Some weeks ago an English translation of the Royal Chronicles of Manipur, “The Cheitharol Kumbaba”, was released in Delhi by the author, Nepram Bihari, a retired Meitei official from Imphal after patient translation from the old Meitei script as a labour of love. This is the unbroken chronicle of 76 Manipur kings from 33 A.D until Maharaja Bodhchandra, who acceded to India in 1949, passed away in 1955.
This makes Manipur one of the oldest kingdoms in India with a rich history and culture, a state that waxed and waned in size, subduing hill tribes like the Thangkuls, often partially conquering or being conquered by Ava (Burma) and receiving and sending embassies from and to Ava, China, Cambodia, Assam, Tripura and elsewhere. Vaishnavite missionaries from Nawadwip in Bengal converted the Meiteis from their ancient Sanamahi faith and Pamheiba, who adopted the name of Garibniwaz (1709-48) became the kingdom’s first Hindu ruler. Thereafter there were pilgrimages to and visits from Nawadwip and to “the Ganga” for holy baths. Manipuri culture flourished and the Lai Haroba and Ras Lila form the core of Manipuri dancing that constitutes one of the rich classical dance traditions of India to this day. All this was centred on Kangla, the palace, temple, theatre, library and fortress complex in central Imphal which the British occupied in 1893 and the Indian security forces followed suit, callously, for strategic reasons, until a few years ago. The Kangla is now being restored to its old glory.