The legend of Lord Koubru and a Liangmai princess

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Before the advent of British colonists and Western missionaries in the Liangmai Naga territories in the early 19th century, the people of Liangmai worshipped various eminent gods and deities. Lord Koubru (Koubo Ra), the guardian god of the northern Kanglei realm, Charawang, the king of gods and Puichamiu, god of the winds are some of the gods worshipped and revered by them. It is worth mentioning that Lainingthou Koubru was worshipped by the Meiteis as well as Liangmais since the beginning of time, marking a close cultural, historical and religious connection with one another.

The people of Liangmai settled at Makhel (Makhiang) before 800 BC. Thereafter, the community occupied the virgin range of Koubru. Therefore, they are the original inhabitants of the Koubru Hills. To protect them from their enemies and malevolent spirits, the indigenous people appeased Lord Koubru by offering sacrifices regularly on Mount Koubru, the abode of the primordial deity.

Despite the onslaught of western modernity and Christian teachings, the original settlers have been guarding and protecting the sacred Koubru Hills for centuries. The legends and rich folklores of the Liangmais are indeed incomplete without Lord Koubru.

Liangmai villages surrounding the Koubru Hills have rich legends connected to Koubru deity.

One such legend is that Lord Koubru was married to a princess, Wimaranliu Abonmai from Makhan village. The Liangmai village is in the vicinity of the sacred Hills. She is known as Nungnangleima Saphabi or Ranu (in short for Wimaranliu). Tracing the history as recounted by elders of Sekmai and Makhan, the epic story happened thousand years ago before the arrival of new communities in Manipur.

This is the unfolding story of her and Lord Koubru.

Wimaranliu Abonmai was a daughter of Charangambou Abonmai, the king of the village. She was defined as a beautiful lady according to the beauty standard of that era. She was pleasing in appearance and attractive hair with an added graceful persona. She lived a sheltered life until a disease struck her, leaving one of her legs impaired. The ailment left her needing a walking aid to support her mobility.

One day, she and her group of friends went to Sekmai for fishing. On reaching the site, she flipped the walking stick inverted and planted it on the ground before she floundered away to catch some fish.

One day, she and her group of friends went to Sekmai for fishing. On reaching the site, she flipped the walking stick inverted and planted it on the ground before she floundered away to catch some fish. When evening approached, she asked her friends to go ahead and they parted ways. By the time darkness reigned over the night, the concerned villagers went out far and near in search of their princess. Their attempts had been futile. A shaman was approached by the villagers to invoke a spirit to locate her. It was during the time, far removed from understanding and psyche of modern humans when gods walked and interacted with us. The shamans were the conduit. The villagers were told that Wimaranliu was taken away by Lord Koubru as his wife and they ceased their search.

The place where Wimaranliu was taken by the deity and turned into a divine spirit is the present Koujengleima in Sekmai.

Until 1949 before the conversion of Christianity, during Lai Haraoba, the people of Makhan seek blessings from Lord Koubru and his wife, Wimaranliu. They offered them first fruits and animals. Wimaranliu was also offered Liangmai phanek, kaluang nkha (bamboo woven baskets) and phaimang (shawl). A few descendants of the monarch of Makhan village, though, still gave offerings to their princess turned deity until the early 2000s. The last person to bring items for Wimaranliu was Nampisiliu Chawang, a kin of the monarch. She died in 2011 at the age of 100. Till today, the people of Sekmai give offerings to the divine spirit, Nungnangleima Saphabi in every Lai Haraoba.

Legend has it that the upended walking stick of Wimaranliu was said to have grown to a huge grove of bamboo trees and it lived for nearly 200 years.The story of Lord Koubru and Wimaranliu Abonmai connotes the conservancy of our history and indigenous identity with other original settlers of Manipur for generations to come.

The land centered community has been living in the Koubru Hills since the beginning of the settlement. They have been preserving and revering the ancestrals’ land and will continue to do so until the end of time. At present, the liangmai villages which still encircle and guard the Koubru Hills are Makhan,Taniulong (Langka), Konsaram (Konsakhul), Sak (Leikhampokpi), Ariang (Khunkhu), Tokpa, Thanamba, Harup, Thonglang, Makui, Puilong (Ereng), Tapon and Tucha (Samuk). The people of Liangmai have now scattered to different districts of Manipur: Kangpokpi, Senapati, Noney, Tamenglong and Imphal West. The shifting of habitats and embracement of a new religion, however, do not annihilate the historical connections with Lord Koubru. Deeds of gods and ancestors of every human culture were chanted and memorised long before there was any writing form. Their truth was authenticated by the very fact of their continued repetition.

The civilisation of the Liangmai community on the hills has safeguarded their distinctive culture, identity, lands and territories. They treasure the gifts of their ancestors with utmost care and respect. Moreover the history of Lord Koubru is another example of how, as mentioned before, the historical connection of Liangmais and Meiteis has always been tangled and connected since the beginning of time.

A Freelance Writer can be reach at khiubamc@gmail.com