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

Pandit N.Khelchandra Singh


Related Notes of Interest while on this topic

7.Manipur In The Eyes Of Foreign Historians:

Doubts have been expressed in certain quarters from interested persons and keen observers about authenticity of the ancient Manipur culture particularly prehistoric period (which can't be remembered), alleging that such history since historiographed are mostly 'self-created'. It therefore becomes apt to spell out a bibliography of foreign sources of information, hitherto accessible. Despite significant difficulties of transport and perilous travel hazards which can be imagined, say, four thousand years ago, on the basis of still staggering bottleneck, ancient Manipur had attracted adventurous scholars, traders, invaders and religious preachers. At a time when knowledge of geography depended only on hearsay the determined lot came to Manipur in pursuit of their avocations. Notwithstanding their indulgences running into vague reports and wild conjectures, some of them have left behind sufficient travel documents containing valuable information which prove that Chinese and Manipur civilization coexisted and that traders traveling upto Manipur could obtain ancient Chinese products during their journey back.

On the basis of such travelogues and other source materials eminent historian, R.C.Majumdar acknowledged recurrence of trade between Yunan _ a Hindu State in South China _ and India through Manipur and Burma. The merchandise consisted in gold, silk, malabathium (Tejpata), dammer (a resinous forest product used for burning as incense, mekruk) and lot of light and high-valued merchandise that can be conveniently carried along the 3-month duration travel from Yunan to Macedonia etc. in Middle East. About the actual accessibility of ancient Manipur _ rather than the 'inaccessibility' imagined by some persons now on the basis of difficult terrain and hill-ranges encircling Manipur valley _ Alexander Mackenzie wrote based on travelogue, diaries and various official records that Manipur valley represented "the great highway" between Cachar and other parts of Assam on the one hand and Kubo valley on the other hand (Northeast Frontier of Bengal: latest edition: p.149).

a) Greek Historians: Author of Periplus: Among Greek travellers supplying information on Manipur, stands out the anonymous author of Periplus of the Erythrean Sea (Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean). After settling in Egypt he made a voyage to the Indian coast about 80 A.D. His account refers to the trade activities of ancient Manipur along with other parts of northeast India. Periplus mentions Manipur's export of gold, silk and malabathrum (tejpata) to Greece in the 1st century A.D. The following shows in greater details the relevance of the information. W.H. Scoff gives an account of Manipur's export in Periplus of the Erythrean Sea (1912):
"From Masalin the country lies eastward across a bay to Desarana. Leaving this the course is to the north, passing through a number of tribes including Kirrhadae. After passing them the course turns again to the east, and sailing with the coast on the left and sea on the right, you arrive at the Ganges and the extremity of the continent towards the east called Chryse (Katche or Cassay). There is a mart on the Ganges of the same name through which passes a considerable traffic, consisting of the Gangetic spikenard, pearls, betel and the Gangetic muslins. In Chryse there is said to be a gold mine and a gold coin called Kaltis. Immediately after leaving the Ganges, there is an island in the Ocean called Chryse which lies directly under the rising sun and at the extremity of the world towards the east. This island produces the finest tortoise shell that is found through the Erythrean Sea. But beyond this (THIS) immediately under the north at a certain point, where the exterior sea terminates, lies a city called Thina (Chin hills on the southeastern border of Manipur), not on the coast but inland, from which raw and manufactured silk are brought by land through Bacteria to Barygaza or else down the Ganges to Bengal and then by sea to Limerika or the coast of Malabar. To Thina itself the means of approach are very difficult and from Thina few merchants come, but very rarely. On the confines of Thina an annual mart is held and the Sesatae (Khalachis or children of the wide lake or the race of people who lived in the plain portion of Manipur valley) assembled there and did their marketing. The regions beyond this towards the north are unexplored either on account of the severity of the winter, the continuation of the frost or the difficulties of the country" (N.N.Acharya: North-east as Viewed by Foreigners: N. Delhi: pp 2-3; Periplus quoted).

The land of Manipur as also the adjoining areas has been cited by Ptolemy, the most famous Greek astronomer, mathematician and geographer, although an Egyptian, in the 2nd century A.D. in his geographical account of India. From T.W. McCrindle: Ancient India as described by Klandios Ptolemy of Egypt: Calcutta, 1927 pp 209-35; G.E. Gerini's Researches on Ptolemy Geography London (1909): pp.28-52, 134-38, 744 and 830: the following information is sieved by N.N.Acharya in North-east as Viewed by Foreigners on p. 4:
"Information: Ptolemy refers to Kirhadia (Kirata), people on the foot of the Garo, Khasi and Tripura Hills, Malabathrum (Tejpata).. He also mentions Oidanes or Doanai (Brahmaputra), Alosanga (Shillong peak), Dihong (Brahmaputra), Tugna (Cachar), Mareura (Manipur) and Ringberi (Rangpur in western border of Assam)." b) Roman Historians: J.Taylor in Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1847, I, cites Roman historian, Ammianus Marcellinus as mentioning products of Nazavicium which may be identified with Naga localities of Manipur or Nagaland (pp.53 and 68).

c)Chinese Historians: Writings of Chinese historians make a significant contribution to those of Greek and Roman historians. In terms of propinquity based on territorial limits, ancient Manipur used to be much nearer to China than what is now, because Manipur's expanse then transgressed Burma as far as upto Mandalay or upto Chindwin river. From time immemorial Chinese travellers had been frequenting the then princely kingdoms of India as also Manipur. Besides Manipur's cultural link with China from very early period had been proved by the records of Chang-kien of the 2nd century B.C.

Based on the authenticity of Chinese records of the 2nd century B.C., P. Pelliot states that there was a track between Manipur and China from which some trade trickled to India and vice versa. In the 2nd century B.C. when the Chinese ambassador Changkien reached Bactria, he was surprised to see that bamboos were imported from China. In reality the bamboos from Yunan (a Hindu kingdom south of China) reached mid-India through Manipur and from there were transported to Bactria through the Grand Route. (Bulletin de l'Ecole Franchaise l'Extreme Orient, 1904, pp. 143-44; Bagchi P.C. India and China, New York,1951, p.16 as quoted by N.N.Acharya: North-east as Viewed by Foreigners 1984.

Further Chinese records of the 2nd century A.D _ as stated by Pelliot _mention the existence of Brahminical religion in Manipur (R.M. Nath: Background of Assamese Culture (1948) Gauhati, p. 86, as quoted in N.N.Acharya North-east as Viewed by Foreigners on p.42. T.Watters:On Yuan Chwang's Travels in India (1961), II p.186 as quoted in N.N.Acharya: North-east as Viewed by Foreigners on p.7.'We learnt from the Buddhist records of the western world that to the east of Kamrupa the country is bounded by a line of hills, so that there is no great city of the Kingdom. The frontiers are contiguous to the barbarians of the south-west of China. These tribes are in fact akin to those of the Man-people (i.e. the southwest barbarians) in their customs. After a two months' journey, we reach the southwestern frontier of the province of Szechuen. But the mountains and rivers present obstacles, and the pestilential air, the poisonous vapours, the fatal snakes, the destructive vegetation, all these causes of death prevail. On the southeast of this country, herds of wild elephants roam about in numbers, therefore in this district they use them principally for war."

d) Shan Historians: Capt. S.F.Hannay's Journey from the Capital of Ava to the Amber Mines of the Hulong Valley vide 'Hill Tracts Between Assam and Burma' (1873 & 1978) pp.87 & 97 cites many people from Manipur working as miners and boatmen in his journey from the capital of Ava to the Amber Mines of Hukong Valley. Further it is mentioned in one of the Shan Chronicles available to Capt. R.B.Pemberton that in 777 A.D. the Pong King Margnow dies leaving two sons called Sookampha and Samlongpha, of whom the elder succeeded to the throne. The younger Samlongpha was dispatched to subdue first the principality of Bhamo in the east. Next he conquered the western country of the Basa (Banga) King, evidently Cachar. Further he conquered Tripura, whence he marched up the hills and descended into the Manipur valley near Moirang, on the western bank of Loktak lake (R.B.Pemberton: Report on the Eastern Frontier of British India (1835 & 1966) pp. 113-14. According to Ney Elias: The History of the Shans (1876) Calcutta, these events took place in the early 13th century A.D (pp.18 & 50).

e) Burmese Historians: According to the Burmese Royal Chronicle, Maharajavamsa, Dhajaraja, a king of Sakya race, settled at Manipur, about 550 B.C. and later on conquered old or pagan (Burma) _ as quoted by J.Roy: History of Manipur (1958,1973) Calcutta, p.5. On the basis of certain Burmese sources, Harvey cites in History of Burma, as follows:
"Upper Burma lay inaccessible, true; It is nearer to China which from the second century B.C. used routes through the two along Irrawady and Salwin rivers; the third down the Chindwin river and through Manipur. Took caravans a three-months journey to Afghanistan where the silk of China were exchanged for the gold of Europe. (p.9)"

On the basis of Burmese traditions, ancient city names and available historical remains, Sir Arthur Phayre in History of Burma mentions that there was early communication between Gangetic India and Taungaung (Upper Burma). This was carried on through eastern Bengal and Manipur. Through this route, the Indians came and established their political power in upper Burma and the mountainous regions of the upper valleys of Irrawady, the Salween, the Mekong and the Red river as far as Yunnan. (R.C.Majumdar: Ancient Indian Colonies in the Far East Vol. I (1922) Champa (pp 13-14).

f) Arabian Historians: Alberuni in 1030 wrote the most rational and comprehensive account of India, ever written by a foreigner until now. As Court-scholar of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, he describes the location of Manipur, Tibet, China, Nepal and Bhutan and trade-routes between them in the early 11th century A.D. Alberuni refers to Udaygiri (manipur) as one of the eastern countries of India. Similarly the reference to China evidently means the Chin Hills on the borders of Manipur (E.C.Sachau: Alberuni's India. Vol. I, pp 201, 299-303).

g)Persian Historians: Based on Persian Chronicles, S.K.Bhuyan (Ed.): Padshah Burunji (1935) Gauhati (p.78) cites that when prince Shuja, son of Moghul Emperor Shah Jehan, was Governor of Bengal, he was defeated by Mir Jumla, but fled from his capital Dacca to Magali (Manipur) country. It was also cited by N.Manucci in Storia do Mogor, ed. W. Irvine, Vol II p.90 that the cause of Mir Jumla's invasion of Assam was to access Aurangzeb to China, since with Assam as a base the Mughals could take Pegu (evidently through Manipur) and through it into China. h) European Historians: Dr. Francis Buchanon in his An Account of Assam edited by S.K.Bhuyan (1940) describes his meeting a Manipuri Brahmin at Komilla in 1798:
"Manipur is only the name of the capital: the country and people subject to the Raja of Manipur are by themselves called Moitay as I learned both from those at Ava, and from a priest with whom I met at Komilla in the year 1798, and who had accompanied the Raja Jaya Singha, then at Agartala (in the vicinity of Komila) on the visit to the Raja of Tripura. The Chief of Manipur was then an old man and had with him three sons and an equal number of daughters, one of whom had married Radan Manik, Raja of Tripura. According to the Dewan, or minister of this chief, the eldest son of Jaya Singhs was left at home in charge of the government. The direct communicaion between Manipur and Bengal is by Khaspur, the capital of Kachh, to Srihatta (Syllet) but the Raja of Kachar having killed two messengers, and threatened Jayasingha, that Chief cut a new road through the forests to the south, and made his way to Srihatta with 700 men, of whom 300 were porters employed in carrying provisions. The chief traveled on horseback, as the road would not admit of elephants. He was very poor, and his train was supported at the expense of the Tripura Raja. He was a rigid Hindu, and eat nothing that ever had animal life. His people eat no animal food except fish. Their country, according to the minister, produced abundance of rice, cotton, iron and honey, and some ivory; and the revenues are paid entirely in kind."

"The country of the Moitay, according to the priest, produced elephants, horses, buffaloes and oxen. The Raja had a few tame elephants. Twelve cows may be bought for a rupee., and as much rice as a man can eat in a year may be procured for the same money. Silver must therefore be scare. Wax, honey and silk are to be had at Manipur, the first two in abundance. A little wheat and pulse, and much rice are grown in the country and the sugarcane reaches the thickness of a man's leg. In their diet the people use much green vegetables (Sak). They have mine and quarries of iron, lime and salt."

"The new road according to the priest, is passable for elephants, horses and oxen; but loaded cattle would take a month to pass through it, and necessity compelled the Raja to use dispatch, and come in fifteen days. From the middle of December to the middle of February is the most favourable season The stages are as follows:
" One day from Srihatta or Silhet to Banga (Bangah R) in the Company's territory;
One day from Banga to Jayanagar,
One day from Jayanagar to Lakhyipur or Lakhimpur in Kachar,
Three days from Lakhimpur to Dharmaka, a landing place on the Surma
River, which is so far navigable in boat from Silhet.
Two days from Dharmaka to Mon-ta, a Kungki village,
One day from Mon-ta to Lum-pai, another Kungki village,
One day from Lum-pai to Lay-roung-poung, a Kungki village,
One day from Lay-roung-poung to Nung-shai, a Kungki village,
One day from Nung-shai to Ka-ruay, a Kungki village,
(The roads between these Kungki villages are very hilly)
One day from Ka-ruay to Vishnupur, a village inhabited by Moitays,
One day from Vishnupur to Poba, a village of Moitays.
One day from Poba to Mongcham, a village of Moitays,
One day from Mong-cham to Manipur."

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