The hill ranges starting with Phandu peak and the Maning ching of Waikhong village have several Meetei Laifamlen. There are around 25 Laifamlen in the hills of Waikhong village which must be protected. A tete a tete with Publicity Secretary, Hidam Thomba Meitei of Waikhong Laifamlen Protection Demand Committee (WLPDC) said that Waikhong village is an important Meetei village of historical importance, having several Meetei Laifamlen. The villager has been protecting these forest and Meetei deities since time immemorial.
Waikhong is an old hill village in the southern part of Manipur along the Indo Burma Sugnu road. The village is recorded in the royal court chronicle Cheitharol Kumbaba. This Loi village of Manipur is found mentioned in the Pakhangba and Khaba war records which date back to the first century AD. The salt-making village is found in the puyas as well.
Several records of the British mentioned this small hill village and there was a Dak Bangalow on the Waikhong hill. In the Gazetteer of Manipur, E W Dun records that in 1886, the total household of Waikhong was 50 houses and the main occupation of Waikhong is salt making for the royals of Manipur Kingdom. The nearby hills surrounding Waikhong people are meant for collecting firewoods used in salt making.
There are around 15 salt wells in Waikhong. Prominent among them are Tampakkhong, Pachoukhong, Yambikhong, Khongjao, Selungkhong, Chingtek khong, lokchao khong etc. During the reign of Maharaja Pamheiba, Maharaja Chandrakirti, and Maharaja Budhachandra several salt wells were dug in Waikhong village. These are recorded in the Cheitharol Kumbaba.
The household totaled 231 as per the 1951 census and in the latest census report 2011, Waikhong is now having around 700 households. Important Leikai are Ningthoumanai, Laimanai, Khunjao Leikai, Uyung Khunou, Pomthapokpi, Pere Leikai, Chingdong Leikai, Tangsam etc.
The traditional boundaries of Waikhong village are Phandu hill ranges on the eastern side, and the stream which runs down from the Phandu is flowing on the northern side of the village, bordering Thongjao village. Several hills ranges from the Phandu peak descend downwards towards the western side which includes Leihaopokpi, Thamnapokpi, Hayenpokpi, Chandol Pokpi and Keijanfam. The Phandu hill ranges go towards the south and form the Ahumpokpi hill ranges which include Atonbi, Yaimabi, Waklenpokpi, Ayunching, and Uchanpokpi. After crossing the Indo Burma Sugnu road, the hills range which is known as Maning ching forms the Western boundary of Waikhong village.
Important Meetei Laifamlen found in the Waikhong village are mentioned as follows.
Thumthong Lairembi Laifamlen
Thumkhong Lairembi is the village deity or principal deity of the Waikhong village. The salt well and the villagers are protected by Ima Thumthong Lairembi. On the Southern side of Indo Burma Sugnu road, the shrine of Ima Thumkhong Lairembi is situated. There is a salt well on the premises of Laifamlen. Waikhong villagers worshipped Ima along with Apokpa on Kalen months for 11 days. On a rotation basis, the two Leikais – Ningthoumanai and Lamanai worshipped Ima Thumkhong Lairembi. Other Leikais teamed up with either of these two Leikai in the Lai Haraoba ceremony.
It was a tradition for the Waikhong village to observe a specific event called Laisha Tanba (hunting animals for the diety). The Village khullakpa used to go out hunting (Laisha Tanba) sitting on a horse along with his Phamdous (traditional institutions). Whole villagers participated in the Laisha Tanba event with spears, swords and other weapons. The Waikhong hills around Leiripokpi and Thengaching were used as prominent hills for Laisha Tanba rituals. Animals like wild boars, golden cats, and deer, were hunted and offered to Ima Thumkhong Lairembi and Ibudhou Apokpa. With the passage of time and the financial condition of the Khullakpas, the tradition of hiring horses was discontinued and they used to be carried on a palanquin.
This ceremony shows that Waikhong villagers have been depending on the hills of Waikhong for ages.
Thengaching situated in the southwest of Waikhong village is an important religious site of the Meetei. Here, villagers performed the Lai Lam thokpa of Village diety Ima Thumthong Lairembi. The hill is considered as a sacred place of worship and Waikhong villagers since time immemorial preserved and protected the Thengaching forest. Today, the hill is a hot spot of biodiversity fauna and flora.
During the reign of Chingkhu Telheiba in Kege Moirang (1083-1138 AD), Leimarel Sidabi incarnated and came to Waikhong in the form of a Cow named Langnubi. She was grazing on the river bank when her consort Napu Sansenba found her resting along the stream. San Langnubi was very calm when he found her. The place where Napu Sansenba found her is known as Tetre river.
Waikhong villagers nowadays perform the Kurak Lamdaiba and every year, for the welfare of the villagers, amaiba and amaibi performed Khayom Lakpa in this important river which is flowing in the Waikhong village.
Hithangfam Chingmei Hill
Sanahal, the prince of Uchiwa’s Diety, Nongshaba Ikop Ningthou went out to adventure the southern part of his territories. He came up to Pumlen patsa lake crossing the Akasoi iril with the help of a boat. Sanahal finally reached the Chumnang pothapat and landed at the Chingmei hills where Sanahal get down from his boat to venture into the neighboring villages. The foothill where Sanahal embark his boat is now known by the Waikhong villagers as Hithangfam Chingmei.
Upon reaching Chingmei hills, Sanahal climbed the top of a Ucha tree and looked towards the Waikhong village eastward. The Ucha tree upon which Sanahal (Apokpa) climbed is still found in the Waikhong village for ages. The Tree is still growing in between a banyan tree.
Villagers preserved this Hithangfam Chingmei and the Ucha tree for future generations. The elders performed yearly kumgi Lakyel taiba in these sacred hills. The people of Uchiwa also regarded the place where prince Sanahal came down in Waikhong and settled as an important place of worship.
Saroi Khangfam Pung
On the western side of the village, there is a Saroi Khangfam pung . Here, the elders performed a religious function, saroi khangba during the first and last Saturday of the Lamta months (probably March-April). The pung is a protected site of the Waikhong village.
On the southeastern side of the Hithangfam Chingmei, the sacred place of Ima Phouoibi is situated in the Waikhong Village. Waikhong villagers offered annual prayers to Ima Phouoibi on the 12th day of Wakching (Imoinu) for the welfare of the villagers and mankind.
Nungai Pokpi Laifamlen
The Chingjel ching is located on the Southern side of Waikhong village. Here lies the important sacred Laifamlen, Nungai Pokpi. Every year during the month of Inga, on any auspicious day, Waikhong villagers performed religious functions for Nungai Pokpi. It is a common belief of the villagers that Nungai pokpi protected the life of Waikhong villagers. The villagers upon passing this sacred place offer stones to Nungai pokpi. Each family has to offer stones corresponding to the number of their family members. The Nungai Pokpi, never increases its height despite villagers offering stones for ages. This is a miracle and villagers consider Nungai Pokpi as the protector of their souls.
On the auspicious day of Imoinu Iratpa numit, villagers of Waikhong and other nearby villages performed the Imoinu Iratpa thouram at the sacred site of Meinamba Laifamlen which lies in the extreme south of the village. The villagers proceed to continue lighting lights (Meira) in every sacred place and temple of the Village only after taking Meira from Meinamba.
The villagers also used the traditional method of making fire using Meiba chingba which is the earliest form of fire-making among the indigenous people of Manipur. Imoinu Iratpa is incomplete if we don’t have fire from the Meinamba Laifamlen.
The highest peak in Waikhong hills is Phandu. There is a cave in this peak that is considered the sacred place for Ibudhou Pakhangba. The cave has many tales that no one can exactly know the whereabouts of the cave, it hides from the people with wickedness and sinners.
The Waikhong village Khullakpa along with the villagers climbed the Phandu peak to worship for showering abundant rains which is much needed for the Waikhong and surrounding areas. The Ibudhou Phandu helps the villagers to get water for the entire village through a stream that runs in the village. The Villagers are protecting this Phamdu Laifamlen and the peak, which is directly related to preserving the forest and natural flora of the hills located in Waikhong.
Ibudhou Pakhangba Laifamlen
The Pakhangba Laifamlen is situated along the Indo Burma Sugnu Road. Hardly 100 meters from the Highway, the Pakhangba Laikon Chingsang runs parallel along the road. The small lofty hillock is a wild dense forest, preserved by the villagers. Thick forests are preserved by the villagers and the top peak of Pakhangba chingsang is known as Pakhang Kokton which is a flat area, preferably 50 – 70 feet wide. On the auspicious Mera month, villagers celebrated the Pakhangba Haraoba for a day.
The Pakhangba Laifamlen is endowed with different varieties of trees and creepers. A particular indigenous fruit called Heirangmei is grown within the sacred premises of Pakhangba Laifamlen. Villagers are prohibited from felling down trees from the Pakhangba Laifamlen.
Thoibi Leima Leifamlen
Thoibi Leima Laifamlen is situated along the northeastern side of Ibudhou Pakhangba Laifamlen. The sacred place lies on the northern side of Pakhang Kokton. Ima Thoibi Leima is worshipped by the villagers after the third day of Ibudhou Pakhangba Haraoba.
Women with blood-related problems worshipped Ima Thoibi Leima to recover their health. People from other parts of the State visited this sacred place to seek blessings from Ima Thoibi Leima.
Nongpok Ningthou Laifamlen
This Laifamlen is situated on the eastern side of the Pakhang kokton. The place is sacred to the villagers. There was a huge stone of Nongpok Ningthou which is lost in the forest. Villagers now constructed a small temple in the same spot where the stone was found by the village elders.
The Wangkrak Laifamlen lies on the western side along the Indo Burma Sugnu road. The villagers worshipped Wangkrak with a white dug on the auspicious day of Inga month. Villagers do not perform Ika Ikum khayom until and unless the religious function is performed in Wangkrak by the Village Khullakpa.
There is a Cave inside the Wangkrak groves. Villagers are forbidden to enter the cave. If by mistake, someone set foot in the caves, there is a belief that person will be paralyzed. It is believed that the cave from Phandu and Wangkrak are connected. And this cave from Wangkrak is connected to the Kangla surung.
The Sandhong Laifamlen is another important sacred site of Waikhong village. This dense forest is abundant with exotic fauna and flora. Villagers are preserving the forest for ages. It is forbidden to cut trees from the Sandhong Laifamlen. Villagers worshipped Ibudhou Sandhong on Langban month for the prosperity of villagers. It is believed that with the blessings of Ibudhou Sandhong, Waikhong has brave men. Waikhong village has several brave and mighty people like Abujam Janmenjoy who are known in the surrounding villages for their strength. The village also produced several Mukna players which are blessed with Ibudhou Sandhong.
The Apokpa Laifamlen is situated on the eastern side of Ibudhou Sandhong. Lai Haraoba of Ibudhou Apokpa occurs on Kalen month for 11 days. During the Lai Haraoba, Waikhong villagers searched the Thangtup seeds along with Kombirei, Chumnang lei and Kongyang lei from the Waikhong hills preserved by the villagers to be offered to Ibudhou Apokpa. The Waikhong villagers preserve these flowers and the Thangtup tree in their forest.
Ichum Lairembi Laifamlen
Ichum Lairembi is located along the southern side of Indo Burma Sugnu road. The hills range along the Ichum Lairembi is known as Abungaiching. On the auspicious day of Lamta Thanil, Ima Ichum Lairembi is venerated for the longevity of life. Villagers pray to Ima to safeguard their life. On the northern side of Ichum Lairembi, there is a small swampy area called Hingpumpat.
There is a myth that the two siblings from Moirang came along with their father to hunt in the Waikhong hills. When their father went hunting alone and did not return back soon. The brother and sisters were fishing in the Hingpumpat. Later on, the brother went to search for their father. The place where his sister waits for her father and brother is known as Ibungaiching. Nowadays, Waikhong people called it Abungaiching.
The salt wells of Waikhong were attacked by wild animals from the hills of Waikhong. Due to frequent attacks by tigers and wild animals, villagers of Waikhong seek help from the Chairen Ningthou. The King sent two of his brave subjects, Pukchao and Taibong to protect the people of Waikhong from wild animals. The two help the salt-making villagers from wild animals and they continue to produce salt.
The place where they prepared to attack the wild animals (Khousaba) is now known as Taibong Khousafam. The Waikhong villagers dedicated this place where they perform Khousaba as an important place. Villagers bring offerings to the Taibong Khousafam to mark the brave protector of Waikhong.
Pere Lairembi Laifamlen
The hill adjacent to the Pakhang kokton Chingsang is Pere Chingsang. During the Pakhangba and Khaba war, the defeated Khaba clan came down to Waikhong and settled at Pere Chingsang. The place where Khaba clans settled at Waikhong is known as Khuraijam Patong Khunda Ahanba. The diety located in this Pere Chingsang is known as Pere Lairembi. The villagers worshipped Ima Pere Lairembi on the first Tuesday of Inga month for the prosperity of Waikhong Village.
There is no specific place for Ima Pere Lairembi. There used to be a salt well in the Pere hills which is dried and covered by the forest. Villagers are protecting this sacred Laifamlen of the Pere hills.
The WLPDC, publicity secretary further appeal to the State government led by Chief Minister N Biren to protect these Waikhong Laifamlen for future generations. Hidam Thomba requested all stakeholders of the Meetei religion to support the demand committee to protect and preserve Waikhong village.