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The Historical, Archaeological, Religious & Cultural Significance Of 'Kangla': The Ancient Citadel Of Manipur

Pandit N.Khelchandra Singh

4. Coronation at `Kangla Men':

The more respectful alternative to address the king is to refer to the Phambal Minghul or the coronation name derived from whatever the king would catch or conquer at the traditional Phambal Lal, "an excursion of the king before the coronation (or Phambal Tongba or Men Tongba)."6 Before coronation the designate-king is ordained to proffer clothes for deities and even to live with the royal deity, `Yumjao Lairembi' for five days according to M. Jhulon Singh.'' As a tradition Angom Piba or clan would offer royal robe for coronation, itself attended, among others, by all his Naga Chiefs. Kaomacha7 records that in 411 A.D the coronation ceremony of King Naokhamba was performed by the 64 Phamdous and other nobles, as per `Phambal Lon' or Manipuri Puya.

While clan Arambam would wash the royal feet, Ashangbam clan would pour water over the royal body. Similarly Taorem would cleanse royal teeth, while Toijam clan would blow the bugle sitting on the elephant, as the Raja would proceed to the coronation hall. The lustral water for Raja's pre-coronation bath and use in ceremonial rituals would be collected from seven sources of sacred rivers. These 64 Phamdous would have different specific functions at the coronation. For instance, if one of them is assigned to hold the ceremonial sword, the others would either attend to the king while yet others sing the glories of the new king. It was amidst such pomp that the king would formally ascend the Kangla Men or throne placed above the traditional crater inside which the mythical serpent(s) remain posited. So as to become blessed by the seven magico-legendary Phapan (coiled rectangular formation with tail inside its mouth), the coronation used to be held as per legendary stipulations preceded by hectic preparations as also followed by many festivities in honour and perpetuation of the new raja and his consort.

The coronation itself used to be a many-splendoured thing even in those days of yore with all the clan heads, Phamdous and other nobles, royal family members, tribal chiefs etc. attending, and offering obeisance and tributes. However the Naga dress of the king as coronation robe has made some authors like James Johnstone to comment: "There can be little doubt that some time or other the Naga tribes to the north made one of their chiefs Raja of Manipur, and that his family, while, like the Manchus in China and other conquerors adopted the civilization of the country, retained some of their old costumes. This is shown in the curious practice at the installation of a Raja, when he and the Rani appear in Naga costumes; also that he always has in his palace a house built like a Naga's, and whenever he goes he is attended by two or three Manipuris with Naga arms and accoutrements."8 The synthesized view is of course that the Meiteis have their ancient origin in China, although they seem to differ from the hill-dwelling tribals in having been the earliest category of `dispersed tribals'.

As Commander-in-chief of the army, cavalry, and navy (river fleets) he was to become the real war leader. As incarnation of the legendary icons, he became the Chief Priest of the kingdom just like the heads of the other clans were the chief priests in their respective domains. His appearances as the High Priest of the State would of course be limited to such occasions as natural calamities or prolonged droughts. Then as the chief priest he would beseech the Supreme Being with some specific prayer at Nongmaiching hillock to the east of Imphal after having sanctified himself prior to such religious ceremony according to the Cheitharol Kumbaba. Or else, the Raja and Angom Piba might compete each other so that rainfall may occur. On later occasions, the same Cheitharol Kumbaba9 would record another form of praying to the Rain-God by milching one hundred and eight cows in the temple of Shri Govindaji's temple (still in vogue).


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