What do they speak in Manipur anyway? – Bishnupriya


(as distinct from the name of my cousin – Vishnupriya 🙂 )

During the period of the Pandavas’ exile in Manipur, Arjuna married Chitrangada, and begot the son Babhruvana through her. Babhruvahana ruled over Manipur after he was adopted as the heir of his maternal grandfather, who was the king.

After the Mahabharata war, Yudhishtira performed the Ashwamedha Yagna to re-establish dharma all over the world. In this Yagna, a horse was released to wander for a year. The kings of all the territories the horse wandered to were required to submit to Yudisthira’s rule or face war. Arjuna wandered along with the horse to Manipur. Here, Babhruvahana, who was ruling Manipur at that time, killed Arjuna after a petty skirmish. When he realized that Arjuna was his father, he repented deeply and wished to kill himself for the sin. However, Uloopi, his step-mother and a Naga princess gave Babhruvahana a jewel with which he restored Arjuna back to life. (Arjuna’s death here was due to the Vasus’ curse on Arjuna upon the killing of Bhishma in the Mahabharata war). Arjuna then proceeded with the horse through the rest of the journey.

Image Information: India, Maharashtra, Paithan. Babhruvahana Leaving the Netherworld with the Elixir. Scene From the Story of Babhruvahana, Folio from a Mahabharata ([War of the] Great Bharatas). Date circa 1850. Museum Number M.85.284.7

Nearly 450000 people in the current Manipur region, speak a language called Bishnupriya that has a significant influence of Sanskrit, Maharashtri and Suraseni Prakrit. – a colloquial language of the solders and the people of Kuru, Panchal, Matsyadesa, including Hastinapura and Indraprastha. After studying the linguistic details of this language, we can logically derive that the Mahabharatha war must definitely have some relation to the current day Bishnupriya language, especially because we can relate to the Kurus, Panchali, Hastinapura, their capital, etc. This connection is infact accurate. The immigrants from Dvaraka and Hastinapura, led by Babhruvahana are believed to have settled in and around Manipur, in his kingdom. Historical studies have proved that this civilization continued to flourish under a structured feudal system of organization as early as 33 AD. And invasions from the Burmese Meiteis in the later centuries also influenced the language and brought in many thousands of new words. Despite this, the language still retains its Indo-Aryan grammatical structure, with the script resembling Devanagari and Bengali. To escape the Meitei invasion, tens of thousands of Bishnupriyas migrated to Assam, Tripura, and Bengal (also includes current Bangladesh). They have continued to live here and speak this language.

The end of the Mahabharata war and the beginning of Parikshit’s reign (grandson of Arjuna, son of Abhimanyu), marked the beginning of the Kali Yuga. According to modern western calendar, the Kali Yuga began at midnight on 18 February, 3102 BCE. The incidents described above took place earlier than 3102 BCE. India has a diverse and rich cultural heritage dating back to tens of thousands of years, substantiated by our scriptures. We should cultivate the habit of learning about various parts of our country, not just by studying history at a snapshot in time, but by trying to comprehend the civilization in the continuum of history.

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