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History of Manipur

Kingdom of Manipur
Part of History of Manipur
Kings of Manipur
Ching-Thang Khomba
Maduchandra Singh
Chourjit Singh
Marjit Singh
Gambhir Singh
Raja Nara Singh
Debindro Singh
Chandrakirti Singh
Raja Surchandra
Kulachandra Singh
Churachandra Singh
Bodhchandra Singh
Manipur monarchy data
Ningthouja dynasty (Royal family)
Pakhangba (Symbol of the kingdom)
Cheitharol Kumbaba (Royal chronicle)
Imphal (Capital of the kingdom)
Kangla Palace (Royal residence)


The history of Manipur (Kangleipak in ancient times) is reflected by archaeological research,

mythology and written history.
Since ancient times, the Meetei people have lived in the valleys of Manipur alongside the
Nagas, and Kukis in the hills and valley in peace. Meetei Pangal (Muslim) people settled in
the valleys during the reign of Meidingu Khagemba in the year 1606. Since then, they also
lived along with the Meetei People.

Mythological origins begins with the reign of the "Konchin Tukthapa Ipu Athoupa
Pakhangpa" (Pakhangpa was the name given to him meaning "The one who knows his
father"), who gave birth the seven clans of Meetei society.
The pre-Hindu era is set forth in the sacred writing puya "Wakoklon Heelel Thilel Salai
Amailon Pukok". Introduction of the Vaishnavism school of Hinduism brought about changes
in the history of the state. Manipur's early history is set forth in the Cheitharon Kumbaba, a
chronicle of royal events which is believed to record events from the foundation of the ruling
dynasty.[citation needed]
Manipur became a princely state under British rule in 1891; the last of the independent states
to be incorporated into British India. During the Second World War, Manipur was the scene
of battles between Japanese and Allied forces. The Japanese were beaten back before the
Allies could enter Imphal. This proved to be one of the turning points of the War.[citation needed]
After the war, the Manipur Constitution Act, 1947, established a democratic form of
government with the Maharaja as the Executive Head and an elected legislature. In 1949,
Maharaja Budhachandra was summoned to Shillong, capital of the Indian province of
Meghalaya where he signed a Treaty of Accession merging the kingdom into India.
Thereafter the legislative assembly was dissolved and Manipur became part of the Republic
of India in October, 1949.[1] It was made a union territory in 1956 [2] and a full-fledged state in
1972.[3] Mohammed Alimuddin became the first Chief Minister in 1972 of the State of

Mythological origins
This has been dated from the 9th century BCE to about 400 BCE.[5]
Mythological origins begins with the reign of the "Konchin Tukthapa Ipu Athoupa
Pakhangpa" (Pakhangpa was the name given to him meaning "The one who knows his
father"). He gave birth the seven clans of Meetei society. 1. Mangang, 2. Luwang, 3.
Khuman, 4. Angom, 5. Moilang, 6. Khapa-Nganpa, and 7. Salai-leisangthem.
Kanglei which is now called "Kangla" was the first capital of the kingdom called
"Kangleipak". "Lainingthou Sanamahi" is the creator of all according to "Kangleichas", the
then residents of the now called Manipur. The religion of the land was purely "Sanamahism",
one of the oldest religion of the world.[citation needed]

Manipur had been known throughout the ages as Meitrabak, Kangleipak or Meeteileipak [6] as
well as by more than twenty other names.[7] Sanamahi Laikan wrote that Manipur's new
nomenclature was adopted in the eighteenth century during the reign of Meidingu Pamheiba.
According to Sakok Lamlen, the area had different names according to the era. During the
Hayachak period it was known as Mayai Koiren poirei namthak saronpung or Tilli Koktong
Ahanba, then in the Khunungchak period as Meera Pongthoklam. Thereafter during the
Langbachak era, it became Tilli Koktong Leikoiren and finally Muwapalli in the Konnachak

During the latter part of its history, Manipur and its people were known by different names to
their neighbours. The Shans or Pongs called the area Cassay, the Burmese Kathe, and the
Assamese Meklee. In the first treaty between the British East India Company and Meidingu
Chingthangkhomba (Bhagyachandra) signed in 1762, the kingdom was recorded as Meckley.
Bhagyachandra and his successors issued coins engraved with the title of Manipureshwar, or
lord of Manipur and the name Meckley was discarded. Later on, the Sanskritisation work,
Dharani Samhita (182534) popularized the legends of the derivation of Manipur's name.[9]

Prehistoric Manipur
Prehistory of Kangleipak or Manipur
Manipur is situated on the tertiary ranges of a branch of the eastern Himalayas running south
and forms part of the compact physiographic unit following the great divide between the
Brahmaputra and Chindwin valleys. North east India holds the key to the understanding the
scope, depth, dimension and cultural diffusion between south and southeast Asia which
played a crucial role in transforming the northeast Indian ethnographic canvas from
prehistoric times onwards. Manipur appears to have absorbed Bronze Age cultural traits from
Thailand and Upper Burma where indigenous early metal age culture developed at a
comparatively early date around 4000 BC.[citation needed]
Old Stone Age
The four Khangkhui Caves are located near Khangkhui some 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) south
east of Ukhrul on the border with Upper Burma. Archaeological excavations have found
stone and bone tools as well as animal remains as evidence of Stone Age habitation of these
caves.[10] The first evidence of Pleistocene man in Manipur dates back to about 30,000 BC.
Other notable caves nearby include Hunding Caves, 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) south of Ukhrul,
Purul Cave in Purul and the Song Ring rock shelter at Beyang village in Tengnoupal.
One of archaeologist O.K. Singh's most valuable finds is a pebble chopping tool discovered
in Maring Naga Village, Machi, in the Chandel district.[11] The Marings are one of the oldest
tribes of Manipur and this find is considered a landmark in the Paleolithic archaeology of
Manipur as it confirms that the area was inhabited by neolithic people from the early Stone
Age or lower Paleolithic period.
New Stone Age

Hoabinhian Culture A large number of Neolithic celts have been discovered

throughout Manipur and are now preserved in the State College Museum Archaeology
Department. These celts are mostly edge-ground pebble and flake tools and show the
presence of Neolithic culture in Manipur.[citation needed]

Findings in the Tharon Caves in the Tamenglong district provide the first concrete evidence
of Hoabinhian culture in India, a Mesolithic southeast Asian cultural pattern based on historic
finds from the village of Haobihian in North Vietnam. Similar relics have been found in
Thailand at the Spirit Caves as well as in Burma and other places in Southeast Asia. Tharon is
a Liangmei Naga village where the five caves and rock shelters were first explored in
December 1979 by the State Archaeology Department.[citation needed]

The site is located at 93.32 longitude and 25.3 latitude in the midst of the thickly forested
Reyangling Hills, about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) north of Tharon Village. Locally, the caves are
known as Kalemki (from Kalem (bat) and Ki (house), literally: The house of the bat). A
stream called Kalem-ki-magu runs near the caves, which are composed of Barail series
sandstone and were probably formed by rock weathering. Tharon's edge-ground pebble tools
are similar to finds from Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines where they
were used about 70008000 BC. The Tharons have a distinct affinity with the Haobihian
culture and before the advent of the present Tibeto-Burman inhabitants of the area, ProtoAustraloid people occupied these caves around 50004000 BC.[citation needed]
Napachik is A Stone Age site dating to the second millennium BC. It is on a small hillock
near Meetei Village, Wangu, in the southern part of the Imphal Valley, on the right bank of
the Manipur River which flows into the Chindwin River in Burma. The edge-ground tools
and corded wares of Napachik are similar to those found in the Spirit Cave in Thailand, the
Padubtin Cave in Burma along with Haobihian sites in Vietnam although tripod wares were
also found at one the Haobihian sites. Possible dates for the Neolithic age in north east India
are between 500 BC 2000 BC. It is probable that while Napachik culture has an affinity with
that of Haobihian while handmade corded tripod wares from Chinese Neolithic culture
arrived in the area around the second millennium BC showing that the Manipur valley was
already inhabited by Neolithic men in or around 2000 BC.[citation needed]

Ancient Manipur
The source for this era is the Cheitharol Kumbaba, the royal chronicle of Manipur or
Kangleipak.[citation needed]

Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (33154 AD) was ruler and the creator of Manipur (or
Meeteileipak or Kangleipak). He was the first coroneted historical ruler whose reign
began in 33 according to the Cheitharol Kumbaba. Meetei culture took root during the
reign of Pakhangba as did sagol kangjei (Polo), with the first match played between
the chiefs of different regions. Polo was played in imitation of a game from the
traditional Hayachak era. Laisna took a great role in organizing the game.[citation needed]

Pakhangba was succeeded by his son, Khuiyoi Tompok, in 154 AD. Known as the inventor of
the drum (pung), his reign was a peaceful one. Technical innovation in metallurgy was also
recorded in the chronicle.[citation needed]

Naophangba (428518 AD)

The treatise on the construction of the places of Kangla and Kangla Houba are believed to
have been written by Ashangba Laiba.[citation needed]

Loiyamba (10741122 AD) was known as the "Great law Giver", his reign was an
important period in the history of Kangleibak. Along with the military consolidation
of the kingdom, Loiyamba introduced administrative reforms, which provided the
backbone of the kingdom's administration for the next seven centuries. He
systematized the administrative divisions of the country by creating six lups or
divisions as well as introducing the Pana System. Loiyamba Shinyen left a wellorganized society and economy in Meeteileipak.[citation needed]

Medieval Manipur

Meidingu Ningthou Khomba (14321467) was the "Conqueror of Tamu". According

to Ningthourol Lambuba he was originally known as Charairongba. One of the most
well-known events of Charairongba's reign was a raid by the Tangkhul tribe from
Tuisem village while he was absent. His queen Linthoingambi demonstrated courage
and skill, hoodwinking the raiding tribesmen into defeat and captivity. The Meitei
state was completely established during his reign.[citation needed]

Meidingu Kiyamba (14671508) was known as the "Conqueror of Kabaw Valley". He

was formerly called Thangwai Ningthouba. Credit for the military and territorial
expansion of the kingdom was given to King Ningthou khomba and his son Kiyamba
who had an equally colourful mother, Linthoingambi, the warrior queen in Manipur's
history. This period sees the emergence of Medingu Senbi Kiyamba, who became
king in 1476, at the age of 24. He was a friend of the King of Pong (Shan Kingdom).

King Kyamba of Manipur along with Chaopha Khe Khomba, the king of Pong, conquered
Kyang, a Shan kingdom in the Kabow Valley of present Myanmar. Jubilant at the victory, an
idol of Lord Vishnu was given by the Pong king to King Kyamba. King Kyamba started
worshipping the idol at Lumlangdong which then came to be known as Bishnupur i.e. abode
of Vishnu. Subsequently, he built a Vishnu Temple of brick at Bishnupur which has now
become a protected historical monument under the Ministry of H.R.D (Archeology),
Government of India. It is now standing as a symbol of the remains of ancient times. And the
statue got by Kyamba from the Pong king is very important since it gives us the idea of the
religious beliefs of those days and the very name that it had given.

Meidingu Khagemba (15971652) was known as the "Conqueror of the Chinese"

(khagi: Chinese and Ngamba: conqueror). He consolidated and expanded his father's
kingdom of Meitrabak, later successfully defending it from foreign invaders such as
the Muslims, the Kachari and the Shans of the Kabaw Valley. Muslim settlement
became more prominent after 1606 with the establishment of a Muslim Personal Law
Board headed by a Qazi appointed by the king. According to the chronicle, the Meetei
king attacked the principal Chinese village (or town) along with the many brave
Meetei warrior and defeated their chief Chouopha Hongdei. Khagemba introduced
bell metal currency in the kingdom and a number of coins from his reign have been
found. His reign was considered to be the golden age of Manipuri literature. He was a
great patron of the traditional Lainingthou Cult. A contemporary text, the Khagemba
Langjei, expresses the supremecy of Sanamahi as the Universal God of the Meeteis.
Learned scholars who were well-known authorities on religion and theology in
attendance at Khagemba's court were Apoimacha, Konok Thengra, Salam Sana,
Yumnam Tomba, Khongngakhul Toppa and Langon Lukhoi.[citation needed]

Khagemba was succeeded by his son Khunjaoba in 1652 who fortified Kangla and excavated
a moat in the front of the brick gateway constructed by his father. Paikhomba ascended the
throne in 1666 and consolidated his power in the valley. His kingdom extended as far as
Samjok to the east and Takhel Tripura to the west. In 1679 the two Mughal (Chaghtai Turk)
princes Shah Shuja and Mirza Baisanghar led a 37 strong Mughal entourage and settled in
Manipur by taking local wives.[citation needed]

With the dawn of the eighteenth century, *Meidingu Charairongba (16971709) achieved the
full development of its culture, economy and state system. In this revolutionary period in the
evolution of Meitrabak, three kings, father, son, and a great grandson: Charairongba,
Pamheiba and Chingthang Khomba played significant roles. After the death of Paikhomba,
his nephew Charairongba, the son of his younger brother Tonsenngamba ascended the throne
in 1697. His reign began the transition period from traditional Meetei culture to a Hinduised
Meetei Society. There were continual trade contacts and social relationships between
Manipur and Burma. In 1702, the Toongoo dynasty of Awa (Burma) sent emissaries asking
for the hand of a Meetei Princess. Charirongba gave his daughter Chakpa Makhao Ngambi in
marriage to the Burmese King. He constructed several temples for Meitei deities such as
Panthoibi, Sanamahi as well as ones dedicated to Hindu gods.

Vaishnavism Era
Vaishnavism came to Manipur during this period and caused a significant change in the
history of Manipur. The Meitei script was replaced with Bengali.[citation needed]

Meidingu Pamheiba (Garibnawaz) (17091748):

Pamheiba ascended the throne on the 23rd Day of Thawan (August) 1709. His Persian name
Garibniwaz, meaning "kind to the poor", was given to him by Muslim immigrants and was
adopted to be used in the coinage he issued.[citation needed]
Pamheiba's rise to prominence as a military conqueror can be divided into three phases. The
first phase (171017) focused on internal consolidation of hill tribes. Phase two (172833)
involved war against the Burmese kingdom of Awa, and the third and final phase (174548)
saw a war against Tripura in the northeast. As a result, Pamheiba extended his kingdom from
the Kabow Valley, to the east as far as Nongnang (Cachar) and Takhel (Tripura) in the west.

Conversion to Vaishnavism
Pamheiba was also a major religious reformer and under his royal patronage Shri Chaitanya's
school of Gaudiya Vaishnavism gradually spread across Meitrabak. The Cheitharol Kumbaba
records that in October 1717, Graibnawaz was initiated into Vaishnavism by Guru Gopal Das.
Later in life he also took instruction from the Ramanandi Sampradaya school of thought.[citation

Sanamahi Laikan recorded the events surrounding Sanskritisation which paved the way for
"Meeteileipak" or "Kangleibak" to become "Manipur". Many other Meeteileipak place names
in the Manipuri language (Meeteilon) were also changed to Sanskrit. The Hinduised word
"gotra" was introduced for the Seven Yek/Salais of Meeteis. Between 1717 and 1737, the
Sanskrit epic parvas the Mahabharata and Ramayana were translated into Meeteilon while
many other Sanskrit Parvas were written by Angom Gopi (17101780), the renowned scholar
and poet at the court of Pamheiba. The king and all the Meeteis were converted as Kshatriya
by relating to Mahabharata's Manipur.[citation needed]

Pamheiba's forty-year reign marked the zenith of Meeteileipak in all aspects religious
reform, military conquest, cultural and literary achievements and sound economics. He issued
several coins during his reign engraved with his different names: Manipureswar,
Mekeleswar, Garibaniwaza.[citation needed]
He abdicated the throne in favour of his son Chit Sai (174852) in 1748 and was then driven
out to Cachar by his brother Bharat Sai in 1752. Gourashyam (175358) ousted Bharat Sai in
1753 and ascended the throne. In 1758, the Burmese king Alaungpaya invaded Meeteileipak.
[citation needed]

Meidingu Chingthang Khomba or Maharaja Bhagyachandra (17491798)

In 1759, Gourashyam gave up the throne in favour of his brother Bhagayachandra who
restored normalcy in the kingdom and tried to regain the lost glory of
Meeteileipak/Kangleipak. In 1764, the new Burmese king Hsinbyushin invaded Manipur
again through the Kabaw Valley. The Meetei force were defeated at Tamu and the king fled to
the Ahom kingdom in Assam. He regained the throne of Kangleipak in 1768 with help of
Ahom king Rajeshwar and went on to rule for more than 30 years, signing a treaty with East
India Company in 1762. His reign was a landmark in the history of Meeteileipak for the
propagation of Cheitanya's School of Vaishnavism. Afterwards, Meeteileipak came more
under the influence of Bengali language and literature. Bhagayachandra earned the title of
"Rajarshi" as a king who had become a royal sage.[citation needed]

Origin of Manipuri Classical Dance, Rasa lila

Rasa Lila in Manipuri dance style.

According to Cheitharol Kumpaba, in February 1776, the king went to Kaina Hill in search of
the jackfruit tree. Four images of Krishna were then carved from jackfruit wood. The ritual
installation of Shri Govindajee was performed at the Rashmondal of Langthabal palace in
1780. The Meeteis worshipped God through dance as performed in the Lai Haraoba (Merry
Making of God). As revealed in the dream, and with the help of his daughter Princess
Bimbabati known as Shija Laioibi who was symbolically married and dedicated her life to
Shri Govindajee, he composed the Rasa lila. Meidingu Chingthangkhomba dedicated three
forms of Rasa lila to Krishna Kunja Ras, Maha Ras and Basanta Ras.[citation needed]

Anglo-Burmese Events

There were a number of wars during this era between the Manipuris, the Burmese and the

Meidingu Marjit (18131819)

With the help from the Burmese kingdom of Awa, Marjit invaded Kangleipak in 1813 where
he defeated his brother Chaurajit. He then ascended the throne in 1813 and ruled for six
years.[citation needed]

Chahi Taret Khuntakpa, the Seven Years Devastation (181926)

Meitrabak had never faced such catastrophe as that brought about by the Burmese conquest.
The new king of Awa, Bagyidaw, invited Marjit to attend his coronation ceremony and to pay
homage to him. Marjit refused to attend the coronation, which offended the Burmese king
who then sent a large force under the command of General Maha Bandula to humble Marjit.
Marjit was defeated and fled to Cachar. Meitrabak was then brought under the rule of Awa for
the seven years between 1819 and 1826, which is known as Chahi Taret Kuntakpa in the
history of Meitrabak. The flight of Marjit from Meitrabak and the conquest by Awa in 1819
marks the end of the mediaeval period in the history of Meitrabak.[citation needed]

Meitrabak Princes in Cachar

In the early nineteenth century, after being dislodged from Meitrabak, its princes made
Cachar a springboard for the reconquest of the territory. In 1819, three brothers occupied
Cachar and drove Govinda Chandra out to Sylhet. The kingdom of Cachar, divided between
Govinda Chandra and Chaurajit in 1818, was repartitioned after the flight of Govind Chandra
among the three Meitrabak princes. Chaurajit got the eastern portion of Cachar bordering
Meitrabak which was ruled from Sonai. Gambhir Singh was given the land west of Tillain
hill and his headquarters was at Gumrah, Marjit Singh ruled Hailakandi from Jhapirbond.
[citation needed]

Meidingngu Gambhir Singh (18261834)

With the 500 strong Meetei Levy and with help from the British East India Company,
Gambhir Singh expelled the Burmese of Awa from Meitrabak beyond the Ningthi Turel
(Chindwin River). He ruled the country from Langthabal and died on 9 January 1834 to be
succeeded by his infant son Chandrakirti / Ningthem Pishak (18341844).[citation needed]

Meidingngu Nara Singh (18441850)

He was the second cousin of Gambhir Singh and the regent. Kumidini, mother of
Chandrakirti, was dissatisfied with the arrangement and fled to Cachar with her son. At the
wish of the people of Meitrabak he ascended the throne in 1844 at the age of 51. He then
shifted the capital from Langthabal to Kangla where he reconstructed the two statues of the
Kangla Sha at Uttra made by Meidingngu Chaurajit and that the Burmese had dismantled and
destroyed. Meidingngu Nara Singh died on 10 April 1850 and was succeeded by his brother
Meidingngu Debendra Singh (1850).[citation needed]

Meidingngu Chandrakirti (185086) came from Cachar, defeated Debendra and

regained the throne in 1850. During his reign, all the sacred and holy places inside
Kangla were developed and maintained. Kangla thus became a well-fortified palace
surrounded by five layers of defences, including the inner and outer moats, brick
walls, as well as an earthen rampart and citadel surrounding the palace in the centre.
He died on Friday 20 May 1886.[citation needed]

The Manipur Expedition

Main article: Anglo-Manipur War

The main entrance of the Kangla Fort in Imphal.

Meidingngu Surchandra (188690) succeeded his father to the throne in 1886 when there
were revolts against him led by Sana Borachaoba and Dinachandra that proved unsuccessful.
However, on 21 September 1890, Princes Zila Ngamba and Angousana with the support of
Senapati Tikendrajit, revolted against Surchandra who abdicated and left Meitrabak for
Brindaban (Vrindavan). His brother Kulachandra Singh ascended the throne in 1890 and
Tikendrajit, the Senapati or supreme military commander of the armed forces of Manipur,
became the ruler behind the scenes. Surchandra requested the government of India to
reinstate him on the throne but the British decided to recognize Kulachandra as king of
Meitrabak and to arrest Yuvraj Tikendrajit for having caused the palace revolution.[12]
Chief Commissioner of Assam, James Wallace Quinton, came to Manipur to execute the
order of the Government of India with a 400 strong escort under the command of Colonel
Charles Mac Donald Skene, D.S.O. This event led to the The Anglo-Manipur War of 1891.
[citation needed]

On hearing the news, Meidingngu Kulachandra sent Kangabam Chidananda (Thangal

General) with seven hundred Meetei sepoys to Mao Thana, a Meitrabak outpost on the border
of Nagaland, then called the Naga Hills, to receive the Chief Commissioner of Assam and to
make arrangements for a large escort for the Chief Commissioner.[citation needed]
On 22 March 1891, at about 10 a.m. Quinton arrived at Imphal with his escort. Meidingngu
Kulachandra Dhaja and his younger brothers welcomed him at the western Gate of the
Kangla Palace. Quinton informed Meidingngu Kulachandra that at noon there would be a
Durbar (court) held at the Residency. Thus did Quinton attempt to apprehend Yuvraj
Tikendrajit but he was not successful. Quinton then consulted the political agent Grimwood

as well as Colonel Skene and decided to arrest Yuvraj forcibly. Grimwood was then speared
to death and Quinton, Colonel Skene, Mr. Cossins, Lieutenant Simpson and Bulger were
subsequently beheaded by the public executioner in front of the Kangla Sha. As soon as the
news of the failure of the plan to arrest Yuvraj Tikendrajit and the execution of the British
officers reached the Government of India, three columns of troops, known as the Manipur
Expedition, were sent to Meitrabak from Kohima, Silchar and Tamu under the command of
Major General Henry Collett, Col. R.H.F. Rennick and Brigadier General T. Graham
respectively. The column moving in from Tamu faced the strongest resistance from Meitrabak
and major hand-to-hand combat took place at Khongjom on 25 April.[citation needed]
Maipak Sana, Wangkheirakpa, Yengkhoiba, Chongtha Miya, Paona Brajabasi, Khumbong
Major, Wangkhei Meiraba, Chinglen Sana, Loitongba Jamadar, Keisam Jamadar, Heirang
Khonja and a number of Meetei soldiers died on the battlefield. Meitrabak lost its
independence to the British on 27 April 1891.[citation needed]
The British government selected Meidingngu Churachand Singh (18911941), minor son of
Chaobiyaima as the king of Meitrabak. A new Kangla Palace was constructed at Wangkhei
and Kangla was kept under British occupation. During British colonial rule, Kangla was
known as Manipur Fort and a battalion of Assam Rifles was stationed there. Noted Manipuri
writer, M. K. Binodini Devi (19222011) was the youngest daughter of the ruler.[13]

World War II
Main article: Battle of Imphal
The war came to Manipur with the bombing of Imphal, the capital of Manipur by the
Japanese air force planes. The first boming was on 10th May 1942 which caused a lot of
civilian casulity. Another air raid occurred on 16th may .
A major thrust by the Empire of Japan in 1944, was stopped at Imphal by British and Indian
forces. This marked the furthest westward expansion of the Empire.
The British left Manipur in 1947 following Indian independence.