By Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
Kangla Online
Aug 24 2011

There is some archaeological evidence that the valley of Manipur was once filled with water. The Meitei Puya also mentions that the water in the valley dried up by draining through Chingninghut i.e., tunnels through the mountain ranges at Tengnoupal in Southwest Manipur.

We believe in science because scientists use logic to make conclusions about the things in existence. No other area of expertise has provided us with more knowledge about the universe than has science.

There is now definite geological evidence that Manipur along with the whole of the Northeast
was once submerged in water. With the tectonic uplift of the Northeast, Manipur was raised from the bottom of the sea as a valley surrounded by hill ranges and filled with water, just like a cup rose from under the water.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s there were studies on the potential role of late Cenozoic uplift of the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau in driving global cooling associated with the increased weathering of newly exposed rock surfaces, which in turn led to global cooling.

Cenozoic means belonging to, or designating the latest era of geologic time, which includes the Tertiary Period and the Quaternary Period and is characterized by the formation of modern continents, glaciations, and the diversification of mammals, birds, and plants. This is the period in which Manipur was raised above the sea.

The ‘Geographical Survey of India (GSI) – Northeastern Region’ with its Headquarters for Manipur and Nagaland at Dimapur, was doing a special study of the Northeast in the 1990s.

There are great international studies in Nagaland that have direct references on the geography and petrology of Manipur.

The Palaeontology Division of the GSI has done a lot of survey in Arunachal, Mizoram and Meghalaya in their search for mineral deposits, paleogeography and the age of the rock where they are embedded.

Palaeontology studies in the region has proved that the coal forming plant existed along the Himalayan foothills of Arunachal some 280 million years ago and an arm of sea invaded part of the area in the same period.

The GSI studies found that the southern part of Meghalaya plateau was under sea about 100 million years ago. Existence of large reptiles in this region has been indicated by remains (fossil records) of Dinosaurs in the rocks of this region.

Many projects executed in the Tertiary formations in the Himalayan ranges in the northeast show that fine grained sedimentary rocks containing large amounts of organic matter occur in the Northeast India interblended with tertiary coal.

In geology, the Tertiary formation is a stage of rock formation by super imposition of deposits, in which a lot of fossils are now found. It is in the Tertiaty period – the first period of the age of mammals or the ‘Cenozoic era’.

There are three different kinds of rocks named according to their formations; (1) igneous- associated with volcanoes; (2) sedimentary- as a result of violent collisions of tectonic plates; and (3) metamorphic – result of pressure and heat applied to igneous and sedimentary rocks. Examples are marble, slate.

The Indian tectonic plate is continuously moving north at the rate of 2 cms every year and
thus the Himalayas are rising at the rate of 5 mm per year. Even though we can not visually observe the plates moving and the mountain rising, we can draw some conclusions from observing rock formations and fossils found in them from the past.

Sedimentary rocks form quietly as sand and mud. Sometimes living objects collect on the sea floor or on land. As more and more sediments deposit, their sheer weight caused them to compress, forming solid rocks. Sedimentary rocks are distinguished by their layered appearances as different types of sediments collect over the time, and by the presence of fossils.

About 50 million years ago, the Tethy’s Ocean completely disappeared and the Indian continental plate crashed into Asia. The ‘Suture zone’ where two continental plates collide
and join each other, also called the Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone, marks the tectonic boundary of the collision between India and Asia.

It was so named by the Swiss geologist Augusto Gansser in his book Geology of the Himalayas (1964) because the upper river courses of the Indus and Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) flow along the suture zone.

In the Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone, there are remnants of the Tethys oceanic rocks, both volcanic rocks of the ocean floor and deep-sea sediments of the Tethy’s.

As a result of the collision, the earth’s crust between India and Asia deformed by faulting and folding began to lift up and the Himalayan Mountains began to take shape. After the collision, the speed of the Indian plate decreased remarkably from 15 to 5 centimetres a year.
Nonetheless, India is still pushed further north.

Himalayas are known as young fold mountains having young river valleys, covering the mountain ranges and the plateau of north Kashmir, the Himalayas and the hill ranges of Nagaland, East Assam, Manipur and Mizoram forming a conspicuous mountain system bordering the country in the north.

The Himalayan chain running from northwest to northeast (2,400 km) can be divided into several longitudinal zones naming from north to south: (1) Tethy’s (Tibetan) Himalaya; (2) the High Himalaya; (3) the Lesser (lower) Himalaya; and (4) the Sub-Himalaya (Swalik Range).

The High Himalaya, the lesser Himalaya and the Eastern Himalaya in the east, bend towards south forming a series of hills. These hills that run through Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Eastern Assam, are mostly composed of sedimentary rocks.

They mostly run as parallel ranges (nine ranges in Manipur) and valleys are covered with dense forests. Their heights vary from 500 to 3,000 m peaks and rising higher. Mt Saramati
(3,826 m) is the highest peak in Nagaland. It remains snow covered during winter.

The Manipur Hills form the boundary between Manipur and Myanmar; they rise to about 2,500 m enclosing a large basin (valley) 50 km long and 30 km wide occupying the southeast corner.

All the hill ranges and peaks in Manipur like koubru, Nongmaijing Thangjing are million years old though ours ancestors arrived and lived there in the caves, fairly recently, in
20,000-2,000 BP.

These hills are sedimentary rocks with fossils of sea living creatures like the cuttlefish found at Kangpokpi, north Manipur in 1952-53 CE (W Ibohal 1986).

The study of Naga ophiolite that is part of the hill rocks of Manipur is of international interest and has been intensely studied. An ophiolite is a section of the earth’s oceanic crust and the underlying upper mantle along with sedimentary rocks deposited on the sea floor.

Naga ophiolite is tectonised suites of ophiolitic rocks that crop out in the states of Nagaland and Manipur. It lies in the northernmost extent of a larger belt of ophiolite-related material that runs for over 3,000 km from NE India, through western Myanmar to the Andaman Islands in the Andaman Ocean. This is referred to as the Naga-Andaman suture.

The suture zone marks the area where the Indian and Asian Continents were once separated by a >4,000 km wide Neotethyan Ocean. In southern Tibet, remnants of the Neotethyan Ocean are represented by elements of the Dazhuqu (Girardeau et al 1985; Bedars et al 2009).

The paper by Alan T. Baxter et al, University of Hong Kong and China Institute for Tectonic and Geophysics, describes the first assemblages of well-preserved and clearly imaged
Jurassic radiolarians from the Naga Ophiolite. The ages assigned to these assemblages reveal when deep marine conditions existed in this part of the Neotethyan Ocean.

Outcrop of the Naga ophiolite trends over 200km NNW-SSE and is up to 5 km in width (Brunnschweller 1996). All of the components of an ophiolite pseudo stratigraphy, including gabbros, ultramiv rocks, sheeted dikes, pillow basalts and pelagic ocean sediments have been reported (Brunnschweiller 1996; Chatterjee and Ghose 2010).

In the first edition I presented a simplified account that Manipur was once under the sea, aiming at my young friends in school in class X to XII, who often email to me for interesting articles. I quoted a local Manipuri scholar W Ibohal and a cuttlefish fossil for their credence.

Cuttlefish is a small sea animal – not a fish; about the size of a Meitei pakora and nice to eat at Chinese restaurants. They once lived in the Tethy’s Ocean. The present Mediterranean Sea with full of cuttlefish is all that was left from it. Though Ibohal has not written who discovered this fossil and where the fossil is now, I have no reason to disbelieve him. He is a contemporary Manipuri historical scholar after Gangumai Kabui.

In conclusion: the scientific data that the tectonic vertical uplift of Manipur along with the whole of Northeast from the bottom of the sea is now fait accompli – an accomplished fact with which the sceptics have to live, even if grudgingly.

The writer is based in the UK

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