Event of Shamu Makhong

RS Jassal *

It will give you an amazing kick in a quick reflex if you happen to have a snap time to spare to stop over the flyover near 'Shamu-Makhong' statue for reasons best inhibited in the cultural ethos of a fascinating past event occurred in the history of Manipur. Overlooking the statue you will find a narrow typical & stylish simple looking bridge of antique value in itself besides a broad RCC double lane Traffic Bridge constructed recently & both are in use.

Some pedestrians still prefer to commute over this antique bridge. It is a confluence of Naga and Nambol rivers, making it the busiest crossing point for going to Keishamthong bifurcation, Silchar road, Cheirup court road Uripok, Nagampal road taking on traffic shoot of Poana bazaar and Thangal bazaar abuzz, with commuters on foot from Khawairamband, Luxmi bazaar & the famous fish and sabzi mandi areas.

You will be tempted to keep looking on and on and especially so if sky over your head is in clouds, cast in a bit black shade. I did find a few moments recently to appreciate nature and state of art engineering skill of past & present both. This place is called 'Hathi-Chowk'.

Our older generations and some persons like me, inquisitive to dive in the historical waves of this great ocean (sic) culture of the state do know the meaning of Shamu Makhong and story behind it, but most of the new generation who are in a very fast mode of floating life perhaps find it difficult to know about conversion of this not less than epical event of the eighteen century into a statue.

A view of Samu Makhong in January 2009
Picture Courtesy :: Rocky Pebam

It is for the sake of information of those; I am attempting these few lines through your esteemed paper. It is said that a wild elephant had strayed into the busiest point of the traffic zone negotiated by people, mechanical vehicles rickshaws, cycles of those time (18th Century) including bullock carts pulled by oxen's with jingling bells around their necks.

One maiba had predicted that if not controlled or whisked away, Shamu Makhong would be heading towards Kangla to disturb the Fort and create lot of destruction & also that it will not augur well for the Kingdom. At that point in time , Rajarishi Bhagyachandra Singh, the then King gave cool thought & proceeded to the junction to the point where Mukhong had reached after causing plenty of damages in areas surrounding Uripok, the western parts of Thangmeiband.

It may be news to many till 1970's jackals and other wild animals used to move in Nagamapal, Uripok, Thangmeiband & Chingmeirong (Firing Range 4 AR). I have myself experienced jackals in Chingmeirong in mid 1968.

King with sword in his hand approached the elephant. He muttered some prayers in mute tone & privacy (which could be to invoke blessings of Lord Krishna since he was his devotee) drew his sword, closed in on to the elephant, who was behaving in a rogue manner till then, is said to have surrendered to him meekly as if there was nothing wrong with him.

King went further closer, patted the Mukhong with his hand. The people around who had seen this event happening were wonder struck on his cool daunting act and compassionate approach. Thereafter what happened whether the elephant retreated to the side from where it had come or it followed the king to Kangla to join other elephants in stable is not known to the author but statue is there for everybody to see.

The second piece of surprise is it is told that statue & base are in 'as they were' state since times of inception. What pained me, of course, is that this statue has gone in ignored relevance with the flyover having come up higher then that of the statue.

Prior to that Bhagyachandra's temporal –cum- transcendental powers were put to test by Ahom King Swarga deo Rajeswar Singh at Sibsagar in a similar incident which happened to test him whether he was a genuine prince or otherwise while he was in self exile along with his wife and retinue of soldiers & close associates under Swarga deo's protégé.

It was necessitated because some interested adversaries of the king –in –waiting had poisoned the ears of Ahom king that the person under his protégé was imposter & not the real Bhagyachandra. As a testimony to this episode there are still four to five villages of Meitei settlements close to the East of Sibsagar town.

There at 'Rang Ghar' a stadium where Ahom Kings used to observe social functions, & now maintained by Archeological Survey of India, he was asked to face an undomesticated elephant & tame him, with powers which a real prince and would be king was supposed to be possessing . He was there on a mission after expulsion by his adversaries from Manipur to seek military support from Ahom King & some Naga headmen enroute. Exact route no historians could trace so far.

But as per Prof. Gangmumei( authority on Manipur History) Bhagyachandra had followed route to Cachar Hills via old Silchar road to Maibong ( erstwhile capital of Dimasa Kingdom to Nambol forests ( beyond Bokajan) to Sibsagar & stayed under protégé of Ahom King till his soldiers were made fit to move back to regain his lost kingdom.

Ahom King Swarga deo arranged his move back into Manipur with soldiers & armed reinforcement & guides through Peren- Tening (Nagaland) area by intervention with Maj. Gen Trippler who was then stationed in Jorhat.

But historical evidences to his having trial with the elephant in 'Rang Ghar' and successful handling of elephant through his faith in the kind grace of Lord Krishna are available, the details of which need not be extracted in this article as it is a long story & well documented in some history books like Ahom- Tai History in Ahom text as told by (Prof JN Phukan), Bhagyachandra Samuphabu (Puya) in Manipuri text and N. Tombi's book Manipur- A Study (oral tradition).

Thus statue reminds us of one important piece of cultural ethos of our past.

In view of the above to impact the minds of younger generations to explore the chore & instill in them a need to gather spiritual powers- strength of mind at the wee hours of their life & for a general seeker to appreciate values of ethical & moral strengths, this statute needs to be given a 'Second Look". What can be done to bring it its glory which it deserves, I leave it to the intellectuals- sons of the soil and the Government to decide.

But my humble suggestion is:-
One: The statue need to be lifted at least 10-12 feet higher than the flyover so that passersby can have a good view of this his trio- cultural piece with interest. Some good architect can be asked to prepare sketch to lift this statue like on semi circular pillars as in (Tower of Eisel) allowing traffic to pass from beneath to obviate restricting movements of vehicles. In addition

Two: If on the opposite side of Thangal bazaar (North) a giant clock (Big Ben Type) or Big Gong like Shree Govindaji temple giving hourly bang sounds is put up at corresponding height will add to the aesthetic setting with Kangla gate to the east, Bir Tikenderjit Minar on semi south, Shamu Makhong on West & clock on the (North) can alleviate the spirits of general public & tourists in future to come. The kind attention of Director, Art & Culture, Superintendent, Archeological Survey of India, and Imphal is invited not to miss this small article & to take suitable action if considered.

Related resources from e-pao on Shamu Makong:

* RS Jassal wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition) . This article was webcasted at on 25th November 2009.

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