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(Our Mothers sacrificed their modesty to ransom Kangla from the clutches of Indian Army)

Kangla is a small area, less than one sq. km, in the heart of Imphal city, the capital of Manipur in North East India. Kangla is an important historical place that includes everything that took place in the history of Manipur. The history includes the establishment of Kangla existed from 33AD, the religious infiltration of Hinduism at the arrival of Shantidas Gosai in 1717 and before him, the burning of the Meitei Sacred Writings known as Puya Meithaba in 1729. Kangla was conquered and captured by the British in 1891 and then under the dominion of Assam Rifles until it was removed in 2004 by the United Progressive Alliance government under the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh.

The establishment of Kangla in the early part of the first century, down through the religious infiltration of Hinduism, then the conquered by the British and the military control of Kangla is very much related to the social-religion and political identity crisis of Meiteis faced by the people of Manipur today. The control over Kangla was the factor of controlling social-religious, political and ethnic of Manipur.

The establishment of Kangla from early 33 AD gave the social-religious and political identity of Manipur that included all the communities in the state. The religious infiltration of Hinduism and control over the Kangla, first the mass conversion to Hinduism and then, and the burning of Puya have caused the socio-religious identity crisis of Meiteis and widened the gap between the hill and the valley. Ever since then, the Meiteis, in particular, have suffered the distorted identity crisis.

The British ruled over Kangla brought the social-religious and political changes in Manipur. The hills chose to embrace Christianity and the valley continued with the Hinduism. The education began in both the valley and hill after the British conquered. The first primarily school at Yaiskhul and the Pettigrew College at Ukhrul and the first English – Manipur Dictionary are the symbols of the education system brought by the British.

Then followed the Independence and the Indian Army occupation of Kangla until 2004. The military dominion in the state added to the Armed Forces Special Power Act 1958, which has been termed as a draconian law, under which the state has suffered at great extent. Seeking justice to the people killed is at the door of the Supreme Court of India.

The consciousness of people why Kangla should be kept sacred and holy place has begun with a few ongoing issues. The protest in the Manipur University demanded the removal of AP Pandey, the Vice Chancellor by Manipur University Students Union, Manipur University Teachers Union, and Manipur University Staff Association. Then the construction of Rash Leela Mandop inside Kangla.

The people of Manipur across the political line and the diaspora have demanded the state government to stop the construction of the Mandop immediately. The construction of religious structure like Rash Leela inside the holy Kangla has alleged a case of hurting religious sentiments and defiling the sacred religious place belonging to Sanamahism. There are valid reasons why Kangla should be kept sacred and holy:

Kangla is Jerusalem for Sanamahism

Kangla is like Jerusalem for Jews and Christians, Mecca for Muslims, Ayodhya for Hindus, Bodh Gaya in Bihar for Buddhists, the Golden Temple for Sikhs. Every religion has its historical establishment place. These places are very important for their religious propaganda and proclamation. Kangla is the center for Sanamahism. Without Kangla, Sanamahism, the religion of Meiteis, will not succeed like any other religion in the world. In order to make Kangla a center for Sanamahism, it must be kept sanctity, sacred and holy without adulteration with Hinduism or any other religion.

Mothers Paid the Price

The world shook when the mothers of Manipur stripped naked at the gate of Kangla with a banner, “Indian Army Rape Us”. That was the price paid by the mothers to rescue Kangla from the clutches of the Indian army. The mothers of Manipur sacrificed their modesty to ransom Kangla back after it was taken away from the people of Manipur 1891 until 20 November 2004. Kangla is the identity which was sanctified by the mothers. Manipur can not afford to make Kangla enslave and defiled once again in any form.

Kangla Has over 360 Sacred Khubhams

It is believed that there are about 360 khubhams, the sacred places inside Kangla. Some of them are [1] Nungjeng Eekon and other ponds: This is a sacred pond believed to be the abode of Lord Pakhangba. It is located to the north-west of the “Uttra”. Religious rituals are performed here. Besides this, there are other holy ponds like “Chingkhei Nungjeng”, “Manung Nungjeng” and “Lai Pukhri” etc. Nunggoibi: A site is a sacred place of worship of the Goddess of War. The “Huyein Lalu Chanba” ritual was performed here, whenever a King of Manipur emerged victorious in battle. Manglen: It is the cremation site of the Kings of Manipur. The “Manglen” is believed to have been developed by Maharaj Garibaniwaz in 1738. According to the royal chronicle, the Cheitharol Kumbaba, Nara Singh Maharaj (1844–50) was cremated here at the “Manglen”.

Kangla Men Surung: This is a sacred place where the kings of Manipur performed their coronation ceremony/erat-thouni. It is believed that the king will be able to rule the state or not according to the results of the ceremony/erat-thouni. The site of Lord Wangbaren: This is located in the southeastern corner of ‘Kangla’ where ceremony/erat-thouni were performed in connection with flood and natural calamities. The site for Lord Koubru: It is located in the northwestern corner of ‘Kangla’ and is worshipped mainly for good rainfall etc.

Besides these holy/sacred places, there are “Paotak Pung”, “Pakhangba Pung”, “Pakhangba Khuda”, “Nata Pung”, “Yaorei Khukal Tetnou Yotli Chingba Ching”, “Yaoreibi” “Yaichampat”, “Lukhrapat”, the site of “Mangang Guru”, “Shumshang”, “Yumjaolairenbi”, “Lai-Nongshaba”, etc.

Rash Leela Mandop at Kangla

Manipur in general and specifically the Meiteis have been facing an ethnic identity crisis ever since the emergence of Hinduism before and following Puya Meithaba. The ethnic identity of the Meiteis in the valley is a mixture in the social and religious spectrum. The quest for self identity is the need of the day.

Setting up any other religious structure that hurts the sentiments of the people is termed defiling the religious sanctity. Such act is a punishable offense under the section of 295A of Indian Penal Code. The current crisis of Rash Leela Mandap, whether it was done by the previous government or the present, must see the sentiments of the people and refrain from hurting the religious sentiment. Rash Leela or any art and cultural structure must be set up else where.

Madhu Chandra is Hyderabad based freelancer and former spokesperson of North East Helpline.

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