Manipuri – The language of the ‘Switzerland of India’

Manipur was described as ‘the Switzerland of India’ by Lord Irwin. This Indian state, located in the north eastern part of the country has an exotic landscape that boasts of dense forests, blue lakes, hills and green valleys. The tranquility that it offers and its gentle breeze sets it apart from other Indian states. Nothing has touched the natural beauty of this state since its origin. Manipuri is one of the official languages spoken in Manipur. It is the mother tongue of the Meetei people. Manipuri is also written as Meitei, Meiteilon, Meiteiron and Meithei. There are about 1.6 million people who speak this language. Manipuri is also spoken in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Manipuri is a Tibeto-Burman language that falls under the Sino-Tibetan language family. The language has different dialects, which are significantly different from the standard Manipuri dialect. English is also spoken in Manipuri, in addition to 5 other languages.

The history of the Manipuri alphabet is still not very clear because historical douments were destroyed in the 18th century during the reign of King Pamheiba. It is thought that the Manipuri alphabet has been in use for the last 4,000 years, while other linguists believe that the Manipuri alphabet was developed from the Bengali alphabet. In the 1940s and 1950s Manipuri linguists campaigned for the old Manipuri alphabet to be brought back into use. At a writers conference that was held in 1976, Manipuri linguists reached a consensus and agreed that a reconstruction of the ancient Manipuri script would be used, in addition to new letters, which were to reperesent sounds that were not present in the script that was being used at that time. Each letter of the Manipuri alphabet is named after a specific part of the human body.

Manipuri is taught as a language in Indian schools up to post graduate level in Indian universities. It is also used as a language of instruction up to the undergraduate level. Hinduism was introduced as a state religion in the 18th century. Hinduism had an influence on Manipuri as a lot of Indo-Aryan characteristics were absorbed into the language.

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