The Kangla Fort including the outer moat and Kekru Pat comprises an area of 236.84 acres (Gazette Notification 515 dated October 223, 1991under the State Monuments Act) constitutes the project site for the Archaeological Park. The Kangla fort Archaeological Park site as it stands today is bound by River Imphal on the east, Yairipok road on south, National Highway 39 on the north and the Kangla Park on west. The site is generally flat with a maximum level difference of four to five meters created by the citadel and river bunds. The area closer to the bend of the river Imphal in the central portion is the highest point on the entire site.

Kangla Fort is situated in the heart of Imphal. For the people of Manipur, Kangla occupies a very special place – it is sacred and historical and represents the values of Meitei culture. However the people of Manipur have limited access to the Fort because the Assam Rifles is stationed within it. Only occasional visits for religious reasons are presently allowed with permission from the Department of Archaeology.

A few structures are protected but the knowledge about the cultural contents of the greater part (of the over 200 acres) of Kangla Fort is absent. For informed decision making this section examines the data from the Inventories that will lead to an accurate heritage assessment.

Historical Layers

There are three historical layers, which make up the heritage of Kangla - the Early Manipuri Period (33 – 1709) (ref. to as H1 left side diagram in the dwg. No 02). The second layer is the Manipuri (1709 – 1891) (ref. as layer H2; right side diagram of dwg. No 02 and layer H3, left side diagram of Dwg. No: 03). The third historic layer is the British layer, which starts with the coming of the Assam Rifles (1891 – 1948) (ref. as layer H4; right side diagram of dwg. No 03). The last and the fourth layer is the present layer which starts with the independence of the Indian sub Continent. (1948 – present) (ref. dwg. No :04)

The rediscovery of the Kangla Fort revealed that it is truly an extraordinary site and is Potential World Heritage Site. If this potential has to be realized the Cultural Significance and Values of the Fort have to be Protected, Maintained and Managed in such a way that both maintenance of cultural values and development can take place without destroying each other. This requires the creation of a Concept Development Plan.

The Concept Development Plan

The Concept Development Plan is the document that integrates cultural values and development needs for heritage projects. The ideas and suggestions proposed in the chapter on Kangla Charter have to be followed to ensure the projects undertaken in the Concept Development Plan, have to be implemented with the values of the resource maintained. If the projects are undertaken as per the existing framework will end up as Public Works projects like buildings, construction of roads etc, which belongs to a paradigm that is detrimental traditional technology and architectureTherefore the project is organized in two volumes; the first is the Archaeological Park Charter and the Second volume details out the Archaeological Park Projects. It is imperative that the project implementation actions and activities do not alter or change its heritage value. The implementation of the projects requires a good foundation of heritage protection and management. The first volume builds this foundation. The purpose of Volume I is to provide the information, principles, processes and guidelines for the resource projects in Volume-II, and in this sense Volume-II cannot be read without first understanding Volume-I.

Drawing 02: HISTORICAL LAYERS {(33 - 1709 AD) & (1709AD - 1818 AD)}
Drawing 02: HISTORICAL LAYERS {(33 - 1709 AD) & (1709AD - 1818 AD)}: Drawing 02: HISTORICAL LAYERS {(33 - 1709 AD) & (1709AD - 1818 AD)}
Drawing 03: HISTORICAL LAYERS {(1818 - 1891 AD) & (1891 - 1948 AD)}
Drawing 03: HISTORICAL LAYERS {(1818 - 1891 AD) & (1891 - 1948 AD)}: Drawing 03: HISTORICAL LAYERS {(1818 - 1891 AD) & (1891 - 1948 AD)}
Drawing 04: Kangla Fort Today
Drawing 04: Kangla Fort Today: Drawing 04: Kangla Fort Today

Issues of Archaeology and Conservation

The project for our planning team was to prepare a Concept Development Plan for the Kangla Fort. The client is the Department of Archaeology, Manipur and the site presently a designated Regional Park in the Greater Imphal, hence the anager of the site is the Town Planning Department, Manipur. The Kangla Fort site is also the head quarters of the Assam Rifles, and has been occupied by it since 1891. Kangla Fort occupies the hearts of people of Manipur but due to the occupation of the Assam Rifles it is generally out of bounds to them.

Once the park is operational the entire community of Imphal will experience it, use it and participate in its Conservation and development. Many of the agencies both government and private will be involved in the implementation of the project proposals. The first paragraph above highlights the problems in management, jurisdiction and inadequate protection of heritage. Volume-I provides the base for the Government of Manipur and her people to develop the necessary measures and systems that creates a memorandum of understanding for all stake holders to follow. It is expected that the Volume-I will lead to the Kangla Fort Archaeological Park Legislation.

The need for a new legislation is also required because it will form the core of the protection and management of the Fort. The numerous interests groups can work within the same framework, and it is an inclusive and democratic method of management.

There are many challenges to management of Kangla that have to be resolved if the significance is to be maintained. The two-volume approach and method tries to address this challenge so that Manipur government can build up a management system at par with international standards if Kangla is to be nominated for World Heritage.

The citadel area of Kangla Fort where most of the archaeological evidences exist is a dream archeological site. It offers many challenges to the conservator and technical capacity is required to meet the challenge. Many decisions have to be taken regarding what can be done. These decisions are collective and shared decisions so that every conservation project or an action does not become a controversy. The charter tries to guide these decisions. A new legislative framework can help because decisions regarding protection and approaches to intervention once taken by the community can form a uniform basis for action. The archaeological part of the park needs thorough investigation and with the right decisions to the tremendous potential it has.

Some recent conservation works at the Kangla Fort raise questions that should be discussed and resolved is what should be the approach to heritage that is missing. Is the Western Gate (Refer Fig. 5) a correct approach? Are there other approaches? If the same approach is taken for the entire missing heritage then Kangla will lose its authenticity. Quick replicas do not enhance the cultural significance. In fact it reduces it. The task to build a strong philosophical base taking conservation decisions has to be done collectively. The basic principles that govern these decisions should be embedded in the new legislation.

What should be done about Kangla Shas – should the place be left empty or should a replica be put. Decisions regarding the other areas like where the palace and the other residential structures existed also need to be taken. The Palace buildings from the old photographs show both local vernacular traditions and other techniques of building.

The empty platform of the Uttra (Refer Fig. 1- 3) indicates many possibilities for building. The 19century photographs show prevalence of the local vernacular traditions, quite distinct from that of Indonesia. Serious research is required into Vernacular traditions of Architecture of Manipur to develop the capacity to take informed decisions regarding interventions. Kangla is the abode of Lord Pakenbah; the sacred significance of the Kangla Fort is a major aspect of the significance. Evidence regarding the architectural form of the historic temple form is required prior to any building project initiated.

Regarding the temple of Govindajee (Refer Fig. 7 - 10) the Concept Development Plan has recommended preservation like a monument. The roads within the Fort also have historic relevance and so they also cannot be changed. They are part of the long story of the fort, and cultural resources are proofs of the immense historic value of the Kangla Fort. The heritage of the British period has been proposed for reuse and adaptation within the limits of conservation norms.

All actions and interventions in the future for Kangla must not negate cultural values of such an important cultural entity. There is information later in this volume for buildings to be notified, protected etc which will help in a new paradigm for management.

The Importance of the Nara Document for Kangla

The Nara Document 19941 has made conservation truly International. Many articles are relevant for Kangla because they cover many of the issues discussed above.

  • The Nara Document on authenticity says authenticity in conservation Practice is to clarify and illuminate the collective memory of humanity
  • The Nara document recognizes and celebrates the cultural diversity and heritage diversity.
  • That implies that each component big or small and each layer of history is as important as the other. It also states that the protection and enhancement of the cultural heritage diversity is an essential aspect of human development.
  • It states that there should be respect for all cultures and beliefs. In case of conflict in cultural values, respect for diversity demands acknowledgement of the cultural values of all parties.
  • Both tangible and intangible expressions of any culture should be respected.
  • The cultural heritage of one is cultural heritage of all. The management of it belongs to the people who generated it and subsequently to that which cares. However in addition, the International Charter and Conventions developed have to be followed.
  • Balance does not undermine fundamental cultural values

The Dream Project - The Archaeological Area

The artistic reconstruction from a 19th century map ( Ref. Dwg. No: 01 )

Conservation and the Citadel Area:

There are many decisions and philosophical issues that have to be resolved regarding the archaeological heritage of the fort. All these decisions have to be well informed (based on extensive research) and shared decisions guided by the principles of Authenticity.2

Conservation and the Western Gate:

The Western Gate, which has been recently constructed, raises the questions regarding the approach to be taken regarding such work. Should it be a Replica or Reconstruction? Reconstruction is using the same knowledge, technique and the materials, as the original when new materials and techniques are used just to give a similar form it becomes a replica, which is not the best option. By the principles of Authenticity (Nara Document) Reconstruction requires very high levels of research and understanding before it can be taken up as a solution. In this sense the Western Gate can only hope to be called a replica and not a reconstruction.

Conservation and the Govindajee temple:

The Nara Charter states that“Cultural heritage diversity exists in time and space, and demands respect for other cultures and all aspects of their belief systems. In cases where cultural values appear to be in conflict, respect for cultural diversity demands acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the cultural values of all parties.”

In such cases preservation, and not reconstruction, is the best course of action and interpretation helps provide the necessary information about the layer beneath. The existing building is a source of knowledge and also a monument. The recommendation of the CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT PLAN for the Govindajee temple is therefore for preservation.

Conservation and the British Layer:

The World War II theme in the Kangla fort Archaeological Park will be highlighted by the restoration of the field Marshall Slim’s cottage and garden as period Piece. This will require immense amount of research work to execute it. But before the restoration can take place the existing structure has to be conserved and cured of its problems.

Conservation and Re-use in the British Layer:

The British Period Buildings within the fort have been proposed to be reused. But it is important to point out that before the reuse and design component can be brought into action the documentation, investigation and the conservation of the building has to be done. The maintenance and management plan has to be in place. Only if the latter precedes the former will the cultural significance of these be maintained which takes priority over any action.

Conservation, repair, and maintenance

The existing condition and problems of the cultural contents of the fort have to be addressed guided by the principles of the Kangla Charter. Most of these contents are unprotected and need protection.

Conservation and Issues of Methodology

Informed community participation requires cultural resource information available to the community. Hence the task “rediscovery” of the cultural contents of the Kangla fort was taken to its logical conclusion from survey, inventory etc to computerized databases. The cultural resource information collectively adds to the significance of Kangla Fort as a Cultural Resource Entity. High level and quality of information ensures the correct course of action, which may be slower but surer.

The information led to measures for adequate protection to heritage of Kangla both as a spatial entity and its heritage contents. The reuse and activities proposed in many of the British buildings require knowledge of the principles and practices in conservation. Towards the end of the volume I conservation guide has been prepared to guide them.

For the challenge of developing an appropriate legislative framework for the specific nature of the cultural resources of Kangla Fort, the existing legislations have been used to evolve conservation protection and management strategies. The Concept Development Plan can be processed and formalized as the Planning Scheme the provision for which that already exists within the existing Manipur Town and Country Planning Act’ 75.

This volume also attempts to present an administrative system that can be used for integrated protection and management of Kangla Fort as an Archaeological Park. The necessary restructuring required to accommodate the new needs is also resolved and proposed. The duties and responsibilities of the management agencies are enumerated and the kind of organizational structure/ framework is developed within in which the community, citizens will be taking part in the Kangla Fort Project

Therefore the 1volume informs and enables the agencies involved in management and implementation and prepares them with the background and reasons for the need of new approach to execute the Plan in another way.

The re-structuring integrates community participation in the decision-making. It introduces a management approach quite distinct from the prevalent from the prevalent administration approach. The challenge of management is resolved, which is far more complex and comprehensive than management that is currently followed in the country. Many departments and government agencies need to come together to make Kangla Fort a well-managed Archaeological Park.

The process of Kangla Fort Archaeological Park Scheme implementation, funds required, priority of action, are all determined to make it function as an archaeological park. Organizational framework for sharing responsibilities, daily maintenance, house keeping professional expertise is stated within the Volume I.

All aspects of management and protection are aimed at maintaining quality and cultural values if the Kangla Fort Archaeological Park is required to stand up to international scrutiny when it gets assessed for World Heritage Site.

The second Volume focuses on the Resource Projects and details them out. The immediate phase execution is landscape in nature because of the necessary decisions as to where trees can be planted and where they cannot and spaces conducive to recreational activities have been taken during the study and analysis for protection of resources.

For historic buildings and archaeological site intervention a two-part strategy is taken as they are more complex. The archaeological and architectural projects have to be preceded by documentation, investigation and assessment. A management strategy and programme based on the above and analysis for the building and property has to be prepared. The reuse projects can only be done in tandem with the first part. The exhaustive range of projects cover all aspects of the park.

Capacity and skills required for such a project implementation and management is a challenge that has to be addressed by the Manipur Government. Major thrust has to be immediately made in this direction by the Manipur Government. Training programs at Site and institutions in the country or outside could be considered.

The Kangla Fort Archaeological Park team is itself an example of a new way of working. It is an interdisciplinary team, where our skills, expertise have been used to present one set of decisions, which include the three disciplines. Capacities and skills have to be brought together for the one purpose of the management of the park as a policy and the necessary actions taken by the Government to ensure that Kangla gets all the capacities in a coherent and systemic manner.

The decisions taken have resulted in the CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT PLAN , which is an integrated package. This kind of thinking together for one purpose is very important because the legal framework needs that effort for resource protection and management. 

  • 1. Refer Appendix 01
  • 2. The Historical Photographs are taken from “ The Lost Kingdom” (Chronicles of Manipur) L Jaychandra Singh , Prajatantra Publication House, Imphal (1995)