Children Of The Wide Lake

Information about the land of Manipur, The wide lake Logtak and the people who lived in plains beside the lake 

The people of southern China called this land Meung-kha-la (Meung=Land ; Kha=Lake; La=Wide) and it is clear that this is where the name Meckley derives from. In the plains beside the lake lived a race of people who had sharp Indo-Aryan features and used a language, which was similar to the Kamrupi tongue rather than the Burmese-Chinese group. These were the Bishnupriyas. For centuries these people have been called ‘Khalachai’ which in southern Chinese dialect menes ‘Children of the wide lake’ (Kha=Lake; La=Wide; Chai=Children).


 Manipur is situated in on the eastern flank of present day Assam. It has quite a long history, although the name itself appears to be of relatively recent origin. In the Allahabad stone piller inscription of Samudra Gupta(4th century AD) there is no mention of Manipur, although the neighbouring kingdoms are named. According to the Mahabharata, the anicent name of this country was ‘Meckley’ and this is the name that was used when King Gaursham signed a treaty with the British in 1763. Manipur-or Meckley -is actually on a tableland surrounded by hills. It has a large lake-eight miles by five-called Logtak.


The people of southern China called this land Meung-kha-la (Meung=Land ; Kha=Lake; La=Wide) and it is clear that this is where the name Meckley derives from. 


 In the plains beside the lake lived a race of people who had sharp Indo-Aryan features and used a language, which was similar to the Kamrupi tongue rather than the Burmese-Chinese group. These were the Bishnupriyas. For centuries these people have been called ‘Khalachai’ which in southern Chinese dialect menes ‘Children of the wide lake’ (Kha=Lake; La=Wide; Chai=Children). The other race in Manipur, the Meitheis, moved in from chinese territory and this is reflected in the name. Meithei means,, in Chinese, ‘people of this country’ i.e., Chinese territory. "It is quite probable that the kalachaias are the first cultural race in possession of the Manipur valley," wrote Rajmohan nath in’The Background of Assamese Culture’. 


"They were connected more with their neighboring kingdom of Kamarupa then with other countries, and that is why their language is more akin to Kamarupi." 


"The Meitheis were the later immigrants."The Meitheis brought with them the experinence and momentum of an ancient civilization . they probably had superiority in numbers and gradually they gained ascendancy. Monipuri folklor tells of an adventurer named Poireiton who came form’the land of death’ and taught the locals many wonderful thinngs. This mythical figure may have been an enterprising Meithei . It is also possidle that Poireiton wasn’t a single person . It may have been a common name for the early settlers .

There is also a degree of mystery surrounding the name Bishnupriya . Bits of history , as recorded on old copper playes and manuscripts, tell us that in 8th century AD Meckley was divided into small kingdoms or chiefdoms. The Khalachai were living in the Khumal kingdom.. Meckley (Manipur) at the time. Historians belive the Khalachais had been worshipper of Bishnu from very early times and had named their capital Bishnupur. Hance the name Bishnupriya . In 821 .the Khumal king was defeated and supremacy passed to Yangba . With that ,the influence of Kamrup i.e. ,Indo—Aryan influence diminished and the influence of Burmese and Chinese increased in inverse proportion . this culminated in the Meitri tongue replacing Bishnupriya as the court language (Rajmohan Nath , The Background of Assamese Culture) .


 Vaishnavism arrived in Manipur in 1737 in the form of Santadas Babaji ,an enterprising Bengali Baishnad of the Sri Chaitanya School . He came over the hills from Sylhet and captivated the entire population, including the king, with his melodious Kirtana, depicting the life of Radha-Krishna.


 Vaishnavism arrived in Manipur in 1737 in the form of Santadas Babaji ,an enterprising Bengali Baishnad of the Sri Chaitanya School . He came over the hills from Sylhet and captivated the entire population, including the king, with his melodious Kirtana, depicting the life of Radha-Krishna . Overnight, Vaishnavism became the royal faith. It is said that Santadas instigated King Pamheida alias Garib Nawaz to burn all the historical documents in order to make a clean break with the past . Thus, between a ruthless king and ambitious gurn, the history of Manipur was obscured.


Large numbers of Bishnupriya Manipuris begen to migrate out of Manipur . this process was hastened by repeated Burmese attacks and soon the once-proud Bishnupriyas became a nation of refugees.


There is a story that King Pamheiba ordered all his subjacts to bath in the Nongkhrang lake in order to purify themselves. The Bishnupriyas led by the Khumal chieftain initially refused, claiming that they were already purified through adopting the Bishnad faith earlier. Indeed, the influence of the Shankar Dev school of Vaishnavismmcan still be seen in Bishnupriya Manipuri culture ( GK Ghosh, Tribals and their Culture) . This dispute only widened the existing rift between the Bishnupriyas and ruling Meithri class . Large numbers of Bishnupriya Manipuris begen to migrate out of Manipur . this process was hastened by repeated Burmese attacks and soon the once-proud Bishnupriyas became a nation of refugees.

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This page is created by Ashim Kumar Singha
Copyright 2001  All rights reserved.
Revised: August 25, 2001 .