Bishnupriya Manipuri Language: History, Source and Origin <body> </body>

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The Bishnupriya Manipuri Language



Historical Keynotes on Bishnupriya Manipuri Language

  1. "There can be no reasonable doubt that a great Aryan wave of very pure blood passed through Manipur into Burma in pre historic time. I see traces of this in the finely cut features seen now and then among the Manipuris" - Gazetteer of Manipur by Captain E. W. Dun, Page 15.
  2. " A tribe known as Mayang speaks a mongrel form of Assamese known by the same name..They are also known as 'Bishnupuria Manipuris or Kalisa Manipuris" - Linguistic Survey of India, 1891. Compiled by Sir G. A. Greirson, Vol V, Page 419
  3. "They (Mayangs) amongst themselves speak their own language, which is dialact of Hindee" - An account of the Valley of Manipore by Mc. Cullock, 1849.
  4.  " There is,moreover, an Aryan dialect called Mayang still spoken in Manipur, the headquarters of which are two or three plain villages near Bishnupur " - Gait's History of Assam  by Shri Padmanath Vidyavinode,1908.
  5. "By degrees the Meiteis became dominant and that name was appliled to the entire colony. It is highly probable that these hordes oven-an a country that had been previously occupied by people of Aryan blood known in Western India and to the bards...The present population of Manipur includes a tribe called Meiung who speak a language of Sanskrit derivation they are now in a servile condition performing the duties of grass-cutters to their conquerors" - Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal by E.T. Dalton, 1872, page 48,49.
  6. " There is a also a degraded class called the Kalachya or Bishnupuria ..They speak a language which is different from that of the true Manipuris" - Assam Census Report by Gait.
  7. "Mayang,one of the language spoken in the polyglot state of Manipur, May, however, be classed as a dialect of this language" - Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol I, 1907.
  8. " In 627 A.D. Khgenba introduced the Meitai Language as court language in place of Bishnupriya or Kala-chaia language."- The Background of Assamese culture by  Raj Mohan Nath,, page-87).
  9. "Among the manipuris there is community called Mayang Kalichas who are more dark skinned than the Meiteis" - Religion and Culture of Manipur by Dr. M. Kirti Singh,1988,page 53.
  10. "It is quite probable that Khala-chais are the first cultural race in possession of the Manipur valley, and they were connected more with the neighboring kingdom of Kamrupa than with other countries, and that is why their language is more akin to Kamrupi" - The Background of Assamese culture by R. M. Nath, 2nd edn. 1978, page 86.
  11. "Among the Kshatriyas there is a community known as Vishnupriya( Vishnupuria) Manipuris." - Religious development in Manipur in the 18th and 19th Century/ Dr M Kirti singh, page 20
  12. ".. So. in Manipur in spite of Devanagari scripts which the kala-chaias might have been using, the Meitai when they came into power introduced the new scripts." -The Background of Assamese culture by R. M. Nath, 2nd edn. 1978, page 90.
  13.  " The Manipuris who have been Hinduised are worshippers of Bishnu" - Sylhet District Gazetteer, 1970, page 105.
  14. " Manipuris are divided into two sections: Khalachaia or Bishnupriya and Meitei" (English rendering from original Bengali ) - Aranya Janapadey by Abdus Satter, 1974, page 296.
  15. " Bishnupuria Manipuris identifies themselves as Ksatriyas; they are pure Vaishnavs; they do not even touches wine or meat"(English rendering from original Bengali) - Purbobongo O Assam by Shri Krishna Mohan Dhar, 1909, page 106,107.
  16. " Except the Bengali speaking Hindus and Muslims,there is two community in Barak valley called Bishnupriya Manipuri and Meitei Manipuri. The difference of languages exists in these communities." (English rendering from original Bengali ) - Weekly Desh, june 19, 1989 , An article by Dr. Dhirendra Narayan Majumdar.
  17. "Manipuri is another cast of this region. They are divided into two tribes - Bishnupriya and Meitei." (English rendering from original Bengali ) -Report of National Aboriginal Roundtable Meeting, Dhaka, Page 32.
  18. "These people had Indo-Aryan features and called themselves Bishnupriyas. Long before their exodus they had lost control of Manipur to the rival clan of Meiteis. In their adopted land their lives and limbs were safe; but their language and culture began to lose ground against those of the majorette. Meanwhile, the Meiteis in Manipur became vindictive and imposed a de facto ban on Bishnupriya language and custom. The Bishnupriya Manipuris were caught between a rock and a hard place. Today, young Manipuris are no longer sure of their cultural identity." -An Article By Syed Zainul Akmal Al-Mahmood , Published in the Daily Star Weekend Magazine in the Jan 21st issue, 2000.
  19. "The manipuris residing in Cachar district are divided into two distinct Sub-groups, viz, Meithie and Bishnupriya" - Letter of Commissioner for Linguistic minorities in India, dtd 29 August,1973
  20. " The Bishnupriya are known as the Khala chais.They were the first ruling race of Manipur." (English rendering from original Bengali ) - Aranya Janapadey by Abdus Satter, 1974, page 297.
  21. " The Manipuris divided into three main groups - Bishnupriya, Meitei and Pangans" (English rendering from original Bengali ) - Moulvibazar Zelar Jonojibon by Prof Rasamoy Mohanto, Page 86.
  22. " Probably most controversial class of people having no homeland of their own, subsequently loosing their identities are the Bishnupriya Manipuris" - Tribals and their Culture in Manipur and Nagaland by G. K. Ghose. Page 169.


Manipuri denotes two linguistic groups: Meitei and Bishnupriya Manipuri

The Manipuris, from a linguistic point of view, are divided into two groups, namely - the Meiteis and the Bishnupriyas. The Meiteis entered Manipur from the east; their Language is of the Tibeto-Burman group. The Bishnupriyas entered Manipur from the west; their language is of the Indo-Aryan group. "Manipuris are divided into two main tribes – the – khalachais, who call themselves Bishnupriyas, are supposed to have been the first cultural race and the Meitheis or Meetheis, who call themselves real Manipuris are supposed to have been next immigrants."- said Shri R. M. Nath in his Book The Background of Assamese culture.  In Linguistic Survey of India, 1891 Sir G. A. Grierson recorded their Language as"Bishnupriya Manipuri". Sir Grierson what he recorded in ‘Linguistic Survey of India’ Vol.. V, Part 1, is "A tribe known as Mayang speaks a Mongrel form of Assamese by the same name. They are also known as Bishnupriya Manipuri." Dr. Suniti kumar Catterji also calls the Bishnupriya Manipuri (BPM) language simply "Bishnupriya" or "Mayang".But DR KP sinha says, "Mayang" is a misnomer for this language. The Bishnupriya Manipuris never called themselves as "Mayang".It is term used by the Meiteis in a degrading sense to denote Indian people outside Manipur. In Meitei, the "Mayang" means foreigner, westerner, just as the Bishnupriya Manipuris called the Meiteis "Khai", which stands for Thai or Tribe meaning. It is, however, clear that both these two languages were formed in the soil of Manipur.

Bishnupriya Manipuri - A language originated in Manipur

Works of both Indian and European Scholars bear testimonies to the existence of Bishnupriya Manipuri in Manipur in the earliest time. The "Khumal Purana" Of Pandit Navakhendra Singh refers to the existence of Bishnupriya Manipuri language in Manipur during the reign of Garib Nawaj. Pandit Navakhendra states - " The main stream of Manipuri, the Aryan origin people, the khumal, Moirang, Angam and Luwang who are following the Vedic cult from the epic ages being the devotees of Lord Vishnu distinguish themselves from the Meitheis".  The language originated and developed in Manipur and was originally confined to the surroundings of the Loktak Lake.

Other authorities such as An account of the valley of Manipore by Col. McCullock, Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal by E. T. Dalton and the Linguistic Survey of India by George Abraham Grierson mention that the language was in existence in Manipur before the 19th century. Dr. Grierson calls the language as "Bishnupuriya Manipuri", while some other writers call it simply "Bishnupriya". The principal localities where this language was spoken are now known as Heirok, Mayang Yamphal, Bishnupur, Khunan, Ningthankhong, Ngaikhong, Thamnapoxpi.


The " Manipuri" Question

In the post Sixties, with the power of the Manipur State behind them, the Meitei clan has been waging an organized campaign to discredit and disown the Bishnupriya counterparts. There have been suggestions that Bishnupriya was never the language of Manipur and Meitei is the "Real" Manipuri language. These assertions are contradicted by historical and anthropological evidence. Unfortunately some writers have repeated the 'Official' Manipuri line without thought or reason. For example, Gait's - Assam Census Report states "There is a also a degraded class called the Kalachya or Bishnupuria ..They speak a language which is different from that of the true Manipuris". Now it is reasonable to ask what was the basis of giving a linguistic a nomenclature  like "True Manipuris" or "False Manipuris".  The 1968 Language Bill passed by the Manipur Government making Meitei (A kuki-chin word) synonymous to Manipuri (An Aryan word) and the inclusion of Meitei language as the Manipuri language in eight schedule of the Indian constitution by the Indian Government was sufficient to damage the ethnical and cultural identity of the Bishnupriya Manipuri speaking people residing in Manipur, Assam and Tripura. The Bishnupriyas think that was completely unjustified to give the nomenclature to Meitei as Manipuri, where in the Linguistic Survey of India , the only basis of language classification Dr. G.A. Grierson described the Bishnupriyas As "Bishnupriya Manipuri". They think that is also illegal and irrelevant to consider only the Meitei language as "Manipuri" language where, in the statistics of School board, Cachar during British regime, in the Census report of India 1961 and in the Census Report of India 1971, the main heading "Manipuri" was sub-divided into Meitei and Bishnupriya and the nomenclature "Bishnupriya Manipuri" was strongly defended.


Places Where Bishnupriya Manipuri is Spoken

Bishnupriya Manipuri was originally confined only to the surroundings of the Lake Loktak in Manipur. The principal localities where this language was spoken are now known as Khangabok, Heirok, Mayang Yamphal, Bishnupur, khunan, Ningthankhong, Ngakhong,Thamnapoxpi and so on. However, later a great majority of speakers fled away from Manipur and took refuge in Assam,Tripura, Sylhet and Cachar during eighteen and nineteenth century due to internal conflicts among the prices of Manipur and due to Burmese attack. Consequently, it was difficult for the small number of Bishnupriyas who remained in Manipur to retain their language in face of the impact of Meitei, although Dr. G.A. Grierson, in 1891 found the existence of a considerable number of speakers in two or three villages near Bishnupur, locally known as Lamangdong.( LSI, Vol -V, Page 419). This Language is now spoken in parts of Assam, Tripura, Manipur( Jiribam Sub-division) in India ,in Bangladesh, in Burma and other overseas countries.


Among the countries outside India, Bangladesh has the major Bishnupriya Manipuri population. The localities are Slipur, Madhavpur, Tilakpur (Nagar), Kalaraibil, Bhanubil(Banughas), Guramara, Charapathari, Baghbati, Baligaon, Teteigaon, Mahung, Hiramati, Bendaria, Ghanashyampur, Chunarughat, Baram, Majergaon, Baluchar, Lakhat, Rajbari, Machimpur(Sylhet city), Lamabazar, North Tilakpur or Alipur, Guler Haour, Shimutala, Bamangaon, Gobindabari, Bhandari, Shukkur, Ulla-gaon, Chaygaii, Kalibari, Chaigaon, Fultali, East Tilakpur (Paligo), Digalbhag etc. Besides, there are a considerable number of the Bishnupriyas Manipuris living scatteredly in the local headquarters cities like Kamalganj, Khuwaighat, Rangamati of the CWttagoan Hill Tracts and also at Tezgaon, Manipuri-para of Dacca, the capital city of Banglades.


There are a large number of Bishnupriya Manipuri people settled  in Assam ages ago, particularly in the districts of Cachar,Karimganj and Hailakandi. This people are counted as one of the major group of people in Cachar and Karimganj districts.

 Cachar district

 i) NarsingpurPargona: T'he Bishnupriya Manipuri village of the Narsingpur Pargona includes South Bekirpar(Gudamghat or Panibhora) Rengti, Shantipur, Bhatirgram, Khunou, T'uk Gossaipur, Ratanpur, Katakhal (East), Katakhal (West), Narnita Nagar (South-East Katakhal), Hingor Haour, Kala Haour, Rakhaltdla, Dulalgram and Malugram.

 ii)MeherpurPargona: East Singari, West Singari, Bhagatpur, Chandrapur, Rengti, Bhagadahar, Nuwalam, Kalinjar, Mungor Dharam, Pithir Dharam, Chengcoorie and Kabirgang etc.

iii)JatrapurPargona: Srikona, Machughat or Ng@ongang, Dutpatil or Durpatuli, Machiinpur, Aat Dabol, Rajnagar and Bhagorangon.

iv) Silchar city: Silchar, the district head quarter of Cachar, Assam witnessed Bishnupriya Manipuri bases at Bishnupur, Vivekananda Road, Jalupara, Police Lane, Reserve, Itkhola, Malugram,Tikorbasti, Ranghirkhari, Ghunghur and other parts of the city. Duwarbond has its Bishnupriya Manipuri people there.

v) Bikrampur Pargona: Bikrainpur, Lakshmipur Sydpur, Kalain, Baropuwa or Bhubaneshwar Nagar, Bihara: Tengaragang, Burunga, Longhor, Bilorgang, Mohanpur, Sayaran and Dutpur .

Hailakandi district

In Hailakandi district, the population has a root at Hailakandi town, Sunapur, Khunou, Kshumel collectively known as Japirbond. Katakhal (Railway Jgn.), Nandirgang, Andurgang, a part of Chengcoorie and Chungduwar are included in the Hailakandi district.

Karimganj district

Karimganj district of Assam has much more Bishnupriya Manipuri villages than that of Cachar and Hailakandi. The thickly populated laociities of the district are Garerbond, Ardpur, Kukitilla, ali, Fechuakandi, Andhurgang, Amurkhal, Dhalibil, Panchd, Pechala, Tingari, Betubari, Dullabchera , UHasnagar, Khiluwa, Fbon, Aringtilla, B askaltitta, Chamtilla, East Krishnapur, West Krishnapur, Gergoang, Rupa, Fetipat, Butuchera and Bidyanagar at the Dullabcher zone of the district, while Pratapgarh zone of the district has its Bishnupriya Manipuri populated villages of Patherkandi, Rajargang, Kachubari, Unam, Betarbon, Jrala, Katabari, Lakshmi Mamila, Bitorgol, Kanai, Nuwagang, Bazarichara, Hatikhira, Bilbari, Khalibari, SataraLokei, Burunga, Luwarpuwa, Shiborkhol or Shiborgol, Betubari, Kehurgang, Rengti, Katabari, Seipargang, Soura Lokei, Mambari, Pagang, Nalugang, Nalibari, Hingari, Paruwagang, Tinokhal, Kehurgang, Barkaligang, Narayanpur and Kholapar etc. Karimganj town, the district headquarter, had also a small Bishnupriya Manipuris population. Pipala, Rangamati,. Damchera, Uzan, Bali Pipala, Ishabeel and Nurkha falls under Rangamati sub-area.

Guwahti, the State capital of Assam, it has a number of Bishnupriya Manipuri population much more then the Meiteis. They are residing at Maligaon, Sudarshanpur, Tetelia, Hengrabari, Kahilipara, Chailha Nagar, Bamuni Maidan, Beltola, Mmapara, Rehabari, Birbari, Dakshmin Gaon, Kalapahar, Noonmati, Narengi, Basistha, Tarun nagar, Shaktigarh, Rupnagar, Azara, Pandu, Mathuranagar, Motoria, Choymal, Rajgarh road, Christianbasti, Ganeshguri, Jatia, Nayanpur, South Sharamya, West Sharaniya, Katilakuchi, Bakrapara and other places. Halfong town and its adjacent places of N.C.Hills district of Assam has a considerable Bishnupriya Manipuri population there. In Nowgaon district a place named Laupam and in Suntipur district a village called Majbat (Chatribari) has also a small Bishnupriya Manipuri population there.


In Tripura, the Bishnupriya Manipuri population localities may be divided into Dharmanagar sub-area, Kailasahar sub-area, Kamaipur sub-area and West Tripura sub-area. Dharmanagar sub-area consists with Bhagyapur, Ragana, West Ragana, Huruwa, North-East Huruwa, East Huruwa, South Huruwa, Chandrapur, Shanichera, Bhumihin Patty, Rajbari, Kherengjuri, Joynagar, Nadiyapur, Dewchera, Ramnagar, Panisagar, Sundibasa, Narendranagar, Radhekishorepur and Bainunia. Kailasahar sub-area Bishnupriya Manipuri villages are Nidevi, Assainbasti, Radhanagar, Krishnagar (Gandhari tilla), Krishnanagar (imjhargang), Sripur, Kailasahar town, Paitur Bazar (Padmar-Par), Tilakpur, Guldarpur, North Guldarpur, Choudhurypara, Kirtantali, Bidyanagar, Ishabpur, Mashawli (Tilla), Rajnagar, Banorgang, Kanchanbari, West Kanchanbari, -North-East Kanchanbari, Manu, Betchara, East Betchara, Natun. Bazar, Kanchanchara, Nepaltilla(Bazar), Indranagar, Bhumlbin COlOney, Tmghari (Kathalchara), East Kawlftm, West Kawai, Bhati Jalai, Uzan Jalai, Jalai, Bilaspur, Pechardahar, Mohanpur, East Fultaii, West Fultali, Devipur, Dhanbilasb, Jarafltali, Dalgoan and Guldarpur Nayapara--Kamaipur sub-area Bishnupriya Manipuri populated villages are Abhanga, Bar Lutma, Devichara, East Devichara9 Chankap, Bhumihin, Halhali (Hal, Lutma Colony, Jainthum, Tilagaon, Mohanpur, Rupaspur, Guwalmara and Gangwar. West tripura sub-area Bishnupriya Manipuri villages are Khas Kalyanpur, Kuwai, Kalkalia, Aga including Radhanagar, Abhynagar, Dhaleswar, Banainalipur, Barduwali, Kasba Colony, Gopinagar and  Rangapaniya.


In Meghalaya, it has also Bishnupriya Manipuri population living scatteredly in the State. The localities are Forest Colony, Pynthorumkhra, Mulki, Dhanksheti, Vishnupur, Laitumkhra, Umpling, Oakland, PoliceBazarAluGudam,Nongthymau,Assam Rifle, Happy Valley, Tura, Langol, Gorampani, Nongpoh, Dawki, Cherapunjee, Mawsynram, Khleriat, Jowai and Laldrhymbai.

Foreign Countries

In Myanmar  Tbangdut, Mawa Kalewa and Bumnuk etc. are  the Bisbnupriya Manipuri localities. And in case of the United States of America, Canada, Germany, Middle East and Austria, there are very few Bishnupriya Manipuris recently settled there for earning a living there.



Population using Bishnupriya Manipuri language

3,00,000 in Assam
60,000 in Tripura
5,000 in Jiribam (Manipur)
12,000 in Ningthaukhong (Manipur)
10,000 in Bishnupur (Manipur)
2,000 in Meghalaya
1,000 in Arunachal Pradesh
60,000 in Bangladesh
150 in Nagaland
100 in Mizoram
100 in New Delhi
1,000 in Myanmar
2,000 in US, UK, Canada, Middle-East countries and  other overseas countries

*There are about 2,00,000 people living in Manipur, mainly in Khangabok, Heirok, Mayang Yamphal, Bishnupur, Khunan, Ningthankhong, Ngaikhong,Thamnapoxpi area, who speak Meitei but are known as Bishnupriyas. And, these people, even now think that their original language was Bishnupriya. Their facial feature and dark complexion clearly indicate that they are immigrants from the west.

Dialects of Bishnupriya Manipuri

Bishnupriya Manipuri has two dialects, namely -
 (1) Rajar Gang ( Kings Village) and
 (2) Madoi Gang ( Queens village ).

The Madoi Gang dialect also known as Leimanai and the Rajar Gang dialect, as Ningthounai. The term Leimanai derived from Leima (queen) + nai (attendant), and the word Ningthounai from Ningthou (king) + nai (attendant). The Madoi Gang dialect is was spoken probably in the Khangabok-Heirok area and the Rajar Gang dialect , in the Bishnupur Ningthankhong area of Manipur.

As regards to the origin of these two dialects, tradition says that once the queen of Manipur requested the king to give her a few village. The request was granted and in time the language of those villages developed in a different direction; the village in the possession of the queen were known as Madoi Gang or  The villages of the Queen.  The other villages remained in the possession of the king and known as Rajar Gang or The villages of the King.

These two dialects, however, cannot be located in distinct areas, but exists side by side in the same localities.  The Madoi Gang dialect has received a greater number of Meitei words and the pronunciation also the influenced greatly by Meitei.
Morphological difference between the two dialects is negligible, but from the pint of vocabulary, there are differences.

Source and Origin of Bishnupriya Manipuri

The Bishnupriya Manipuri Language comes under the group of Indo-Aryan languages. The structure of the language is undoubtedly of Indo-Aryan origin, but it also retains some older sounds of medieval Meitei. The vocabulary is influenced by many Indo-Aryan and Tibetan-Burmese terms. There are many theories in regard to the source and origin of Bishnupriya Manipuri. One theory holds that Bishnupriyas was the product of those Meitei speakers who fled from Manipur and took refuge in Assam, Tripura and Sylhet. But historical account shows the existence of the language in Manipur before 13th century. Moreover it is not possible for the speakers of Tibetan-Burmese language to adopt and Aryan tongue who took shelter in distant places and in distinct environments. Dr. K.P. Sinha was in the opinion that the language was originated through Magadhi Prakrita. Some researchers and scholars in the language disagree with him and point out their fingers towards Maharastri and Souraseni Prakritas. Some scholars try to establish its origin in the Nio-Prakrit language. However the Souraseni, Maharastri and Magadhi languages and the Tibeto-Burman languages have exerted their influence on the language at different stage of development of the language. Thus it has become a language that can absorb words from both the Sanskrit and Kuki-Chin Languages. Due to the destruction of the old records and literature of the language by the Meitei Kings and Burmese rulers, one cannot trace out the chronological development of the language. However from the 8th century inscription one can easily draw the conclusion that the language had taken its shape during that period.


Sounds of Bishnupriya Manipuri

Thirty-five principal phonemes present in Bishnupriya Manipuri of which eight vowel sounds, such as i, e,  ε, a, α,  ∂, ̣ and u; twenty-five consonant sounds such as h, p, b, t, d, ţ, ď, ?, ph, th, ţh, kh, c∫, ∫δ, m, n, η, l, r, φ, s, ∫, ĥ and ђ and two semi vowels  ŏ and ě. The vowel sounds can be represented in a tabular form as follows:

  Front Back
Close (High) i u
Half-Close ( High-mid) e ̣
Half-Open (High-mid) ε  ∂
Open (Low) a α

The consonant sounds can be represented in a tabular form as follows:

  Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palato- Alveolar Palatal Retroflex Velar Glottal
Plosive p,b t,d       ţ, ď k,g ?
Aspirate ph th       ţh kh  
Plosive with glottal b' d'       đ ġ  
Affricate       c∫, ∫δ        
Affricate with glottal       ∫δ'        
Nasal m   n       η  
Lateral     l          
Flapped     r          
Fricative φ s         h,ђ
Semi-vowel ŏ(w)       ě (y)      

The voice aspirates, such as as, bh, dh, gh and jh never occur in this language. They are replaced by four stops and an affricate with glottal closure, such as h, b',d',g', z' etc. The -ch- sound is also not found  and it is pronounced as -s-. (13 & 14)


Bishnupriya Manipuri Alphabets

The orthodox Bishnupriyas claim that they have their own script that is Devanagari Scripts which was used to write Bishnupriya language in pre historic days. Dr. M. Kiriti singha says, -" It was 33 A.D. that written language really began among the clans of Manipur specially among the Luwangs, Angoms, Khumals and the Moirangs"(Religious development in Manipur in 28th and 19th century, page-25). According to W. Yamjao sing -" In the collection of coins there are a few pieces of the 2nd century A.D. of the Christian era, its legend is in the Devanagari scripts"( An Early History Of Manipur, Page-127). Shri R. M. Nath concluded that -" In 1627 A.D. Khgenba introduced the Meitai Language as court language in place of Bishnupriya or Kala-chaia language... in Manipur in spite of Devanagari scripts which the kala-chaias might have been using, the Meitai when they came into power introduced the new scripts.(The Background of Assamese culture, page-87)

After the adoption of new Vaishnavism of Chaitanya and Shankardeva in the eighteen century they adopted 'Kata-Akshara'as found in various records by Dr. Dinkar, a scholar of international fame. This script is based on Purbi Lipi (Eastern Sript) of the Brahmi script which is the source of all the scripts in India. This script is available in the writing of chronology of ancestors written on bamboo pieces known as 'Tarapanar Chung'. However on induction of modern education during the British period through the Bengali language the Bishnupriya Manipuri writers began to use Purbi script of Bengali edition with a little modification.

Bishnupriya Manipuri is written from left to right and top to bottom, in the same manner as in English. Some of the consonants can combine with one another to make a compound spelling. Bishnupriya Manipuri alphabet is almost identical with the Bengali alphabet along with a few more additional characters-

Vowels: (a), (aa), (raswa i ), (dirgha i ), (raswa u ),(dirgha u ), (raswa ri), (e), (ai), (o),(au) Consonants: (ka), (kha), (ga), (gha), (nga), (cha),(chaa), (barga ja), (jha), (nia), t'a),(th'a), (d'a), (dh'a), (mudhoinnya), (ta),(tha), (da), (dha), (dantiya na), (pa),(pha),(ba), (bha), (ma), (antasta ja),(antasta raa), (la), (waa ),(talebya sha),(mudhoinnya sa), (dantya sa),(ha), (xia), (ra),(da bindu ra),(antasta ya), (khandata), (anungswar),(bisharga), (chandra bindu).
Punctuation marks: daari(|), comma(,), colon(:), semi-colon(;), question(?), exclaimation(!), hyphen(-), quotation("").

Download Bishnupriya Manipuri Fonts

Magadhi Influence in Bishnupriya Manipuri

According to Dr. K.P. Singha the Bishnupriya Manipuri language is developed from the Magadhi Prakria and ranks with Bengali, Assamese and Oriya. It is found from observations that the language has retained dominant characteristics of Magadhi.
For example,

  1. ś, ş and s are pronounced as - Ś, e.g., śeś (śeşa)... last, maiś (mahişa)... buffalo, śabdhan(savadhana)... coution etc.

  2. ks is pronounced as -kkh, as in brikkha(vriksa)... tree. 

  3. The ending of nominative singular of nouns ending in -a- is -e which becomes -y or -ye, e.g., rame rabane lalpham korechila ... there was a bettle between rama and ravana, chaubye guru aner... chauba brings the cows. 

  4. The sibilants ś, ş and s generally becomes -h- or elided etc. maha (masa)... month, habi(sarvani)... all, manu (manusya)... human.

Pronouns and declensional and conjugational endings seem to be same as or closely related to those of  Oriya, Bengali and Assamese. These forms of  Oriya, Bengali and Assamese are, on their parts, derived from Magadhi Apabhramsa coming from the Magadhi Prakrita.

Sauraseni-Maharastri influence in Bishnupriya Manipuri

The Bishnupriya Manipuri language is highly influenced by the Sanskrit and Maharastri as well as Sauraseni Prakrits, though some words of the Hindi language of Northern India. Sauraseni Prakrit was colloquial language of the soldiers and the people of Kuru Panchaya and Mathsadesh including Hastina Indraprastha etc. All the characteristics of Mahararstri and Sauraseni Prakrits are exactly found in the BPM language as briefly furnished below -

  1. Words with inflection of duel numbers are almost nil in BPM. The verbal forms change following number, gender or the subjects as visible in the Vedic, Pali and Prakrit language. e.g.
    1st person - Mi Jauriga ( I am going )
    2nd Person - Ti Jarga ( You go )
    3rd person - Ta Jarga ( He goes ),
                        Ta Jakga ( he may go )
    1st person - Ami Jiarga (We are going )
    2nd Person - Tumi Jaraiga (Y ou go )
    3rd person - Tanu Jitaraga (They go)
                         Tanu Jakaga (They may go)

  2. BPM people are very emient to utter dental sounds and also to speak any other language for the natural and hereditary sharpness of their tongue. The maximum uses of 'S' ( so) and its ( of so') becoming as 'H' (ho) sound amongst the sibilants are exactly reflected in BPM language. The following picture may classify the things -
    Asti ( to be)
    A'ste ( to exist toremain)
    Suta ( Birth son)
    Tistha (to remain )
    Stha (to be remained)
    Sv'lanker ( to start )
    Sauraseni Prakrit
    At the
    BPM Language
    Ase, Ahe
    A'se, A'he
    Ti thak

    Moreover, Aseta', Aheta' ( in question) , Asil, Ahil, Ail ( in past) are also foundin same root As 'to be' supporting the above phonetic observation.

  3. Among the palatal contacts, the voiced plosive or tenue 'J' sound is often found in BPM as we find in both Prakrits e.g. Jonak raja' (moon), Jaram (birth), Jay ( victory), Jinga'ni ( overcome) etc.
  4. Like Mahararstri and Sauraseni Prakrits , there are maximum uses og 'H' sound in the places of aspirates and sibilants in the BPM language of course the voiced sounds are heard sometimes same as Sanskrit sounds and as respective voiced tenues. e.g.
    Manusya ( man)
    Sarva ( All)
    Khanda (piece)
    Saila (Rock)
    Sruta (heard)
    Sadaya ( liberal)
    Sarpa ( serpent)
    Drs' ( to see)
    Sobha ( Charming)
    Bishnupriya Manipuri
    Ha'bi, Ha'bbi
    Khan, Han

    Verbs are found according to number,gender and person of the nominatives as in Brajabhasa. Marathi and Sanskrit as below -

    Verbal forms
    He hears
    She hears
    He heard
    She heard
    They heard
    In Bishnupriya Manipuri
    Ta' huner
    Tei huniree
    Ta' hunesil
    Tei hunesilee
    Tanu hunesila

  5. The non voiced tenues K.T.P sounds become voiced tenues g.d.b respectively in the BPM language as we observed in Sauraseni Prakrits -
    Eka (one)
    Ta'ta ( Hon. Brother)
    Ma'p ( Measurement)
    Bishnupriya Manipuri

  6. Out of the twenty prefixes, the BPM language highly concerns to the prefixes Sam, Onu, Aa, oup, ap, pari etc. just as the vedic language.
  7. On the contrary The BPM language is co-related to old Brajabuli and present Hindi language of norther and western India, having some of the very old words with same meanings and common expressions -
    Mai ja'ta'hu ( I am going )
    Mai kha'ta'hu ( I am eating)
    Nika'lna ( to find out)
    Ka'uli ( quarrel)
    Ka'ka'li ( waist)
    Pina' (to drink)
    Janga (Thigh)
    Bishnupriya Manipuri
    Mi Jauriga
    Mi khauriga

    In such way, the Bishnupriya Manipuri language can be traced as an immediate development of the Sanskrit, Mahararstri and Sauraseni Prakrits in Manipur in the beginning stage of this era. (4)



Meitei elements in Bishnupriya Manipuri

Bishnupriya retains the old eighteen sounds of Meitei. Of them, there were three vowels, such as α, i and u, thirteen consonants such as p, t, k, ph, th, kh, c∫, m, n, ŋ, l, ∫,h and two semi vowels, such as w and y. In later stage  nine more sounds added to Meitei but Bishnupriya is not concerned with them, because the Bishnupriyas left Manipur during 1st part of 19th century. That is why Bishnupriya retains the older sounds of Meitei, whereas in Meitei itself the sound system has under-gone various changes. Here is few examples in relation to the phonology of Meitei element in Bishnupriya Manipuri (2) -

  1. Meitei -a- becomes -ā- in Bishnupriya Manipuri, e.g., aketpa>āketpa, athoipa>āthoipā, asanpa>āsānpa etc.

  2. In some cases Meitei -a- becomes -i- and -e- in Bishnupriya Manipuri, e.g., mayam>miyam, mayek>meyek, marak>merak etc.

  3. Meitei -a- followed by -i- becomes -e- in Bishnupriya Manipuri, e.g., maipa>meipa, laipham>leipham, laisang>leisang, khaipok>kheipok etc.

  4. Meitei -a- followed by -y- becomes -e-and -y- generally pronounced as -e-  in Bishnupriya Manipuri, e.g., māykhum>meikhum, māykai>meikei etc.

  5. Meitei -ai- becomes -ei-, e.g., itaima>iteima, kumai>kumei etc.

  6. Meitei -o- generally becomes -a- in Bishnupriya Manipuri, e.g., okpā>akpā, koyet>kayat, koi>kai etc.

  7. In many cases Meitei -i-, -u-, -e-, -au-,  remains same in Bishnupriya Manipuri, e.g., itāo>itāo, urum>urum, ichel>ichel, unau>unau etc.

  8. In few case Meitei -kh- becomes -h-, e.g., pakhangba>pahangpa, pakbra>pahara etc.

  9. In some cases -th- becomes -t- and -d- in Bishnupriya Manipuri, e.g., pathap>patap, phauthok>phaudok etc.

  10. Most consonant sounds retains as the same, e.g., kankhu>kankhu, punci>punci,  thaci>thaci, matek>matek, khupak>khupak, sekpi>sekpi etc.



Vocabulary of Bishnupriya Manipuri

Dr. K.P. Sinha, a well known scholar of Boric valley has compiled an etymological dictionary of the Bishnupriya Manipuri language. In this dictionary, about 30,000 words of this language are entered. Of them from a rough calculation -

  • Tatsama (OIA) number approx . 10,000

  • Semi-Tatsama approx. 1,500
  • Tadvaba ( words derived from OIA, found in Hindi, Assamese and other) approx. 8,000
  • Tadvaba words particular to Bishnupriya Manipuri approx. 2,000
  • Meitei approx. 4,000
  • Perso-Arabic approx. 2,000
  • English approx. 700
  • Hybrid approx. 1,000
  • Desi and other approx. 1,500
  • word of obscure origin approx. 1,300


Whether BPM is a formative language of the plain people of Assam and Bengal

Some phoneticians have vaguely and partially viewed the Bishnupriya Manipuri language as a resultant language of Assamese, Bengali or Meitei language. But the superficial of the Magadhi Apabhramgsa on it is simply the resultant of the local Give and take principle due to long neighbored associations. Though there is a co-relation of the denotative words of the Bishnupriya Manipuri language with those of the Assamese, Bengali or Meitei languages for regional and periodical reasons, it does not mean that the original language is lost by the influence of the surrounding languages nor it reasonable to think that the Bishnupriya Manipuri language is the formative language of the plain people of Assam, Bengal and Manipur as unwisely viewed by certain phoneticians; because the phonological and syntactical mainstream of the Bishnupriya Manipuri language was never hampered and the same is even now with its distinct identity. Moreover, the plain people of Assam, Bengal and Manipur were perhaps not culturally, linguistically and politically so united ; nor so conscious that they united  might have formed a language like the Bishnupriya Manipuri in the Valley of Manipur. So, this theory of some phoneticians and historians is very unscientific. (3)



Whether BPM is a dialect of any other language

Some scholars are inclined to call the Bishnupriya Manipuri language to to be a dialect of Bengali or Assamese which was truly irresponsible. Dr. Suniti kumar Chatterjee, a recognized Bangle phonetician, listed the BPM language to be a dialect of Bengali whereas, Dr. Maheswer Neog claimed it as a dialect of Assamese. Both being not keen on the matter, did not do justice to Bishnupriya Manipuri people and the language. Their assumptions later caused contradiction about the origin of Bishnupriya Manipuri language. But the assumptions were proved to be baseless, illogical and injustice according to scientific research and observation of morphology, vocables and phonology of BPM language-

Firstly, mere similarities of a few elements are not sufficient to prove that BPM is a dialect of one or that other language. Secondly, Dr. Chatterjee in his phonetic analysis, had used a peculiar version of Bishnupriya Manipuri language, which is much different from the original BPM language that is being spoken by the Bishnupriya Manipuri locality in Assam, Tripura, Manipur or Bangladesh . Lines like "Manu agor Puto Dugo asil...." are not syntactically and grammatically the correct form of BPM. Thirdly, There are a numerous dissimilarities between Bengali /Assamese and BPM are listed by DR. KP Sinha in his work 'Bishnupriya Manipuri Bhasatatvar Ruprekha', such as – 

  1. The difference in verbal forms according to difference in gender. e.g. He goes = Ta jarga, She goes = tei jeiriga.
  2. The difference in verbal forms according to difference in number. e.g. I am going = Mi Jauriga, We are going = Ami Jiarga.
  3. BPM has a few case affixes of its own, e.g. 3rd case ending "Lo" = with, 5th case ending "Rangto" =from, 7th case ending "Rang" = in .
  4. BPM has got a number of affixes, i.e., Pratyas which are unprsent in Bengali/ Assamese.
  5. BPM has developed a complete T'o form for the future tense, e.g. I shall do = Mi Kortou, He will do = Ta kortoi.
  6. BPM has got some distinct pronominal forms, e.g. You= Ti, I = Mi, He = Ta etc.
  7. The language has two distinct dialects.
  8. The vocabulary of Bishnupriya Manipuri includes more than 8,000 words which do not occur in Assamese or Bengali.

 So, Bishnupriya Manipuri is a complete language itself and the theory of Bishnupriya Manipuri to be a dialect of another language is completely vogue and unwise.


      Sources and References:

  1. Dr. K.P. Sinha / Bishnupriya Manipuri Bhasatatvar Ruprekha, Silchar,1977
  2. Dr. K.P. Sinha / An Etymological Dictionary of Bishnupriya Manipuri,1982
  3. Dr. K.P. Sinha / Bishnupriya Manipuri Language, Calcutta, 1981
  4. Singha, Jagat Mohan & Singha, Birendra /The Bishnupriya Manipuris &Their Language,Silchar, 1976
  5. Barun Kumar Sinha,Dept.Of English,S.S.College Hailakandi / Essay: Imarging Pattern of the Bisnupriya Manipury Society- A Study in Cultural Identity
  6. G.K. Ghose / Tribals and Their Culture in Manipur and Nagaland,1982
  7. Raj Mohan Nath / The Background of Assamese Culture, 2nd Edn, 1978
  8. Singha,Mahendra Kumar / Prachin Manipurer Itihas,1965
  9. Bidhan Sinha / Cultural Heritage of North-East India, Guwahati,1999
  10. S.K. Chatterjee / Language and Literature of India,1963
  11. Edgar C. Polome / Society and Paleoculture
  12. Captain E.W. Dun / Gazetteer of Manipur,1885
  13. Sir G. A. Grierson / Linguistic Survey of India, Vol-3,1904
  14. Sir G. A. Grierson / Linguistic Survey of India, Vol-5,1903
  15. Vidyavinode, P. / History of Assam,1908
  16. Dr. M. Kirti Singh / developments in Manipur in the 18th and 19th centuuy,1980
  17. Md. Abdus Sattar / Aronya Janapade, Dhaka,1972
  18. Sri Sena Singha / Prachinadhunik Samkhipta Manipurer Itihas


Last in August 15, 2006 
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