Manipuri Pony : A Cavalry Horse Par Excellence
- Part 2 -

Moirangthem Shantikumar Singh *

'Save Manipuri Pony Awareness Procession' : Flagged off from Pony Breeding Farm, Lamphelpat :: 28 September 2014
'Save Manipuri Pony Awareness Procession' at Pony Breeding Farm, Lamphelpat in September 2014 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

The saga of Manipur cavalry with a chronicled time line starts with the advent of Khagemba at Kabaw Kyangkhampat in 1470, reaches the pinnacle with the lightening sack of Sagaing by Garibniwaz in 1738 and ends with the treaty of Yandaboo in 1826. Khagemba's equine experience starts with Mayang Lan his battle with Muslim mercenaries of Bengal who were in the service of the king of Cachar. The captured Muslim mercenaries included grooms and riders who were made to settle down in Manipur.

The stories of Pangal Sagonsenba (Muslim Groom) and Pangal Sajikphaba (Muslim Grass Cutter) are very common in Manipuri folk tales. Now the king's stable had expert grooms and trainers. The king's mounts were watched very closely by the men assigned to look after the ponies Sagolsenba, the grooms, but the majority of the horses in the king's cavalry were not so lucky.

Taken from farms and fields all over Manipur, the majority of the war ponies had never been further away than the Mapan Kangjeibung, Manung Kangjeibung and various grazing grounds in Manipur. However, with the increase in frequency of cavalry exploits in Burma and Cachar the number of veterans among war ponies increased like their master.

The personal mount of the kings like Kartik Thaja of Raja Nara Singh was given special status as Sagon Yaisa with prescribed rituals. Kartik was already a war hero having seen conflict in several battlefields proudly carrying his master, the brave King Narsingh, on his back: the horse was made of the same fibres as his owner.

Alaungpaya's treatment of Manipuris during the period of "Seven Years Devastation" was extremely brutal; but "he was only doing unto his people" Burmese historians write. Notwithstanding the probable jaundiced view point on any chauvinistic historian, the records say that the exploits of the Manipuri kings in their external ventures had always been ruthless and unsparing.

The kingdom of Manipur was a tiny state with a miniscule population compared to its adversaries like Burma and other surrounding neighbours. What it lacked in size and number had to be compensated with swiftness and intensity.

GE Harvey writes, "Living in an obscure valley, knowing nothing of the outer world, they thought themselves heroes, able to take their pleasure of Burma when they willed. They did not realise that Burma was several times the size of their country, that they were laying up for themselves a frightful vengeance (Seven Years' Devastation) and the only reason vengeance seemed never to come was that Burma happened to be under an incapable king".

Earlier, Raja Charairongba, father of Garibniwaz had presented one of his daughters in marriage to a Burman King. Garibniwaz suspected that the princess was not well treated. In 1724, the king said he would present another girl to provide company for the one presented earlier. But when three hundred lords, ladies and attendants from the Ava Court came to escort her at the mouth of the Yu River in the upper Chindwin district, not far from Tammu, they were met not by a tame princess but by wild horsemen who carried them as captives into Manipur.

Cheitharol Kumbaba, the Royal Chronicle records graphically, "...Manipuris swiftly moved closer to the garrison and hand-to-hand fight started near the stockade; 10 men including Thangsaba Hidang Khagokpa, succumbed to the musket shots. Inside the forest, 90 men and 10 women who came to escort the princess were captured by Khullakpa's party on the bank of the River".

The Burmese expedition sent in revenge was ambushed at Heirok and captured 157 Burmans with 160 muscats and 10 horses. The survivors retreated back to Burma. Thus, continuously for decades, Manipur caralry became the terror of Burma. In 1738 Sagaing was completely devastated when the Manipuri King "burnt every house and monastery up to the walls of Ava, and stormed the stockade built to protect the Kaunghmudaw Pagoda at Sagaing).

They slaughtered the garrison like sheep in a pen and killed the commandant, a minister of the Hluttaw Council; the old door-leaves of the pagoda's easter gateway show a gash made by the sword of Gharib Newas when he was forcing an entrance." The famous sword mark on the door of the pagoda was an much a testimony to the high potential of these legendary Ponies as to the valoour of thier masters.

Garibniwaz's cavalry-mount was completely fearless and invincible. All the more noticeable in the ponies was what the jungle-war veterans often call, a built-in "wood-sense" of the breed. It defines how the ponies develop a natural way of traversing water obstacles and swamps without panicking or getting stuck in the mud.

If a horse panics in water, then it is not a complete war horse. Having expereinced the swamps in the valley of Manipur, the ponies were deterred neither by the tropical rain of Burma nor by the torrential streams crisscrossing the Indo-Burma border.

The scrambling in a melee in the polo field taught the ponies and thier armed riders to be alert and quick-witted during a cavalry charge. The scene could be graphically visualised when the young warrior King Garibiniwaz stormed Sagaing on the advice of his royal Hindu priests in the first decade of the 18th century.

In the thick jungle of Kabaw valley, the puddles and pools of water could be laying on top of the ground until they were trodden into sludge by the thousands of hooves when the trial of warriors and horses were passing through. Yes, soemtimes the monsoon wind battered the rain against the pony's flanks and the hill tracks blurred under the swell of so much water.

The Burmese war of 1824-26 was the last battle which the Manipuri cavalry had to engage in the field, outside Manipur boundary. With the establishment of a Political Agency in Manipur, the British had virtually taken charge of the security of the "native state" and the British had rviewed the positional relevancy of the cavalry.

Still, Pemberton complained in 1835, "[t]hat cavalry were of little or no use on the eastern frontier....(is a) mistaken impression." He said that it was the Manipuri Cavalry that saved the day when the British forces under Lieutenant Brooke faced a strong Burmese offensive at Rangpur, Assam, Manipur had a regular cavalry stenth of 100 at that time.

Time changes, Manipur is no longer a stand-alone sovereign state requiring a cavalry for the war front. Moreover, mechanisation and motorisation has changed the mounts from horse to tracked and whelled vehicles, through the missions of reconnaissance and security remain the same.

We have polo to be pursued in the traditional style of the game when the height limit of the mount was restricted at 13.2 hh. Like the international games of tennis which are played at the grass, clay and hard courts to suit the veritable tastes and aptitudes of individuals and nations, we can have separate formats of pony-polo and horse-polo to add to the variety of the sport; and help preseve the ancient gene pool of the original Polo pony for the future of mankind.

By providence we have the heritage Manipuri Pony in our midst with a minuscule population of less than 1000, as a vestige of the bygone era and a relic of the past. The heritage Manipur Pony is a symbol of our society's cultural entity, the indelible part of our heritage and a precious link with our past.

Can we give the Manipur Pony a place under the sun before it slides into extinction?


* Moirangthem Shantikumar Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was posted on June 08, 2018.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Tribal Cultural Festival #2 : Gallery
  • Let's talk about our children today
  • A blow to image boosting
  • Fear and Superstition
  • Latrine :: Poem
  • Letter to JS-MHRD from MUTA
  • JS-MHRD did not meet with MUTA
  • Drawing on Energy Efficiency
  • MU impasse: Attention Mr. Prime Minister
  • Admission time : Sky high cut off
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #2 : Gallery
  • Yoga Day: Celebrating Your Health
  • Chak-hao - black gold of Manipur
  • In response to the culture of shaming
  • 3rd Documentor Imphal
  • 4th International Day of Yoga by AR
  • Appeals for Resolution of MU Crisis
  • Recommendation to control Flood damages
  • International Yoga Day at Loktak PS
  • After Flood : Introspection about the future
  • MUSU & JAC : Hot issues before the Govt
  • Zeliangrong orphaned by Nationalism #2
  • General Thangal Eco Park : Gallery
  • Letter to President on Crisis at MU
  • Precision medicine & life sciences
  • Black topping-can ground leveling be behind
  • Condemns security force intrusion in MU
  • Developer wanted at LMP, Konjeng Leikai
  • AR gears up for International Yoga Day
  • NPF rejoinder to NDPP : 20 June
  • Rejoinder by Dr. Shurhozelie : 20 June
  • For a little bit more
  • Deadline of 5 days time set : MU crisis
  • Garlic Festival @Ukhrul #4 :: Gallery
  • Flood in Imphal [14 June] #3 : Gallery
  • Inungshi, Gaichanglungliu :: eMing
  • Taking 'Hau' Music to Rest of World
  • Kakching bags cleanest city in NE Award
  • JRF (Junior Research Fellow) at IBSD
  • Oxfam India launches emergency response
  • VC, MU - Resign immediately :: MUTA
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Translation of ancient Manipur texts begin
  • Pre Yoga Capsule organized
  • NDPP Rejoinder on 19 June
  • NPF Youth Wing Rejoinder on 19 June
  • Favouring digital govt : still a Virtual dream
  • June 18 Anniv : Consult all stakeholders
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #1 : Gallery
  • Binota Thokchom at BRICS Young Scientist
  • The Merger of Manipur
  • Improving school management in Manipur
  • Pros & cons of screening tests
  • NPF Rejoinder on 18th June
  • Nagaland CM statement on Aboi ambush
  • June 18 significance: Still living on prayer
  • Need to identify one's strength
  • 18 Immortal Souls Remembered : Flash
  • The Great June Uprising : Read all about it
  • The Pitfalls of Identity Politics
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • All his sons :: Poem
  • Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
  • Eid bring cheer in flood hit areas
  • Willong Khullen, Maram #1 : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Defending the environmental defenders
  • Delusion in self - cause of worry
  • Road to Russia: FIFA World Cup
  • It must be love :: Poem
  • 'Future of Naga people is bleak'
  • Give a miss call to Amnesty
  • 'Naga area' bandh on June 18
  • Dzuko valley #4 :: 360 Panorama View
  • Flood in Imphal [14 June] #2 : Gallery
  • Id-Ul-Fitr Festival
  • Letter to PM Modi on Naga Talks
  • Greetings on Eid-Ul-Fitr
  • Rejoinder to NPF statement
  • Rejoinder to Nagaland Chief Minister
  • Flood relief continue on 3rd day
  • India-Vietnam Youth Dialogue 2018
  • MU debacle: Why would it be left unnoticed
  • Spirit of World Cup : Brazil to Russia
  • NEC to come under Home Ministry
  • Manipur NGO hosts summit on LGBTQ
  • Flood in Imphal [14 June] #1 : Gallery
  • Women Struggle in Self-Determination
  • 14 June- World Blood Donor Day
  • Naga Integration not possible- NPF react
  • Naga Integration is not possible- CM Rio
  • Relief work in flood affected areas
  • A day which keeps our spirit alive
  • Ranked 320 in the country : MU
  • Flood in Imphal [13 June] #2 : Gallery
  • Sovereignty Struggles in Northeast #5
  • Be alert: It's admission time
  • Yin and Yang
  • Watermelon beauty benefits
  • Temp accommodation for Aligarh students
  • Wrath of Mother Nature: Why challenge..
  • 60 pc is no longer first class : 95 pc
  • Flood in Imphal [13 June] #1 : Gallery
  • Sanamahi Laihui & Sanamahi Laining
  • Kuhi- Essential plant for Nungbi pottery
  • Climate justice is integral to development
  • The bridge :: Poem
  • Lt S Vijaya Devi felicitated
  • Then : Indifferent :: Now : Hyper sensitive
  • Phumdigi Tantha : Dance Drama : Gallery
  • Grief at Xavier Rutsa's demise
  • Modi's India: A descend into Ochlocracy
  • The Philippine Experience
  • Cry of a Dying River #33 :: Poem
  • Community Iftar at Moijing, Cachar
  • Candle Light at DU over Assam lynching
  • Demand replacement of Manipur Univ VC
  • The Tragedy of Higher education
  • Unacceptable points spelt out
  • Teinem Luira Phanit @Ukhrul #3: Gallery
  • RPL-PMKVY trainees @Hojai : Gallery
  • Manipur Sports University in UP ?
  • Coloniality of the Postcolonial
  • Yellow leaves in the autumn :: Poem
  • Prof N Irabanta-distinguished academician
  • Leadership matters
  • Artificial turf for budding talents
  • 2 municipal bodies in NE awarded
  • Who is Arambam Somorendra ?
  • Manglandasu Nang - OST :: e-pao Radio
  • Shirock 2018 - Shirui Lily Fest #3 : Gallery
  • Linthoi's "The Tales of Kanglei Throne" #2
  • Grass root challenge- Education in hills
  • Earth does not belong to us...
  • Sita Mata as test-tube baby
  • What happen to VIP Culture Mr. CM
  • Merchants of education
  • Laitonjam Rajnikanta : Profile
  • A blessing to see :: Poem
  • Sovereignty Struggles in Northeast #4
  • Difference between Hinduism & Hindutva
  • How to choose the perfect fragrance
  • Iftaar party at Lilong
  • Bitter truth of Manipuri society
  • MU, NSU, IGNTU : Students at the centre
  • Amuktang-Ga Haikho #1 : eRang
  • Sangai Veterans' Football #2 : Gallery
  • Pony : A Cavalry Horse Par Excellence #2
  • Issues that keep Manipur burning
  • Cry of a Dying River - 32 :: Poem
  • CM & AR interaction with villagers
  • Certification of PMKVY trainees of Hojai
  • Christian appeals for Peace in Shillong
  • How safe are our women?
  • Riders put up by JAC for talk
  • Khangkhui Cave in Ukhrul #3 : Gallery
  • Pluralism, Democracy & Ethnic Relation #2
  • Irom Sharmila meets with Mehbooba Mufti
  • JRF @ Mizoram University (Biotechnology)
  • Tobacco and heart disease
  • Understanding SOWA - RIGPA #2
  • Campaign "to End Child Sexual Abuse"
  • Implementation of 7th Pay
  • Indigenous street vendor sing gi wafam
  • The crumbling Manipur University
  • Kang Tournament @ Yaiskul : Gallery
  • Zeliangrong orphaned by Nationalism #1
  • A rainy night :: Poem
  • HSLC Exam is the start! What next?
  • 1528 cases of fake encounter
  • Linthoi's "The Tales of Kanglei Throne" #1
  • Handloom Weaver @Bishnupur : Gallery
  • Shirock 2018 - Shirui Lily Fest #2 : Gallery
  • Hinduism in Manipur : Political Perspective
  • All the World and his Wife :: Poem
  • Tribal Cultural Festival #1 : Gallery
  • Women in CCpur turn to self-help groups
  • Purul Paoki Wrestling : Gallery
  • Sangai Veterans' Football #1 : Gallery
  • Khangminashi IV (Lecture) : Report
  • Seminar at MU - Hinduism in Manipur'
  • Evolution of The Meetei State
  • Heartbreak at Ukhrul: Unfolding Shirock
  • State Level Khurpui-Lam Festival: Gallery
  • June Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • School Girls Basketball #2 : Gallery
  • Where is Manipur....???
  • 'Manipur' in Google maps : Gallery
  • The Killing Fields - 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Mama Poktabi :: Funga Wari
  • Veterans Football Tournament #2 : Gallery
  • Shirock 2018 - Shirui Lily Fest #1 : Gallery
  • Sougrakpam Vijaya makes history sailing...
  • Arunachali unfurled Salai Taret at Mt Everest
  • Panthoiba: 2nd Rank- class XII, Uttarkhand
  • Ras Leela @JNMDA Day : Gallery
  • HSLC 208 Exam Toppers : Gallery
  • HSLC 2018 :: Toppers Listing
  • HSLC 2018 :: Check Result
  • HSLC :: Statistical/Subject Topper
  • HSLC 2018 :: External
  • Poumai Purul Hiimai Paoki #2 : Gallery
  • Kakching Garden :: 360 Panorama View
  • Folk Dance Festival #5 : Gallery
  • Aerial view from Chingmeirong : Gallery
  • Curtain Raising- Sangai Fest 2017: Gallery
  • Lainingthou Lai Lam thopka #2 : Gallery
  • Re-visiting Khangkhui caves in Ukhrul
  • Gardening @Ema Keithel #2: Gallery
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #2: Gallery
  • Pakhangba Cheng Hongba #2 : Gallery
  • Steelheart @ Shirock , Ukhrul #3 : Gallery
  • A. Halim Chowdhury: A Profile
  • Class XII Exam Toppers : Gallery
  • Class XII Result : Science Toppers
  • Class XII Result : Arts Toppers
  • Class XII Result : Commerce Toppers
  • HSE Result 2018 : District Wise
  • HSE Result 2018 : Highest Marks
  • HSE Result 2018 : Science Stream
  • HSE Result 2018 : Arts Stream
  • HSE Result 2018 : Commerce Stream
  • Temples of Manipur : Gallery
  • Recipients of Akademi Awards for 2014
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic