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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

6. Mythical Significance Of Kangla:

Traditions, superstitions, folk tales and historical accounts of Manipur have attached much significance to Kangla so overpoweringly lasting and catalytic that ultimately the Manipuris continue till date as superstitious as any other orientalist with a strong undercurrent of belief in superstition. The elderly in the current generation still hesitate not to abide by the superstitions e.g. of unlucky days and dates for travelling in different directions, recorded by Dr. Brown (Ibid. Statistical Account of Manipur: p. 51).

Hodson has reported the then beliefs associated with the mythical background of Kangla:
" The Kangla, the place where the most mysterious rites pertaining to the coronation of the Raja were performed, was the scene of a ceremony of which I have never been able to get a proper and intelligible account. Suffice to say that whatever happened there, it was sufficient to give rise to the story that human sacrifices had been made in the dire extremity of the country, for in the olden times, as I was told, the blood of some captive would have brought the rain. The sacrifice of ponies for this purpose may be due to the operation of what may be called the law of substitution. But the activity of the people does not confine itself to merely witnessing these official exhibitions. The men, headed on the worst occasions of prolonged drought by the Raja, strip themselves of all their clothes and stand in the broadways of Imphal cursing one another to the fullest extent of an abusive language. The women at night gather in a field outside the town, strip themselves and throw their dhan pounders into a neighbouring pool in the river and make their way home by byways. Of course there is the legend of a Peeping Tom, for whose outrage on the royal decency the country went rainless for a whole year. To some maiba the wicked act was revealed in a dream, and then justice was done and the country saved." (Ibid: The Meitheis: 2003: p. 108)

Even the Chronicles are full of mysterious portents as sangaisel paire or the flight of the sangaisel which betokens the death of some rich and important persons. One passage of the Chronicles says that it is the flight of the spirit of a certain God, while in another it is said that a flame arises out of a holy stone. Hodson cites another instance:
"[A]t the death of Major Gordon in 1844, so the Chronicler records, a double-tailed star was seen in the sky, and in another passage the death of the eldest son of the Raja is connected by a sort of post hoc ergo propter hoc argument with an earthquake which occurred simultaneously. It is common to read of inanimate objects suddenly manifesting the power of locomotion." ( Ibid: p. 121 )

Perhaps more like other orientalists, the Manipuris have their own intense beliefs in their own ancient system of knowledge concerning for instance the science of house construction: like the house should always face east so that sunshine directly enters the inner apartment and render warmth, whose practical import can not be denied by modern engineers. But there used to be various other instances of the meticulous care and manner in which the house-construction process as in case of the Kangla is to be taken up. Hodson records:

"It will perhaps show the exact care and anxiety with which all house-building operations were carried on if a quotation is made from the Chronicles of a passage which describes the trouble which happened when something was done which ought not to have been done in the course of the erection of the kangla or the Royal enclosure of the Coronation Hall. This is, of course, a peculiarly sacrosanct spot, not only from its association with the Raja, but as being the abode of the serpent as well. On the 15th of Mera, Sak 1771, i.e. in October, 1849, Lairel Lakpa the astrologer declared that the place selected by the pandit for the site of the main post of the Kangla was wrong because it would interfere with the place of the snake annanta. The pandit had his way and the hole was dug with the result that blood issued, and a bone and a stone were found there. Some days later the post was erected, but that night a white rainbow was seen over the post. The next day a snake entered into the hole where the post was and there was a frog on the back of the snake. Weeks later, the king elephant went mad, and on the 5th of Hingoi (November) a fisherman at Wabagai caught in the trap a fish which he put in his bag. He was surprised to hear the fish say to him, "You want to eat me. I am the lai of the river." The fisherman replied that he had caught him in ignorance of his real rank. The fish then said, "Go and tell the Maharaja to do worship on behalf of all the people," and jumped back into the water. A swam of bees was seen at the gate of the Pat; and Lairel Lakpa declared that all the "bad signs of the Kangla had appeared," and then a trial was made of the value of the books of the Pandit and the astrologer Lairel Lakpa . The test was which book correctly gave the depth at which in the reign of Moyang Ngomba Maharaja the stone of the tortoise or snake Pakhangba was found. The book of the Pandit proved trustworthy, and then the evil omens ceased to appear. Indeed, according to the Chronicles hardly an event of real importance ever occurred without some previous presage. Thus the shortness of the reign of king Debendro Singh was foretold by the death of the king elephant and by the appearance in the Kangla of a number of frogs which were seen there jumping about. The end of the dynasty of Gambhir Singh was foretold by a number of omens which are recorded in the Chronicles. " On the 13th of Kalen in the year 1813, the year of Ahongsangba Durlub Singh (1891, April) In the palace here a God's dolai with flag came down from the sky before the Bejoy Garode at ten o'clock in the morning.; it disappeared at the distance of 40 feet from the ground: the people witnessed the scene. The matter was reported to the Maharaja the next day. The Maibas and the officers of the Top Garode were summoned before the Maharaja, who asked Wikhoi Pandit what sort of dolai it was. Wankhei ( or Wikhoi) Pandit replied that it was Pakhangba's dolai. Pakhangba's nine arms will come down in koongkhookolen (the kangla compound). The dolai was the first thing that had come down , and after this the country would enjoy happiness and peace, and the king would live long....." ( Ibid: p. 123 )

So much mythological significance is attached to the Kangla even in the twentyfirst century that apart from its central location it still embodies the greatest pride of all the ancient Manipur and the cultural legacy with all the sacred spots identified in its ponds, embankmants, ramparts, moats and whatever remains of its ancient regime.


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