Rising to the occasion
Developments at Langthabal Palace

Dr. Irengbam Mohendra Singh *

This is an English translation of an account of dreamy Langthabal in Manipuri by Mutuwa Bahadur, which I am lucky to find in a pamphlet in my library, during this difficult time the lockdown has brought with it. I do this for the benefit of my son Neil who has keen interest in the history of Manipur, and other Manipuri youngsters of similar bent.

Before I begin I would like to pay my appreciation though living far away, to those doctors and nurses, other key workers and thousands of Manipuri women daily wage earners, as they face the new brave world with an unusual uncertainty of life. Calm determination prevailed among Manipuris both in the hills and the valley as events unfolded.

On this 1st May 2020, we're in survival mode, 'fight or flight' in the battle with a deadly and previously unknown enemy Covid-19. Lockdown is the only weapon to handle this global pandemic. While CM Biren and his minsters are grappling with many shortcomings of the lockdown, I would urge some people on the media, to shy away from contradictory solutions based on one-size-fits-all policies.

With a dramatic change in our lives brought on by this new coronavirus threat in the last few weeks and the realisation that older people like me, and anybody over 70, are more vulnerable to succumb, has brought our age into sharp focus. This has led to more renewed contact with long time trusted friends, sending each other hilarious quotations and songs to amuse each other in our home confinement.

 DNA is a double-strand molecule that twist against each other like a spiral staircase (called the double helix of chromosome) while RNA (messenger of generic code) is a single strand molecule. A chromosome is made of DNA molecules. A gene is a length of DNA in the chromosome.
DNA is a double-strand molecule that twist against each other like a spiral staircase (called the double helix of chromosome) while RNA (messenger of generic code) is a single strand molecule. A chromosome is made of DNA molecules. A gene is a length of DNA in the chromosome.

Coronavirus like any other virus, is not a living organism. They are not creepy-crawly. They don't eat us up. As they are lifeless DNA protein molecules they cannot be killed. They do disintegrate depending on the temperature, humidity and type of material where they lie.

For example, they can live for 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastics and steel. They don't survive on newspapers due to ink and printing. They are covered with a layer of fat, which makes them dissolve in the mucous membranes of eyes, nose and throat. The fat coating disintegrates by the foam of a soap that cuts into the fat with vigorous rubbing for at least 20 seconds.

These DNA virus molecules, when locked on to suitable "receptors" on the cell walls of the victim, such as humans, with their attached appendages, shed their messenger RNA inside the victim's cells. There, the RNA replicates producing innumerable similar DNA molecules. Ultimately they burst the cell and attack other cells.

Covid-19-virus [Corona Virus Disease-2019]. The virus was first reported to WHO by the Chinese on December 31 2019 as a new (novel) strain. In a severe infection, these viruses attack the lung cells and by destroying them they starve the patient of oxygen. It's like dropping someone on top of Mt Everest from a helicopter. It can be diagnosed simply by attaching a small pulse oximeter to the tip of your finger to measure the oxygen content of blood. Pulse oximeter is now selling like hot dogs in America for $20 apiece.


Langthabal [present Canchipur] is situated south of Imphal City on the National Highway 39 or Indo-Myanmar road. It occupies a very meaningful place in the history of Manipur. The visible landscape of the present Manipur University (Manipur Taibang Maheirol) was once the palace of Manipur.

Canchipur was the Palace of Shreejut Bhagyachandra Maharaja from 1779-1796 CE [17 years].

Gambhir Singh, a son of Bhagyachandra, ruled Manipur from this Palace from 1825 to 1834 CE. He was succeeded by his son Ningthem Pishak ChandraKriti Maharaja, who ruled Manipur from this Palace from 1833 to 1843 CE [10 years]. From 1843 to Kalen [June-July] 19 1844 CE, Narasingh ruled Manipur from this Palace.

  Modest tomb [Samadhi] of Maharaja Gambhir Singh somewhere in Langthabal
Modest tomb [Samadhi] of Maharaja Gambhir Singh somewhere in Langthabal

Although the time span of Langthabal as the Palace of four kings, not only for Maharajas Bhagyachandra and Gambhir Singh but also for Maharajas Chandrakriti and Narasingh. Though short, Langthabal was once the capital of Manipur.

Canchipur was previously known as Langthabal. There are two independent differing hand-written records why the place was called Langthabal. One story goes: long years ago, a man from Thangnga kambong married a Saloi langmai woman named Kaileima khunthungdabi after paying a tribute. When the people of Saloi langmai later went to Thangnga Kambong to collect the rest of the tribute, they came across a trap lying on the road. They thus named the place Lang-Ta- Pal.

There is another version. When Maichous set up a net, it caught many lais that did not pay tribute. It was thus named Langthaban, meaning a place where lais can be netted. Both these records mention that before it was named Langthabal, it was known as Thonglen Taibi.

It was Bhagyachandra Maharaja who named it Canchipur. He was thus known as Canchipureswar (Lord of Canchipur). A metal plate (Chandrabad 1000 thick) found in the village of Chothe has Bhgyachandra Maharaja's name engraved with the title Canchipureswar.

During the reign of Bhagyachandra Maharaja, Manipur was repeatedly invaded by Awa and he was eventually defeated. During these frequent wars, Bhagyachandra Maharaja kept moving his residence with his followers to different places. To begin with, he stayed for a while at Sangaithel in 1757. Then he moved to Lamangdong. From there he came back to Langthabal on Tuesday, Kalen 3, 1779.

There is a detailed record in Ningthourel Lambuba written in old Meiteilon, of how Bhagyachandra Maharaja had a Theibong (jackfruit) tree felled at Kaina, and had it carved in the likeness of Govinda and then it was hallowed with a display of Jagoi Rasa: (See below). I have not tried to translate it as my rendition will lose the beauty of this rich 'old Manipuri' literary prose.

Meidingu loinai chingthankhomba sana khada madairem ningthou leikoisembashingna paohomjakhi.
Meidingngu korou iningthou taibang soraleno!
Lamlen Langthabal sana yaikoinungda thamlaba pamel,
theibong nungchanbadi korou nunga meina unung thitna makangle.
Iningthou, unabi pukthungna govinda murti sanasenbabu yaragani.
Asum paukatlabada bhakhta madairem changkhonba Meidingu loinai chingthamkhomba
unabee pukning hekngai mapau chauna ningkhallabagi madarem changkhonba
meidingngu loinai chingthamkhomba unabi pukning hekngai mapau chauna
ningkhatlabagee madairem urung khutheiba miyatpam-cha lokhonbu achen khonglei yauna paukouhalluia.
Meidinguna lamlen lamangtok lamdadagee pun,
Langthabal sana yaikonnung nungngaibada korou adu nongdabu waithunglak-a...
yoibu masanou ngangbam chanu harimatina Jagoi makok chingle,
tampha wangulon bimbabatina thouranee saduna rasleela mapung fanaba tamhalle.

Cheitharol Kumbaba also records that Maibam Chakrapani - in the [Manipuri] year 1701 (1779 CE), on the 11th day of Hiyangei, Friday, a Ras Lila performance was staged at a large space in Canchipur and in the middle of this area, Shree Gobinda was consecrated. The Ras Lila continued to perform for 5 days.

During the 17 years of Bhagyachandra Maharaja's reign from Canchipur many developmental works were carried out. Various roads and bridges were constructed. The Chandranadi River of Langthabal was dug up during his time. It courses through Chajing, Kakyam and others. On the bank of this river, and on the north side of the present Girls' Hostel [Manipur University], a bathroom for Gobinda was constructed.

Langthabal has indeed, a very close association with the cultural history of Manipur. For, it was then, an important centre for cultural synthesis. Gambheer Singh Maharaja was born at the Langthabal Palace.

During the reign of Marjit, a son of Bhagyachandra Maharaja [from the Langthabal Palace], Manipur was invaded by the Awa. Manipuris were crushed with such terrifying devastation of the land, which had never occurred in Manipur's history. The destruction and annihilation that went on from 1819 to 1826 were so horrific that Manipuris still remember it as "Seven Years' Devastation".

  186th Death Anniversary of Maharaj Gambjir Singh was celebrated on January 9 2020 at his Samadhi in Langthabal. CM N Biren is seen offering flowers
186th Death Anniversary of Maharaj Gambjir Singh was celebrated on January 9 2020 at his Samadhi in Langthabal. CM N Biren is seen offering flowers

In 1825 Gambhir Singh became the king of Manipur. He defeated the garrisons of the Awa Army stationed in Manipur, and drove them back across the Ninghtie Turel (Chindwin River).

On February 24 1826, the Treaty of Yandabo was signed between the Burmese and the British, by which the Awa had to recognise Gambhir Singh as the sovereign king of Manipur. [The Treaty of Yandabo was signed by Gen Campbell on behalf of the British East India Company and by Maha Min Hla Kyaw on behalf of the Burmese. Among the few articles of the Treaty, it was agreed that the Government of Ava recognise the independence of Manipur. Ava or Awa in Manipuri, was the capital of upper Burma for nearly two centuries until it was ended by King Taungoo, who conquered it in 1555.

The city was located on the left bank of the Irrawaddy River, about 21 km south of Mandalay. The ancient Buddhist monastery called Bagaya Monastery made of timber, built in the 1770s, was still intact (not destroyed by the earthquake in 1939) when I visited it a few years ago].

In the year of 1827 Gambhir Singh shifted his palace from Lamangdong to Langthabal. He reigned from there for 7 years. During his reign he made further developments to the Langthabal Palace, by constructing various buildings and temples with brick and mortar.

There is a statement made by Johnstone Sahib in respect of Langthabal palace: "During the short period of Gambhir Singh's sovereignty he made many positive changes, such as constructing many roads and bridges as well as many beautiful buildings. It was delightful to see those construction works, but most of which had been destroyed and buried by the great earthquakes of 1869 and 1880."

Today, only a few vestiges tell the story. There are a few derelict places that can still be seen. Mention mar be made of the ruins of the northern Royal Gate that is situated near the Haomacha pukhri (Haomacha pond). The present existing remains of the buildings on top of the hillock are the temples of Radhamohaji and Jagmohan, which were constructed during the reign of Churachand Maharaja (1891-1941 CE). Also other structures such as the Royal Gate that were built by Bodh Chandra Maharaja (1941-1955) can also be seen.

If you look closely you will be able to picture the virtual Palace of Langthabal in your eyes from the following relics. The moat on the eastern side of the palace still exists as it was, on the eastern side of the Indo-Myanmar Road. There used to be boat races in this moat. The old canals on the northern and northeast sides, as well as canals and rivers towards Koubru [northwest] and the west of the palace are still existent. The moats all around the palace filled with water were constructed by Meitei kings to defend against the invaders.

The royal residence was located in the area extending from the front of the hill and to the back of the present Manipur University girls' hostel and just south of the Haomacha pond and the mango tree. A few years ago, the Manipur state archaeology department began an excavation when they found the foundation plan of the Royal residence laid in bricks, and an underground tunnel. These are now protected by the Manipur Government.

The old map of the Langthabal Palace shows the existence of dwelling houses of the Queen and other Royal ladies located on the southern area of the King's Residence. And in the area round the present university guest houses there were rows of buildings, such as Govinda mandap and beithop, along with the quarters of king's courtiers and bodyguards. Towards the western side of the ruins of the Royal gate there was the quarter of Asheiba [asheiba loishang]. On the north side of the Palace were the lodgings of ahallup, naharup shanglen maiba, cheirap, khapham shanglen, pana shangsharoi and so forth.

The hill in the rear of the royal residence had an artificial tunnel. The cave is about 77 cm wide and extended up gradually towards the top of the hill. The brickwork of the mouth of the tunnel still exists like a drain. There is a write-up about this cave in the Cheitharol Kumbaba.

In sakabda 1755 (1883 CE) 11, Friday, Shreejut Maharaja dug up a cave lined with bricks, for him to worship in the gorge of Langthabal Hill. Gambhir Singh Maharaja passed away in 1834 CE, when Chandrakriti Maharaja was only 2 years old. Chandrakirti became the infant king with Narasingh as his regent. But on Thursday, the 19th morning of the month of wakching [Jan-Feb] of 1843, Narasingh ascended the throne and reigned for about four months from Langthabal. Then on Monday, 19 of Shajibu [April] 1766 CE he shifted his Palace to Kangla.

Narasingh made his residence on the west side of Lilaha khong, where now the administrative building of Manipur University and adjoining areas in its west side are located. Narasingh's residence was surrounded all around by two moats and two earth walls. Some remnants the two walls are still visible. By the side of the residential building of Narasingh there was the temple of Brindabanchandra as well as a pond. The pond still exists.

What we can see now, are a few bits and bats of the historical ruins of the Langthabal palace, such as the remnants of the Royal Gate, the foundation lay out of royal residence, the cave, and the brick-built entrance of the hidden cave up the hill, Govinda's bathing place, the moats, Radharomonji temple on top of the hill, Jagamohan, the Royal Gate, ruins of the walls that surrounded Narasingha's residence, Narasingh's pond, Gambhir Singh's monument, Haomacha pond, Apanbi pond, Ras mandal pond, so on and so forth.

Govinda's bathing place.
There were brickwork debris of Govinda's bathing place just to the northeast of the present Girls' Hostel [university]. It was roughly 1.42m wide and about 3m long. Now most of them are gone.

The ruins of Gambhir Singh's brick-built Royal Gate.
The architecture of this Royal Gate has some expression of Islamic architecture. The Royal Gate is about 13m high, 16m long and 8m wide. Its wall is about 150m thick and is engraved with various intricate floral designs. They are similar to the designs incorporated in the buildings, such as that of Lainingthou Nongpok, Pakhangba and Jumjao Lairemba. They are also similar to the engravings on Meitei temples. To the front of this Royal Gate one can still see the broken bits of the two large Sha (dragons).

Residential House, cave or Tunnel.
Though many of the ground plans of houses are not available, one has come to light. It is an area on the north side. It is 650 m wide, and 13 m long. This house has a cave or tunnel that is 20m long from north to south, 82m wide and 154m deep. It has steps built in to go down on its northern side.

Haomacha pond and Apanbee pond.
These ponds are situated at the back Royal Gate. It has uneven breaths with 111m long in the north and 112m in the south, and about 83m in the north and south. Apanbee pond has 39m long in the north and 68m in the south with a width of about 38m in the east and west.

Rasmandal Pond and Rasmandal (Dancing Hall).
Rasmandal Pond is a big one located right in front of the hill. This pond has a width of 76m in the north and 77 m in the south. It has a length of 82m in the west and 80m in the east. Adjoining the pond and in its south, there was the Rasmandal. It was structured on a round and raised platform of soil with a diameter of 15m. Inside this rounded Rasmandal there was a small rounded elevation about 90cm in width, where the idol of Govinda was placed during the Ras dance. Now the place has vegetation such as plantain trees. There was a brick-built temple.

The residence of Narasingh Maharaja. The residence of Narasingh Maharaja was enclosed by two rows of earth embankments. These walls were surrounded by two moats. Even now some of the ruins of the embankments on the southern, front and western sides are visible. The wall at its base is about 10m deep, while moat is about 11m wide. The distance between the inner moat and the earth embankment is about 46m. Narasingh Maharaja's residential compound inside the enclosure of the inner wall covers an area of 426.706 Sq m. A pond that was existent at the time of Narasingh Maharaja can still be seen. This pond is 18m wide and 28m long.

Radhamohan Temple and Jagamohan.
Churachand Maharaja built the Radhamohan Temple and Jagamohan on top of the hill. This temple is now in good shape. The base of this Radhamohan Temple is 7m long and 6.50m wide. Jagamohan is 19m long and 6m wide.

Gambhir Singh's tomb (Samadhi)
Gambhir Singh's tomb is situated towards the southeast side of the Palace and facing east. The tomb is about 1.62 m tall. And the roof is blended to the wall in the shape of a Vaishnavite monk's cap. There are no decorative designs. On the top of the roof there is a kalasa (pitcher). It was based on the Bengali Char-chala hut (four eaves or roofs either square or rectangular Bengali temple architecture in the form of a hut). See photo above.


If we look at the whole scenario, this place called Langthabal, is one of the most significant regions in the history of Manipur. This is a territory where many important cultural events in the history of Manipur took place. Some of the existing ruins and historical places that are still surviving should be preserved as precious national treasures.

On the other hand, some areas and artefacts now, seem to be protected as being of architectural and of historical importance by the Manipur Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1976. Among them are the Rasmandal Pond (1.58 acre in 1981), Apanbi Pond, Haomacha Pond and Royal Gate (8.13 acre, 1981), Langthabal hill (2286 acre, 1981), Gambhir Singh's tomb (1326.96 sq m. March 31, 1980), the foundation of Gambhir Maharaja's residence (379607m wide, 1993) and so on.

Unfortunately, even though they are supposed to be protected by the Manipur government, there are encroachments in some area, levelling the ground. It is requested that the Rasmandal, the Puja area of the temple, the areas where Narasingh lived and Govinda's bathing place be protected as a matter of urgency.

Lastly, my sincere wish is that, in consultation between the government of Manipur and the authorities of Manipur University, a footpath may be constructed for those visitors who come to see theses ruins and monuments.


INSCRIPTIONS (Informatory annotations)

"Meidingu [king] Narasingh was the great grandson of Meidingu Pamheiba [titled Gharib Nawaz, meaning kind to the poor] (1709-1748). He was regarded as the epitome of courage, patriotism, generosity and sacrifice. Then, after an abortive attempt to assassinate him that led to [Chandrakriti's mother] Queen Kumodini flee Manipur to Cachar, taking her son, he became the king of Manipur in 1844. He was an able administrator. He laid the foundation of a new Manipur, bringing all communities together. He is indeed a glorious son of Manipur."

"Herachandra, the son of king Labynachandra (1798-1800), was the only dedicated personality of the period of the 'Seven Years Devastation' (1819-1826), who tried vehemently to save the lives of common people from the clutches of the Burmese army. With the help of a few dedicated followers he ran roughshod over the Burmese in Manipur by using guerrilla warfare. He was a great dedicated nationalist, who tried to protect the nationalist spirit of the Manipuri people, a symbol of sacrifice for the cause of his motherland and a great contributor to the process for the reconstruction of a new Manipur."


This article was published by the State Archaeology, Art & Culture Department, Government of Manipur, Imphal, on the occasion of the 175th memorial function of Maharaja Gambhir Singh. No date was written on the booklet.

* Dr. Irengbam Mohendra Singh wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at irengbammsingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com and Website:
This article was webcasted on April 30 2020.

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  • Pallel & Kakching Keithel : Gallery
  • Tangkhul Forum vegetable for valley: Gallery
  • Items distributed to Tarao -Apr 23 #2: Gallery
  • Covid-19: Impact in Manipur :: Photos/News..
  • Language affinity betn Meiteis & Tangkhuls
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