Scientific Knowledge as Reflected in the Manipuri Manuscript

Dr. N. Debendra Singh *

 Digitize Manipur - Meitei Mayek Artifacts :: April 21-27, 2008
Digitize Manipur - Meitei Mayek Artifacts in April 21-27, 2008 :: Picture Courtesy :: L. Somi Roy

The Meitei manuscripts are the resources of almost all the knowledge concerned to the Meitei/Manipuri universe, world and spheres of all the affairs of the public/social and personal (private) individual lives. To the Manipuri's these manuscripts are the Aryan/Hindu Vedas (knowledge, holy learning or the scriptures of the Hindus) Shastras, etc., which are sources of all the knowledge's of the Aryans of Hindus.

The Manipuri manuscripts, even though a few in numbers having only some thousands are written in various fields of different/varied subjects, topics or disciplines and so these may be classed according to their fields/subjects and the classes can be categorized with regard to their topics/disciplines. To study the scientific knowledge as reflected in Meitei/Manipuri manuscripts, even though it is highly essential will be a tedious work of hardship and cover much space. So some exemplified accounts are set for ready evidence.

The Prescription of Maibarol

The Manipuri term Maibarol means the art and science of Therapeutic practitioners. In the socio-political administration of the past monarchial kingdom of Manipur the administrative institution of the therapy and therapists was named "AMETPA LOISANG" and the Maibas (Medical practitioners) were known as Ametpa (literally, masseur, but colloquially; therapist). The institution of Ametpa was established in 1570 A.D., as recorded and the royal chronicle.[1]

In the later period the Ametpa Loishang had taken up the treatment of diseases by hymns, spells etc. as in the fashion of exorcism; by medicines as in the pattern of the trend of medicines or medicinal physician, by the measures of treatment of ailing/unwell cases of bone and crude surgical therapy. The records of the last therapeutic measure given as information in the royal chronicle are as follows:
Maisna Deva Sing-Gee Kum Saka 1792 Enga Tha ....21 Ni Langmaichingda Naoroiba Kut Kee Machanupibu Bamon Warilibagee Machanupa Yaimaga Ngangnabada Mahak Shollabada Konjengba Bamon Ongbina Angang Yeitharabada Mama Yaona Shire // Angangne Angang Natte Haina Tounarabada Ametpa Loishang Kumduna Yengnababu Shirabanina Khangdare Hairabada Bamon Adugee Manai

On Sunday the 21st day of Enga in 1792 Saka, the year of Maisna Deva Sing's spouse, (corresponding to June 19, 1870 A.D.) the daughter of Naoraoiba Kut (Havildar rank), being impregnated from her elicit connection with the elder son of the Brahmin belonging to the story-telling family died from abortion of her pregnancy by the female abortionist, the family, lineal lady of Konjengbam married to a Brahmin. When dispute arises with regards to the fertilization and development of embryo, the officials of Ametpa Loishang visit and investigate the matter accordingly but they reported that they cannot find it out due to the expiry of the mother, consequently the bone of contention is not valid. Moirangthem man, the servant of the Brahmin in the dispute is rendered to be the person responsible for her demise after the surgical operation find out and proves the truth of her pregnancy with an offspring.

From the above fact and finding, it is brought to light that crude surgical therapy had flourished in the 2nd quarter of the 19th century and other therapeutic measures also prevailed in those days. The name and fame of this art and science of Meitei/Manipuri therapy spread far and wide even to the then Ahom country as evidenced by the following record of the said royal chronicle.

Yumnaba Khema Singhagee Kum Saka 1770 Shajiphu Tha .... 16 Ni Yumshakeisha ........ Tekhao Ningthouna Shreejut Maharajada Hairak-ye // Aigee Lai Laithungpa Ashipu Leibak Khudinggee Maiba Aheiba Kouduna Yenghanbabu Ngamdare // Manipurda Maiba Aheiba Leiye Haiba Tajeiye // Amatta Pirak-oo Haina Hangatcheiye // Sana Yathang Langoijamba Hema Singhbu, Nang Yenglu Haina Sheekhiye // Tha Taruk Yengluraga Tekhao Ningthougee Laiabu Khangdana Narambabu Ngamduna Thorakye //[2]

On Wednesday the 16th day of Shajiphu in 1770 Saka, the year of Yumnaba Khema Singh's sponcion (1st week of May 1848 A.D.) the Ahom king sent the message to his majesty telling that he has a dreaded disease which many therapeutic practitioners from various countries cannot treat to cure/heal it and requested to sent one medical practitioner as he had heard that there were many skillful therapeutic physicians in Manipur. So his majesty orders to Langoijamba Hema Singh to go to the country of the king of Tekhao (Ahom) to examine and treat the Ahom king to recover his health from his suffering of the disease. Langoijamba Hema Singh examines and treated the disease of the Ahom king for six month and he succeeded in healing the disease of the Ahom king. He arrived at the capital.

Moreover, the Pong king Sao-Ngan-Pha (Choupha Khelong, Khekkhomba's Father) came to Manipur for his treatment. He is the contemporary of Meitei king Ningthoukhomba (1432-67 A.D.), the father of Meitei monarch Kyamba (1467-1508 AD). After curing his disease he presented the valuable gold and silver as a gift to the Meitei king and returned to his country.[3]

The remedial techniques and measures taken up in therapeutic art and science consists of psychological treatments, science of pulsation and various modes of feeling the pulses, diagnosis of disease after taking/listening case history and investigation and symptoms of the diseases, exercising in medicinal prescriptions, punctual checking with treatments and timely visits, seeking of the responses of medical treatment in time etc.

The Provision of Hidaklon

The Manipuri word Hidaklon (Hidak - medicine; Lon science; treatise/discourse or logy) means the science of medicine and medicinal therapy. It is the scientific utilities of the medicinal floral faunal and the minerals produces and their products. The use of spells is a common usage in all kind of Manipuri therapy. The models and motto of the medicine, its preparation and prescriptions for treatments in doses and volumes appeared to have much similarity with those of Ayurvedic practices.

Almost all the plural and singular element of the medicinal flora, fauna or mineral items are employed in the standard/stage of substances or molecular states which are in the dietary balance and so no vitamin is needed to render to keep the normality of the health on the effect or side effect of the medicine. One of such medication provided in the Manipuri manuscripts goes as

Ahoraiki Hitakti // Mapatta Sutuna Thak-o // Lailen Masingkhane // Nungsilne Thak-o //[4]

Dry gall-bladder of python and alum mixed in water are administered orally for the medication of the leprosy disease.

In some other manuscripts of Hidaklon or books on medicinal therapy the proportions and doses of medicaments or medicinal floral, faunal or mineral materials items are mentioned. These medical practices had guarded the healths of the Meiteis/Manipuris against the diseases and epidemics in the remote and near post centuries.

The Giving of Yumsharol

The Manipuri term of Yumsharol stands for the art of the architecture and science of construction of house/building, bridges, walls, etc. One of the best manuscripts of this subject is "KANGLA HOUBA" or the accounts of construction of building the royal coronation hall. This manuscript gives various information and knowledge with regard to the different species of trees, bamboos and thatches in relation to the botanical information, model and style of buildings of the type of square or rectangular hut flourished into the past days from Bengal to the near south-east Asiatic kingdoms/countries beyond the east and west of Manipur.

An exemplification of Kangla Houba is portraying as:
Ching Maming Naibada Houriba U Manming Naiba Singbu Louruduna Urep Chara Oigani. Jatradi Chingthangdagi Una Oigani, Jatra Mathangdi Wangbrendagi Una Khein-gani, Upadi Pisumda Houba Tumitla Uningthouna Khin-gani ................ Ura Humdangdi Thang-ga Karang-gee Wana Woi-o //[5]

All the post are to be erected with the timbers of the renown trees growing on the well-known hills, the foundation post will be with the post carved from the timber of the tree growing on Chingthang hills and the post next to the foundation post will be erected with the post carved from the timber of the tree growing on the Wangbren hills. The opposite post of the foundation post will be carved from the timber of the tree called Tumitla (Cinnamonmum Cecidaphne C. Grandiferum etc) or Uningthou (Phoebe Hainsiana, etc. Fan Lauraceae). The rafters and ribs of the roof will be carved from the bamboos growing on the hills of the Thangga and Karang.

With regard to the brick works and stone works, the construction of building in square/rectangular house/hut type was started in Manipur during the regime of Meitei Khagemba (1597-1652 A.D.) in 1604 A.D. and the construction of the Burmese/Myanmar Kyang (Dome roofed temple) began to construct in 1704 A.D. 6 While surrounding walling of homestead land with brick walls was started in 1614 A.D. [7]

KHENCHONGLON The word "Khenchonglon" means the appearance of heavenly body. The approaching near the orbit of a star/planet by another star/planet or the knowledge of 27 (twenty-seven) specific stars and other heavenly bodies like Sangaisen (meteors and meteoric materials) are mentioned in astrological books like Subika, Thawanmichak Khenchonglon, the khenchonglon, etc. Hence it is the study of the 27 stars mentioned below:

Table No.2
The names of 27 stars in Sanskrit, Manipuri and English

No. Sanskrit Manipuri English
1. Ashvini Sajik Arietis
2. Bharani Thaba Musca or Arietis
3. Kritika Khongjomnubi Tauri or Pleides
4. Rohini Apaknga Lunar, Masion, Pauri
5. Mrgyashira Shachung Telheiba Orionis
6. Ardra Likla Shaphaba Orion
7. Purba-barsu Chingcharoibi Geminorum
8. Pushya Chungshennubi Caneri
9. Aslesa Ningthou Naga Hydae or Regulus
10. Magha Ningthou Turel Leonis or Regulus
11. Purbaphalguni Ningthou Shamu Leonis
12. Uttarphalguni Shamupicha Leonis-II
13. Hasta Uphong Ngatu Carvi
14. Chaitra Mokang Shalka Virginis or Spica
15. Shwati Luwang Shalka Bootis or Arcturus
16. Bisakha Nanpa Salka Librae or Libra
17. Anuradha Okpuroi Scorpii or Scorpionis
18. Jestha Tauhuireng Antares
19. Moola Tongjeng Nubi Scorpii, Scorpionis
20. Purbasada Thayai Sagittarii
21. Uttarsada Thaton Sagittarii
22. Shrabana Mani-Mamou Sheentaknabi Aquilae
23. Dhanistha Harei Maye Delphini
24. Shatabhisaj Koraunu Aquarrii
25. Purbabhadrapad Khaba Leining Pegasi
26. Uttrabhadrapad Shilpa Leining Andromedae
27. Rebati Yawa Khuro8 Lunar Mansion

[Note: Meibi Sangaisen or Meibi or Sangaisen, Thawan-michak Mameipanba (Comet),etc. were also there and in the later period the planets were also added with the appellations]

Table No. 3
Name of the nine planets in Hindi, English, Manipuri

No. Sanskrit Manipuri English
1. Rabi Nongmaiching Sun
2. Chandra Ningthoukaba Moon
3. Mangal Leipakpokpa Mars
4. Buddha Yumsakeisa Mercury
5. Brihaspati Sagolshen Jupiter
6. Sukra Irai Venus
7. Shani Thangja Saturn
8. Rahu Shakok Urenus(Herschel)
9. Ketu Shamei Neptune

The last two (Rahu and Ketu), as assumed/supposed by the Meiteis, are the head and tail of Tauroinai, the dragonish python in the cultic heritage of the Meitei/Manipuri.[9]

In addition to these astrological studies, the 'Lagna' (Star-track) in the astrological work is an important matter. The word 'Lagna' corresponds to the period of each Rashi (Zodiac) lying twelve of them/those in a day. In case of the Meitei/Manipuri, the list of the Lagna is given under the name of Sanskrit, Manipuri and English.

Table No.4
Name of Lagna (Star-track) in Sanskrit, Manipuri and English

No. Sanskrit Manipuri English
1. Mesh Hameng Aries
2. Brisha Tanba Taurus
3. Mithun Shaphu Gemini
4. Karkat Waikhu Cancer
5. Singha Nongsha Leo
6. Keina Nura Virgo
7. Tula Pabot Chang Libra
8. Brisik Tilaikhombi Scorpion
9. Dhanu Liri Ten Sagittarius
10. Makar Chinglai Capricorn
11. Kumbha Ishing Pun Aquarius
12. Mina Nga Pareng Pisces

* Dr. N. Debendra Singh wrote this article which was published at Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on February 12 2019.

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