Manipur's ancient history is rich and diverse, with early human habitation dating back to prehistoric times. The region has witnessed the rise and fall of several ancient kingdoms, including the Kangleipak Kingdom, which was established around the 1st century CE. Manipur was known for its unique culture, art, and martial traditions. The ancient history of Manipur is marked by wars, alliances, and cultural exchanges with neighboring kingdoms and tribes.
MANIPUR ANCIENT HISTORY :
Manipur, a northeastern state of India, has a rich and ancient history that spans thousands of years. The region has been inhabited by various ethnic communities, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the prehistoric period. The traditional ancient history of Manipur is characterized by the rise and fall of several powerful kingdoms, unique cultural practices, and martial traditions.
One of the earliest known kingdoms in Manipur was the Kangleipak Kingdom, which was established around the 1st century CE. The Kangleipak Kingdom was ruled by a line of kings known as the Meitei rulers, who are considered to be the ancestors of the Meitei ethnic group in Manipur. The Meitei rulers developed a sophisticated administration system and established trade relations with neighboring kingdoms and tribes. They promoted art, literature, and religion, resulting in the development of a unique culture that is still preserved in Manipuri traditions today.
The ancient history of Manipur is also marked by wars and alliances with neighboring kingdoms. Manipur was known for its martial traditions, and warriors played a significant role in the social and political fabric of the society. The kingdom of Manipur faced numerous invasions and conflicts with neighboring kingdoms, including the Burmese invasion in the 18th century, which led to a brief period of subjugation.
Religion also played an essential role in the ancient history of Manipur. Hinduism, Islam, and indigenous beliefs were practiced in the region, and there were interactions and exchanges of ideas among different religious communities. Manipur is also known for its unique indigenous religion called Sanamahism, which worships various deities associated with nature and ancestors.
Art and culture flourished in ancient Manipur, with distinct forms of dance, music, and handicrafts that are still practiced today. Manipuri dance, known for its graceful movements and colorful costumes, has its roots in the ancient history of the region. Manipuri music, including folk songs and classical compositions, is known for its soulful melodies and poetic lyrics. Handicrafts such as pottery, weaving, and wood carving have been traditional occupations of the people of Manipur.
The ancient history of Manipur is also reflected in its archaeological remains, including megalithic sites, ancient temples, and palaces. The Kangla Fort, located in the heart of Imphal, the capital city of Manipur, was the seat of power for the ancient Meitei rulers and holds significant historical and cultural significance.
In conclusion, the traditional ancient history of Manipur is marked by the rise and fall of kingdoms, unique cultural practices, martial traditions, religious diversity, and artistic achievements. The rich heritage of Manipur's ancient history is preserved in its customs, traditions, art forms, and archaeological remains, and continues to be celebrated and cherished by the people of Manipur today.
Meeting for the first Nupi Lan. Photo taken from Manipur State Archives
Throughout India, Manipur is renowned as a matriarchal society. Having taken an active role in shaping the history of the state, women in Manipur have enjoyed a special status in Manipuri society. The women in Manipur are progressive and their liberal and forward viewpoint stems from the Nupi Lan movements. These were powerful movements against British imperialists.
Loosely translated from Manipuri it means ‘Women’s War’, and the first war first broke out in 1904. It was against the British who had consigned Manipuri men to forced labour to restore a burnt-down police shed. The struggle, in which more than 5,000 women took part, lasted a week. The British eventually succeeded in suppressing the uprising but had to rescind the order.
In 1939, a second Nupi Lan occurred against a famine created by excessive export of rice right in the harvest season. This, too, was eventually suppressed by the British, though it took several months and the emergence of World War II. What was significant about this second movement wasn’t the number of women who protested, but rather the reaction of the British. They deployed both military and police forces against unarmed female protesters. The brave women who fought, may have lasted several months but lost many lives in their battle.
Manipuri brides usually wear bangles made of pure gold or those inlaid with precious stones.
MANIPUR ORNAMENTS :
Ornaments have more relevance in Manipur, where women are generally fair and beautiful. The ornaments making them look even more elegant just like the shining land. The land of Manipur was itself known as Sna Laipak to the Meitheis of the state and Subarna Bhu to the rest of India, both signifying Land of Gold. This means that either gold was available in abundance or the land was known for consuming gold. Either way, it is certain that the land was linked with the precious yellow metal since mythical age. If they knew gold, the Manipuris also knew ornaments and therefore, they knew about silver and gems besides beads as well. In fact, the modern term "Manipur" means the land of gems. If the modern term and ancient terms of the land be linked, their literary meaning would be gold ornaments studded with gems.
Traditional dress of the Manipur :
Manipuri traditional dress has a rich history and cultural significance. The traditional attire for women is the 'Phanek' which is a long and wide cloth draped around the waist, while the upper body is covered by a shawl called the 'Innaphi'. The Phanek and Innaphi are woven using traditional techniques and adorned with intricate designs, often inspired by nature. Men traditionally wear a white or cream-colored dhoti with a shirt, and a turban on their head. The traditional dress of Manipur is an essential aspect of its cultural heritage and reflects the artistic and creative spirit of its people.
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