Kangla was the ancient capital of Manipur Kingdom. It is at the center of Imphal, the capital of Manipur. Kangla was also the seat of royal power and has religious as well as cultural significance for the Manipuris. In fact, it is one of the most precious heritage sites of the State. At one time, the Kingdom expanded as far as Myanmar. The emergence of the Ningthouja dynasty in the year 33 AD was a major step in the stability and the royal lineage of Manipur Kingdom. The Ningthoujas' rule lasted for so many centuries up to the 19th century, when they finally fell to the mighty British empire on 27th April in 1891.
Since then the glory and significance of Manipur Kingdom has slowly faded out of peoples' memories. The Kangla, which was once the sacred home of the Manipuri royals and the revered place for the locals, was soon overrun by British Army and later by Assam Rifles. In the course of time, its significance has slowly been eroded. The handover of Kangla to the people of Manipur in 2004 was a significant step in preserving the rich history of Manipur Kingdom.
Before the Anglo-Manipur war in 1891, Kangla covered an area of 1 square mile but that has now shrunk to 237.62 acres in the present state. It include the ancestral place of the royal family, burial sites, areas of worship and shrines. Kangla was originally a small mound on the banks of Imphal River.
Kangla is the most important historical and archaeological site in Manipur. Though the glory of the palace has been slowly eroded over the years, there are still many significant monuments to see at Kangla. The place itself, monuments and shrines have a deep cultural and historical context. The place is also steeped in folklore. Some people believe that the cosmology of the whole universe centered around Kangla. It goes on to establish Kangla as the most significant place in Manipur.
Kangla was deserted several times due to the invasion by the Burmese. In the Annals of Manipur history, the invasion and the subsequent Burmese occupation for 7 years is know as Chahi Taret Khuntakpa. Later during the British rule, they turned Kangla into a cantonment area. An army battalion was stationed at Kangla. As an act of punishment, the British destroyed Kangla sha, a monument and also stripped Shri Govindaji Temple of its gilded roof. Kangla has survived many invasions and occupations. Though it does not have the poise of the bygone era, it is still much revered in Manipur.
Some Sites to visit at Kangla:
Nungjeng Pukhri Achouba:
Nungjeng Pukhri Achouba is the believed to be the abode of Lord Pakhangpa, the supreme deity of the Meiteis. It is one of the larger ponds and one of the nine rivulets in Kangla. The ancestors of the royal family used the water from the pond to perform a ritual called Apokpa Khurumba (Ancestor Worship). Other popular religious rites performed here include Pakhangba Chenghongba and Sanamahi Cheghongba, the Khayom Lakpa - where eggs, uncooked rice and coins are wrapped in plantain leaves, folded and tied along with bamboo strips and immersed in the pond.
This is the site where enemy heads were buried after performing a rite known as Huiyen Lallu Chanba by the priest. In one incident in 1981, five British officers led by Mr. Quinton, the Chief Commissioner of Assam were beheaded and their heads were buried here.
Manglen is a sacred site where the mortal remains of death kings were cremated to a flame called Manglen.
The serpent like boats with the head of Sangai is now displayed in a glass house. Boats were used by the Kings for boat race during festivals. Boat construction started during the reign of Luwang Ningthou Punsiba in the 7th Century AD. Traditional boats were built from a single log. King Punsiba designed the baot with the head of Sangai in honour of his brother who turned into a sangai, according to the legend. The body of the boats are designed like that of serpant, representing the body of Taoroinai, a vehicle of snake god, Pakhangba.
A fort-like structure deep at Kangla can be called the last defensive wall of Kangla Fort. The wall surrounds important sites like the Palace building and the coronation site of King Pakhangpa. The citadel was first built in 1611 AD, later it was rebuilt later in 1873 AD.
Shri Govindaji Temple :
Govindaji Temple was built in 1846 at Kangla by Nara Singh Maharaja. The temple was constructed in the year 1846. It collapsed in year 1869 due to an earthquake, but was reconstructed in the year 1874. The temple has an open verandah. The huge pillar-like structures outside the temple are unique and similar to some structures from the Greece mythology.
Lord Ibudhou Pakhangba Leishang:
Lord Ibudhou Pakhangba, the ruling deity of Manipur and his abode is believed to be the Nungjeng Pukhri inside Kangla. There's a small temple dedicated to the supreme deity in the middle of the Kangla compound. The temple built in a unique style blend in with all the folklore and legend surrounding Kangla.
The museum was under renovation on my visit. It was temporarily closed. But the house that housed the museum was built by the British and it looked grand and beautiful. After the British left, the Assam Riffles used it as a hospital, before finally turning it into Kangla Museum. There are many such British built bungalows and houses.
Polo is the State game in Manipur. It was introduced in Manipur during the time of King Kangba. The sport gained popularity and was widely associated with Manipur culture. The polo ground was built during the time of Marjit (1813-91).
Kangla Uttra and Kangla Sha:
The Uttra Sangai was built for the first time during the reign of King Khagemba in 1629 AD. Since then it has been symbolic of the State. It was rebuilt by Maharaja Chandrakriti in 1873 but was destroyed during an air raid in the Second World War. The Statue has been restored now. The Kangla Sha is the State emblem. It was believed that dragon statue of Kangla Sha was first erected by Chinese War captives. It stood on either side of the steps leading up to the Uttra. Giant statues of Kangla Sha built by Maharaja Chourajit in 1804 AD were destroyed by the Burmese after their invasion and occupation of seven years. It was Maharaja Nara Singh who constructed the pair of Kangla Sha again in 1884 AD. After so many renovations and reconstructions, the latest Kangla Sha were built by the Kangla Fort Board during 2006-07.