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

Pandit N.Khelchandra Singh

15. Iconic Symbolism Of Kangla:

All the relics, imprints and traces left behind by Manipur history have attained spiritual status on account of the glories of Kangla reeled out during contacts with parents and grandparents, family gossip (within family memories); epic heroic sagas passed down through folk music, legends, epics, old photographs, folk memories, museums, and old buildings (beyond family memories). In fact, the legendary Kangla icons have left such imprints severally through passage of time that stand out as symbol of human past preemptively breathing down right through the neck of the gullible present generation as if trying to steer onto the right course. Such iconic symbolism proceeds along the abstract rather than utilitarian dimension of knowledge. Such problem-solving approach has been emphasized by Marwick:

"The human past enfolds so many periods and cultures that history can no more form one unified body of knowledge than can the natural sciences. The search for universal meaning or universal explanations is therefore a futile one. History is about finding things out, and solving problems, rather than about spinning narratives or telling stories."28

However all the body of unified knowledge associated with Kangla, as such, need not be appreciated in isolation but as something from which the fallible present flows and which will no doubt continue onto the future as a continuous process. In retrospect, the ruins of Kangla remains 'haunted by history'; and so it will remain till the entire ancient history is re-laid on a sound pedestal.

Whatever one thinks about myth (history), it is hard to speak of the now desolate Kangla on the western edge of Imphal river without using the word 'haunted'. Because, two millennia ago Kangla rivalled Byzantine as one of the trading posts on the South Silk Route. At its height the Manipur capital's central citadel 'square-mile' did serve as the power centre: from which radiated all the main roads traversing the capital in all directions; and to which the entire nation did look up for guidance, solace, advice, order and all the radiance and glory.

Kangla transcended over time as one of the 'command and control' centres to 'connect and collaborate' with the then world. Besides being a centre of cultural, political and administrative decisions, it thus used to be the backbone for ideas emanating from kings and his advisors, as well as traders, preachers etc. The current crippling psychological dilemma of modern Manipur is: What to do with the extraordinary experience that made Manipur an important Southeast/South Asian monarchy upto mid-19th century, but left it practically helpless against Western imperialism, another half century later?

On a realistic assessment, 'Kangla' has many definite dimensions and values resonating from its walls, moats and structures. Still in ruins, Kangla is out there 'no longer to define, enclose and exclude' values within the confines of its walls, but to 'aim at regeneration, stability, nationhood and control'. Harking back, one finds that these very walls and moats failed, as of then; because time and again the Burmese marauders, among others, found a way round, more or less 'flowing like water, along the path of least resistance.' The British in particular proved much more vandalistic. The key question is whether Manipur knows what value now to defend, and delineate its future.

Undeniably, it is a symbol (navel) of embattled but technologically proud Manipuri nationhood. As such, it is very much relevant to today's purpose to hold it aloft as alive and kicking.Yet in a deeper sense, it is not that relevant. For today's challenge is very different from the one at which Kangla failed.


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