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Date of Publish: 2016-03-09

Kangla, the sacred ancient capital of Manipur is situated just at the heart of the present state capital, Imphal. Covering an area of 237.62 acres of land in the space-crunched city of Imphal, Kangla proudly represents Manipur's  valour before and after the Anglo-Manipur war of 1891. For many, Kangla is the sacred ground for worshipping their deities. A place whose religious and cultural significance is very hard to summarize in an article or a book.  This article revolves around the history of Kangla and the efforts of the Government of Manipur to help it declare as an important heritage site and tourist destination.

According to the legends, the history of the formation of Kangla is unknown. Kangla they believe is the navel of the earth. A place which came out of the great ocean and became the first land for human occupation. Kangla means 'dry' and it's believed that Manipur derived its ancestral name of 'Kangleipak' from the Kangla itself.  Kangla was a important ground for many kings starting with the emergence of Ningtouja dynasty under the powerful leadership of Nongda Lairen Pankhangba. But Kangla's destiny as the Manipur's most important political ground came when the state went into the control of British Empire during the 19th Century. Before this, Kangla had its own share of story when the ruthless Burmese invaders devastated the capital many number of times. It goes down in the history of Manipur as Chahi Taret Khuntakpa(1819-1825 A.D) means seven years of devastation. Later on Burmese went into raiding the plains of Assam resulting into the First Anglo Burmese War(1824- 1826) with the East India Company. Kangla's imperious citadel and fortified walls stood witness to several historical course changing decisions of Maharajas, Invaders, Britishers and even the bombers of World War II.  After the British, Kangla went into the direct controls of the Assam Rifles and subsequently to the people of Manipur on 20th November, 2004 through the Director General of Assam Rifles in the presence of then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

In the sprawling green campus of Kangla, resides many important historical monuments which includes the great Citadel wall, the Kangla Sha, Temple of Shri Shri Govindaji, Temple of Brindabanchandra popularly known as the Bir Tikendrajit Temple, General Slim's cottage and the enormous Lord Ibudhou Pakhangba temple. 'This is our heritage which stood witness to many historical moments of time' said Shashikanta Sharma of Kangla Fort Board, Imphal. He adds that last year Kangla had a foot fall of around 220 Foreign tourists till June '15. This is one of Manipur's most visited tourist destination apart from the Imphal War cemetery. In the talk of maintenance, Mr. Sharma adds up that Government of India has sanctioned 10 crore for Kangla after it was handed over from Assam Rifles. This amount was then converted into corpus fund which gets add up annually with the revenue earned from tourism for the maintenance of the place. Kangla perhaps houses the oldest polo ground in the world known as 'Manung Kangjeibung' which has a helipad of its own. This polo ground was for the elites. There is another polo ground situated near the Ima Market which is for the locals.

On a religious tour, Kangla unfolds in front of you a timeline of incidents and places that are associated with supreme power. 'Nungjen Pukhri Achouba' is a sacred pond known to be the abode of Lord Pakhangba. 'Manglen' is a place where the mortal remains of the deceased kings of Manipur were consigned to flames. 'Kangla Mein Surung' is a sacred place where the coronation of the kings of Manipur used to happen. This process is known as 'Phambal Tongba'.  There are again many structures in the compound but the view that will catch one's breath is the magnum structure of Lord Ibudhou Pankhangba's temple built with white marble. Built on a large periphery dais leading from stairs and water pools on both the sides, this is the most sacred places for the worshippers of 'Sanamahism'. Lord Pakhangba is the ruling deity of Manipur and his brother Lord Sanamahi is the head of all deities. One can find Laiyingthou Sanamahi's idols inside every household of Meetei family.

Mr. K. Radhakumar Singh, IAS (Commissioner Arts and Culture) is the man heading the development project of Kangla. He is also the Member-Secretary of Kangla Fort Board of which Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh is the Chairman. 'We have been in talks with the UNESCO regarding developing Kangla as a place of important heritage site. For me, this is a challenge as almost every structure has to be re-constructed as like the older times so as to be declared it as a heritage site. We have planners and strategists to chalk out the detail map for the project keeping in mind the religious sanctity of the place. As for funding, the Tourism Ministry is already interested in investing in the project'' quips Mr. Singh. Already under his aegis, a river raft has been constructed around the Kangla for beautification. Although no specification or number of years needed for the project has been unveiled but one can be assured of that Kangla will come out just the way it looked during the powerful reigns of the kings of Manipur. It's not only in the heart of the city Imphal but it's also important to be in the hearts of young minds the valiant efforts of the heroes of Kangleipak.

Photo and text - Prabir Kumar Talukdar

( Prabir Kumar Talukdar is a freelance journalist. He travels around the country to capture stories. He is a recipient of  2015 Trust Women Photo Award by Thomson Reuters Foundation and Microsoft.  He can be reached at prabir008@gmail.com. His mobile no is  73995-02650 )

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