Rare historical stone inscription in the hills of Manipur
- Part 1 -

Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba *

Pamheiba Stone Inscription of Bangai Range  : The sole inscription showing illustrations of weapons used in medieval Manipur.
Pamheiba Stone Inscription of Bangai Range : The sole inscription showing illustrations of weapons used in medieval Manipur.

Stone edicts, rock carvings and archaeological sites are undeniable evidences for reconstructing the history across ancient civilization. It assists in better understanding of the past which remains a puzzle, in many cases, particularly when the unbiased reconstruction of ancient and medieval Manipur are concerned.

Former rulers of the Indian state of Manipur, in the ancient past, too had raised several rock edicts and stone footprints and carvings at far off interior villages, both in hills and valley, in present day Manipur to establish its authority over the area.

As of now, more than twenty of such historical rock edicts have been discovered including the early 19th century Kohima Stone of Iningthou Gambhir Singh, which was described by former British officer James Johnstone as a symbol of subjugating the ferocious Angami tribes of Kohima, known as Thibomei in Manipuri language.

While the Kohima stone of Gambhir Singh showed the footprints and an animal figure, the "ambitious Manipuri ruler" who liberated Manipur with the assistance of the British in 1826 from the historical 7 Years Devastation, many other rock edicts are mostly characterized by written decrees of the then concerned ruler in archaic Meetei/ Meitei (Manipuri) script.

Pamheiba Stone Inscription of Bangai Range

However, in a rare discovery which is one of its kinds in the history of Manipur, a stone inscription was discovered at the present day Bangai Range in the interior hill area of Pherzawl district, near the confluence of Tuivai and Barak River. The later was known as Gwai River by the Manipuris.

The uniqueness of this inscription lies in the fact that the stone provides illustration of weapons and several equipments used in warfare. This is perhaps the sole inscription which provides crucial clues of the weapons employed by the troops of medieval Manipur, thereby assuming tremendous importance in the study of the ancient past.

According to some decipherable section of the stone which faces eastern direction, it was raised by King Pamheiba in the early 18th century. The inscription though written in Meetei script includes certain words associated with Hinduism. Unfortunately, centuries of negligence, several portions have been damaged and continue to be in the process of degeneration, according to archaeologist Mutua Bahadur.

Located at some 295 km from capital Imphal, in modern-day Bangai range, the inscription measures 58 X 56 cm.

It was during the reign of King Pamheiba that the erstwhile Manipuri kingdom reached the zenith of her power and engaged in numerous battles against the then Tripuri kingdom and the vast Burmese Empire for which Manipur had to endure severe repercussion after the demise of Pamheiba.

A hand written drawing of Kohima Stone by Sir James Johnstone
A hand written drawing of Kohima Stone by Sir James Johnstone

Of Pamheiba's stone inscription which was discovered at top of Bangai Range, illustration showed several weaponries used by the then Manipuri troops which supposedly composed of ethnic Meetei and its hill based ethnic groups.

Prof. Gangmumei Kabui in his History of Manipur states that atleast 10, 000 hill tribes were part of Pamheiba's grand 30, 000 strong Manipuri troops that raided Burma.

The Pamheiba inscription distinguishes itself from other rock edicts. The illustration showed pictures of spears, bows, elephants, horses, the dart weapon Arambai and Nongmei Ashubi.

Manipur Royal Chronicle, Cheitharol Kumbaba, corroborates the narration of Pamheiba's inscription which was raised during his battle against the Tripuris known to Manipuris as Takhel.

It stated that Pamheiba and his troops made their camp at this site to establish his authority in the interior area now located in Pherzawl district. The Royal Chronicle termed the Bangai Range as "Mangaitang Chingsang". It stated that Pamheiba in 1734 camped at this site in his victorious war against the Tripuris, as per Mutua Bahadur.

The four stones of Tarao Pal

Four stone inscriptions with the oldest one being dated to the reign of King Urakonthouba in the 6th century and the latest being to the period of King Gambhir Singh were discovered beginning 1974 in remote corners of then Chandel district near the Indo-Myanmar border.

One of the stone inscriptions at Tarao Pal dates back to King Kiyamba (1467-1508). Measuring 24.5X13 cm, the inscription in archaic Meetei script strongly instructs that stealing of animals and taking of slaves cannot be tolerated from the village and that the village serves as the Eastern guard of Manipur state. A temple was also built in its vicinity, as per one of the deciphered lines, as per Mutua Bahadur.

While deciphering of the whole script is impossible due to degeneration, the deciphered statement was arrived from the four lines inscribed in the stone.

Inscription found at Ningel.
Inscription found at Ningel.

It during the period of King Kiyamba that the Kabaw Valley was annexed to the kingdom of Manipur after a joint successful military expedition with the King Khekhomba of the ethnic Shan, known to as Pong to the Meeteis, following which Ningthi Turel or present day Chindwin River was established as the eastern political boundary of the erstwhile Manipur kingdom.

Another stone attributed to King Kiyamba with a width of 15 cm and a height of 14 cm, having 5 lines is also to be found in which it was declared that it was the decree of Godly king Kiyamba that slaves cannot be taken from Tarao Pal.

Maharaj Gambhir Singh stone inscription measures 22 cm in width and has a height of 20 cm. Written in archaic Meetei script, 7 lines are inscribed in the stone at Tarao Pal in Chandel district, of which some could not be deciphered.

3 stone inscriptions of Khoibu

Three stone inscriptions were also discovered in Khoibu village along the Indo-Myanmar border and assumes one of the most important archaeological evidences to prove that the erstwhile Manipur kingdom was not confined to Imphal valley.

Located near the vicinity of Kabaw Valley, Khoibu is a small village situated in the hill route connecting Imphal and Burma.

Prof. Gangmumei Kabui says that the issuing of the first stone was attributed to King Sameirang and his brother Thamanglang in the 5th century and was inscribed in Meetei script. The script mentioned that the border village in Indo-Myanmar border village was protected by the two brothers.

The second stone was issued by King Kiyamba in the 15th century. The inscription, written in archaic Meetei script has a width of 2"-9", a thickness of 3" and height of 3" 2". Free translation of the old Meetei language states that it was the decree of Godly king Kiyamba that the village of Khoibu was to be exempted from tributes and its inhabitants are not to be tortured.

The Third Stone inscription has been attributed to the period of King Paikhomba who ruled in the 17th century. Of the deciphered 16 lines, the text maintains that Paikhomba raised the stone and that Khoibu village is the keeper of the deity under the decree of godly king Kiyamba. The village was also to be exempted from state duties, not to be tortured and from Lallup service.

Nevertheless, presence of such archaeologically important rock edicts clearly establishes the authority of earlier rulers.

To be continued...

* Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba wrote this article for
The writer is a special correspondent of Assamese based newspaper Asomiya Pratidin and a journalist at PTI Imphal with a passion to understand the ancient and medieval past for research purposes.
The writer can be contacted at phanjching(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on July 27, 2017.

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