The Zeliangrongs in the valley of Manipur : A historical viewpoint

Dr Budha Kamei
Contd from previous issue
In 1770, Manipur was invaded by the Burmese under King Hsinbyushin. Chingthangkhomba was again driven out and he fled to Cachar. J. Roy says, no sooner had the Burmese withdrawn than Chingthangkhomba along with the forces of Ahom re-entered Manipur. Under his efficient rule prosperity gradually returned to the country. In absence of Chingthangkhomba, Manipur was ruled by Erengba/Kukilananda Erengba, a scion of the royal family who was set up by the Burmese submitted after feeble resistance at Langathen. R. Brown writes, on hearing the news of coming of Chingthangkhomba along with Ahom forces, Eringba immediately handed over the throne to him without objection. With the instigation of Manshenba, the son of slain Chief of Moirang, Khellemba, the Burmese invaded Manipur again in the year 1772. Bhagyachandra again fled to Ahom through Cachar on the 2nd day of Phairen (February). The Burmese forces left Manipur soon after installing a puppet King called Pukhrambam Binodram whose capital was at Wangkhei.  In the year 1775, Bhagyachandra along with his hill supporters including Zeliangrongs marched into Manipur but without a single battle he became king again because Binodram already left Manipur on hearing the news of coming of Bhagyachandra.
In the same year (1775), Bhagyachandra established his capital at Lamangdong on the day of Saturday, 19th day of Phairen (February). In spite of his religious orthodoxy, the Kabui settlers in the valley were living peacefully without having interference from his administration. According to Gangmumei Kamei, it was during the reign of Bhagyachandra many Zeliangrongs engaged in his war against the Burmese to drive out from the soil of Manipur in 18th century.  Many Zeliangrongs who came to know the Maharaja came down to the valley and started such migrant villages of Langthabal and Khoupum in the Heibok Hills. The settlers of Khoupum were mostly migrated from Chingkhoupum in south Tamenglong.
There are many Zeliangrong villages in the rural areas of Manipur valley such as Changangkei, Chaopok, Charoipung, Chingphu or Chingbu, Chingkham, Heikrujam Kabui, Hidakshong, Hiyangthang Kabui, Keinou Kabui or Ayokpa, Keikhu, Keiren, Khoijuman, Koirengei, Konthoujam, Langol-Trung, Langompokpi, Lamshang Kabui, Langthabal Chingkha, Langthabal Chingthak, Langthabal Khoupum, Leishangkhong, Maibam Lokpaching, Naorem Kabui village, Oinam, Phoichingtong Kabui village, Ramji or Kinthanlong, Sairem Kabui village, Sangaiprow Kabui village, Sapantong, Swombung, Tamphagei, Taihu or Ngariyan Kabui, Taobul, Uchiwa Kabui Khul, Wangoi Kabui village etc.
In the state capital also there are Zeliangrong villages like Chingmeirong Kabui village, Kakhulong, Keishamthong, Mahabali Kabui, Majorkhul, Namthanlong, Ragailong etc. The settlement and establishment of the Zeliangrong villages was associated with the historical events under different Kings of Manipur. The Zeliangrongs were also employed by the Kings to look after the Kei or royal granaries. So, they were allowed to settle.
Manipur has its long history of 2000 years. In the course of their long history, there developed close cultural connection between the Meiteis and the hill people like Tanghuls, Zeliangrongs, Anals etc.
The folklore (myths and legends) prevailing in the hills and valley speak about the close contact between the hill tribes and the valley Meiteis; and it also tells their close get in touch with the kings. It is well known fact that there are ethnic and cultural relation between the Meiteis and Tangkhuls. The Tangkhul-Meitei tradition of origin from Khangkhui cave and the migration of the Meitei (younger brother of the Tangkhul) in the valley and presentation of Leirumphi is a popular tradition. The tradition of Nongpok Ningthou-Panthoibi and Tangkhul Saba in the Lai Haraoba festival is the living proof of the ancient bond between the Meiteis and Tangkhuls. The tradition of Kabui Salang Maiba of Ningthi village in the Khamba-Thoibi epic is supported by history.
The relation between the Moirang principality with the Kabui, and Anals are all recorded facts. The intermarriage between the Meitei culture heroes (who were deified into gods) preserved in the tradition of marriage between Soraren of Koubru and a girl Harok Konthou tribe (now identified as Konthoujam Lairenma), Wangbren a Meitei God of Sugnu with an Anal girl of Anal Khullen village is indicative of the close connection.
In addition to the close cultural links, the ethnic groups are bound by economic interdependence. The hill people came down to the valley for exchange of goods from the Meitei traders. They traded in the item of goods such as plantain leaves, cotton, cane, bamboo products, spear, clothes etc. The inhabitants of both the valley and the hills could freely exchange various goods according to their mutual agreement based on the needs and products without any restriction.  And this barter trade created a close social relationship.
After observing the above facts, we can conclude that the Zeliangrongs were allowed to settle in the valley at different places in recognition of their support in Burma campaign and in driving out the Burmese forces from the soil of Manipur and rendering other services to the Kings. The descendants of the war veterans who came to know the King also came down from the Western hills and settled in the valley in different times. Since ancient time there was close social contact between the valley and hill people through trade; and thereby economic interdependent between them. They also had close cultural link as of close ties in their long history.
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