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The pond held as sacred by Meiteis nesting in a crest near Koubru peak

The Beautiful Legends and Myths of the Meeteis About Sacred Koubru Chinggoirol

Introduction:

Once our religious scholars said, “Koubru is the top of the head, Kangla is the umbilicus, the Loktak is the abode of the soul, Chingnunghut is the rectum”. This shows that the Koubru Mountain is like the top of the head of the human body. Our forefathers believed that we had our origin out of the Koubru mountain range and will return to it at the end of our life.

The height of the Koubru is about 2562 metres from the sea level. The Imphal river originates from Polenpat, a lake with a height of 2406 metres from the sea level. Its ten acre area, located around 15 kilometres away from Kangpokpi forms a part of the Koubru mountain range. The Koubru forms a part of the Barail, Surma and Jayantia hills. It is estimated that the Koubru range is about 70 million years old. It is a part of the Alpine-Himalayan mountain ranges which emerged out of the sea of Tethys.

Some ancient manuscripts like Chinglon Laihui, Chinggoirol, Chingsatlon, Nunglon mentioned about Koubru. A reading of them gives us a depth of the inner values and the holy spots associated with the Koubru mountain range. This mountain range was named after Lainingthou Koubru. Koubru is still regarded as a sacred spot of the Meeteis and the hill tribes.

It is written in Chinggoirol, pages 19-20, “Now let us explain about Koubru. Koubru is located at the top of a mountain. There is a pond (ikom) in it. A Sangaiyumpham is there near it. A bed of stone is there. There are rice pounding blocks of stone that include a winnowing flat basket and a pounding rod. A peepal tree (Khongnag) grows near the pond. Nongthoukongnga chalik mapan grows on the western side. The stone laid on the eastern side is believed as the spot where the image of the supreme god was received. The cave near it serves as a gate way for the cattle. The big stone erected on the northern part is the gateway of elephants; its name is Pokpi Leisanu. Another stone found on the southern side is called Okpokpi. The eastern tip is the sacred place of Salailen. Water gushes out of its top. There is a block of stone on the north-eastern side. This stone also gives out water. The name of Salairen is known as Nongkhaklen Nong Ningthou. There is a stone called Khunupok. A tall stone near it creates hen and duck. The name of Koubru is Mihinglen-Mipokpa. Another name is Ngouba. No one dies if Lainingthou and Lairembi are worshipped with ceremonial accompaniments. The king and queen can enjoy long life.”

Once the Koubru hill range was known as Malleiching. But after the settlement of the celestial Koubru, it came to be known as Koubru. An account of how the Koubru mountain range took the name of Malleiching – “the eldest son of Ibudhou Marging Awang yuren Mar Thangmeimar Hanba and mother Khunleima Khunthokhanbi, Tolongkhomba, married the precious daughter of Koubru-Kounu – known as Nungthel Leima, and he took care of hill and valley areas. This caretaker who happens to be the son-in-law of Lainingthou Koubru and whose another name Loyalakpa is described as follows –

“ThongnagchingbuTanna khanba, Thongnang Malleiching Lindu Yangteek ching … Haomarokki Kambi Phanba, Thoudu Nungpak Leppa Ningthou-o”. The western face of the Koubru mountain range is known as Thongnang Malleiching. Along with that, there is an account of the Koubru being called Koubaching.

Koubru Lainingthou is the incarnation of Khoiyum Atiya Salailen. Yoibu Khoimom Lairemma Kounu Lairembi is the consort of Lainingthou Koubru. Goddess Erok Leima Taibangngambi or Thoudu Nungthel Leima is the daughter of Lainingthou Koubru. The son of Marjing – Lainingthou Awang Thangwai Marhanba, Waira Samang Leppa, Huiyel Lanching Thouba, Nahalakpa, Nahalakpa Tolongkhomba, Loyalakpa, besides being a protector of the western side, is the husband of the daughter of Lainingthou Koubru. In a terse manner Lainingthou Koubru is descried as thus …. “Koubru is a supreme controller; it is the first settlement of the celestial beings, origin of human creation and its spread; the royal white elephant is found there; the annual rain starts there starting from June and continues unabated throughout July; both winter and summer have birth in the Koubru.”

In short, Koubru is both the heaven and the head of the sylvan deities. Upto now the festivals of other deities are performed after the festival of Koubru takes place in the first place. The festival of Koubru comes in the first week of Failen (February) and it takes place after the ceremonial rites of Imoinu Ima and the yearly onset of rain of Wakching (January). The first festival of sylvan deities Lai Haraoba, took place at Haroathel, Koubru. Polo is played by the four sylvan deities in every Lai-Haraoba. Afterwards many sacred sites were established including the holy spot of Koubru, in Sekmai. Koubru is believed to have 61 sarois (evil followers). The first festival of Koubru was witnessed by Sawangmelongpa Melong Hamengmit when he was hunting deer. The direction of Koubru is called nungsitlam. It is believed that Koubru has nine children.

The area covered by Koubru-Kounu is talked of as belonging to Luwang Salai. King Luwang, the head of Luwang Salai, had a brother who turned into an Uningthounachumbi. This tree was used by being Luwang Ningthou Punsiba to carve the first boat. The dead souls of the seven Kkongjomnupis are still taking care of the cycles of time as stars. The youngest of them is believed to exist still as a Chingnung Lairembi at Koubru.

Koubru is one of our deities who is responsible for the onset of seasons. The head priest of this state uses the names of Koubru-Kounu to ceremonially invoke rain whenever a drought takes place. This world will come to an end the moment mother Kounu stops the ekouba (invocation of rain) from Koubru who is her husband. Kouba Eengel hill is the source of water which is symbolically thought to be located at the top of the human body. Enga kumdam, eengel kumkhai is talked of when mother Kounu prepares the start of the rainy season. This water is shared by Koubru and it is praised as inga kumdam ingel kumkhai. There is such a thing known as Koubru Phingou-Phouba which shows that there will be unrest in the land. If the divine white elephant known as Koubru Laisha is to move down into the valley area, it indicates that there will unwanted events. The Koubru mountain range is compared to the human body; there are six gorges in it. They stand for the six enemies of a human being. They are jealousy, envy, pride, anger, enchantment, desire; they represent sadness, happiness, coldness, hotness, a desire to cry, being prone to laughter. The process of giving them up by going to the sacred place of Koubru is known as a way to know the self. When a person dies he/she is placed at Khangenpham facing the direction of Koubru. Here the head symbolizes Koubru and the feet as that of Lainingthou Thongngarel Khanna Chaoba Wangbren. The peak of the Koubru known as Sannaching Hanching located at Laimaton Khourumba is the sacred site where both Laingthou and Lairembi are on their thrones along with that it is the origin and location of the seven colours which are fiery, decked with golden clothes with the Koubru serving as a gridle, Thangjing as a throne, Wangbren as a pedestal, Marging as a riding animal with the seven heavenly Lainuras as serving in a circle, the twenty-seven sun, moon and stars serving above as a canopy and a location which serves as the source of rain and clouds.

It is believed that the peak of the Koubru is the first place where living beings settled for the first time; the rays of the morning sun strike it first. The saying of ‘nongthrei maou lingliba’ comes into being because the Koubru is the perennial source of water which enables human beings to exist. The seven clans have their origin out of the seven Laipungthou and seven Lainuras. The concept of human fertility is associated with the saying ‘Charik mapan thaba’. The heavenly flower is known as nongthrei, and there are seven plants termed as nongthrei mawu; the seven clans are symbolically associated with the seven plants; Lainingthou Koubru is the creator of the said seven clans. The human body is created after the image of the supreme lord. There are three lotuses in it which are Khoidou thambal and the two khuya thambals. The pollens of this flower are known as the counts of a life. Thus our revered elders describe of this flower. “Is this flower a lotus? Does it come from your body?” Besides, it is related that Wangkon Laira Atengbi, the mother of Luwang Ningthou Punsiba, who plucks this flower which it grows at Mairen Lokmai Ahenba of the Koubru keeps it near the Choinou yumbi as it can replace damaged parts of the human body. The following is the version of Luwang Ningthou Pumhiba.

“A flower that supplements both internal and external worlds,

A flower that can beautify seven generations,

A flower that lasts along with seven lines of grandchildren,

A flower that can do away evil,

A flower that can fill up what is wanted,

A flower that resembles Chahuikangba,

Give this flower as a covered bunch.”

Lainingthou Koubru incarnated representing the Supreme God (Atingkok, Atingnga, Atingkham) as a divine human being. The supreme God has no visible form. We, the human beings, look upon the creator as our parents. Thus the supreme creator is described as follows: “When the knotted bun of hair sits on top of the head he represents both father and mother; he represents the father and responds with a ‘hao’ when the bun of hair sits on the forehead, and the responds as a mother with a ‘hao’ when the knotted hair is placed at the back of the head”. The human body is regarded as the image of the creator, and as the human body is looked at as a temple we touch our forehead with a finger when a body is defiled with a touch of our feet. A person starts searching the inner spiritual world when he deeply looks for the origin of the three Lotuses, two at the feet, one at the navel. Such a search is spiritual in nature. Every living and non-living beings are believed to have their origin out of the Koubru. There are many truths when looked at from the scientific angle. The ancient manuscript, ‘Sakok Thilen” indicates that our souls will return to the Koubru at the moment of death. This place is talked of as “The beginning and the end”. The cortex is the origin of this world. As such the human body is believed to have seven sacred places. They are eyes, ears, nose, lips, navel, abdomen along with 108 sacred sites. It is the centre of life-indicating the pulse. Externally when someone visits the sacred place of the Koubru, he/she should look for the above mentioned seven sacred spots. If water is not is released from Engel Ching when it is requested for, it indicates that there will be an end of life. It is said that the world will come to an end if the big pond located at the peak of the Koubru dries up.

Thus there will be no end in discussing these sacred places of the Koubru. Oral traditions relate that the Kabuis, Moas, Marams are related with the Koubru. Kapuilu, the head of the Kabuis settled in the Koubru and came to be known as Kapuiluching; later it came to be called as the Koubruching. The Koirengs also inhabited the Koubru and they worshipped Koubru in the belief that they are protected by Lainingthou Koubru. It is a tradition that those settlers around the Koubru worshipped Koubru as a tradition. The might and qualities of Lainingthou Koubru is thus praised by the priests and priestesses of the land: “…….. let the evil forces go towards the south and fall into the widely-opened mouths of the big and small tigers that are in Lamlen Chingnunghut. Let the good, happiness and deathless go towards the north and be embraced at the courtyard of Lainingthou Koubru Asuppa as the white big and divine elephant embraces its baby elephant into its bosom. The sacred places of Lainingthou Koubruching and others: The sacred place of Lainingthou Koubru is at the top of the Koubru mountain. There is a tradition of going on a pilgrimage to the top of the Koubru starting from March to May when the heavenly door is open. The pilgrims should proceed towards the south after reaching the top of the Koubru. There are two paths on the ridges. The sacred place of Koubru and Kounu can be reached following the right-side path.

Besides being the origin of the 361 sylvan deities and those four deities who are in charge of protecting the directions, it is the origin of the seven clans. The sacred place, Haraothel is believed to be the first place where for the first time the supreme creator Salailen and the 365 sylvan deities performed the Laiharaoba festival (sylvan deities’ festival). There are many sacred places along the Koubru mountain range. They include the sacred sites of Lainingthou Koubarel and Lairembi Thoudu Nungnang Leima, mother Imoinu, Lainingthou Loyalakpa, Nongkhaklen Ningthou, Laimaton Khourumba, and thus mention can be made of them. The pond that pilgrims come across is a divine spring. The divine cave near the pond is the palatial spot. Near it there are divine stone bed, stone rice-pounding pestle, stone winnower and stone rice pounding rod. Once there grew a peepal tree to the north of the pond and Nongthou Kongnga Chalik, used to grow there. The stone found to the east is the one that received the divine image of the supreme creator. The sacred cave near it is the gateway of cattle. To its north, the big stone found there is the gateway of elephants; the name of the monolith is Pokpi Leisanu. The one to the south is called Okpokpi. The mound found in the east is the divine site of the supreme creator. Just as the name of Koubru is called Mihinglen-Mipokpa, the name of the supreme lord is Nongkhaklen Nong Ningthou. When anyone goes on a pilgrimage to the Koubru he/she should worship the sacred spots of Imoinu who is known as Wanggol Laira Atengbi. The six peaks have sacred places of goddess Imoinu. They are Hikubi, Yaikubi, Hileima, Yaileima, Yaisana. Firstly we should take a bath in the pond. Rice, fruits, flowers etc. should be offered to Ireima Ima. Next offering should be made to the hill deities and protectors of the four directions when one reaches Laimora which is a meeting place of deities. After praying there, pilgrims should proceed towards the blessed throne of Lainingthou and Lairembi. After that more offerings will be made to Ipa Salailen and Ima Leimaren. As the peak is scaled we should move towards the south. The hallowed area of Lainingthou Koubru and Kounu can be met. This orderly visit is a serious matter and this is mentioned in the ancient text, ‘Koubru Chinggoirol’. Again the ritual of offering should be done. While on a pilgrimage to the blessed hill of the Koubru, it is believed that heaven can be reached after crossing the six gorges and the six peaks. The gorges and the peaks have different names. They are Kouba Meisa Langba Lok, Malangphaicham Lok, Kumdam Lok, Ingen Khumkhai Lok, Ikou Lok, Itha Lok etc. In some texts it is referred to as Amam Leisalok. The six peaks are Meiwai Langba Ching, Malang Nongphai Icham Ching, Inga-Kumdam Ching, Kouba Ingen Nongphaiching, Eeshing Thembi Nonghou Ching, Koubru Yairel Salailen Laimaru Laiphamlen etc. A big bamboo plant grows between Lamyang Lamkhai and Lokchao; another small species grows starting from Lokchao upto the peak of Koubru mountain. The Imphal and the Nambul have their source out of the Koubru. The Koubru mountain range forms a part of Patkai hill range. It is mainly formed with stone of Barail Series. The Koubru Hill range has stone of Disang series dating back to (Eocene to Oligocene) 65×105=65,000,000 to 26×106); again it has stones predated (upper Cretaceous to Eocene – 71×106 to 65×106). The fossils found in the Koubru belong to the Barail Series. The Koubru mountain range emerged along with the European Alps and the Himalayas out of sea of Tethys. Many flora and fauna are found in Manipur which has a sub-tropical climate and Alpine meadow that is found only in high altitudes. The low part of the peak of Koubru known as Lai Mora, is an example of Alpine meadow. One white and rare rhododendron found mainly in the Himalayan region, grew to the eastern side of the pond. This rhododendron is found along the Saramati and Siroi ranges.

Some of the animals found are orangutans, elephants, monkey, black monkey and others belonging to the line of the tiger. There are evidences that show that human beings once settled there.

Conclusion:

Besides being worshipped as a protector of the four directions and as a sylvan deity, those who follow Lainingthou laining (3,100 BC, the reign of King Kangba) worship Him during such occasions as the birth of a baby, marriage, death of a person by performing rituals mentionng of Lainingthou Koubru. Along with that fish and animals are also offered. Along with Him the 61 evil spirits are also propitiated. On the concluding day of the festival of a sylvan deity, the priests sing of lai nonggaba as thus – “… Oh father take along the bag, a fire is lit at the top of the Koubru, along with a horse saddle, playing the pena, along with the song let us head for the heaven”. After the departure of the deity, He is given a farewell. Therefore this deity is taken as one that has been with the Meeteis inseparably from time immemorial. The ancient manuscript “Nung Lon” says thus about Koubru and Kounu’s sanctified place, temple and their images and ceremonial practices – there is one stone known as Sumda Yai along the path of Kangla. The stone takes a rest there. It is black in colour. Its name is Koubru. There is another stone called Hee. It has a divine face. It faces the path. Its name is Kounu. A stone known as Hee is on the path of Ushoi. It has a celestial appearance. It also faces the path. Its name is Koubru. He is the deity of both winter (six cold winters) and summer (six rainy summers).

This Koubru is sacred to Lainingthou Koubru and Lairembi Kounu. Therefore, the Koubru is taken as the cortex of a human being, Kangla as the navel, the Loktak as the centre of fertility and Chingnunghut as the rectum. It is a cultural and religious tradition of the Meeteis to pray to Koubru for the welfare of the land. Even king Bodhachandra, who practises Vaishnavism, did not give up following the old religious traditions of the Kangleis.

According to Cheitharol Kumpaba “1863, (1941) Wednesday is the first day of December … on Monday, the fifth day after Wednesday a propitiatory ritual was performed for the four deities who protect the directions … the ceremonial prayer was performed by Pandit Chandrasing” In 1953 (1875) the first day of June is Tuesday … on the 15th lunar day, Monday, the king goes on a pilgrimage to the Koubru. 1955 (1877) Saturday is the first day of September … on the eleventh lunar day, Tuesday, a golden Leihao (Champaca) was offered to Koubru by Haobam Mantri and Pandit Thongam Madhav on the order of the king. It is instructed by religious scholars that a person born on this earth will get salvation if he/she can visit the blessed places of the Koubru. It is believed that our departed souls are blessed by Lainingthou and Lairembi. When our souls are in heaven the heavenly deity. Chingu Lai Pangganba, puts such questions to the souls standing by the heavenly gate – Oh! Human beings, did you visit the sacred sites of Koubru, Marjing, Nongpok Ningthou, Wangbren, Thangjing, Loyalakpa, Waroiching etc. Did you come without looking back at Mingsenkhong? How did you cross that heavenly river after climbing Langching, taking a rest of Khamnung Khundin at Potthapung?

Did you pray to your grandmother, Thonggak Lairembi, who is guarding the Langgol hill range after crossing the river? Did you take a bath and wash your clothes at Nungsi Khongham Eepak? Thus our scholarly religious elders teach us that such questions are put to the departed souls by the heavenly deity, Chingu Lai Panggalba and the seven Lainuras. Therefore, we should know the inner and outer concepts of the sacred place of Kanglei when we visit them.

At the conclusion I would like to say that this land is based on the as human physique; even a house is built after the image of the supreme god, known as Taibang Semba Mapu. Both the script and language are based on the human body. Everything has its origin out of the head. Thus customary rules should be followed. This land is known as a heavenly abode because of the presence of these rare traditions.

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