. He declared Hinduism the state religion, oppressed and banished all who did not convert and burned to ashes all the kingdoms chronicles, records, books etc and declared that Manipur has no history except what has been written in the Mahabharata. Thereafter, the Vaishnavite cult of Hinduism flourished in the newly named kingdom of Manipur fanned by an epic brahminical lie. After the total conversion, the Meitei filled with a sense of pride and with a caste system well defined, considered their hillmen neighbors as lower caste, sudra or untouchables. This sowed the first seed of distrust amongst the neighbors. If the Meitei felt superior, the feeling was mutual for there was hardly any interaction between the hill men and the Meiteis in those days.

b) The Treaty of Yandaboo 1826

With signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo between British India and Burma, ‘Manipur was liberated from Burma. Gambhir Singh (1815-34) was recognized as the raja of Manipur.’ (Alexander Mackenzie, the North-East Frontier of India). The British also gave him 3000 muskets for his defense. The king of Manipur was to also pay an annual allegiance tax of Rs. 300000 /- to the British Crown Government. When the King complained that the amount was too high, he was given a tacit approval to raise resources from the surrounding areas. This seemingly innocuous event that took place so far away from their land was to have for reaching ramifications for the Nagas since that time till to-day. Armed with additional 3000 muskets the Manipuri king with his mercenary army raided and looted the surrounding areas without any compunction. One such raid led by the raja himself reached Kohima. However, it had little impact in the Angami areas and raids did not occur again. Naga areas in present day Manipur bore the full brunt of the rajas raids. The hills immediately bordering Manipur became the killing fields of the well armed Meitei mercenaries who raided the isolated Naga villages with impunity.

c) Renaming of Manipur as Imphal- late 18th Century

In the eighteen eighties the Meiteis king with the active connivance of the British crown officers surreptitiously changed the name Manipur to Imphal, and Manipur thereafter became referred to as state by including the illegal tax hinterlands of the Meitei raja. This clandestine arrangement was not in knowledge of the hill people. It was not too difficult for the willing crown officials to tag the whole territory of the hillmen as Manipur because the dacoity of the Meitei raja could be viewed upon as an exercise of tax collection- so long as they receive their annual tax of Rs. 300000/-

Manipur was born out of this illegal union of connivance between the Meitei state and the British crown officials. This marriage of convenience between the Meiteis and the hillmen arranged and chaperoned by the crown officials never really took off ‘“ but the arrangement lasted so long as the British were in India.

d) Discovering the lie of the Brahmins of Puri. Mid twentieth Century

By mid-twentieth century or two hundred fifty years after conversion of Gareeb Niwaz, it was firmly established that princess Chitrangada, daughter of King Chitravahana who prince Arjun of the Pandava had married and from which union prince Bhabrubahan was born and grew up to be the king of Manipur who stopped the Ashyameda sacrificial horse of Arjun not knowing it was his father’s but fought and defeated him in battle was not from the Manipur of the North-East but Mainpuri of present-day Uttar Pradesh and that princess Uloopee the Naga princess who Arjun married on a northern sojourn after leaving Manipur was not of the present Nagas of the North-East but the Naga kings or snake kings of the Lower Himalayan foothills of North India. Writing about Manipur, Shri O.Tomba, prominent Meitei writer stated ‘As Meitei kingdom did not exist in Manipur before the fourteenth century A.D. the story of Bhabrubanam, son of Mahabharata’s Arjuna associated with the Meitei kingdom is fiction.’

This realization was cause for much embarrassment to the Meitei people who started reviving the Sanamahi religion and called their land Kangleipak. However, the three centuries of egoistic superiority complex was not easy to deal with. While the Meiteis recoiled from shame and embarrassment, the Nagas of Manipur were pushed to another ungainly political situation for no fault of theirs.

The unfortunate discovery was made as the country emerged as an independent nation. However, successive governments at the centre and its entire government machinery looked upon Manipur as the last Hindu outpost of the mighty Hindu country and have always allowed the Meitei to do as they please at the expense of the hill men. The rights and just dues of the hill people were denied in preference to majority Meitei community interests as a sort of appeasement policy of the Government of India which seems to be atoning for the sins of the Brahmins of Puri. From the incidents that happened which led to the killing of two college students and injury to nearly 100 innocent people at Mao-Gate on 6th May 2010, it is clear that the appeasement policy is still firmly in place.


A beleaguered and the most unpopular Chief Minister of Manipur, Ibobi Singh thought a bellicose remonstration to the simple home visit of Th. Muivah, Ato Kilonser was just what the doctor ordered to built up his sagging image and promote himself as champion of the Meitei cause. But what he thought was the cat’s turned out to be the tiger’s tail. When the Manipur cabinet took the decision not to allow Th. Muivah to visit his native place, there was hardly any public reaction. But the reaffirming of the cabinet decision when there was no opposition to it was done with intention to provoke panic and frenzy among the communities. However, not satisfied with the sporadic demonstration and burning of effigies, he reaffirmed the cabinet decision yet for a third time in the hope of inflaming the people to create mayhem.

In the meantime, a maverick Ibobi has defied and rubbished his own Congress leaders and left the task of redefining Centre-state relations anew to the central leaders. The question is not about the whims of a chief minister but whether the Centre’s writ runs in the states. The question is whether the states are independent sovereign political units or political state units of a sovereign country. In Manipur, Ibobi is the chief of its security forces, deploying them wherever he pleases with or without or against the instructions of the Central government. By the arrogance of his Meitei security forces and the martyrdom of the two boys at Mao-Gate, Ibobi has burnt the last bridge of friendship. Nagas do not need anyone to tell them where to sleep, what to eat, where to be or not to be. They do not need Delhi’s or Meitei’s permission to be together.

If Mr. Th. Muivah has set out to disintegrate Manipur as presumed by Ibobi Singh, he has done ten times better by camping at Vishwema than by going to his hometown. He has exposed the hidden agenda of the fanatical Meiteis of the valley to the entire world. Camp Vishwema will be etched in Naga history as a point of rejuvenation and assertion. It has united the Nagas like never before transcending across state and national boundaries. It has brought the political organizations closer like never before and has shown that Nagas can unite and work as one in the face of threat perception to its existence.

The central government must now realize that Ibobi has provoked the situation to a civil war like situation out of an innocuous normal daily affair. If the situation has not escalated it is because the Naga has not sought revenge, at least, not yet. To bring peace and normalcy in the region, the only way is to dismember Manipur as per its people wishes without further experimenting with the unworkable and dangerous myth of Manipur State. It is upto the Central government to decide whether the Naga and Meitei should co-exist as friendly neighbors or be retained in a forced union of mutual hatred and distrust waiting to blow up anytime. Separated, we can live in harmony with mutual respect for each other, for we know the Meitei and the Nagas will be neighbors till t he end of time. That appears to be the only viable and lasting solution for the entire region.

*The article is written by Puni Modoli

(Courtesy: The Eastern Mirror)

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