Meitei Manipuri Real

In the Mahabharata period one state was named Manipur

(A) Some words about the origin:

The origin of Thang Ta is full of myths & legends; is believed to be born out of the basic survival instinct, the self- defense needs, the hunting activities{some of the sequences of a particular Ta-Khousaba depict various stages in hunting & catching wild animals}- [Ta-Khousaba: an ancient collection of moves/exercise series designed for mastering/increasing efficiency in handling Ta (spear) & Chung (buckler),& their techniques – in simple words, most likely, a spear forms/patterns. Its main types are: Maram Nungsetpa, Maram Achouba, Maram Macha, Kabui, Tangkhul, Thel,(Athou, Yangbi & Atan, the main 9 types, as per many learned masters; according to others, in addition to the above six, other main types are- Maram Nungjongba, Athou Chumthang, Athou Macha & Athou Achouba)] – , the military training & experience, & most importantly, the burning desire & the utmost passion of the Meetei race never to be dependent or under any foreign rule.

One popular legend relates the creation of universe with Thengou [ancient sacred martial art forms/dances performed with sword or spear. As with Ta Khousaba, nine styles are known: Akao Thengou, Leiphal Thengou, Nongphal Thengou, Leichal?/Leichai Thengou, Leipak?/Leikak Thengou, Leinet thengou, Langkak Thengou, Akham Thengou, Leishit Thengou] performed by the Gods. So sacred are the forms considered till today that they have been kept very secret, & revealed only to few worthy, by the great masters, under immense precautions, strict supervision & rituals. Unfortunately, this very fact is making the art prone for extinction.

Another myth is the divine origin of various weapons known to Meeteis as derivations from the limbs & bones of the God, Til Sidaba. Whatever the legends say, the origin & evolution of Thang Ta can be understood (to some extent, even if indirectly) through the origin of Meetei race; the history of Kangleipak {the ancient books & literatures like Cheinarol – with details of many medieval fights & challenges, mainly among the commoners; Saturol Lanturol Sapharol Lanpharol – concerning about divined laws/rules which a Thang Ta warrior had to follow in a battle field/combat; Takhel Ngamba – concerning various situations in which even an enemy is forgiven or not killed; etc}; the geographical characteristics, interaction with surrounding Kingdoms (their culture & martial arts – including major battles fought); the profile of migration in & out of the kingdom; socio-cultural & religious evolution of the society, life of some of the well known Thang-Ta masters, & lastly the arrival of modern sport movement in Manipur.

(B) The Meetei – The Origin:

According to the ancient religion of Meetei, The God Sannamahi (or like the life-giving sun, spreading the ray/liquid of life in all directions) created all life forms when there was nothing in the universe, as asked by his father, the supreme god, Atiya Kuru Sidaba (Atiya- vast empty sky; Kuru- circular hemisphere; Sidaba- never ending/no birth, no death present) or Lainingthou Salailel Sitapa (Ipa Salailel or Ipa Sorarel). Then to sustain & propagate the newly created life, The God father sent his younger son, Lord Pakhangba, who became the protector & in due course of time, the King (hence regarded as the first King of the Meetei people).

In another more accepted version, Konchin Tukthapa Ipu Athoupa Pakhangpa, the first Meetei monarch & hence given the name ‘Lailel Pakhangba’ (Lai – God, lel – best/supreme, Pa – Father, khangba – to know), is considered to be the younger son of the God Lainingthou Salailel Sitapa & Leimalel Lailelma Sitapi (Malem Leima – the Earth), who married seven Lai ladies (namely, Laikok Huimulei Puksi Khompi, Huimu Leima, Loikhompi Mawai Thongngai Lelpi, Laiyek Pithet Leima, Leima Ulum Khotchao Tonpi, Leitham Tali Leima, Nonghainu Lilee Leima) & fathered seven sons, the seven Salais, hence the Meetei race.

[(a) Pakhangba laining (worshiping or mediation) was therefore traditionally performed by the Kings, Nobles & Maichous (scholars), which requires deep concentration & meditation, instead of verbal chanting. Hence, Lord Pakhangba is considered to be the source of Thang Ta, so in the past, it was compulsory for every Thang Ta disciple to have a devotion to & worship him (Lord Pakhangba or Ipu Athoupa Pakhangpa). On the other hand, the Sannamahi laishon became common to all people – here, verbal chanting & singings are very common.

(b)The word Meetei breaks as Mee + tei. Mee (means man in Meeteilon) derived from ‘Mi’, meaning image/shadow; ‘tei’ is from ‘Atei’, meaning ‘different from/other than’, as its believed that the God created them looking at his image, but are different from him (other than God) & are mortal.]

Scientifically speaking, no one knows, with 100% certainty, the origin of Meetei race – only probabilities & suggestions, based on archeological evidences, the written records, legends, myths & oral traditions etc. The earliest settlers of Kangleipak are believed to be the Himalayan Mongoloids groups (though disagreed by some).The Proto-Austroloid is believed to have inhabited the ancient Kangleipak before the advent of Tibeto-Burmans around 5000-4000 B.C. However, the first evidence of the Pleistocene man here dates back, even to about 30,000 B.C. {as the evidences from Khangkui caves, 11 km southeast of Ukhrul; & from tools found in Machi (in Chandel district), from Maring Naga Village}.

Some argue that the Kangleipak Valley (the dry areas- probably near the Kangla; some scientific sources date the approximate human habitation of parts of the Kangla at around 18,000? years BC) were first inhabited by a group of people, called Lai people, coming down from the Koubru Mountain ranges (to the north-west of present day Imphal); & their descendants became the Meetei. They had been there (in Koubru) since the very beginning of time – may even be the first Homo Sapiens.

[In accordance with a theory of first Human appearance (by about 195,000 years ago) & evolution in Africa, some learned argue that they came in one of the waves of pre-historic migrations from Africa, some 70,000-50,000 years ago, arriving in present India, around 20,000 years ago, & through Northeast India, including present Manipur, went to Southeast Asia.

But, there is also an interesting claim & theory put forward by the respected Meetei learned, Mr. Wangkhemcha Chingtamlen, in his book, ‘Kangleipak : the Cradle of Man‘ arguing the ancient Kangleipak as the origin place of Homo Sapiens, based on the scientific findings of the famous Chinese Paleoanthropologists, Professor Jia Lanpo, whose 40 years research concluded the place of origin of Homo Sapiens as in the southern part of East Asia, which very much includes the ancient kingdom of Kangleipak. Mention is also there of an evidence of 1969 which clearly asserts that the Ramapithecus from Northeastern Indian is not less than 4,500,000 older than the Australopithecus from Eastern Africa, thereby giving less weight to the African origin of modern man. Besides citing numerous folklores, folktales, mythologies, traditions of the ancient Kangleicha backing the theory that Kangleipak is indeed the cradle of mankind].

(C) The Meetei – Theory of some early foreign influence – The Chinese:

One among the many theories indicates the early Chinese influence (though not proven & strongly objected by many). A group of adventure seeking people [believed to be of earlier Shang Dynasty (~1600BC?/1766BC? – ~1117BC?/1046BC?), China, founded by the rebel leader of Shang tribe, Cheng Tang or Zi Lu, after fighting 18? years (11? major battles) against the Emperor Jie, the last of the Xia Dynasty (~21st to the 16th century BC?/2033BC?-1562BC?) & ultimately overthrowing him in the Battle of Mingtiao?] reached the Koubru Mountain ranges, Kangleipak, following the Yangtse river -{The river which traditionally divides the Chinese martial arts into Northern styles (which lay more focus on legworks, kicking & acrobatics etc) & the southern styles (which lay more focus on low stable stances, short powerful movements, combining both attack & defense, use of arm & full body techniques)}- from the Yangtse river to the Chindwin river or Ningthi tural (now in Myanmar), passing the Somra hills, & reaching the origin of the Ireel river, & ultimately the Koubru.

[(a) Cheng Tang was the 14th generation Shang leader (descendent of Yilu? & his son Yao Situ?, the vassal of then Xia King / & descendent of Gaoxin?, the great grandson? of the legendary Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, of China,~2697BC? – ~2597BC?) was a good & virtuous ruler, a model/ideal ruler, whose example was imitated by every monarch. He ruled as a king for13?years, succeeded by his younger son (as believed by many- the elder son, Tai Ding/Da Ding is said to have died at an early age without succeeding his father), Wai Bing?.

(b) Shangs are the tribes who used to live in the lower reach of the Yellow River (hence also called Yellow Civilization).Their Dynasty lasted ~ 508? years, with 31? kings belonging to 17? generations, & ruled much of the northern (or northeastern) China, with seven different successive capitals. Two most important events/developments during the period were the invention & development of a writing system (the ancient Chinese inscriptions found mostly on tortoise shells, & flat bones, mostly of cattle’s, like scapulae etc- called oracles bones; bronze inscriptions; on pottery, horn, stones etc), & the use of bronze metallurgy.

The advance bronze casting techniques gave them a military advantage-their infantry were armed with varieties of bronze (& stone, wood or horn) weaponry- like bow, axe, halberd or ji ( similar to a spear, with an extra blade attached at its end.) etc- although the bronze was commonly used for art rather than weapons. Hunting was considered as an important part of their martial training. They practised some earliest form of Chinese martial arts- Shoubu ch’uan fa/kung fu; jiao di (or horn butting developed by The Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, ~2697BC? – ~2597BC?; bow & arrow are also said to have been invented during the reign) & earlier form of Xiang Bo (much similar to sanda/sanshou of present day wushu). Martial arts also evolved into a kind of dancing, which was very useful for training soldiers, & increasing their morale. Many of the wrestling techniques were applied in battlefields.

There was rapid development of the skill & technology of sword forging, & sword ceremony. They (specially near the end of their dynasty) were also known to migrate (emigrate) & travel far & wide – the claim of their travelling? & settling? to ancient America- sharing part of ancestry of native/indigenous American people?, & the foundation of Gija Joseon? in ancient Korea; hence, the claim of their immigration to the ancient kingdom of Kangleipak is not much surprising to many.

{Gija Joseon was an ancient kingdom founded by Gija & his descendants.(Gija/Jizi? was a virtuous Shang royal blood- paternal uncle or nephew/brother?- of the last Shang king Zhou, a tyrant, & was one of the 3wise men-other Weizi & Bigan- of the Shang dynasty. He was imprisoned by the king, & was set free by the king Wu of the Zhou dynasty – western Zhou:1046BC?-770BC?; eastern Zhou: 700BC?-256BC?- after overthrowing the Shang dynasty at ~1046BC?. He fled – not wanting to be a loyal subject to the Zhou dynasty?/ went in exile- to ancient Korea with his garrison of 50000 men, & founded the kingdom of Gija Joseon,1122BC?/1100BC?/?-194BC?, with 41 rulers?- the people of Seonu clan of Korea consider themselves as being the descendents of Gija).

The kingdom either succeeded? Gojoseon kingdom (2333BC?-1100BC?/108BC?,the first legendary kingdom of Korea, founded by legendary Dan’gun, son of Hwanung- founder of Sinsi/holy city, & grandson of Hwanin, lord of heaven), or co-existed with it at its west end, west of Liao river, until overthrown by Wiman (dynasty,194BC?-?/108BC?)}]

Around 1445 B.C., one leader of the group, Tang-Ja Leela Pakhangba (1445-1405 BC) {Pakhangba here isn’t the Meetei God, but a name/title; ‘Pa’ = forefathers, ‘khangba’ = knowing; one who knows his forefathers} married the daughter (Sinbee Leima) of the Chief of Lei-hou people (~ Lai people??), & established his kingdom in the ancient Kangleipak.

[However, the current popular theory rejects all the above claims, & stated that the first monarch of Kangleipak was Konchin Tukthapa Ipu Athoupa Pakhangpa (a ‘Lai’), who ascended the throne near >2000BC(+) {~>1737 BC(+)} & fathered seven sons – the seven Salais, begotten from his seven Lai wives/queens, whose descendants become the Meetei].

(C) The Meetei – Theory of some early foreign influence – The ancient Immigration:

An important intermixing of different groups of people occurred during the reign of the king Chingkhom Poireiton (34-18 B.C.; as from some source, though have many objections).There was a place named Khamtilong at the junction of three kingdom – China, Tibet & Myanmar, inhabited by different tribes – Nung, Chakpa, Kham, Mon, Khu, Nga etc (considered to be neo-Tibetans).

In response to the invitation by the people of then Kangleipak (known as Tai-Pong-Pan to the people of Kham-Nung; as there was no ruler present- it is believed that for about 700 years?, there were no rulers in the ancient Kangleipak, before & around? this immigration), Chingkhom Poireiton was sent by his brother, Thongarel, Kham-Nung Saowa, the great man of the Nung tribe to rule the place; hence came accompanied with lots of people, of the above mentioned tribes (they are believed to have followed Buddhism?), who inter-married & lived together with the earlier {Lei-Hou (-Tang-Shang)?} inhabitants of the ancient Kangleipak (Kangleipak was then called Poirei-lam, & the inhabitants: Poirei-Meetei).

[Here we see one of the earliest Buddhist influence. Some even argued the derivation of the term Sanaamahi (indigenous religion of Meetei) from Sanaamahay {~meaning the royal fruit, the essence of the teaching of the lord Buddha (the historical Budha was known by the name Kawtumuni)}.Many Buddhist articles (including marble statues of the lord Buddha) have been found in excavation in various sites of Manipur. Also, in ancient Meetei literature like Subikaa (ancient astrology book), many drawings & sketches, found are of Buddhist elements or influenced by them.

Buddhism was hardly known to Kangleipak, but some of its elements are said to be invariably found? in our culture & tradition , as interpreted by some scholars{like the Meetei tradition of worshipping Sanaa Khongnaang (sacred fig tree); & the Buddhist belief of Prince Siddhartha (historical Buddha or Saikyamuni) attaining enlightenment under an sacred fig tree/ Bo (Bodhi vrikhs) tree};- besides some believe Buddhism was considered to spread to Myanmar/Burma, passing through Northeast India (also one of the three ancient silk routes passed through Kangleipak- perhaps leading to Yunnan; but was stopped since 1820 AD); The Pyu & Mon kingdoms of ancient Burma are known to practise Theravada Buddhism – however many strongly object this claim stating the communicating link between Mainland India & South East Asia didn’t included Kangleipak at all – either through Assam etc or by sea route, even the claimed silk route never touched Kangleipak.

Nevertheless, everyone knows the emphasis given in the development of almost every orient martial art with Buddhism].

(E) The Meetei – The Seven Salais, & the Kingdom:

After some duration, from these people, the indigenous seven feudal clans/Salais of the Meetei; & all their closed associate brothers (many hill tribes) sprang out (in the previous section, more accepted origin theory of the seven Salais of the Meetei was given – as a direct sons of the first monarch of the Meetei. Also, it’s believed that some groups of the Meetei Salais went to the surrounding hills & contributed to the ancestral line of hill tribes – possibly the Kabui, Tangkhul tribes & many others etc).

The seven clans of Meetei – {the Ningthouja or Mangang (descendents of the 1st son, Mangang, traditionally believed to have administrative center at Imphal Kangla) , the Angom (of the 4th son, administrative center near the Kongba river) & the Khapa-Nganpa (of the 6th son, administrative center at Taknakha area) – latter, mostly settled along the river courses, as with any great civilizations, of Nambul, Kongba, Hill & upper portion of Imphal; the Khuman (of the 3rd son, administrative center at Pumlel) – settled in Thoubal, Wangjing & lower course of Imphal rivers; the Moilang (of the 5th son, administrative center at Moirang) – along the Maklang, Nambol, Thongjaorok, Khuga & Moirang rivers; the Luwang (of the 2nd son, administrative center at Langkol Ningthou Laipham) – along the Luwangli, Phumlou, Abalok & Isingda rivers; & lastly, the Salail Leisangthem (of the 7th son, administrative center at Leisang Hithen area) – along the Maklang & Nambol rivers} – were at frequent fighting & struggling among themselves (& with other tribes) for supremacy & power, thereby constantly improving & refining their martial skills – the experiences were accumulated & many new techniques discovered/invented,& passed down from generations to generations.

Eventually, the Ningthouja clan is believed to have subdued the whole & emerged as the supreme power, thereby uniting the feudal clans, & an independent kingdom arose {however Moirang clan was annexed much later, in the year 1435? By Meitingu Ningthoukhomba (1432-1467); Khaba clan was the first to get absorbed} in 33 A.D.

This happened under the able & dynamic leadership of the great Meitingu (= king) Nongda Lairen (Nongda Lairen=heaven born) Pakhangba (33-154 A.D.), with the help of Angom Pureiromba & Luwang Langmaiba (his allies included two Kuki Chiefs also – Kuki Ahongba & Kuki Achouba), as per many.

[However, about 163?? kings are believed to have ruled the Kingdom before him. He was the descendent of the line of Meitingu Tangja Leela Pakhangba (1445 BC-1405BC) & his son, Meitingu Kangba (1405-1359 BC); & he married Laisra, daughter of the line of Meitingu Chingkhom Poireiton (34-18 BC) kings].

He was the one, among the first to in habitat some of the low-lying valley of Kangleipak, which he named Kangla (meaning dry land) – some present scholars are strongly against this view & considered Konchin Tukthapa Ipu Athoupa Pakhangpa as the establisher of the Meetie Kingdom, & Lai people being the first to inhabitate the valley, as its written in sacred puya of Meetei.

[(a) Although ruled by Khaba clan before him (the Khaba chief, Nongjenba?, was killed by him with the help of Moirang army & Chaoba Meleiba; eventually the weakened Khaba clan is said to have merged with Nganba subclan to from Khaba-Nganba clan later?). Kangla, situated on the bank of the Imphal river, (later referred as ‘The Manipur Fort’ by the British.) not only was the capital/ royal palace from his period till the year 1891, but also a holy place for Meetei; Lord Pakhangba is believed to reside under ‘Kangla’, besides there are some 360 sacred places of Meetei in it.

Since its occupation by the British on 27th April 1891, a column of security forces- Assam Rifles (the oldest Central Para Military Force in India) was stationed there, which even, after the independence & merger with India (as per the controversial Merger agreement of 2nd Sept.1949), was not removed from there, to the much discontent of the Meetei.

{The agreement was signed unwillingly by the King of Manipur, Meitingu Bodhchandra (1941-1955) at Shillong (Meghalaya), as a result of immense pressurization & as forced by the newly formed independent Indian govt.( Shri Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, the Iron man of India, was given the task of unification & annexation of princely states into mainland India).

It may be noted that the Meetei king, – after the handed over of the Manipur by the British to the him & his queen, Iroshi Devi, at 12 midnight of 28th August 1947, after the 2nd world war (1939-1945; in Manipur, 1942-1945) – had already declared the Manipur as a sovereign kingdom/ state, linked to India only by the act of accession. Also, by the July 1947, the making of the constitution of Manipur (drafted by the committee, whose composition was done earlier on 12th Dec. 1946, on the order of the Meetei king, Meitingu Bodhchandra) was already completed.

As per the first election poll of Manipur on Jan. 1948 (as a result of the recommendation by the council of princes of 1946, for establishing popular elected governments in Indian states), the first elected govt. of Manipur was formed, & Shri Priyobarta, the brother of the Meetei king, was offered the post of first C.M. (he was already working as C.M., appointed by the Meetei king himself, for the interim govt. just after the independence).

Unfortunately, with the merger agreement (the king signed it, without any prior accountability of the elected Manipur Assembly, & govt.), the interim Manipur State Council, & the Manipur State Assembly (& the elected govt.) were dissolved. Major General Rawal Amar Singh became the first Indian Chief Commissioner of Manipur, on 15th Oct. 1949, after the annexation of Manipur to India (Manipur was given a part ‘C’ territory status, basically his province- he had the power to rule the land even without consideration of the people). With much struggle & hardship (since early 1950), the statehood was finally achieved in 1972.}

After much pressurization & request to the Union Government of India, finally on 20th November 2004 (~133? years after the British occupation) the Kangla fort was handed over to Manipur State government.

(b) In the ancient times, major portion of Kangleipak valley is believed to be covered by vast water (fresh water), named Loktak (Lok=stream in hillocks; Tak=vast) by Meitingu Kangba (1405-1359 BC) {it was during his reign (Meitingu Kangba) that Sagol Kang-jei (the polo game) is believed to have been introduced; Kang Jei- the stick used like the hockey stick, Kang drom- the ball used}- some scholars are of the opinion that by around 17,000BC? major portion of Imphal valley was dried up].

He is however considered truly the maker of Kangleipak, & during his reign, the Meitei culture took its roots. His dynasty ruled the kingdom continuously in proper chronological order {till the merger of Manipur with the Indian Union in 1949, & as a part of India (upto 1955, a total of about 72 kings – Manipur became a Union Territory of India in 1956 & a full-fledged state in 1972; at present, as per the tradition, Meitingu Leishemba Sanajaoba is the 78th King of Manipur). The art of Thang-Ta began maturing & taking shape.

The Kingdom of Kangleipak then believed to have stretched up to the border of China on the north, up to the river Chindwin in the east & south (present Myanmar), & in the west up to south Bengal sea {‘from the hills on the east to the mountains of the west’ as per from the book ‘THE MEITHEIS’ by T.C. Hodson }. This close geographical & cultural proximity (& interaction) with the neighboring kingdoms (which also have rich martial art traditions),{also probably known to far west & east kingdoms, as the international trade route (including silk route) of past (comprising Europe, The Middle East-Arabs, Asia & Oriental countries) passed through these regions – though disagreed by some}, continuously had a considerable impact in the evolution of Thang Ta.

-2nd Part-

(a) The Meetei martial art – Interaction with neighboring Kingdoms – The Chinese:

The inter-influence between the Meetei martial arts & Chinese (China- our once ancient neighbor) martial arts can be roughly understood from some of the historical events- like some of the historic battles & profile of migration between the two.

The earliest Chinese interaction has already been mentioned [In Chinese, ‘Meithei’ means ‘people of this country’, meaning people of their territory, as per some learned]. Many scholars believe that Meetei travellers/traders? on horses might have reached out to China & upper Burma during the reign of Meitingu Khui Ningngonba (364-379), Pengsiba (379-394)& Naokhamba (411-428).

About the year 1250, a large number of Chinese forces invaded Kangleipak (known to Chinese as ‘Hsiao Po-lo-mein’), during the reign of Meitingu Puyathaba (1247-1263), but was defeated. Many Chinese prisoners of war were assimilated into Meetei society, & settled at ‘Susa Kameng’ in the valley.

[during these periods, in China, the practice of Ch’uan fa/Kung fu was so popular among the various civil organizations that there some group of people, called Luqi people, made their living performing martial arts all over the country.]

The words of military excellence & martial skills of Meetei Kings spread far & wide, even up to China (‘Khagi’ to Meeteis). In 1576, during the reign of Meetei King, Meitingu Mungyangpa (1562-1597 AD), a Chinese Chief/King (Khagi Ningthou), by the name Piyango (as known to Meeteis), sent (as per a legend / story) one fierce Chinese martial art expert or fighter, by the name, Meitana /Mayadana to challenge the Meetei king for one-on-one lethal combat (so ferocious was he that the commoners feared him as Hingchaba or a demon/monster).

The Meetei King, Meitingu Mungyangpa accepted the challenge, & fought him using his sword name ‘Khoubomba’ & spear ‘Khangshunaha'(believed to be given by the Lord Pakhangba himself, as per a legend). The Khagi- hingchaba (Chinese monstor/demon) was ultimately defeated, killed, crushed & buried under a stone in Kangla, by the Meetei King.{some considered the stone to be at the ‘Nunggoibi’?, still in Kangla today (It is the sacred place of worship of the goddess of war. Whenever a king of Kangleipak emerged victorious in battle, the sacred ritual of ‘Huyein Lalu Chanba’ was performed at this site)}

[In the same year (1576), Meitingu Mungyangpa got a son, who came to be known as Khagemba (from the word, ‘Khagi – ngamba’; Khagi=Chinese, Ngamba =conqueror)]

It is said that when the news reached the Chinese King/Chief, he was so impressed that he, himself, came (he stayed for a short duration in Kangleipak, before returning to his kingdom) with his royal attendants to the Meetei Kingdom, & presented many precious gifts, they brought from China, including, a flower, ‘Khagileihou’ (‘Khagi’= Chinese; ‘leihou’ ~ flower – a type of flower, very common in present day Manipur) to the Meetei King. Deeply impressed by the techniques & effectiveness of Thang Ta, many of his attendants stayed {& settled, as believed by many Thang Ta masters, at three places- Koutruk, Sengjam & Chirang (some sources mention the places as Khagi Hingol, west to the Kangla)} & learnt the Meetei art, Thang Ta.

His son, Ningthou (Ningthou=Meitingu=king) Hanba or Meitingu Khagemba (1597-1652), just like his father, was a great King, & also a skilled martial artist. He defeated a troop of raiding Chinese forces; probably from Yunnan province of China, in around 1631. He attacked Chinese Villages, & defeated their Chief ‘Chouopha Hongdie’ (known to Meeteis as Mangolsha or Manubak, a Chinese martial art expert, who was killed by Meitingu Khagemba). He too brought many Chinese war captives, & with them many skills- brick making, sericulture, & to a little extent their martial art system.

[At these periods in China, their martial arts received much development during the Ming (1368?-1644?), & Qing Dynasty (1644-1912?). Many Martial arts books were published. There was integration among various martial arts genres during the Qing period; also were the wrestling techniques introduced into general martial arts – improving & maturing them]

(b) The Meitei martial art – Interaction with neighboring Kingdoms – The Burmese:

Another important kingdom which had a significant impact was the Burmese (Kangleipak was known as Kathes, Cassay to them), present day Myanmar, {& to some extent, the other Southeast Asian kingdoms – Many meetei soldiers (as Burmese war captives mostly – who were part of Burmese cavalry corps etc) participated some of battles in these regions. Burmese king Alaungpaya (1752 – 1760, founder of the Konbaung dynasty, 1752 to 1885) surrounded (it’s said that about 500 cassay horsemen were with him) Ayutthaya, the Siamese Capital (Thailand) in 1760, but was wounded accidently & latter died. In 1764, Burmese king Hsinbyushin (1763-1776, 2nd son of Alaungpaya & 3rd King of Konbaung Dynasty, Burma) conquered Chiang Mai (in Thailand), Vientiane (capital city of Laos); he also sacked Ayutthaya in 1767}.

One may understand this by appreciating the similarities between the Meetei Thang Ta & Burmese martial art systems- Thiang (meaning total combat), specially the weapon art of Banshay, (& the unarmed art, Bando) {& even with the Thai art-Krabi Krabong (Krabi= the sabre, a long sword with curved tip & oversized hilt; Krabong=spear/ staff, the mother art of modern Muay thai.)}.

There was constant social-cultural relationship, & trade contact between the two kingdoms, & even beyond. The similarity of the traditional Meetei male garment, Khudei, with those of Thai & Khmer is amazing. The ancient Meitei script is considered comparable? to that of Thai.

[The Khmer people of the great Khmer empire (of Cambodia, Javascript Sumatra, etc) are believed to have come from west? of Burma, & India, in ancient time. They played a significant role in shaping of the ancient Burmese, Thai (& other Southeast Asian) kingdoms]

Some scholars believe that the Mon of Burma (Myanmar) came & settled in the ancient Kangleipak kingdom as early as around 2000BC?. As related to the Khmers? (The Meetei called them Khamarans, well many agree it was instead referred to the Burmese), it is said that they immigrated around 1000BC? to the kingdom. There is also historical evidence of immigration of many Shans, Tai (Pang) & Chin-Kuki groups from Upper Burma as a result of ravage of upper Burma by the Mongol ruler, Kublai Khan {reign:1260-1294; the 5th great Khan (~ruler) of the Mongol Empire, the founder of Yuan Dynasty,1271?-1368;the grandson of the great Genghis Khan (reign:1206-1227, the founder of Mongol Empire, 1206-1368, the largest contiguous land empire in the world’s history – ~22% of world total land area)}.

It was the Pong king {Burma; Kangleipak was known by the name Cassay/Kassay to Shans / Tais, Kathe to Burmese etc; some scholars even doubt the Pong kings as descendants of the very early Meetei king – the first Pong king, Khool Lai (ascended throne in 80AD; a Meeteilon wordàKhool = Place, Lai = lord) is considered as Tarung, the son of Pakhangba (?Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, 33-154AD, & his queen Leisuk Leisoi Yampi) who was deputed to hold administration towards the east in Pong}, Chaopha Khekhomba (to whom a Meetei princess was married), who presented a gift- a golden box? containing a stone, known as Pheiya or almighty {later claimed by an immigrant Brahmin as Hindu god Vishnu – hence mark the advent of Vaishnavism, & starting of idol (in the form of sacred stone) worshiping in Kangleipak}, a litter & a sacred spear to guard it to the Meetei king Meitingu Senbi Kiyamba (1467-1508, from the word Senbi-Kiyaang Ngamba; Senbi-Kiyaang – the place, Kabo-Kiyaang in Burma; Ngamba – conqueror) as a gift to celebrate their victory after conquering (with their combined force, Meetei king was~27years old & Ponk king~47years) the Kiyaang Khambat {the king of Khambaat, Chao-Seng, a subordinate to the Pong king, had kidnapped the Meetei princess Sanna Langmeirangbee (accompanied by her maid servant, daughter of Haoroksu), on her way to Shan capital Mongaung, to be bride of the Pong king around 1475}.

As he rescued the princess, he is also known by the name, Leima-Phaabi, (Leima~queen/princess;Phaabi~capturer).The Meetei king got Khambaat, area on the west of Samjok (Thaungdut or Ksawnghsup), & area covered by Mingkhong & Muwai, as per the agreement with the Pong king.

[He built a brick temple for worshipping the stone at Lamangtong/Lamlangtong(~ 27 km south of Imphal) around 1475.Wel, as claimed by the immigrant Brahmin, the stone was worshiped as Hindu god Vishnu {Some sources claim the statue, probably, as Lord Buddha; as The Pong king was a Buddhist. Also Meitingu Senbi Kiyamba was not a Hindu (he practised the indigenous religion of Kangleipak- Sanaamahism.},& the place was latter called Bishnupur (land of Bishnu/Vishnu).

However, some source states the name ‘Bishnupur’ was given by Meitingu Pamheiba (1709-1748 AD) to carve the name ‘Bishnu Goswami’ in the history of Kangleipak, who had worshiped Bishnu (Vishnu)? at the place; the King also constructed a temple devoted to the God (Bishnu Temple at Lamangtong / Bishnupur.) – Bishnu Goswami was the much beloved brahmin/sadhu of the king. According to some learned, this sadhu/monk who was a wandering palm reader was even considered the biological father? of the king, Meidingu Pamheiba.

As per the source, the queen (mother of Pamheiba) of the king, Meitingu Charairongba (1697-1709 AD) – (originally she was a war captive, a Chothe by birth; though the king loved her very much) – was tricked & convinced by the sadhu who threatened her predicting that she would never get a male child from the king (hence none of her bloodline would be the future king), but he, the sadhu, could change her fortune by giving her a male child – a very common trick used by many self proclaimed so called holly men even to these days. Pamheiba (who was smuggled & nurtured since the day of his birth in a Thangal hill village) was adopted by the King (Meitingu Charairongba) at around 20 years of age]

The Toungoo Dynasty of Burma (1486–1752; King Mingyinyo, 1486–1531, founded the first dynasty at Taungoo) sent emissaries asking for Meetei princess {for marriage, to which the Meetei king Meitingu Charairongba (1697-1709) gave his daughter}

However, the relation with Burma was not always friendly, but more hostile. They were frequently faced war situations, & huge war captives (along with their tradition & martial culture) were brought into/ out of the kingdom. From the period of King Meidingu Mungyangpa (1562-1597), many Burmese (Kabo/Awas) war captives (settled at Kabo Leikai, Imphal) & were assimilated into the Meetei society. Meetei king Meitingu Khagemba (1597-1652) defeated Khamarans in 1648. The king of Samjok was defeated by Meetei king Meitingu Khunjaoba (1652-1666) in 1653 & 1659; he also defeated the Kabow valley chief in 1637.

Meitingu Pamheiba (1709-1748) (popularly known as Garibnawaz, a Persian word, meaning ‘kind to poor’- given by Muslim immigrants or Gopal Singh, the Hindu name), invaded Burma after the Burmese king insulted his sister & had not treated her well (she was wife of the Burmese king). He with his skilled army under the great general, Thangjaba Chakrapani?, defeated the Burmese army on many occasions (in 1714, 1725, 1733, 1735, 1737, 1738, 1739, 1748-49 etc).

He was the terror of the upper Burma (under the king Taninganway, 1714 – 1733, the 14th king of Toungoo dynasty; & his son, King Mahadhammaraza Dipati, 1733 –1752, the 15th & last king of Toungoo dynasty of Burma). The upper Chindwin valley was under annual raids. He defeated Samjok king & collected ~1000 guns. His army killed the Burmese troops stationed to guard the Kaung Hmu Daw Pagoda{meaning ~ ‘the royal merit making pagoda’, a white dome-shaped Pagoda at ~10 km from Sagaing, said to be based on the model of the Maha-Ceti Pagoda of Ceylon/ Sri Lanka, was built by King Thalun,1629 – 1648, the 8th king of Toungoo dynasty of Burma in 1636, & its foundation stone is said by some scholars to have been laid by one Jibananda Thakur of Manipur), & vandalized everything on the way upto the wall of Ava in 1738, he was said to have conquered 46 divisions of Burma, of which a Burmese noble, Eu-Aujaya (‘Aaumeiyajee’ was the title) was made the king with capital at Yewa.

He left his sword marks at the door of the Pagoda. His army crossed the Chindwin River & captured Mayedu town on the bank of Yu River. His kingdom extended up to Mandalay? in Myanmar (frequently extended to 3-4 days journey east beyond the Chindwin river; & in the west upto the plains of Cachar). He also repulsed an army of about 20,000 to 30,000.

The Meetei soldiers, specially the cavalry on ponies with excellent skills of Thang Ta were feared & respected by all (&Meetei kings, considered to possess divine powers & abilities). One of the deadly weapons used by Meetei army cavalry was called ‘Arambai’, a steel arrow (commonly poisoned ) with a rope tail, hurled from the war ponies with a very high speed, accuracy, causing maximum casualties to the enemy.

(c) The Meetei martial art – The military strategy: ‘Lallup system’:

The Military excellence of the Meetei was mainly due to the ‘Lallup’ system (war/military organization). In Lallup, every male Kangleicha (people of Kangleipak) above 16 years & mostly up to 40 years was a member. There were seven Salai Lallup groups, belonging to the seven clans of Meetei (each controlled by their respected Maichou), all under the central command of the Meetei king.

Each Salai group had their own identifying colour code, even characteristic weapons (swords- as an identification mark; & for ritualistic & religious use) of different shapes & sizes. Every member had to master the art of Thang Ta, & had to ready for action any time, when the Meetei king commanded.

This does not mean Thang Ta was exclusive for males. Kangleipak has witnessed many great female warriors. Three among the many, were the Queen Lingthoingambi (considered as the Joan of Arc, of Kangleipak), Queen Khayoiron Senbung Lokpi & Queen Kuranganayani.

[Queen Lingthoingambi was the wife of the Meetei king Meitingu Ningthoukhomba (1432-1467 AD, conqueror of Tamu), & the mother of king Meitingu Thangwai Ningthouba or Kiyamba (1467-1508, the conqueror of Kabaw Valley). In the absence of her King, she led the Meetei soldiers in various war fronts, & also brought many spectacular victories; like the successful defense to the raid by the Tangkhul tribes from Tuisem village.

Queen Khayoiron Senbung Lokpi was her daughter-in-law, wife of King Meitingu Kiyamba & daughter of Khuman king Thingkonkhuba, & was equally brave – she defeated King of Senbi Mungkhong, Sanaahongba & even raided Panlu or Sasen.

Queen Kuranganayani was the queen of King Suremphaa / Rajeswar Singha (1751-1769, the 33rd King of Ahom Dynasty, 1228-1826?/1838?), daughter of Meetei king Meitingu Jai Singh /Ching-Thang Khomba/ Bhagyachandra? (reign: 1759-1762? AD;1763-1798 AD) who gave her hand to the Ahom king after the Ahom helped him suppressed Meitingu Kelemba?/Chitsai? (1748-1752?) – However, as per other source, Kurangganayani or Tekhao Leima Phongba Lokpi was the daughter of Meitei king Meitingu Gourshyam/Maramba? (1753-1759,1762?-1763).

It was she who played a vital role in killing{as per her plan, he was killed on the night of 1770? before the Bohag Bihu festival – It’s said that she was the first to have struck him with a sword & wounded mortally}one of the rebel leaders, Raghav Moran ( he took her forcibly as his wife after dethroning the king) & helped in suppressing the first phase (1769-1770?) of Moamoria rebellion (1769-1806?) against the Ahom Dynasty. She was also the one who saved the Ahom king Lakshmi Singha/Sunyeophaa (1769-1780, who became her husband & the king after the death of his brother, Rajeswar Singha in 1769) from the Moamoria rebels – he was taken as prisoner by the rebels; & helped in restoring the kingship after suppressing the initial phase of the rebellion]

The Salai clan also had their way of learning & teaching Thang Ta (slightly different from one another). Many techniques were taught in total secrecy, for the fear of revealing to any expert onlooker; & the fear of creation of neutralizing counter attacks etc, if they became well-known & common, & hence no longer would be as effective as before. Even today, Thang Ta is taught & practised by the present masters in different ways (though the final goal is same), according to what they have learnt & experienced.

(d) The Meetei martial art – The fall:

With the advent of Hinduism, gradual disbandment & disorganization of the Lallup system & the Lalmee (soldiers) started. The King Meitingu Charairongba (1697-1709, believed to be the last king of the bloodline of Pakhangba) embraced Vaishnavism (Madhavcharya sect of Vaishnavism) around 1704, but he gave equal respect & still regarded the indigenous Meetei religion.

His son, Meitingu Pamheiba {1709-1748, an adopted son who killed his father, the king, by stabbing in the chest when he was in sleep (Meitingu Charairongba was dead tired after defeating the invading Tusuk army; he had not eaten, nor had any drink since the last two days, as a part of the three days rigorous prayer to the Lord Sanamahi Lainingthou as advised for the welfare of the king & the kingdom – unfortunately never completed due to the advancement of the invading army towards the capital, before the dawn of the last day of the prayer)} – on the contrary, was completely swayed away (by the waves of extreme/dark side of Hinduism), & even tried forceful imposition of Hinduism (he was first initiated into Vaishnavism by Gopal Das; latter he switched over to Ramanandi school of Vaishnavism).

Many temples belonging to Meetei traditional religion & deities were destroyed; & replaced by Hindu gods. He prosecuted severely the Meeteis following the traditional religion; & even did not spare those belonging to other sect of Vaishnavism. He banned poultry & piggery (around 1723), even records & books written in ancient Meetei scripts. All the Lupungs (burial grounds for Meetei Kings & his forefathers) were excavated, & the remains, burnt (on 20th March 1724) on the bank of Ningthi river (Chindwin river, then a part of Kangleipak), according to the Hindu rituals (thus starting cremation of deaths among Meeteis; the cremation site of Meetei Kings, the Manglen in Kangla, was subsequently developed by him in the year 1738).

Hinduism became deep rooted into the society, & its influence obvious in every section, resulting in extensive & sudden transformation of the socio- economic & cultural formation. Sanskritisation/Hindunization of the Meetei nomenclature {the kingdom was named as Manipur, so as to relate to the Manipur of the Mahabharata; however the name was believed, assigned officially (British India) to Kangleipak by Mr.Rendel? in 1774? when Mr.Warren Hastings was the Governor General of British India} & introduction of Hinduised gotra of the seven Salais followed.

On the 17th day of Mera (October), 1732 (as decided by a seminar, held at Kangla Hall, Imphal on 9th Oct.2008; well some consider it to be somewhere in between 1721& 1725 A.D) at the instigation of the king’s religious guru, Shanti Das Gossai (A Hindu preacher who came during the later reign of Meitingu Pamheiba from Sylhet, Bangladesh), all the ancient written documents of the kingdom, ancestral records, including the holy scriptures, called the Puya, were burnt down { Puya Meithaba: an attempt to modify & erase the ancient identity of Kangleipak; & to rewrite the theory of Hindu origin of Kangleipak; even many new Puyas ( as said by some Meetei scholar – ‘Sanggai-Phamang Puyas’ with wrong information??) with ideas or philosophy concerning with Hindu religion were forced to be written by the scholars, as per his order.} at Kangla Uttra (which is the ancestral coronation hall of the Meetei Kings).

Those Meeteis (the Lois & Yaithibi) {including all the Maichous (scholars like Louremba Khongang Thaba, Langol Lukhoi, Konok Thengra, Wangoo Bajee etc); & many more like Chingngu Khongnangthaba, Moirang Lalhanba etc. were even hanged to death} who resisted to the conversion to Hinduism {as one among the many techniques of conversion, said by many – people were forced to drink ‘Charnamitra’ or ‘ Khongjum’ (in Meetei language: Meeteilon, basically the water remain after washing or sinking feet- of the Hindu priests; ‘ who knows may be even possible, might have been forced to eat cow dung / cow urine etc ???’.} were tortured, & driven out of the main community to far villages (with them some ancient Meetei records).

All these strained the relationship between the king & the Lallup soldiers (also with the hill tribes, who along the Meetei Loi & Yaithibi were considered as the Sudras, the lowest caste in Hinduism, & uncivilized.), who often became to be viewed with suspicions. Top military commanders became Hindu immigrants. The Lallup system was deteriorating & with time, becoming more a civil organization (from its original military organization).

This collapsing of the Lallup system (& also due to the prevailing political turmoil as a result of the frequent fights for controlling power & throne among the princes of the kingdom) may be attributed for the 6 khuntakpa (devastation & abandoning of the Meetei kingdom due to Burmese army terror).

Two during the reign of king, Meitingu Gourashyam or Linwai Phallou Maramba (1753-1959 AD; 1762?-1763 AD ), when the Burmese king Alaungpaya (1752 – 1760, founder of the Konbaung dynasty)’s force (of the highly militaristic Konbaung Dynasty, 1752 to 1885; by 1758, his force had reunited almost all of Burma) invaded Kangleipak in 1755 (The Burmese use fire arms against the Meetei with traditional weapons, & Khuntak Ahaanba, the first devastation followed) & 1758; three in the year 1764, 1769, 1772 during the reign of King Meitingu Ching-Thang Khomba/ Bhagyachandra (reign: 1759-1762? AD;1763-1798 AD).

The last one, lasting for seven years, was known in the history of Kangleipak, as ‘Chahi Taret Khuntakpa’ from 1819 to 1825, ending the reign of King Meitingu Marjit (1813-1819).

The Meetei force faced defeat in the hand of King Hsinbyushin’s (1763 – 1776) force (of Konbaung dynasty, 1752-1885, Burma) {as believed assisted?? by Chitsai, uncle of Meitingu Ching-Thang Khomba, who had killed his father (Ching-Thang Khomba’s) Samjai Khurai-Lakpa (the elder son of Meitingu Pamheiba) in Awa (Burma). In the subsequent years, the King, Meitingu Ching-Thang Khomba fled (along with his queen, & a few royal attendants) to Cachar/ Ahom kingdom, Assam (Kangleipak was known by the name Meklee/ Magloo/ Magalu /Moglai to them & to Cacharis). About 300,000 Kangleicha (the people of the kingdom) were believed to have been either carried away or killed around 1768? (near the city of Ava, the presence of about 100,000 Kangleicha captives were reported)

[The king fled to Cachar many times – atleast thrice? in the history, first in 1764 when the Burmese force counter attacked to his raiding of Awa (with Ibungo Sija Haricharan); 2nd in 1769 when the Burmese attacked (after he killed King Khelei Nungnang Telheiba,1764-1768); 3rd in 1772 when the Burmese counter attacked his raiding.]

(e) The Meetei martial art – The famous ‘Maram Ta Khoushaba’:

There are some interesting incidents (story) during his exile. On his way to Cachar / Ahom kingdom, the king reached ‘Maram’ , a village on the mountain top, where the inhabitant tribes failed to recognized him, & demanded a proof of his identity (as they had heard many stories about the divine power of the Meetei king). To this, The king did a “Ta Khoushaba”(Thang Ta spear form/ martial dance) on a hard rock, leaving his foot prints (in the spear form/pattern, about 70-80% utilization of lower extremities is needed), as he did various moves (Phanba) of the form.

Similarly, when he reached Ahom kingdom (as a result? of a letter from his crafty uncle, Chitsai, poisoning the Ahom king, Suremphaa / Rajeswar Singha (1751-1769, the 33rd King of Ahom Dynasty, 1228-1826?/1838?) that it was an imposter not the Meetei king, who was taking refuge at his court), he (without any weapons) was asked to tame & control one fierce, wild elephant at Rang Ghar {a royal sports- pavilion or stadium like, for observing sports, animal fights, social functions etc in Ahom kingdom, built in 1746 by Ahom King Sunenphaa or Pramatta Singha (1744–1751, predecessor of king Rajeswar Singha) – considered one of the oldest amphitheater in Asia, located in Sibsagar district of Assam} as a proof of his identity as a Meetei king (believed to possess divine powers). So beautifully & gallantly he did the formidable task, winning the respect & belief of Ahom people instantly. Thereafter, the Ahom king helped him regained the throne of Kangleipak.

{Two attempts were made to reinstate Bhagyachandra by the Ahom king in 1765 & in 1768. The first attempt (Ahom army) led by Haranath Senapati Phukan was unsuccessful (due to attack by Naga tribes, lack of food, heavy thickness of the forest & poisonous snake bites etc – hence called Lat kata run or war in the midst of cutting the creepers). The 2nd attempt was important for his ultimate regaining of the throne (~10,000 Ahom infantry led by Kirtichandra Borbarua + army (which included many hill tribes also) raised by Bhagyachandra, total, said to be ~80,000 infantry).

Finally, his force defeated King Wangkhei Binodram’s (who was installed by the Burmese as the Kangliepak king in 1772) in 1755 at Lamangtong & Foiching. He ruled the kingdom till 1798?}

[As a devotee of Lord Govind (Chaitanya’s School of Vaishnavism); he is said to have been helped by the Lord himself (who tamed the elephant as the Mahout). After this incident, as revealed in his dream, an idol of the Lord (some said to be four in no.) was carved from a certain Jackfruit tree growing on the slopes of Kaina hill (26 km from Imphal on Imphal-Yairipok Road), & installed at a Temple at his Langthaban (Canchipur) Palace (11th Jan ?1779). After the installing, Ras-Leela was played continuously for five days (at the open ground of Ras Mandal Pukhri). The dance (Kunja Ras, Maha Ras, Basanta Ras), its dresses etc, are said to have been composed by the King with the help of his daughter, princess Bimbabati or Shija Laioibi, as what he had seen in his dreams. Actually, Ras Leela dance can be concluded? as a modified version of ancient Lai Haraoba Dance of Meetei]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *