Linthoi Chanu's "The Tales of Kanglei Throne"
The complete version of the formation of a divine kingdom
- Part 1 -

L Memo Singh *

Kanglei is a great name of antiquity of Manipur. It had emerged as a Kingdom in the 33 A.D. Two legendary figures, namely Chingkhong Poireiton and Nongda Lairen Pakhangba were the founders and civilizers of this Kingdom. Manipuris believe that Pakhangba was partially human and partially divine. During their time a civilization developed and it was dominating all the surrounding land masses. The main feature of this civilization was the concept of kingship. Nongda Lairen Pakhangba was coronated as the first king on the throne of Kanglei with the support of Chingkhong Poireiton. This concept of Kingship is the main theme of "The Tales of Kanglei Throne" written by Linthoi Chanu.

The publisher of the book is the Blue Rose Publisher and its distributor, the Blue Rose, Amazon, Flipkart, Shopelues and ISBN: 978-93-87538-49-8. The work was first published in December 2017. On 16th February, 2018 it was released at Auditorium Ibotombi Institute of Education, Kha Naorem Leikai, Canchipur with Prof. Nilima Bhagyabati, International Secretary General CTE, Dr. R.K. Sanajaoba Singh, Principal, Ibotombi Institute of Education and Dr. R.K. Nimai Singh, Retd. IAS as Chief Guest, President and Guest of Honour respectively.

The book has four chapters with the author's note, covering the time-space from the prehistory to the break-up of the seventh century. The first chapter is "Khamnung, The Under World"; the second, "The Serpent King"; the third, "The Colossal Bird" and the fourth, "The Exiled Prince". "The Tales of Kanglei Throne" carries the nature of narrative and fictionality of the historical, social and political affairs of the then Kanglei.

This work is completely innovative and informative even though such type of narration is not modern. Linthoi Chanu has picked up the fabulous, half fabulous myth or any other accounts that are available in Manipur as the sources to make the male and female characters of those sources actors of her fiction.

Some of them may be taken up for reference in the reading of this marvellous work as follows,
(1) Cheitharol Kumbaba : It is the royal chronology of the ruling clan of Manipur. Its entry begins with Pakhangba, the first king of the ruling clan.
(2) Ningthourol Lambuba : Besides Cheitharol Kumbaba, this book is the only source that gives us valuable information. In this text genealogical lines and activities of every queen are given. As most literary accounts of Manipur do, Ningthoural Lambuba give emphasis on the female lines. The text begins with the mother of Pakhangba. It gives the parentage of Pakhangba's mother, wife and so on.
(3) Poireiton Khunthok : This is an account of migration of Poireiton. The central theme of the text is that Poireiton under the instruction of Thongaren, the King of Khamnung, the land of the death migrated to this land with a horde of followers from their homeland.
(4) Leithak Leikharol, Pakhangba Phambal, Pakhangba Nongkarol, Panthoibi Khongkul, etc. Most of these accounts can support the first and the second accounts as stated above. Leithak Leikharol is compendium of legends, tradition and some historical accounts on cosmogeny, origin of the Meities and clans in Manipur.
(5) Chada Laihui : It is an account of the queens and their connection with rulers.
(6) Naothingkhong Phambal Kaba : It is an account of coronation of Naothingkhong.
(7) Moirang Ningthourol Lambuba : It is an account of Moirang Palace.

In addition to these accounts there are several other fables. All these sources are but history mixed with legends, imaginations and fables. Upto the fifteenth century A.D. the history of Manipur may be treated as unaccounted in view of division of the present history into two parts namely, the unaccounted period and the accounted period. In the words of Prof. Gangmumei the history of Manipur is also an outcome of the task of reconstruction of the past based on the sources of information categorized in three heads, indigenous literary sources, the archaeological evidences and foreigner accounts including the archival materials.

Linthoi Chanu's "The Tales of Kanglei Throne" is within the frame of the history of Manipur with the emphasis to characterize the male and female legendary figures of different legends of three successive rulers. Its first chapter, "Khamnung, the underworld is corresponding to the celebrated text, Poireiton Khunthok (Migration of Poireiton). This text deals with the adventures and colonizing mission of Poireiton who claimed the throne of Kanglei.

Linthoi Chanu is reproducing the substance of the text in her work. As usual, several questions arise as to the identity of Poireiton and the location of Khamnung. Some historians point that Poireiton is Iyuwa Chingkhong Poireiton Khonthang Atomba, a prince of Khamnung Sawa which had been identified with Kangla in Easter Tibet and Trijunction of Tibet, Burma and India. He was the younger brother of Thongaren, the king of Khamnung Sawa.

Some other historians put four possible places for considerations after their efforts to investigate where was Khamnung the "land of the death" namely,
(1) a place from within the eastern territory of ancient Manipur,
(2) some areas of Chin hills,
(3) some areas of eastern parts of Sylhet and
(4) some areas to the north of Hukong valley.

Some scholars also opine that in ancient times Kabaw valley was known as underworld and Meiteis used to take Khambat of Kabaw valley as Khamnung the "land of the death". However, Linthoi chanu without going in detail of the foregoing investigations continues her narration with the description of Khamnung as the "land of the death".

Poireiton under the instruction of his brother, king Thongaren took his journey of colonization mission to the upper world with his horde consisting of men, women, children, artisans, medicine men and priests, with different kinds of domestic animals, a complete team equipped for a long journey. W. Ibohal Singh, a noted scholar describes this upper world as Tai-pang-pan (the land of the human). King Thongaren asked his second wife Leima Leinaotabi to join the mission and she readily agreed to accompany Poireiton. Already principalities and kingdoms had existed in the valley of Kanglei before the coming of Poireiton. The older historical text like Pakhangba Nogkarol indicates that he was a contemporary of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba.

While narrating the account of Poireiton's journey of colonizing mission in the first chapter, Linthoi Chanu gives a new taste of the story. The secret love relation between Poireiton and Leima Leinaotabi has been disclosed in this chapter. Both of them were childhood friends. She was destined to be a concubine to the king Thongaral. But there was practice of marrying their own sister-in-laws among the tribes of Poireiton. So Thongarel gave his consent to the marriage of Poireiton and Leinaotabi, who had been in love with him as much as he loved her when they were young.

Leinaotabi had been so forceful in personality that she was belived to be a miracle. Being a powerful sorceress, she revealed her hidden plan and confessed the motif behind the journey. This idea of characterization of Leinaotabi in such a way is very much innovative in reading the journey of Poireiton's migration.

The second chapter deals with the account of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, who is described as the serpent king of Kanglei. There are several accounts available locally about the origin and parentage of Pakhangba. Almost all leterally accounts mystify the origin of Pakhangba. The leading historian, Prof. Gangmumei stated as such, "Nongda Lairen Pakhangba was a prince of mysterious origin.

Opinions regarding his origin and parentage range from being an Aryan prince from upper Burma to an adventurer, from the Brahmaputra valley or the Himalayas to divine incarnate to put an end to anarchy in the land or an illegitimate child of clan chief, made a ruler by his foster father'.

Linthoi Chanu has also presented a version with reference to the sources she collected quite different from those versions regarding the account of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba. Keeping her version so distinct apart from these sources, maintains that Pakhangba was the offspring of the creator of universe who remitted a heavenly girl, namely Nongda Nongkhal Lembi with the instructions to raise the son who would rule the divine kingdom. Lord Achiba Pureiromba the guardian of the North in disguise of a broad antler deer, Sangai surged out a gem from its mouth onto her opened palms.

Lembi brought the gem to the central valley where Chingkhong Poireiton was looking after the kingdom as a guardian in accordance with his agreement to follow the divine laws given to him and his wife Leinaotabi by gods. Lord Poireiton took care of both the maiden and the gem. On the first full moon night of Inga (June of English Calender), Thursday Lembi unrapped her gem and there she found a beautiful baby boy who was named Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, the celestial lord and son of the creator.

Pakhangba grew up under the care and affection of his mother Lembi who was determined not to disturb the young lord with all the divine links. One day when he was just seven years old, he found his body transformed into a coil golden scaly serpent body while he was enjoying the roaring water-falls and echoing caves. Amidst such an incredible situation, Achiba Kuru Sidaba the creator of the universe came and introduced himself as the father of Pakhangba.

In due course of interaction between the father and the son, Kuru Sidaba enlightened his son about his origin as well as duties and functions to be followed on his part to rule the divine kingdom. He cautioned his son that he could transform safely only once in a year, full moon night of Inga his birth month and any transfiguration away from this period would become fatal in the longrun. He further warned that so long as Pakhangba manipulated his body much, he might face extensive consequences.

Lastly, he suggested that his son had to chant his name three times in order to return to his human form. At the age of twenty-seven Pakhangba was betrothed with Princess Laisana, sister of Lord Poireiton and the marriage performed under the guardianship of Poireiton.

Nongda Lairen Pakhangba was an extraordinarily gifted ruler. He was in possession of satisfactory knowledge of statecraft. He had shown the high level of his awareness in the political, social, religious and cultural affairs and the connection of his background with a superior culture or civilization.

After having achieved his political objective of occupying the throne at Kangle covering the Mangang, Angom and Luwang clan territories and having defeated the Khabas and Nganbas, Pakhangba became the recognized head of the Ningthouja confederacy, only the Khumans and Moirangs remained out of the confederacy.

The greatest achievement of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba was the social consolidation of the different formidable and courageous ethnic groups and tribes. Queen Laisana knew her husband was no ordinary human and sometimes wondered what was half god and half human.

However, one day the transfiguration of King Pakhangba into the serpent body gave immense danger and threat to the life of the queen and after long struggle Pakhangba could recover his human form and with full of repentance apologized to his wife with the assurance that he would never let this happen again even though it had meant to end his existence. On hearing this, King of Moirang advised his beloved childhood friend and Lord to spend his transfiguring period in Loktak, the largest lake in the kingdom and return only when he attained his human form.

As regards the last days of Pakhangba the royal chronicles say that Nongda Lairen Pakhangba went to heaven giving a mystified end of his life. But some other texts have stated that a Khaba rebel named Huitao Tington Khaba Tousuba had assassinated Pakhangba.

According to another account, Pakhangba was conspired to be killed by his own son Khuiyoi Tompok with the machination of the Khaba. The heavenly rule of Pakhangba was a myth created by later writers. It is most likely that he was killed by the Khabas or by the conspiracy of the Khaba.

However, unlike these versions, Linthoi Chanu concluded the account of Pakhangba's last days in such a way that the Serpent King ruled the land when he was in human form and exiled himself to Loktak while he was in his divine form to avoid disasters . His wife grew aged gradually but he failed to grow old with her. Laisana departed for Khamnung peacefully, caressed by her beloved husband in her last moment.

Pakhangba wished no longer to live in the palace and quietly walked out of the gala at the night of his son's coronation ceremony. After months of search rumours began to reach Kangla about a gigantic monster serpent dwelling inside the great Loktak Lake which the local tribes called Paobiroi. Khuiyoi Tompok realized that his father would not be returning and that the great serpent found himself a place fit for his divine endeavours.

The third chapter is the account of King Khuiyoi Tompok and his royal family. The king married the Angom maiden Nongmainu Ahongbi. They had three children namely prince Yoimongba, prince Taothingmang, princess Lairoklembi. The account exposes the ability and deep insight of Khuiyoi Tompok to maintain kingship which was already given divine sanction. Being the son of the divine Serpent King, he was an ideal king and a paragon of energetic beneficence.

He protected not only his kingdom against external aggression, but also his subjects, their property and traditional custom against internal foes. He proclaimed that his subjects were his children and they were all equal. He took pride in his ceaseless activity. The two princes Yoimongba and Taothingmang were like their father. They had wisdom, action, adventure and skill which greatly benefited their kingdom.

In this chapter, Linthoi Chanu exhibits her skill of narration of three remarkable events such as dredging of the Imphal river and the Iril river, killing of the colossal bird and wrath of the Sky God.

Her narration in this regard has caught the attention and imagination of the Manipuris to understand their past. Her account in this chapter tells that the rulers of the kingdom were so dutybound and responsive to defend the kingdom and bring relief and welfare of the people. Prince Taothingmang was always faithful to his brother crown Prince Yoimongba. They loved each other so sincerely that Yoimongba abdicated the throne in favour of his younger brother, Taothingmang and had a mysterious end of life.

To be continued.....

* L Memo Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The wruter is a freelance writer & columnist and can be contacted at laishrammemosingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on June 05th, 2018.

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