As I travel more and more, I realize, I find peace in the relics equally as in the mountains. The mountains offer silence and appreciation while the relics talk to you in some way, you just need to read it. They tell you story of their past glory and history. I have found myself lost for hours in such places deciphering the paintings, the art and the buildings.
I was on one such trip in the distant Himalayas of North East in last week of February 2017. Had heard a lot about the Indo-Myanmar side and wanted to give it a try. On research, I came across a place called More on Indo-Myanmar border. My journey began and I landed Imphal at 12:30 after a one hour delay, because of a VVIP visit in Imphla.
I reached the hotel at 1:30 pm and had some time in hand before next morning, when I had to leave for More, Indo- Myanmar border. Having just enough time at hand, decided to use it wisely. I decided to skip lunch and take a tour around Imphal. Looking for nearby places on Trip Advisor, found Kangla fort, which was just across the road from my hotel, Hotel Classy. The entrance gate (south gate) was around one kilometer from the hotel. I crossed the road and started walking across the footpath. One side, there is a four-lane road with less traffic and the other side a canal partly surrounding the fort.
I reached the south gate and bought a ticket of Rs.10 which also had a map of the fort. With the map you can visit by your own. You can also rent a bicycle from the same gate in addition of Rs10. The fort didn’t see much of tourist activity it seems. I tried to find people in the area but couldn’t find any. A disappointing “CLOSED” sign board was hanging at the front gate of the museum. I looked around to find a security guard sitting at the south gate. He just lamely said go inside it is open. I opened the main gate, which entered into a courtyard with a small fort building at the entry.
I went to the building and big lock hanging on the entrance again said the building is closed. Somehow, I had a trust on guard’s words and start searching for entry door of the museum. I took one round around the building but couldn’t find an opening. I was about to leave the museum; I saw a door without a lock and stopped. After a thought, opened the door, entered inside and found myself in a dark room. Immediately I came out of the room, put ON my phone torch and then entered the room. Slowly my eyes got adapted to darkness and there I saw. My eyes sparked with Indiana Jones kind of discovery- It was a museum!!
I started looking around and going close to the artefacts. It was small, but very informative room. The museum holds ancient books to earthen pots. It told about the history of Manipur from the 15th century to 20th century. It had one complete wall, explain how the flag of Manipur has evolved.
There are total 16 viewpoints in the fort as per the guide map. But there are many more sites to visit. It includes the museum, polo ground, residence of the ancient king to British officers, pool and ponds and many temples etc. Nungjeng Pukhri, a Royal pool is in the north of the place. In addition to there are other holy ponds like “Chingkhei Nungjeng”, “Manung Nungjeng” and “Lai Pukhri” etc.
A famous temple near the fort, Shree Govindajee temple, was built in 1846. It was severely damaged in the great earthquake of 1868. Even now, it has a lot of religious significance for Manipuri’s. Beside this there are many temples like Nunggoibi, Goddess of war;Site of Lord Wangbaren, God of natural calamities: Site for Lord Koubru god of rainfall and Manglen, Kangla Men Surung, Paotak Pung, Pakhangba Pung, Pakhangba Khuda Nata Pung, etc.
From the fort’s literature, could find out that the fort is a full of archaeological sites, monuments, and ruins. It has been a royal place since 33AD in 1881 AD. Cheitharol Kumbaba, the royal chronicle, records the construction of the Citadel in 1611. It was built up of well-burnt bricks. Citadel or Uttar has several sacred places, like the coronation site of Pakhangba, Kangla sha and many sites are under excavation. The “Uttra” is the ancestral coronation hall of the Manipur kings. The building was destroyed in air raids during the Second World War. Two huge ‘Kangla Sha’, a mythical structure of lion and sangia, is just beyond the Uttra. It was believed that the Kangla Sha is the Protector of the King. The site is also a witness of Anglo -Manipur war where four British officers were beheaded by the Manipuri soldiers.
It was amazing to see, how a small place can have significance in many verticals. The fort must have been the center of all the political and cultural events of Manipur, being a silent witness to rise and fall of kings and rulers for centuries.
This fort not only holds historical importance, but also Archaeological, Religious & Cultural, importance.
After the Anglo- Manipur war in 1891, British’s conquered the fort after that it has been under occupation of Assam rifle till 2004. Due to this, very little study was conducted around this place. Hence, it can be said that the fort holds more mysteries than it reveals. In recent past, it was brought under Archaeology, Department of Art and Culture, Govt of Manipur. Apart from the ruins there are Four to five excavation sites are active. Researchers say that there would be around 300 archaeological sites.
While I was roaming around I lost track of time and was brought to present times by the whistle of the guard who called for closing of the fort at 5:30 in the evening.
If ‘time travel’ is what you believe in, this is one must-go-place in Imphal.