Where Do Manipuris Come From ?

James Oinam *

Human Migration Map of the world
Human Migration Map of the world :: Pix Courtesy - Huffington Post

Human history, in other words the beginning of recorded or written period, began some 5000 years ago. But the events connected with human evolutionary migration from Africa are much older than that. So written evidence of how the ancestors of Manipur came here is lacking. In the absence of written records, do we presume the information is lost forever? There may be other ways to trace the history of pre-history.

Fossils collected all over the world have provided enough scientific evidence for out of Africa theory. But the specific paths taken by various population groups are pretty hazy. However, genetic science seems to have come to our rescue.

In this essay, I will try to argue in favour of certain path taken by Manipuris. I believe, generally speaking, the population currently inhabiting the land of Manipur came via the Tibet–China route, that is, on the eastern side of the Himalayas. If we look at the human migration map produced by the Genographic Project (which is based on genetic studies of people around the world carried out by National Geographic), I want to say that the ancestors of Manipur split from the population that would become ancestors of mainland India somewhere near Central Asia.

In fact, at this point (somewhere just below Central Asia), we see early human beings taking three paths. The third path leads to Western Europe (source: But this migration was probably not one-time thing, but spread over a long period of time (the movement was probably not in watertight fashion either).

For example, many historians say the Aryans came to mainland India in waves (thereby disproving invasion theory). Other than the Genographic Project map, the following scientific (or logical if you like) arguments can be put to support the above claim:

1. Being generally considered a Mongoloid race and Manipuri script belonging to the Tibeto-Burman script are well-known scientific evidence which support my argument. The Meitei script has spiritual symbols in them and so does the Tibetan script. In ancient days, in Germany, there was a script called the Runes with symbolic spiritual-magical power which they dropped in favour of modern script. I may quickly add here that the Runic divination is very similar to Maibi's (female shaman) divination using certain coins inscribed with magical symbols in looks at least if not in content.

2. Distribution pattern of bovine animals may point to the human migration pattern of the region. After living a settled agricultural life, instead of hunter-gatherer, the bovine animals must have been domesticated. The sacred status awarded by the Zoroastrian faith (which also probably inspired or was adopted by Hinduism) would support their intimacy with humans.

From here, we may also assume that the distribution of the bovines, in consequence of their own migration or in accompaniment with migrating human populations, should indicate the migration path certain populations might have followed.

Below are few direct quotes and my comments from the book The People's Natural History: Vol. 1 Mammals, edited by Charles J. Cornish (1858-1906), first published 1905 (Now available as ebook produced by: David T. Jones, Ross Cooling & the Online Distributed Proofreading Canada Team at; the work is in Canadian public domain):

Quote 1: 'This [wild oxen] group consists of the GAUR of India; the GAYAL of Assam, which is possibly a domesticated form of the gaur, but rather smaller in size, with skull and horns different in character; and the BANTING, a lighter and more slender wild ox, of which different varieties are found in Burma, in Java (where it is kept in a half-domesticated condition), and in Manipur.'

My comments: This variation in the oxen variety should point towards the segregated conditions of human populations, namely, mainland India, Assam and Manipur, going by my assumption above. Assam was like a buffer region where mainland Indian population and Mongoloid mixed up inextricably.

Quote 2: 'The GAUR, the so-called INDIAN BISON, is probably the largest of all the wild bovine animals. It is found at the foot of the North-eastern Himalaya, in the Central Provinces of India, the forests of Madras and Mysore, and in parts of Burma and the Malay Peninsula, but not in Ceylon.'

My comments: This I would propose happened due to the excursions/expeditions carried out by some Hindus (kings and religious missionaries) from mainland India to various Southeast Asian countries and their influence can now be seen, for example, in the Angkor Wat temple. The presence of Ocean should explain the absence of Gaur in Ceylon (present Sri Lanka).

Quote 3: 'The common wild ox [Banting] of the Malay countries of Borneo, Java, Eastern Burma, and northwards, in Manipur resembles the European oxen rather more than does the gaur.'

My comments: Now to say that the Banting variety resembles more the European oxen rather than the Gaur (which is the prominent variety in mainland India), I would interpret it as the population of Manipur stayed closer to the European people, rather than mainland Indians, before settling in the valley, which is consistent with my argument.

Even if the migrating population were not carrying the bovines with them, the distribution of the bovine indicates the geographic (topographic) conditions favoured movement from Tibet-China into Manipur. Hence, if we assume human populations to have randomly scattered out from somewhere in Central Asia, it probably followed the same path as the bovines.

I do not claim that mythological/theological similarities do not count, but they should be treated as less tangible evidence compared to fossils (and archaeological evidence in general) and genetic evidence. But the essay is long enough already to cover cultural, mythological and religious angle.

* James Oinam wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on April 22, 2017.

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