Okram Kumar's contributions in archaeological researches in Manipur

Dr. Syed Ahmed *

 Archaeologist Okram Kumar delivers lecture on Stone Age Culture of Manipur
Archaeologist Okram Kumar delivers lecture on Stone Age Culture of Manipur

Archaeological research was initiated in Manipur during the reign of Maharaja Churachand Singh (1891-1941) by research scholar, Wahengbam Yumjao Singh. He did some preliminary excavation at Jainagar or Shangathen and Susa Kameng villages in 1932 and published a research work, Report on the Archaeological Studies in Manipur (1935). He also wrote on the history and religion of Manipur, namely Manipur Itihas (1946), An Early History of Manipur (1966) and The Religious Beliefs of Manipur (1966).

Okram Kumar is one of the first trained archaeologists who had taken up field work in several prehistoric sites of Palaeolithic, Hoabinhian and Neolithic cultures in Manipur in the late 60s and 70s, which include the Kangkhui Caves, Tharon Caves, Songbu Caves, sites in Machi, Nongpok Keithelmanbi and Napachik, etc.

Based on his field studies, he has, since 1969, written several books and articles, and also presented papers in seminars and conferences.

His published books include:
Archaeological Researches in Manipur (1980),
Manipurgi Meihourol (1980),
Archaeology in Manipur (1983),
Prehistoric Archaeology of Nongpok Keithelmanbi (1986),
Neolithic Stone Tools in Manipur: A Catalogue of Neoliths in the People’s Museum, Kakching (1991),
Stone Age Archaeology of Manipur (1997),
A Report on the 1994 Excavation of Sekta, Manipur (1997) and
Pottery through the Ages (2008).

Okram Kumar’s publications in journals and edited books include:
On the Discovery of Stone Age Relics from Manipur” in Journal of Assam Science Society, Vol. XII (with T.C. Sharma, 1969),
A Note on the Archaic Meitei Script” in Regional Integration, Vol. IV (12) (1978),
Archaeological Researches in Manipur,” in T.C. Sharma & D.N. Majumdar (eds.) in Eastern Himalayas (A Study on Anthropology and Tribalism) (1980);
Tool Gazing at Tharon
Did Autraloids once Inhabit Manipur?” in Resistance (1980),
Iconographs in Manipur” in Sculptures of Manipur, Mutua Museum Bulletin, No. 2 (1982),
A Live Megalith Culture in Manipur” in V.N. Misra & P. Bellwood (eds.), In Recent Advances in Indo-Pacific Prehistory (1985),
Aspects of Archaeology in Manipur” in N. Sanajaoba, (ed.), Manipur: Past and Present, Vol. I (1988),
A Preliminary Report on an Archaeological Exploration at Singtom, Chandel District in Man & Environment (with R.K. Ranjit Singh, 1991),
Hoabinhian in Manipur” in Tiatoshi Jamir & Manjil Hazarika (eds.), 50 Years after Daojali – Hading (2014),
Re-evaluating the bone tools in the forager tool kits of Kangkhui cave No. 3, Ukhrul district, Manipur, India
in Journal of History, Art and Archaeology, Vol. I, No. 2 (2021), among others.

Okram Kumar is also associated with several Archaeological and Anthropological research bodies, namely Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, Indian Archaeological Society, The Eastern Anthropologist and Manipur Anthropological Society.

Acknowledging Okram Kumar’s contribution in the field of archaeological studies, eminent Historian, Gangmumei Kamei writes (in History of Manipur, 2011), “…the credit of systematic archaeological excavations should be given to him and our knowledge of the prehistory of Manipur is more or less based on his studies and excavations.

It was he who did the first excavation at Kangkhui caves on scientific line. On the publication of his findings in 1969, Manipur has been included in the pre-historic map of the region.”

Okram Kumar (born 1945), a resident of Okram Chuthek in Imphal East, studied B.Sc. at D.M. College of Science, Imphal, and earned his M.Sc. in Anthropology with specialization in Prehistoric Archaeology from Gauhati University in 1967. He got his Ph.D degree from Manipur University on the topic, “Stone Age Cultures of Manipur,” in 1997. He entered into State Government service as Lecturer in Anthropology at D.M. College, Imphal, in 1969.

Then in 1976, he was deputed as Registering Officer (Antiquities) at the Manipur State Museum, Imphal, and then as Superintendent of Archaeology after the establishment of Manipur State Archaeology. The State Government established the Manipur State Archaeology in 1978 for the preservation, protection, exploration and excavation of ancient and historical monuments, archaeological sites and remains in the State. The office was set up under his initiative.

He returned to the Department of Anthropology of D.M. College of Science, and later served as Reader and Head of the Department. He also served as Principal (in-charge) of D.M. College of Commerce, Imphal, afterwards. He retired on 13th Dec. 2002.

Okram Kumar continued to do archaeological studies after his retirement. He has also been writing books and articles. His excavations, studies and findings over the years have made major milestones in the development of archaeology as a discipline in Manipur.

However, it may be mentioned that archaeological researches have failed to make much progress in the State in spite of the existence of several archaeological sites, particularly prehistoric caves and settlement sites as mentioned, monoliths, ancient structures, etc. and numerous interesting findings, such as 18th century Gold Mask Skull from Cheiraoching and Lamboiching which were recently exhibited by State Museum, or the structures of ancient star-shaped mud fort at Maklang, to mention a few.

There is a need to do further archaeological and anthropological researches for proper understanding of the pre-historic and proto-historic phases in the State. State Archaeology should promote such researches.

The archaeological sites which are located in the interior and remote areas of Manipur should be preserved, restored and developed. The State Government should evolve a concrete plan and allocate fund for the preservation and development of the archaeological sites. The discipline Archaeology and Anthropology should be introduced and popularised in the colleges of the State.

The State Government could generate huge income from these archaeological sites if it develops the sites as tourist spots. The Archaeologists in the State should be engaged through State-sponsored seminars and conferences to identify the major impediments in this aspect, and chalk out ways and means to fully exploit our archaeological resources.

* Dr. Syed Ahmed wrote this article for
The writer is Assistant Professor at D.M. College of Arts, Imphal
and can be contacted at syed_ahmed4(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on October 26 2022 .

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