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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
               "Loktak Lake", 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 Inhabitants 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
               Tripura. On 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 impossible
               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 brothers 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, sericulture, 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 exchanged
               their commodities and lived together in harmony and happiness.  LET US
               START TALKING AND KEEP SHARING.  We invite more contributions from our
               loving 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]



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