Historical perspective of Imphal

Hijam Rajendra *

Before, I describe the location of Imphal, I hope it will be more logical to describe about Manipur which had been sometime describe as a 'little paradise on earth" Japanese/Nippon's armies describe as "Takane no hana" ( a flower on the lofty height");

But it is so interesting to note that, how St. Clair Grimwhood describe Manipur, She said, ...
"Manipur- How well,
I remember the first time,
I ever hears the names too,
which was comparatively unknown to lengthy distribution,
simply stating that the valley of Manipur lies..
A pretty place more beautiful than many shows places of the world".

Because, "Imphal" is the capital of Manipur. It was also a place where the Royal British administration was well/luxuriantly flourish.

In this regard, I like to mention what, Antony Brett James describe in his celebrated book, "Imphal" in such a way. ".. fifty years before the great struggle with the Japanese on the frontiers of India, Manipur in 1891 was a scene of a gallant Victorian action"

Geographical Location: The words/term "Imphal" is a corrupt of the Manipuri words "Yumphal"; which means as "collection of houses"; it is situated in the centre of the oval shaped Manipur valley and almost intersected by 24 O N latitude, and 916 E longitude and it is 2,619 feet above the sea-level.

The "Kangla- the Royal palace of the Royal king is situated on the right bank of the Imphal rivers. Some notable/important rivers/streams which flows through "Imphal" are Nambul, Naga stream & Kongba rivers.

Before, describing the full text of the "Imphal" I hope it will be better to look back the topography of Manipur valley. How, the people of Manipur spend their lives; isolated from the outside world.

As Manipur is surrounded by rows of high range of hills. The communication system was so horrible and there was no roads connecting the outside world. Manipur except, "old-Cachar-road", that too was not in good shape, but simply a brindle path. How different and how unknown was India's North East frontier. That too had its mountains, but they were close woven cloak of jungle.

Still more difficult of access was a tiny Native state of Manipur and its chief-town, "Imphal", barely fifty miles from the Burmese border but divided from the central plain of that country not only by long skin of parallel mountain ranges with few footpaths, but also by rivers like the Chindwin and Irrawaddy.

Across the contour of a map. Manipur is four hundred miles from Calcutta; but the mere distances meant little for the journey was extremely ardous and prolonged.

Before, 1900 no roads capable of bearing wheeled traffic to Manipur and three brindle paths only linked the state with the outside world, the shortest track only linked running south-east to "Tammu" on the frontier with Burma was little used save by raiding armies, the second track came in from "Dimapur" and "Kohima" to the north most important was the path that crossed rivers and mountains passes for hundred and fifty miles westward till it reached Silchar the small capital of the neighbouring state of Cachar Assam" (History Today) Antony Brett-James).

So, it is quite clear that Manipur , "Imphal" the state capital was unknown to the outside world but after the 18th century, Manipur was known to the outside world; because Manipur for centuries owned an independent existence a like to its isolation between Assam and Burma and to the encircling hills.

Renowned Political Agent and able hill administrator Col. James Johnstone, describing "Imphal" in such a way, "the capital, "Imphal" as it existed formerly was a large mass of villages looking like a forest from the neighbouring height and covering about 15 sq miles".

Notable intelligent officer who worked during the colonial period, Capt. C.W. Dun, remarked in his celebrated book, Gazetter of Manipur; which runs as follows " estimated the size of "Imphal" was 6 miles from north to south and 4 miles from east to west"

The topography of Imphal of the 18th century described in such a way,
"on the northern side it touches on some low hills called Chingmeirong and running westwards is bounded by shallow lake (Lamphel pat) which is partly surrounded by a continuation hills, here called "Langol";

on which is grown a celebrated cane used for poles stick, notable the roads of Silchar, which enter the capital at a place called "Kook Keithel" (crow- Bazar)

going further south and sweeping round in an eastern direction is bounded by the plain of the Langthabal at the extremely of which lies the old capital,

here two rivers intersect (Lilong) and going further east, it is bounded by a lower slopes of the hills rising 2,500 feet above the valley (Nongmeiching Hill).

Then turning to the north & crossing two rivers, we come again to the places from which we started."

During 1944, Imphal was still a conglomeration of villages almost in goves of plantation trees and bamboos. At the present time, Imphal is bounded in the north and north-west by Chingmeirong and Langol hills but today into beautiful townships viz Game's village and Langol Housing Complex at the same time many Government Institutions like Dy Commissionor office, Central Agricultural University, Regional Institute of Medical Science, PDA Housing complex .

*Hijam Rajendra wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition) . This article was webcasted on November 23, 2010.

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