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THE PEOPLE OF MANIPUR


Manipur Sana-Leimayol,
Chingna Koina Pansaba,
Chingmina Koina Pan-Ngakpa!

Sang a poet of old. In a free version it reads:

My Manipur,
Prime of the mainland of the Land of Gold,
How bulwarked thou art by the ranges of thine
hills all round,
And sentinelled by the children of Nature on their
round!

                    --A. Minaketan Singh

If there Be a Paradise on Earth, One  Surely Is  Manipur.  Its Green and Fertile Valley, Intertwined by Serpentile Rivers and Hillocks; its Reflecting Lakes and the Mother of All Lakes in the North East, the "LoktakLake", Surrounded by  Hill Ranges Encircling the Valley. The     Evergreen Hills, its Rear Flora and Fauna, Hill Tops Covered Mist and Fog; its Colorful and Wonderful habitants and the Mild Comfortable Climate. This Beauty and Charm Led to the Expression of "A Pretty Place More Beautiful than Most Places in the World" by Mrs. St. Clair Grimwood. One Remembers India's Late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru Described it "The Jewel of the East".

 Manipur is one of the eight north eastern states in India - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Megalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and TripuraOn the east of Manipur is Myanmar (Burma), Nagaland lies in the north, Cachar (Assam) in the west and Mizoram in the south-west. Imphal is the  capital and the major trading centre. Nine districts serve the state - Imphal (East and  West), Thoubal, Bishenpur in the valley  and Ukhrul (North-east), Senapati (North) , Tamenglong (North-West), Chandel      (South-East) and Churachandpur (South -West) are the hill districts.
 
District headquarters bear the similar names as the districts. There are at least 29 different groups and tribes in  Manipur. About 60% of the inhabitants are Meiteis, Manipuri  Bamons (Bramins) and Manipuri muslims      (Pangans)  who settled in the valley districts - all  speaking
Meiteilon, nowadays also called Manipuri - not a politically correct idea).  The Meiteis were made up to 7 tribes in a long history of its own.  The rest are the hill tribes, namely, the Tangkhul, Thado, Maring, etc. in the Ukhrul district; Mao, Poumei, Maram, Thangal, Thado or Khuangjai, Vaiphei, Ao, Nepalis, etc.  in the Senapati district;        Zeliangrong made up of three related tribes, namely Zemi, Liangmei, Roungmei (Kabui)in the Tamenglong district and also meiteis in the Jiribam sub-division;  Paite, Hmar, thado, Gangte, Kipgen, etc. in the Churachandpur district;  and  Maring, Khuangjai, Anal, Kom, etc. (also some South Indian Tamils in Tamu)  in the Chandel district.  In          addition, there are also several smaller tribes. A more detailed article will be prepared for  the different tribes and their groupings into Naga, Chin-Kuki, Zomi, Mizo, etc. Since there were no written history of the tribes, their oral tradition, dances, songs, culture, etc. tell of their history, migration, culture, tradition, etc. The  Meiteis had their own script, history, tradition, etc. recorded in many scriptures;hence,  the reconstruction of the Meitei history is not sensible although modern research tools will be needed.
 

The process had already  begn and has yielded a considerable knowledge on the subject.  We will discuss it in a more detailed article. An understanding of the different groups and tribes of Manipur will bring trust and respect for each other;  and a communication or a dialogue is the path for bringing a bridge to this path of understanding. Let us make a sincere attempt to know each other - all the others and sisters of this beautiful land and people.
 
The people of Imphal are mixed  because of its metropolitan city status and constitute a mosaic of different people and  backgrounds.  Imphal is a corruption of Yumphal (land of many villages) and the center of all activities was at Kangla (the Palace, now occupied by the Assam Rifles).In addition to Meiteis, Bamons (Manipuri Brahmins) and Pangans (Manipuri Muslims), the Imphal population also includes  Kabuis, Tangkhuls, Paite, etc. (Manipuri hill people), and Marwaris, Punjabis, Bengalis, Biharis,etc. (Indian migrants) mainly in the bussiness community.  The present day Imphal is a thriving trade and commerical center with various cultural and educational institutions. the Manipur University,  the   Regional Medical Sciences Institute, the Agricultural University, many colleges and school and various electronics and sports institutions - occupy Imphal - a special place in North-East India. Each  tribe in Manipur has its own language, tradition and culture.Meiteilon (Meitei language or Manipuri) is the common language adopted by all tribes of Manipur for communication.

An old  Legend tells:  Once upon a time all the tribes of Manipur including Meiteis lived in the  hills because the valley was covered with water. They were brothers and sisters; walked together hand in hand.  With time the water in the valley drained slowly at Ching-Nung-Hut and became inhabitable. The younger brothers and sisters were  weaker in strength and could not endure the harse conditions of the hills. Therefore, they moved down to the valley and settled. The stronger elder brothers and sisters stayed on to the hills. Once settled in the valley, the younter brothers and sisters from seven tribes (clans) combined together and formed the Mi-tei Kingdom (Meetei, Maitei or Meitei carries the same meaning indicating a group of people brushed (mixed) together). The hill tribes remained individually with their own Chieftains. Whether it is a legend or a myth, to this day,  it is always Ching-Tam (the Hill and Plain) or       Ching-Mi/Tam-Mi (People of the Hill and People of the Plain).

It  was  never Tam-Ching or Tam-Mi/Ching-Mi, indicating the order of origin and respect for the elder brothers and sisters of the hills.  The Meiteis knew the art of weaving, agriculture, bamboo culture, making tools with iron, bronze, pottery, production of salt, taming horses and  elephants. The valley was fertile, grainery was full, and its rivers and lakes were plenty of fishes.  The hills were no less. They were rich in flora and fauna. They provided housing materials, firewoods and grew cotton. They were excellent weavers and handicraft artists too.  The valley became a trading place for the people of the hills and plains. They exchangedtheir commodities and lived together in harmony and happiness.  LET US START TALKING AND KEEP SHARING.  We invite more contributions from our lovving brothers and sisters both of the hills and plains to contribute more articles on their culture, tradition, literature, etc.



 October 10, 1998
 Contributed by:
 IAP_MHA_CTL
 [The Internet Association For the Promotion of Manipuri History Art
 Culture Tradition and Literature]