Contemporary North East India is a product of British Imperialism and early National Formation of Modern India. It is necessary to know how the British empire of the nineteenth century impacted upon subject people of the North East. Manipur is a land-locked state in the eastern most part of the country, sharing an international border with Myanmar.
In contrast to many states of India, except for Assam, which has a sizable Muslim population, the Muslim population of North East India is miniscule as compared to the rest of India. The Muslim rulers who ruled India in the Medieval period never ruled any part of North East India, so Muslims of this region are different to Muslim in other parts of Indian sub-continent.
Meitei Pangal of Manipur
The Court Chronicle of the Kings of Manipur refers to the invasion of Manipur by Kachari and Muslim mercenaries in 1606 A.D. The King took 1,000 Muslims into captivity, but allowed them to settle in Manipur; he also provided them with Meitei brides (Meiteis followed a primeval religion-Sanamahi, not Hinduism at this time) and provided them with opportunities of employment. As a result the Muslims integrated completely into the Meitei society of the Imphal Valleys that they come to be known as ‘Meitei Pangal’. As originally these prisoners of war came from East Bengal (Bengal) and as the Meitei could not pronounce ‘B’ they changed ‘B’ into ‘P’, and the Muslims of Manipur received Dual Identity i.e. ‘Meitei Pangal’. They adopted Meiteilon as their lingua franca, they ate, dressed and lived as did the Meiteis and the only factors that distinguished them from Meitei was their profession of Islam. But till their Quest for Identity commencing from the end of the 19th century, they were not too rigid with regard to the tenets and practices of Islam.
In Manipur, women enjoy a high status, and as the Muslims married Meitei, the Meitei were easily able to completely transform their husbands into ‘Meitei Husbands’ whose life and conditions followed the pattern of the Meiteis. The Manipuri Kings were extremely liberal towards the Meitei Pangals, who right from the beginning regarded themselves as indigenous residents of the Manipur Kingdom. And Meitei Muslim women had an overwhelming influence over their husbands, because traditionally they were economically independent, mobile and also used to participating in the public arena. This is proved by their participation in the Two Nupi Lans or Women’s Wars against British colonialism in the 20th century.
In Manipur (India), there are 39 different tribes having their own cultures, languages, traditions, etc. All the tribes in the North East have similar physical features with slight variations here and there. Among these tribes, the Kukis and Nagas are the major tribes of Manipur. This presentation tries to trace the origin of the Kukis (Kuki-Chin-Mizo), which is often shrouded with myths and mythologies.