The legend of Mount Koubru

THE INDIGENOUS Liangmai people were the first settlers on the Koubru Mountain, located in present-day Kangpokpi district at an elevation of 2,562 metres above the sea level. As per historical chronology, the Liangmai indigenous settlement on the Koubru Range occurred after the exodus of Makuiluangdi Charanam. The Liangmai people were the first settlers around the Koubru Mountain range. According to Liangmai folktale, their patriarch, Mr. Nguiba, the king of Makuilongdi (the cradle of Zeliangrong civilization) had two sons, the elder son was born to his second wife, and the younger son was born to his first wife because of which there was a dispute as to who between his two sons should be made the rightful heir.

As per this folklore, Nguibo sought the help of his brother, Makingh/Makieng who was settled at the foothills of Koubru to arbitrate the issue of the rightful heir between his sons. The descendants of Makingh/Makieng became known as Makimai, and people of Makingh/Makieng today are known as Meiteis in the valley. According to the legend, there were two brothers; one migrated to the Valley and Liangmwho who remained on Koubru Mountain.

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In those days, it is said that Manipur valley was filled with water. In due course of time water level decreased and the valley dried up. The first place which dried up was called Kangla (Dryland) and the younger brother (Meitei/Makieng) and his descendants migrated from Koubru mountain and began to settle down at Kangla. According to folktale, Kangla was the first area of settlement for Makieng (Meitei) and his descendants. Hence till today, the Liangmai call valley as Makidi, the land of Makingh/Makieng. Liangmais and Meiteis still observe this bond of brotherhood known as Mera Houchongba/Mera Waayungba/Mera Thoumei Thaanba as a mark of remembrance which falls every year on the 15th lunar day of Mera Month of the Meitei calendar. 

Legend tells us that Lord Koubru had the power to breathe flames of fire before he came out of his abode. Young children, especially boys, were restrained from coming out of their homes, to protect them from the flames breathed out by Lord Koubru. There are many stories told about Lord Koubru by Liangmai villages located around the Koubru Mountain. 

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In one story, thousands of years ago Lord Koubru had taken a maiden called Wimaranliu Abonmai who was the daughter of Charangambou Abonmai from Makhan village as his wife. Hence, the Makhan villagers used to invoke the blessings of Wimaranliu who had turned herself into a powerful deity. Wimaranliu is reverently known to the people of Sekmai as Ranu and every year during the Lai-Haraoba festival of Sekmai, phanek (mekhela) is offered as a ritual to Wimaranliu. A lady by the name of Ms. Namsipiliu who passed away in 2011 at the age of 100, used to weave this special phanek (mekhela).

Another interesting story of Lord Koubru is that he used to come down to Makui village to play Kangdrum (the ball) and Sagol kangjei (traditional hockey). Lord Koubru was said to be fascinated by the beauty of the place that he proposed to build a house for himself there, but his request was turned down by the village elders of Makui on the ground that, since he had already married a woman from Makhan village it would be better for him to live on the peak of Koubru mountain so that he could watch every activity that took place both at his backyard and front yard from a vantage point, the present sacred site.  

The entire Koubru Mountain Range is important to the Liangmai people not only because it is our ancestral land but also because our ancestors revered and worshipped the sacred Koubru as the abode of Koubo-Ra, the Lord of Koubru Mountain. The rich history, culture, and legends of the indigenous Liangmai are inextricably connected with the Koubru Mountain. There are over 33 original villages of the indigenous Liangmais surrounding the Koubru Mountain. The ancient Liangmai villages which surround the Koubru Mountain are still intact with clear and distinct boundaries with one another. There are still many monumental pieces of evidence to prove the settlement of our forefathers on Koubru Mountain. The Liangmai villages settled around the Koubru Mountain have well-defined and well-demarcated village boundaries with one another marked by permanent features such as hills, ridges, rivers, streams, and other permanent landmarks. In the territories of Liangmai there is no vacant land or no man’s land; rather every land, river, stream, valley, falls, hillock, etc. is marked with name and every land has its owner except the community land.

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It is important to mention that after the independence of India, unscrupulous people started using their aggressive land grabbing policy to evict the Liangmai villagers in and around Koubru Mountain Ranges. These old settlements abandoned by Liangmais are now resettled by the new settlers. Some of the villages are: Puilong (then) – Chalwa (now), Kasanlong (then) – Gelnal (now), Nbumai (then) – Waichong (now), Nongmai (then)- Kotlen (now), Zailong (then) -Changoubung (now), Aling – Songtun Ganong (then) – Mouhing (now), Pengjeng (then) – Haipi (now), Karalong (then) P. Moulding (now). At present, the Kukis are inhabiting the places once settled by the Liangmais. The displaced Liangmai people were later accommodated in various other Liangmai villages.

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that the newer communities settling in the Koubru mountain ranges are acutely aware that the Liangmais are the original inhabitants. Both historical evidence and ancestral land rights attest to this indisputable fact.

Diphiu Prinmai is a freelance writer and can be reached at diphiu2329@gmail.com.

Views are his own.

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