Zeliangrong settlement at Heibokching, Imphal West
- A historical perspective -
- Part 2 -

Dr Budha Kamei *

According to Meitei Ningthourol, Bhagyachandra by disguising as Hao 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 Zeliangrong (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 J Roy says, no sooner had the Burmese withdrawn than Chingthangkhomba along with the forces of Ahom re-entered Manipur.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 Erengbal 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 including 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 Zeliangrong (Rongmei) settlers in the valley were living peacefully without having interference from his administration.

Cheitharol Kumbaba, the royal chronicle records, a severe flood devastated the valley on the day of Saturday, 12th day of Kalen (April-May), 1775. The shrine of Akoijam was collapsed. Many houses were flown away up to the Loktak Lake. People took shelter on roof of their houses. A large number of people died. Famine followed.

According to Meitei Ningthourol, it was during the reign of Binodram, the valley was submerged with water after three days continuous rain (from the 9th to 11th day of Kalen) that happened on the day of Saturday, 12th day of Kalen, 1775. The whole valley area was looked like a lake. All roads were underwater.

People took shelter on the nearby hills. This flood is still talked about among the elders of the Langthabal Khoupum village, Heibokching as oral tradition. The oral tradition says that due to severe flood of Wangkhei Duidai, the villagers of Langthabal Meitei came on the Heibokching and took shelter at the Khoupum village until the flood water drained away from the valley. This flood is commonly known as Wangkhei Hagtakki Ichao, because Manipur was under the rule of Binodram of Wangkhei.

According to Cheitharol Kumbaba, on the day of Wednesday, 17th day of Kalen (April-May)1778, the country went dark. It rained with dust particle. In connection with the dark incident, the oral tradition of the village tells that as usual the womenfolk of Langthabal Khoupum went to collect firewood at the Heibokching Hills. While collecting the firewood, suddenly, it went dark, nothing could be seen; seeing this occurrence, they hastily ran towards the village.

After the gloomy event, the Chronicle further states that on the day of Monday, 7th day of Enga (May-June), 1778, an image of Sanamahi God was erected and on the same day, Kangjei game (hockey) for the Zeliangrong (Rongmei) settlers in the valley was organized.

This historical sport event is also mentioned in the oral tradition that the three Zeliangrong (Rongmei) villages of Heibokching namely Langthabal khoupum, Langthabal Chingthak and Langthabal Chingkha 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 or wrestling. The valley Zeliangrong (Rongmei) tribals also enjoyed Mukna-Kangjei in early times. And in the year 1779, Bhygachandra shifted his capital to Langthabal from Lamangdong.

Now, it is clearly proved that the migrant Zeliangrong (Rongmei) people mostly from Chingkhoupum had settled down at the Heibokching in advance before the above historical events with a new name of their village called Jang Khoupum meaning Valley Khoupum (Jang means valley). According to Gangmumei Kamei, it was during the reign of Bhagyachandra many Zeliangrong (Rongmei) people engaged in his war against the Burmese to turn 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 Heibokching. The settlers of Khoupum at Heibokching were mostly from Chingkhoupum in south Tamenglong.

Here, it may be noted that Chinkhoupumg became the exile place for the rebellion princes; because of this reason, it was finally stormed by Gambhir Singh in 1827 after seven years devastation (1819-1826) which was never conquered earlier by any ruler of the Meiteis.

Since there is no written record, oral tradition of the village is the only source for the reconstruction of the past history of Khoupum village, Heibokching. Gangmumei Kamei states, history to the Zeliangrong people is the oral tradition which handed down from one generation to another.

In regard to the settlement of Zeliangrongs at the Heibokching, the oral tradition of the village narrates that Gonbung and Namshadai of Longmei and Goijaichang-Gangmei clans from Chingkhoupum were the two males along with their families who first settled at the Heibokching.

According to custom and tradition of the Zeliangrong, a new village requires two or more exogamous clans or lineages for purpose of marriage and ritual practices; under this obligation, they both established a village at Heibokching called Jang Khoupum later on known as Langthabal Khoupum with Gonbung and Namshadai as Khullakpa and Khunbu respectively of the new village.

Hence, it can be stated that the present Langthabal Khoupum village came into existence at the Heibokching during the second half of 18th century most likely in the year 1770-71 A.D on the basis of available historical records, and evidences supplemented by oral traditions of the village.

Later on Gonbung and Namshadai were followed by other clans namely Kamei, Pamei, Gondaimei, Gangmei and Maringmei. Pamei (Kamei), Gondaimei, Feiga-Gangmei and Jangchangliang-Gangmei from Subung, Makhom, Mukti and Chingkhoupum villages of Tamenglong and Noney districts, and Kamei (Montha Kamei) and Meiringmei clans from Lilongpang and Langthabal Chingkha villages of present Imphal West District and settled in the village, Langthabal Khoupum.

At present, there are only three clans in the village. Unfortunately, one of the founding clan is out of the picture of the village because Gonbung had no male issue. After his death, the chapter of Longmei clan is closed from the village. Now, the village has got the strength of one hundred households with a population of about one thousand souls. One may ask why the population is not increase 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. Some left the village in search of livelihood. The Zeliangrong (Rongmei) people were allowed to settle at Heibokching; so it is their responsibility to protect the Heibokching.


* Dr Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at budhakamei(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on June 23, 2019.

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