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Why the terms ‘Mayangs’ and ‘Khais’?

The term Bishnupriya Manipuri has become an apple of discrepancy between the Meiteis and Bishnupriya Manipuris. The Meiteis hold that they are the real Manipuris inhabiting the land while the Bishnupriya Manipuris are the descendants of some Bengalis who entered the land only a few years back. Accordingly, they call the Bishnupriya Manipuris ‘Mayang’, i.e., foreigners or westerners. On the contrary Bishnupriya Manipuris hold that they are the real Manipuris inhabiting the land from the time of Mahabharata war and that the Meiteis are the descendants of some immigrants from the surrounding hills to the valley. They accordingly call the Meiteis “ Khais” i.e., the people of the Chinese group.

In many occasions Bishnupriya Manipuris were referred as “Khalachais” which in southern Chinese dialect means ‘Children of the great lake’ (Kha=Lake; La=Wide; Chai=Children). The Meiteis, moved in from Chinese territory and this is reflected in the name. Meitei means, in Chinese, ‘people of this country’ i.e., Chinese territory. “It is quite probable that the Khalachais are the first cultural race in possession of the Manipur valley.

The Meiteis call the Bishnupriya Manipuris ‘Mayang’ being the descendants of the low caste Bengali Hindus who were taken as prisoners of war by King Khagemba during 17th century A.D. , 120 families of different castes who were brought into the valley by Pamheiba during 18th century A.D. , and 65 Bengali speaking families who entered in the valley under leadership of some Dhanapati Rajkumar also known as ‘ Koireng Khullakpa’ during the reign of Joi Singh (Bhagyachandra). The facts given may be correct but the total of different people of these immigrants under reference makes a figure too small to form an ethnic community in a foreign land in such a short period. The actual thing which happened was the absorption of those people with the Bishnupriya Manipuris who were living there since the ancient time on account of their cultural and linguistic affinities. Also fraction of the low caste people were also absorbed among the Meiteis, such events occurs in the history of every community.

Moreover, the captives were brought from East Bengal, on the other hand the Bishnupriya Manipuris be traced similarities more with the language of West Bengal of the 14th Century and of Kamrup than with that of East Bengal. These features cannot be explained if it is said that the Bishnupriya Manipuris are the descendants of those low caste Bengalis from East Bengal.

Bishnupriya Manipuris always remain as Hindus, never convert
The relation between the conquerors and the conquered, as history gives witness, never grew sweet. The conquerors always fell upon the conquered and let loose different measures to bring them under their fold. The Meiteis were not an exception to this tendency. Talented persons of the subdued clans were assigned with responsible offices in their administration. To infuse in them a sprit of integration, they created myths and legends in which it was preached that all the clans were the ‘salais’(branches) of the same people origination from the same Supreme Being, ‘Taibang Mapu Sidaba’. On those who are unwilling, coercive measures were adopted. As a result of all these measures many became Meiteis adopting Meitei customs and manners, and their way of life. Some, however, for getting royal favor and gaining status in the society, voluntarily passed for Meiteis. In this way a large number of people were absorbed into the Meitei population. Thus their political supremacy was followed by numerical superiority in the valley.

Bishnupriya Manipuris retain their identity
Again in few cases it is referred that the captives or the prisoners of war were only males and consisted of both Hindu and Muslims. Of them the Muslims fully adopted the Meitei languages as their mother tongue where as the Hindus retained their own tongue. This difference cannot be accounted for if the Hindu captives are regarded as only forefathers of the Bishnupriya Manipuris. The Hindus retained their language because they were absorbed into a larger class of the same or allied stock, were as the Muslims married Meitei girls and consequently lost their language. Interestingly,   even in the 21st century there are no traditional Muslim Bishnupriya Manipuris which can be found out in the case of Meiteis.

Bishnupriya Manipuris the first cultured ruling race in Manipur
Thus the Bishnupriya Manipuris are not the recent immigrants in Manipur. They had been there for centuries. This is supported by the findings of many modern scholars. Prof. J.B.Bhattacharjee writes, “The Meitei state was preceded by the Indo- Aryan Bishnupur state in a small segment of the valley in the early period.” Historian R M Nath writes , “ The Bishnupriya Manipuris were the first cultured and ruling race in Manipur , but were driven out from power when the Meiteis occupied Manipur Valley in the 18th century A.D.

Santosh Kumar Singha Manipal DATE : 08 APR, 09


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