Uniqueness Of Manipur From Other NE States

Manipur is somewhat different culturally from the rest of the Northeast region because of the Vaishnav influence and some of the dance forms are very distinct and stylish. Along with dance forms, various martial arts are practiced here and the game of Polo is said to have originated in Manipur. Folklores abound and are supported by a fair amount of recorded history. The Capital city of Imphal itself has a lot of offer—war cemeteries, Kangla, the building that housed field marshal slim during World War-II, the Orchidarium, many temples and a lot more. One of the more interesting areas to visit is the Ima Market, which is run by women only.

The State of Manipur, stretching along the border with Burma (Myanmar), centers on a vast lowland area watered by the lake system south of its Capital Imphal. Manipur was not a Part of India. It was forcibly annexed by India. In 21 September 1949 the king of Manipur was forced to sign the Merger Agreement. Majority people of Manipur every year protest against this so-called merger agreement. The revolutionary parties of Manipur like UNLF, RPF are engaged now in armed national liberation struggle to liberate Manipur from Indian colonial occupation. They want to re-establish Manipur as an Independent country. This almost forgotten country is home to the Meiteis, Nagas, Kukis and other small ethnic groups. Though the area around Imphal is now all but devoid of trees, the outlying hills are still forested, and shelter such exotic birds and animals as the spotted Linshang, Blyths tragopan, the curiously named Mrs. Hume’s bar-backed pheasant, slow lories, Burmese pea-fowl and the beautifully marked clouded leopard, as well as numerous unclassified varieties of orchids. Probably its most unusual natural habitat is the floating mass of vegetation on Loktak Lake, south of Imphal, inhabited by the unique Sangai, the bow-antlered deer.

Manipur is the ancestral territory of the Manipuri people. Manipur is presently under Indian colonial rule. It is situated in the northeast corner of India and bounded in the east by Myanmar (Burma). The present territorial area is 22,327sq.km. It lies within 23.83 degree N to 25.68 degree E latitude and 93.03 degree E to 94.48 degree E longitude. A fertile alluvial valley extends north-south in the middle and it is surrounded on all sides by hill ranges forming a part of the eastern Himalayas. Though constituting only about 12 pc of the total geographical area, the valley was, and continues to be, the core region where the distinctive Manipuri culture and way of life took shape and where political developments having repercussions throughout the Indo-Burma region often originated.

Among the Manipuris, the Meiteis form the predominant ethnic group and they traditionally inhabit the valley. The surrounding hill ranges are settled by many tribes. They are broadly grouped together and known as the NAGA and the KUKI tribes. While the Meiteis thrive on wet cultivation, the tribal population subsists largely on the slash-and-burn technique of cultivation and depends heavily on the valley for their needs. In recent decades, however, the steady influx of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent into the hill areas and into parts of the valley and also the internal immigration of tribes from the valley, have disturbed the traditional settlement patterns and demographic balance both in the hills and the valley of Manipur.

The tribal ethnic groups have their mutually distinct cultural heritage. The members of a tribe communicate among themselves in their own dialect, but the Manipur language is the lingua franca used for inter-tribal communication and by all Manipuris settled inside and outside Manipur. The tribal dialects are in varying stage of development; they are all written in the Roman script. The Manipuri language had evolved from Meiteilon, the native language of the Meitei which is written in its own script. All the tribal dialects as well as the Manipuri language belong to the Tibeto-Burman family of languages, just as all the indigenous ethnic groups in Manipur are of the southern Mongoloid stock racially.

Of the 18th national languages constitutionally recognized in India, the only language from the Tibeto-Burman family so recognized though done so under political compulsions of the on-going liberation struggle, is the Manipuri language. Anybody whose mother tongue is Manipuri language or who identifies himself/herself as a Manipuri, whether living inside or outside Manipur, belongs to the Manipuri people. There are about three million Manipuris in the world today. The Manipuris as a people are thus bound by a common language and culture and by inheritance of a common ancestral territory called Manipur, Imphal.

*The article is written by Birjit Thongram

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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