TODAY -

A Historical Perspective of Zeliangrong Settlement at Heibok Hills, Imphal West
- Part 2 -

Budha Kamei *

State level Gaan-Ngai 2014 at Keikhu, Kabui Village :: January 13, 2014
State level Gaan-Ngai 2014 at Keikhu, Kabui Village in January 2014 :: Pix - Ashok Ningthoujam



According to Meitei Ningthourol, Bhagyachandra by disguising as Hao (Zeliangrong) who alone came back from Ahom and organized all the Khullakpas of Zeliangrong villages inhabiting near the Tongjei Maril road to help him when he returned with the forces of Ahom to liberate his motherland from the Burmese forces. Later, Khellemba was murdered brutally by the emissaries of Bhagyachandra at the Lousee Lake.

Even today, there are relics left by Bhagyachandra in the Rongmei villages: at Awangkhul (Longchum), there is a stone slab with Hanuman image along with ineligible inscription, Nungnang (Lungrang)- there are stone bounders where he spent his days, and at Khebuching (Puching) he performed the Khousaba, spear fighting and vowed to liberate his motherland. He left his weapons at Akhui which were presented by the Akhui people to the Maharaja Churachand Singh in the twentieth century. He and many royal princes spent times at Wairangba and Tamenglong village. Construction of Tekhao road which is connected with Ahom (Assam) is an evidence of friendship and co-operation between the Meiteis and Zeliangrong because the said road runs through the Zeliangrong land without any hindrance from the side of the later.

In 1770 C.E, Manipur was invaded by the Burmese under King Hsinbyushin. Chingthangkhomba was again driven out and he fled to Cachar. J. Roy says, no sooner had the Burmese withdrawn than Chingthangkhomba along with the forces of Ahom re-entered Manipur. Under his efficient rule prosperity gradually returned to the country. In absence of Chingthangkhomba, Manipur was ruled by Erengba/Kukilananda Erengba, a scion of the royal family who was set up by the Burmese submitted after feeble resistance at Langathen. R. Brown writes, on hearing the news of coming of Chingthangkhomba along with Ahom forces, Eringba immediately handed over the throne to him without objection.

With the instigation of Manshenba, the son of slain chief of Moirang, Khellemba, the Burmese invaded Manipur again in the year 1772 C.E. Bhagyachandra again fled to Ahom through Cachar on the 2nd day of Phairen (February). The Burmese forces left Manipur soon after installing a puppet King called Pukhrambam Binodram whose capital was at Wangkhei. In the year 1775 C.E, Bhagyachandra along with his hill supporters mostly Zeliangrongs marched into Manipur but without a single battle he became king again because Binodram already left Manipur on hearing the news of coming of Bhagyachandra.

In the same year (1775 C.E), Bhagyachandra established his capital at Lamangdong on the day of Saturday, 19th day of Phairen (February). In spite of his religious orthodoxy, the Kabui settlers in the valley were living peacefully without having interference from his administration.

Cheitharol Kumbaba records, a severe flood devastated the valley on the day of Saturday, 12th day of Kalen (May), 1775 C.E. The shrine of Akoijam was collapsed and many houses were flown away up to the Loktak Lake. People took shelter on roof of their houses. A large number of people died and famine followed. According to Meitei Ningthourol, it was during the reign of Binodram, the valley was submerged with water after three days continuous rain (9 -11) that happened on the day of Saturday, 12th day of Kalen(May), 1775 C.E. The whole valley area was looked like a lake. All roads were underwater and People took shelter on the nearby hills.

Since there is no written record, oral tradition of the village is the only source of the past history of the Rongmei villages of Heibokching. "History to the Zeliangrong people is the oral tradition which handed down from one generation to another (father to son)." This flood is still talked about among the elders of Langthabal Khoupum, Langthabal Chingkha (Namkaolong) and Langthabal Chingthak (Lubanglong) villages as oral tradition. The oral tradition tells that due to severe flood of Wangkhei Duidai (Ichao), the villagers of Langthabal Meitei came on the Heibok Hills and took shelter in the Rongmei villages until the flood water drained away from the valley. This flood is locally known as Wangkhei Hagtakki Ichao, because Manipur was under the rule of Binodram of Wangkhei.

According to Cheitharol Kumbaba, the royal chronicle of Manipur, on the day of Wednesday, 17th day of Kalen(May), 1778 C.E, the country went dark. It rained with dust particle. In connection with the gloomy incident, the oral tradition of the village tells that as usual the womenfolk went to collect firewood at the Heibok Hills. While collecting the firewood, suddenly, it went dark, nothing could be seen; seeing this occurrence, they hurriedly ran towards their respective villages.

After the dark event, the Chronicle further states that on the day of Monday, 7th day of Enga (June), 1778 C.E, an image of Sanamahi God was erected and on the same day, Kangjei game (hockey) for the Kabui settlers in the valley was organized. This historical sport event is also mentioned in the oral tradition that the three villages jointly as a team participated in the said Kangjei game organized by the king of Manipur.

The said Kangjei game refers to the traditional Meitei Mukna-Kangjei, meaning wrestling-cum-hockey, is an outdoor game. It is popularly known as Khong-Kangjei or Kangjei and played on a field by two teams of seven players each, with curve cane sticks and a small hard ball in the style of Mukna (wrestling). The valley Kabui tribals also enjoyed Mukna-Kangjei in early times. And in the year 1779, C.E he shifted his capital to Langthabal from Lamangdong.

It is now proved that the migrant Rongmei people mostly from Western hills had settled down at the Heibok Hills before the above historical events. According to Gangmumei Kamei, it was during the reign of Bhagyachandra many Zeliangrong people engaged in his war against the Burmese to drive out from the soil of Manipur in 18th century. Many Zeliangrongs who came to know the Maharaja came down to the valley and started such migrant villages of Langthabal and Khoupum in the Heibok Hills. The settlers of Khoupum were mostly migrated from Chingkhoupum in south Tamenglong.

To conclude, the present Rongmei villages, namely Langthabal Khoupum and Langthabal Chingthak (Lubanglong) did come into existence at the Heibok Hills during the reign of Bhagyachandra (1759-1762, 1763-1798) in 18th century on the basis of available historical records, and evidences supplemented by oral traditions of the village. However, the villages were not founded in the same year. Honbung Longmei, and Meikachun Kamson were the first Khullakpas of Langthabal Khoupum and Lubanglong respectively.

The total population of Langthabal Khoupum (seven hundred fifty) and Lubanglong (five hundred) is one thousand two hundred and fifty only. One may ask why the population is not large after many centuries of their settlement at the Heibokching. In the past many villagers were killed by epidemic like cholera, small pox etc. as they did not know the use of prophylactic medicine.

In addition some left the village in search of livelihood. The Rongmeis were allowed to settle at Heibok Hills; so it is their responsibility to protect the Heibokching. "There is a tribal village, beyond it lies forests." For the tribals, forest is their life. They love and protect the forests.

Concluded



* Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 11, 2014.


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