End of Bishnupriya Manipuri supremacy in Manipur and why?
History says that the present Manipur was divided into small territories occupied by different clans of the Mongoloid people such as the Khumals, the Moirangs, the Angoms, the Ninthoujas (Meiteis) and the Luangs. In the Khumal Puran it is stated that the Meitei King managed to murder the last king of Khumals, and after conquering the Moirangs leading to the end of the period of supremacy of Bishnupriya Manipuris (Khabas, Angoms, Moirangs, Chengleis and the Khumals) in the 15th century AD as expressed by the historian N Khelchandra Singh. After that the Bishnupriya Manipuri Kings were reduced to mere titular heads in their respective territories by the Meitei maharajas. Though they were deprived of their independent administrative powers, the Meitei overlords allowed them to exercise their authorities over the religious and social matters. The villages in Manipur are uni-ethnic, each village being inhabited by the people of a particular plan. The Bishnupriya Manipuris living in villages established in the valley particularly in the territories around the historic Loktak Lake. Shri R.K Saha from the Anthropological Survey of India stated in his dissertation that almost all the Bishnupriya Manipuris of Manipur except those who moved out to the neighboring valleys of the Brahmaputra, Barak and Surma rivers, and to Tripura , had to keep aside their ethnic identity and language under the pressure of adverse political circumstances , and passed over to the Meitei society.
What happened to the Bishnupriya Manipuris after losing political supremacy to the Meities?
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
Many people of the Pancha-Bishnupriyas i.e.people belonging to the Khumals, Angoms, Moirangs,Luwangs and the Chengleis, remained attached to their traditional identities and refused to be merged into the Meitei population. These remnants, collectively known as the Bishnupriya Manipuris therefore became the victims of social discriminations and various other acts of persuasion like the assignment of menial services, etc. by the Meitei monarchs. The Meitei Kings-Keyamba and Khagemba were said to have employed the Bishnupriya Manipuris to supply forage to the royal stables. The Bishnupriya Manipuris after playing a glorious role in the history of the land since the pre-historic days fell in evil days. Their ouster from supremacy over the land was completed by the beginning o the 18th century A.D. and since then they were subjected to oppressions and humiliations by the Meiteis who now emerged out supreme over the land. Any way, the Bishnupriya Manipuris accepted their surrender of power to the Meiteis as a ‘fait accompli’ and continued to retain their ethnic identities and culture, particularly, their own language.
Bishnupriya Manipuri, the court language of Manipur
The Bishnupriya Manipuris lost political supremacy, no doubt, but they still continued to dominate the culture of the land. Epigraphic and numismatic evidences clearly show that even the Meitei chief continued to observe the Vishnu cult along with their own. Meitei script mentions the name of many popular gods of Manipur as Siva, Durga, Ganesh and Visvakarma. Some monarchs, amongst whom special mention may be made of is Khagemba, who gave encouragement for the construction of temples at various places. He is said have construction the Vishnu temples at Bishnupur. Cherairongba, father of Pamheiba is also said to have established a Radha-Krishna temple. The Bishnupriya Manipuri languages still continued to enjoy the status of the court language. It continued till the reign of Khagemba which , according to the calculation of’ Bijoy Panchali’falls in the middle of the 17th century A.D Historian R.M.Nath endorses it and writes,”Khagemba introduced the Meitei as the court language in the place of Vishnupriya language”.
The Bishnupriya Manipuri language
Thus the Bishnupriya Manipuri lost political authority over the land by the end of 17th century A.D. and their language lost royal patronage. Still their language existed on the valley with full dignity till the middle of the 19th century. Historical works written by both the Indian and western scholars offer irrefutable testimony of its existence. The ‘Khamul Pandit Navakhendra,’An Account of the Valley of Manipur’ by Maj Mc Cullock; the Ethnology of Bengal’ by Dalton; the ‘Linguistic Survey of India’ by G.A.Grierson and many other works may be referred to in this connection .Sir Grierson, who made a survey of the languages in the languages in the valley during the middle of the 19th century found it there as an active language.
The Bishnupriya Manipuri language an Indo Aryan language
Bishnupriya Manipuri was formed on the soil of Manipur and nowhere else. Thus, it may be summarized that Bishnupriya Manipuri is an indo-Aryan language of the eastern group and was formed in Manipur towards the 14th and the 15th centuries. And, thus, it is also a Manipuri language.This should not be regarded as a manipulation of the young generation of today.It has got a long history behind it.
G.A Grierson also has recorded this language as ‘Bishnupriya Manipuri.’
The Bishnupriya Manipuri language as understood today , was formed towards the 14th and the 15th centuries as result of the mixture of the different dialects of Indo-Aryan and Meitei.The different clans of the Mongolid people and the Bishnupriya Manipuris were living side by side in Manipur for centuries before the 15th century; secondly the Meitei language was formed after the 15th cen tury A.D and the Bishnupriya Manipuri language was formed towards the 15th century,--both on the soil of Manipur. On the other hand the term Manipur was attributed to the land in all probability after this period, i.e.towards the 17th century when it was on way to full Aryanisation. And, consequently, the term Manipuri was attributed to the people of Manipur. So, when the terms of Manipur and Manipuri came into use both the Meiteis and the Bishnupriya had equal rights to the terms.
Valley Society of Manipur, R K Saha
The Linguistic Survey of India , 1891, G A Grieson
Khumal Puran , Pt Navakhendra
The Term Bishnupriya Manipuri, Dr K P Sinha