TODAY -

Pandit Ningthoukhongjam Khelchandra Singh
(PADMASHREE AWARDEE IN 1987)

By Donny Meisnam *


Pandit Ningthoukhongjam Khelchandra Singh is one of the living authorities on ancient Manipuri literature and culture, whose contributions have elevated Indian literature and culture to a pinnacle.

He is one of the great Indian personalities who has received both the highest honour of fellowship from the Sahitya Akademi as well as from Sangeet Natak Akademi for his contributions in the field of Indian Culture and Literature.

Pandit Ningthoukhongjam Khelchandra Singh


Born on 1st September, 1920 at Uripok Ningthoukhongjam Leikai, Imphal, Pandit N. Khelchandra Singh sat at the feet of many Gurus and Pandits of Manipuri literature and culture including the late Dinachandra Singh, Pandit Parasuram, Pandit Madhop, Pandit Chandra and Pandit Deva Singh.

He was initiated very early into the study of the old Manipui language in the traditional way. For years he delved deep into the ancient manuscripts learning about the legends, the hymns, the royal chronicles, the romances and the poetry of his land and then he opened the magical doors to the past for others, through his books.

Pandit N. Khelchandra Singh joined the Manipur Secretariat Service at a young age and retired as Under Secretary, Government of Manipur.

But practically, his career started after his retirement. He has guided many research scholars and was for some time Visiting Fellow of Manipuri Language and Literature, Jawaharlal Nehru University Centre for post graduate studies, Imphal. And he has been teaching Manipuri language and literature in many centres.

During the span of his career Pandit N. Khelchandra Singh has been associated with several literary and cultural institutions in Manipur and has visited many places in India as an exponent of Manipuri culture.

He was
  • President, Manipuri Sahitya Parishad;
  • Vice Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Manipuri Dance Academy;
  • President Manipuri Historical Society;
  • President, Manipuri Martial Arts Association;
  • President Atombapu Research Centre, Manipur, etc.
He was also a member of expert committees for Manipur State Kala Akademi, Department of Arts and Culture, Manipur University and various other organizations and institutions. He presented Manipur in the Indian Historical Records Commission in its Calcutta, Patna, Trivandrum and Panaji sessions.

He participated as a representatives of Manipuri culture in Purba Bharat Sankritic Sammelan held in Calcutta; Indian History Congress, Bombay and Seminar on Indo-Myanmar Trade and Economic Co-operation held at Mandalay in 2004.

Pandit N. Khelchandra Singh is the recipient of various honours and recognitions including
  • President's Silver Medal for Census Operation (1951),
  • Gavesana Bhusan from Manipuri Sahitya Parishad (1971),
  • Fellow of Manipur State Kala Akademi (1980) and
  • Padmashree from the Government of India (1987),
  • Fellow of Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi (1990),
  • Sangeet Natak Akademi Ratna, New Delhi (2007).

"Cheitharol Khumbaba" - The Royal Chrinicles as Edited by Pandit N. Khelchandras


Pandit N. Khelchandra Singh has now more than 30 publications to his credit. He has edited
  • the genealogy of Manipuri Kings,
  • the royal chronicles of Manipur - commencing from 33 A.D. to the present century,
  • an anthology of old Manipuri poems,
  • an anthology of old Manipuri prose,
  • a collection of hymns and prayers prevalent in Pre-Vaishnavite Manipur,
  • an account of the hills of Manipur,
  • a treatise on manuscripts,
  • a book on the heroic accounts of Manipuri martial combats etc.
These has rendered them into Modern Manipuri with annotations and notes. He has also transliterated from Old Manipuri into Modern Manipuri, Uttarakand Ramayana and Ashamedha Parba Mahabharat.

He has written a History of Old Manipuri Literature for post graduate classes and research scholars, compiled a dictionary of old Manipuri meanings, a book on Manipur Martial Arts, Sarit Sarat. These books were produced in Manipuri.

Among his publications in English, mention may be made of
  • Manipuri to Manipuri and English Dictionary (1964),
  • Manipuri Language-Status and Importance (1975),
  • Battle of Khongjom (Manipur's last battle fought with the British, 1963),
  • Documents of Anglo-Manipuri War 1891 (in 3 parts, 1984),
  • Thangal General (A Manipuri Hero, 1997),
  • Kangla (the old Palace of Manipur, 2007)
. He has also contributed biographies of Pandit Raj Atombapu Sharma and Thangal General to the Dictionary of National Biography edited by Dr. S.P. Sen.

By dint of his sheer eminence and contribution, Pandit N. Khelchandra Singh has assumed today the role of a living archive and library for Manipuri literature and Culture, which is part and parcel of the great Indian literature an culture of which he is a worthy exponent to be recognized and honoured.

Browse Gallery on Book Excerpt from Pandit N. Khelchandra Singh:


* Donny Meisnam is a young Manipuri writer / reporter based at Imphal. He is a regular contributor to e-pao.net.
This article was webcasted at e-pao.net on 15 July 2009.


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