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Lameithanbi - a myth with geological linkage

Myths and legends has been the part and parcel of the human civilizations. Many of these myths and legends have played important role in upbringing of the cultural and societal growth in different parts of the world. Our Manipuri civilization also holds no exception to such mythological stories. These archaic stories have been a source of self realization, imagination, exemplary narration that kept on transpiring from one generation to another. Lameithanbi, Meihoubam, Puruksoubi, etc are few citeable myths of the Manipuri society that can be scientifically explained by geological knowledge.
In Manipuri language it can be translated to Lamei-wildfire; Thanbi-lighting. When viewed from scientific approach the Lameithanbi can be either consider as biotic origin; similar to that of Laudraubi or as abiotic origin. Literature survey on such mythological objects and beings suggest that no strong scientific base for Lameithanbi as biotic origin do exist. However, the abiotic source for the Lameithanbi has strong scientific explanation.
Let us gain a geological upfront on the probable causes of wildfire in the marshy areas of Imphal Valley. Geomorphological evolutionary study suggests that Imphal valley is a lacustrain valley. It is quite evident from the local names like Keisam-pat, Thanga-pat, Lamphel-pat, Akam-pat, Yaral-pat, Khongham-pat, etc which were indicative of previously lakes filled up gradually as low lying marshy lands. The 1960’s and 1970’s kids have grown up witnessing how reminiscently those lakes faded away. These marshy lands provide a gamut of hydrocarbon accumulation in form of peat and low grade coal lenses and pockets trapped in the rocks and soils. The tectonically active Indo-Myanmar Ranges eventually provides weak planes where petroleum and natural gas occasionally seeps through the source rocks and gets amalgamated into the soils. Whenever and wherever favourable ignition temperatures are attained, these highly inflammable things catches fire and may fly in the gust of air. The hydrocarbon burning theory is accepted worldwide and a recurrent phenomena as well. The preliminary survey to be carried out in 3850 sq. km area in Manipur by the Jubiliant Energy, under the Oil India Limited has estimated about 5000 billion cubic feet of oil. In the nutshell, the Imphal valley has enough hydrocarbons trapped and always holds valid for burning phenomena to occur.
This scientific theory may be the sole explanation for the Lameithanbi though few researchers claimed it as a variety of fish- Esomus Altus. But Esomus Altus is reported to a maximum length of 12.5 cm which will be to tiny to be spotted as flying fish from a far distance. Not only Lameithanbi, Meihoubam Lampak at Wangkei and Puruksoubi at Uchekon are closely linked with natural gas and salt brine seepage.
The rich cultural heritage of Manipuri society have preserved scientific phenomena and kept transpiring through generations. Lameithanbi is only one of them; many facts and natural truths have been kept unrevealed to us. Going through our heritage will be a self reminisce.

Herojit Nongmaithem

Herojit Nongmaithem is a senior Geologist at Geological Survey of India North Eastern Region. He is a regular contributor of Imphal Times and writes articles relating to Geology.
Herojit can be contacted at [email protected]

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