Amazing folk-tales of the Koireng tribe
Before retelling two Amazing Folk-Tales of The Koireng Tribe, the background of this small community may be summarised. The present Koireng Tribe of Manipur is very rich in custom and culture which has been preserved on for ages. After encountering a great deal of confusion over the nomenclature of the TRIBE here and there, this may be clarified.
The original name of the community was Kolren meaning men of the east. They always point to Kolram (Kol-east, ram-land) believed to be somewhere in the far-east as their starting point like many other Mongloid Groups of the entire India’s North East.
Just as in the same way many other tribes of Manipur were given different names by the Britishers or local writers or Pundits in the Royal Palace, the Koireng Tribe also had been given different names such as Kolren in the British Books, Kolhen or Koireng also in the same books. They now call themselves Koren shortened from Kolren.
When the nomenclature of the tribe is corrected as Kolren, it will be most appropriate and rewarding, too. The community is sufficiently mentioned in the Moirang Kangleirol as they settled in and around Moirang Principality in the 14th Century as found in the chronicles.
After their departure from Kolram, they entered Manipur and settled down first at Lungrel. Next, they shifted to Kailaam followed by Mihoibung, Kholaipiel, Erelon, Dumdoksuk, Thalkhangtaang, Lingsielbung, Sielbu, Shamrai, Thuok-khuojol, Ngaitebung, Tongkhuo, Chiepi, Khapeibung, Khunte, Umtar, Murteeng, Kangkapphei, Mongkha, and Tuolchiang, all in the present Churachandpur District. Finally, they arrived at Thangching (Thang-South, Ching-Hill in Koireng) to the west of Moirang.
From there, they migrated to Laimanai near Loktak Project. From there further some group went back to Kumbi Peak and the rest to Yongabung in the present Noney Dsitrict and Langol Hill, Imphal West (Prof. Gangmumei Kamei). Some clans stayed back at Moirang to set up a village at Ngangkha Lawai.
So, Koireng settlement in and around Moirang Principality is ancient enough and many centuries old.
The tragedy is that their constant fight with the Moirang Kings and earlier with Hmar hordes was the main cause for their downfall.
They now mostly concentrate in Kangpokpi and Imphal West Districts and one in Churachandpur Dist. In the case of a variety of name given to this tribe, nothing is regrettable or worrisome as the same thing happened to Manipur.
In the olden days Manipur was known to the neighbouring states by different names, some very awkward to pronounce.
In Rennel’s Memoir and Maps of India, it was called Mecklay.
In the narrative of Syhmes and in the Map of that period, Manipur was called Cassy. To the Shans, the immediate neighbour of Manipur it was known as Kase and to the Burmese as Kathe.
The Ahoms called the land Makeli and the Cacharis Magli while the old Assamese name for Manipur was Moglan (Prof. Jyotirmoy Roy). Likewise, whether the name of the tribe is Koireng or Koren, it is the same. The community has a long past, and they still await proper accounting and reproduction in writing to cater to the taste of time. For the task, they are still to go many a weary mile to cover. The Koireng or Koren tribe is in possession of many amusing folk-tales, and two of which are briefly retold here so that communities all over will start to recognise the existence of such a small tribe with its rich cultural heritage.
THE STORY OF FACHIRANG AND RANGCHAL: Thus, Once upon a time, there lived a poor widow in a village who had a daughter whose beauty attracted many young men of the village. One day a tiger came in the shape of a man and asked to marry the girl. She was much frightened and kept silence.
The tiger-man was angry at her behaviour and recited a charm which made her very ugly. Her mother said, “Look! My daughter who was the most beautiful girl in the village has become very ugly. If a man can restore her beauty he may marry her, and if a woman can do it she shall be my friend. On hearing this, the tiger-man came to the old woman and said, Oh! Granny, I am a stranger, and have come from a distant village, let me put up in your house for the night. The old lady agreed, and after a few days he said, “Oh! Granny, why are you so said? Tell me the cause of your sorrow. Perhaps I can remove it. Alas, my boy, it is beyond your power to do so., she replied. The tiger-man, however, pressed her to tell him, and at last she did so, whereupon he replied. All right, if I curse her you will give her to me, and in a few days he had restored her beauty, and they were married and lived together in her mother’s house for many years.
At length the tiger-man asked her permission to take his wife to his own home, and they started. But no sooner had they passed the village gate than he was changed into the shape of a tiger. His wife wept much at seeing him thus. Certain old woman of the village saw them and came and told the villagers that a tiger was carrying off the girl so the villagers assembled to consult, but no one would volunteer for the task of rescuing the girl.
At last Fachirang who feared anything and his brother Rangchal set off with a dao and a spear to kill the animal. But after going a very little way Fachirang, the elder brother, said, ‘Oh! Rangchal, I don’t know what is the matter, but my heart beats so fast that I must remain here; you go and see if you can kill the beast alone. So the younger brother went on alone till he came to the place where the tiger and the girl were living happily.
Rangchal thrust his spear into the breast of the tiger, and it died at once. Rangchal carried off the girl and returned to where his elder brother was waiting, and they all three set out for home together. The elder brother married the girl, and they all lived happily together.
RENCHONGHOI, THE BEAUTY: Long long ago, a Koireng widow had seven sons and one daughter called Renchonghoi who was very beautiful, and much beloved by her brothers.
To prove the truth of their affection for her she sent them off to catch the Sun and the Moon that she might wear them as her necklace. Before their departure from home, they built her a fortified house, and told her to remain within it until their return. They also left with her some unhusked rice, which had magical properties, turning red whenever the brothers were in danger. Renchonghoi one day was sitting in the verandah cleaning her hair when she was seen by the king who quickly added her to the number of his wives.
The youngest brother, returning alone, found the house empty, and at once rejoining the others in the sky, where they were still hunting the Sun and the Moon, told them of the disappearance of their sister. They all returned home, and on entering the house the youngest brother was changed into a parrot while the others fell down dead.
The youngest brother found his sister and told her what had happened whereupon she by a powerful charm restored the youngest brother to his original form and all ended happily.
Babu Biswarup, Head Clerk in the Hill Section of Manipur Administration collected these stories from Kharang Koireng (Kangchup) located to the west of Lamshang in Imphal West in 1910 during the British Political Agency and he retold the stories to Lt.Col. John Shakespear, the Political Agent in Manipur.