Evolution of Meitei State - Emergence of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba
- Part 2 -

Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte *

'Malem Paphal Art Exhibition Manipur' at Iboyaima Shumang Leela Shanglen, Imphal :: May 27 2015
'Malem Paphal Art Exhibition Manipur' at Iboyaima Shumang Leela Shanglen, Imphal in May 2015 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam


The mythological accounts of the origin of the Seven Salais of Meiteis differ slightly one from the other, yet almost all of them agreed as to the descendants of the Seven Salais to a common ancestor called 'Sidaba Mapu', originated at the same period. This contention was attributed to the Meiteis after having established their hegemony over the rest of the six Salais with a view to create the spirit of integration among the people of all the Salais was completed in 1432 only after the Moirang defeated and acceptance of Meitei suzerainty. This had been rightly said in consideration of the attempted consolidating a central authority for the entire Meitei State.

Even though different Salais were once ruling in their respective independent principalities, emerging situation demanded expediency for a supreme authority to rule all over them. Thus, the process of absorption of different Salais commenced into the Meitei fold by Khaba, annexing principality of the later and ascended the throne at Kangla. With it, begun the recorded history of Manipur from the second quarter of the first century of Christian era when Pakhangba became the King of the Meiteis in 33 AD and founded of Ningthouja Salai on completion of assimilation of all other Salais irreversible.

As a matter of fact, traditional political life of the Meiteis is deeply rooted to their customary laws in their respective societies. The socio political institutions are closely entrenched with other institutions. Their system of political institution is based on Kinship relations and is termed as a mere "Social Organisation" distinguished from "Political Organisation" of civilized community.

Similar views were expressed by Durkheim and Malinowski, whose authority on the primitive people is undisputed. Schapera contended that political system among primitive societies was based on kinship relation and that each tribe claimed exclusive rights to the land it occupied. All people living therein were subjects to the chief, as head of the local Government, and only by moving away or migration could they escape his control.

Outsiders might not settle in his territory without chiefs' permission, who rehabilitated them wherever he wished. Thereafter, they, the settled outsiders, became his subjects. In case they disobeyed him they were expelled. He not only regulated the distribution and used of the land but also decided the fate of his subjects on the basis of customary laws.

MacIver said with conviction that in primary sense a tribe was "community organized on the basis of kinship who usually claimed to have descended from a common ancestor" and that "tribal Government was characteristic of simple society" and "was equivalent to Primitive Government".

Here it is expedient to highlight as to how the rites and rituals in regard to an occasion relating to coronation of a kind were performed, commensurately with customary laws thereof.

Strictly following the rites and rituals as prescribed for the purpose by the Customary Law, Pakhangba performed a march between Heingang hills and Nongmaijing hills located to the northern part of the north-east of Imphal along the Iril (Lilwai) river, passing through Lishi, Thangwai, Mucheng, Keihon, Naokel, Haomu, Tangkhul, etc. villagers of which accompanied him upto Kangla.

The three Chiefs who invited him provided arms and weapons, and servants and attendants, as also officials like Pukhren, Nongthon, priest (Amai), poets, singers, torch bearers, swords-men, umbrella or parasol bearers, gold and silver, precious stones, chothes and food.

At Kangla, Puleiromba, Luwang Langamba and Ningthou Apanba, the three Sorarens, greeted him with all necessary arms and weapons, and coronation robes and costumes. Even for the coronation ceremony all the people were invited when Pakhangba was formally coronated to the investiture accompanied by the queens.

Puleiromba, Chief of Angom, Khunthiba of Luwang, Ponglaben of Moirang and Arong of Khuman Clans drew water from Mongjeng Pond (Pukhri) on the Kangla and poured on the body of the King and the queen in compliance with provisions of the Customary Law. Scholars and priests, singers and poets, and 64 nobles were present in the coronation.

The King and the queen were made to sit under the shade of 'Parasol' (light coloured thin umbrella) after having changed their dressed that were drenched with 'Nongjeng Pond' water. Puleiromba, the Angom Chief, presented Pakhangba his coronation robes. He was entitled to perform so, because of his higher ritual status than Pakhangba despite his titular secular position in the court of the latter.

This was soon followed by the resounding noise of drum beatings. In the midst of unceasing drumbeats, the king and the queen were lifted to the royal 'Palanquin' (Kanglamen) to mark close of coronation investiture.

Now, it must be understood that there were good number of ethnic groups and tribes other than the clans of seven chiefdoms that constituted Meitei confederacy who accepted political supremacy of Ningthouja retaining at the same time their status of distinct clans within the greater Meitei societal fold.

Indeed, consolidation of Meitei confederacy was the greatest political support for Pakhangba and his Ningthouja Salai, which was now on the top hierarchical ladder of political achievement that reigned a Meitei Kingdom. This ultimately resulted in drawing up of strict socio-religious codes which were given concrete shape that were incorporated in the common customary laws of the Meiteis.


One spectacular dimension where importance of or indispensability of Customary Law articulation is the cave of KANGLA, believed to be the naval of 'Taoroinai' (Body-guard and conveyance of Lord Pakhangba). It is also believed that the placenta and amniotic covering (Naopham and Naoyom) of the forefathers of the seven clans of the Meiteis are inside the Kangla cave.

That is why the cave is known as 'Melkhom Yaikhom' or 'Kangla Men'. It is on this Kangla Men that the King sits in the ceremonial proceedings of coronation as per prescribed formalities and rituals of the customary laws pertaining to such solemned occasion. It is believed that as per oracular directive of Lord Pakhangba, incorporated in the formal rituals meant for this purpose in the Customary Law was performed at Kangla only from the time of King Naophangba till the last King Bodhchandra Singh.

The King sits on a wooden seat made of UNINGTHOU plank. He collects water in a trough made of WANG wood. Another pertinent point, we need know is the birth of marriage codes practices among the seven salais with which ultimately customary laws were deeply embedded in the social melieu.

Inter alia the parts to be played by each salais and as also to ensure participation by several groups of hill people as could be evidenced from different kinds of wood used in the construction of Kangla and of coronation platform, water to be drawn from different water pools(ponds) belonging to seven different salais; used of different designs of clothes both from the seven salais of Meiteis and also from the tribal groups, such as, practice followed since the reign of Pamheiba for wearing of Tangkhul customary dress by the King during the coronation ceremony.

This was an impact of Ningthouja Salai's bringing the seven Salais under the Meitei Confederacy. Thus, the Meitei king ruled over the land directly with its unitary and centralized form of Government. Formation of state was the continuing process in almost all parts of south, south east and East Asia.

Beginning with middle of the South and South-East Asia, the states of Ahom (Asom), Pongs, Pagans (Avas), Siam (Thais), Lan Kang (Laos) including that of the Meiteis may be mentioned. The history of Manipur is the revealing role of the people's love for independence. Their skilled martial ability enabled them to safeguard their freedom against repeated incursions from neighboring states.


When the assimilation of each Salai was effected, the Meitei nomenclature which was formerly monopolized by the Ningthouja Salai alone was legitimately extended to each of the components. Thus with the vertical integration of the seven Salais into a single national entity, the evolution of the Meitei nation which had started since the dawn of history was completed during the time of King CHARAI-RONGBA who reigned from 1698 to 1709 with the continued existence of the seven Salais socially among the Meiteis till today.

(Concluded) .....

* Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Associate Professor, Department of History & Co-ordinator, Human Rights and Duties Education, Damdei Christian College, Motbung.
This article was posted on August 03 , 2018.

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