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Thangjing in the folklore of the Koireng tribe of Manipur

Last Updated on February 17, 2023 by SPN Editor

As the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community are passed through the generations by word of mouth, the Koireng Tribe of Manipur also has its own folklore which sufficiently mentions Thangching Hill situated to the west of Moirang in the Bishnupur District of Manipur.

The Thangjing hill is very important to the Koireng people of Manipur that they worshipped Ibudhou Thangching Koirel Lai, the Divine Ruler of ancient Moirang. But now it is simply Thangjing Lai. The All India Radio, Imphal used to transmit the song sung by the Koireng people revering Ibudhou Thangjing Koirel or Koren Lai in the 70s and early 80s. Due to certain complexity, the AIR, Imphal has stopped transmitting the song. Koireng elders referred to Thangching in their storytelling every time.

Koireng youths in traditional costumes

It is from their telling that the Koireng tribe lived with prosperity at Thangching and their population was also big. They came in contact with the people of Moirang. They fought against the Moirang king who was several times defeated by the Koireng with the help of a sword with miraculous power. Later on, the king by a stratagem stole away the magical sword, and the Koireng were thus defeated. The Moirang king gave curse to the Koireng. And the Koireng believed that due to this curse of the Moirang king, their population had decreased.

The original homeland of the Koireng tribe was known as Kolram in the East. Kol means East and Ram means Land. From Kolram they came to Semrojoul where they settled for some time. They left it and settled at Khomichum, Khuomilai, Khotatlu, and Lungsut. Then, the Koirengs settled down at Lungrel in Churachandpur. They further moved to Kailam. Most of their adventures remembered by the Koirengs were confined to South Manipur Hills.

From Kailam, they migrated to Tuolcheng. Then to Mihoibung and Kholaipiel. After settling down at Kholaipiel, they hurriedly moved to Erelon, then to Dumdoksuk. At Dumdoksuk the Koirengs were attacked by a migrating horde. They left the village and went to Thalkhangtang where they fought back against the enemies. Thalkhangtang was their stronghold for some years. But being pushed by the stronger and more numerous neighbours, they left Thalkhangtang.

After that, they shifted consecutively to Lingsielbung, Sielbu, Shamrai, Thuokkhuojoul, Ngaitebung and Tongkhuo. At Tongkhuo, the Koirengs fought against a stronger tribe who inflicted a very serious defeat on them. The Koireng tribe still remember the losses they suffered at Tongkhuo. They had to fight against unidentified enemies at Chiepi, and they migrated to Khapeibung and Mongkha.

Finally, they arrived at Thangching Hill. The Koirengs faced all the onslaughts before they came to the Hill where they settled eight times and abandoned it eight times. Eventually, they left Thangching when a raging inferno that broke out from the ambers thrown over a pile of husks by an old lady called Chongbompi gutted the entire village. There were eight clans in the village, and each clan owned a set of a wooden drum (Musical instruments). In the fire, eight sets of drum were burnt to ashes. In such a situation, the Koirengs left Thangching. Then, they moved eastward to Laimanai where they lived with the Kabuis as their neighbours for more than a hundred years. Laimanai was their dispersal point.

From there, they set off in different directions. Some clans went back to Kumbi Hill while another group proceeded towards Yongabung near Tongjei Maril.

There is a strong belief among the Koirengs that the Divine Ruler of Moirang was found in a Koireng song called “YEIHITA” sung by the youths, which are away from homes to work in the fields and woodland around the village at Thangching Hill. Whenever the song was sung, the Divine Ruler meticulously silenced every living creature like fowls and animals and stopped even the blowing of wind to enable him to listen to the melody.

There is also a belief that Thangching Koirel Lai is the founder and protector of Moirang. Everything that happened in Moirang was his creation and his will. He was the royal deity of the kingdom of Moirang. The scriptures and oral history of Thangching Koirel Lai at Thangching Hill and Moirang show that he was a historical king who was worshipped as the most important God of Moirang.

According to Moirang Ningthourol Lambuba, Thangching Koirel Lai was described as the godly king, the progenitor of clans and lineages, founder of years, chief of the heavenly gods, the goal of human souls and the chief of western region, the vanquisher of the Tripuris, one who traveled in Bengal and Mayang country on horseback. Thangching Koirel Lai married Koirel Leima. With regard to his origin, Thangching Koirel Lai came down from heaven and lived at his abode at Thangching and later on settled at Ngangkha village.

The chronicle further records that Thangching was the son of the heavenly god “Soraren Awang Pakhang Yoirenba” who came in search of his mother Leimarel Ngangshabi and went on crying. He was pacified when he was offered a flora called Leishang. He came to Thangching and settled at Khuyon and Ngangkha village. He was welcomed by Haomuba. The chronicle continues to state that after the creation of Ngangoi (Moirang) Soraren was invited to see the land and he was welcomed by his son Khori Phaba.

This episode was definitely an interpolation added later on to indicate that Moirang was colonized by the migrants from the north Imphal valley living around Koubru Hills. The story of Thangching Koirel Lai appears to be a reminiscence of an actual happening in Moirang (Prof.Gangmumei Kamei, Page 173-4 History of Manipur, Vol One).

Another modern proof that the Koirengs had once settled at Thangching Hill is supported by Colonial Writer B.C.Allen in his book on Manipur Population (1901 Census). Thus, “other minor tribes” are the Kom and Koireng who occupy the hills, which overhang the valley near Moirang. Perhaps, the British writer did not know the name of the hill and he never bothered to know it either.

This is what has been called the pride of the Koireng people in their claim to show that they were one of the earliest of known tribes of the ancient Moirang kingdom like the Kabuis, Moyons, Tikhups, Chothes, Kharams, etc.

Source – Koireng (Koren) Youth Organisation Manipur (KYO-M); photo credit – Johnson Singh

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