Mythical Dragons of Manipur

Mythical Dragons of Manipur

We entered Kangla Fort in Imphal, Manipur from the west gate.

“Beautiful place” my DW [Darling Wife] said. I agreed. As always. “Who will show us around? Are we to walk around this Fort?” she asked. Forty years of married life had taught me to conclude that she wanted to move in a vehicle. Under such circumstances, a dutiful husband will immediately look for a vehicle, and lo, there it was. A will will always find a way, more so if it is expressed by your DW.

“Hello” I addressed a group of three girls, young ladies if you prefer that expression. They had the golf cart, and agreed to show us around. A small fortune was charged for the service. We hopped in. One of the ladies drove the vehicle.

“Kangla fort was handed over to Manipur Government by Assam Rifles in 2004” she informed us. “Ok, Ok it happens. One can’t argue with men holding rifles. They retained it too long, right? You have to be Donald Trump to have the will to confront gunmen unarmed” I said. I don’t know why DW had smirk on her face. Must be that Trump comment. We reached a red coloured building. “That’s Victoria. It is a museum now. It was built as a hospital by the British” our girl guide cum driver said. “That’s good. Elsewhere museums look like hospitals.” Travellers from Aamchi Mumbai readily agreed with that insight.

We came to a place where we noticed two statues of a white creature. “These are Kangla Sha, they are the protecting mythical dragons of this Fort.” Understood, I said to myself. There are good dragons and bad dragons. Some protect, others destroy. But dragons as protectors is a concept rather difficult to digest. I get the same feeling which I get when owner of an Alsatian dog tells me “he will not harm you, come in.” Some things are incompatible with certain personalities. Well, we can only explain it blaming cultural differences.

The girl on the steering wheel of the golf cart drove us to the Temple. The ruling deity of the temple is ‘Ibhudhou Pankhangba.’ The story of Ibhudhou Pankhangba is similar to one we hear about Lord Ganesh. About when asked to circle the earth, he circled the cow, in the case of Ibhudhou Pankhangba he circled his parents while his two brothers went on ‘pradakshina’. That won Ibhudhou Pankhangba the throne. “Moral of the story: Smart work pays, hard work does not” said DW. Ask me!!

We visited a beautiful temple. The Govindraj temple. The Royal family stays in the vicinity. I saw a young boy blowing two conches simultaneously, in one breath. “You have to find meaning in everything,” I told my DW. “Take it from me, it must be all about dwaita and adwaita, there is symbolism in everything we Indian do” I glanced at her to watch the effect of my flash of insight. She must not have heard it. Some insights are lost in the noise.

Isn’t that your experience too? Tell me…

Vivek S Patwardhan

PS: The cover photograph: Govindraj Temple