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History of Manipur


The Modern Period

CHAHI-TARET KHUNTAKPA, 1819-1825 AD (seven years of Manipur anarchy, 3212-3218 MF):
        When Marjeet was the king of Manipur, Burma invaded again in 1819 AD. At that time the princes of Manipur were fighting for controling the throne and the country was in a political turmoil. Manipuris faced the invasion fiercely for seven days. But they were defeated by the Burmes and the people fled to different places in the West. The king went to Cachar which was ruled by two of his brothers - Chourjit and Gambir Sing - who were appointed by him.
During this anarchy, Burmese occupants destroyed the country badly. The palace was leveled to the ground.  In 1825, Manipuris attacked Burmese occupation led by Gambir Sing and drove them beyond Ningthi (Chindwin) river. On 26th Inga (June), 1825, he declared himself as the king of Manipur and constructed his palace (Konung) at the top of Bishenpur hill in April, 1826 AD. Later,  he shifted his capital to Langthaban (Canchipur).
        At the request of the British Government by Governor General, Mr. Scott, Maharaja Gambir Sing went to Khasi hills to help the British who were unable to fight the Khasis. In the month of May 1829 AD, he died at the age of 49 years at Langthaban.
Maharaja Chandrakirti (1834-1844 AD or 3232-3242 MF).
        The only son of Maharaja Gambir Sing and Maisnam Chanu Kumudini Ponglen-Khombi, ascended the throne at the age of 2 years with his uncle Narasing as a caretaker. Previously, before Gambir Sing died, he and British Government made an agreement that Kabow valley will be leased  to Burma for cultivation and Maharaja of Manipur will receive a sum of Rs 6000/- per annum as a tribute. This story was recorded in the Cheitharol Kumbaba by Meiteis, but the actual fact was that the British ignored the Meitei sentiments and tried to please the Burmese by giving the controversial Meitei Kabow valley, which had been in the Manipuri territory for several years. On hearing the news, Maharaj Gambir Sing died of heart-attack.  So, the agreement was signed on 12th January (Wakching), 1834 AD by Narasing, as a representative of the child king, and by British political agents,  Captain Grant, Captain Pamperton and Mr. George Gordon. For the first time a table clock and a big wall mirror were brought from England and presented to the King.  On Jan 27, 1844 AD, when Maharaja was 12 years old, his mother ran away with him in Cachar because of a revolt by Nobin, a descendant of Pamheiba, against Narasing. However, Narasing defeated Nobin and he became Maharaja of Manipur.  He moved the capital from Langthaban to Kangla at Yumphal (Imphal) on May 9th, 1844 AD. He died on April 10, 1850 AD.
        Chandrakirti Maharaja came back from Cachar and became King again (1850-1886 AD) at the age of 19 years. In December, 1857 AD, Sepoys at Chittagong revolted against British, and the news was spread in Manipur by the British Government that Hindu sepoys will invade Europeans and take over Manipur. Maharaja with 600 Meitei soldiers led by Nameirakpam Menjor went to prevent the sepoys. A number of sepoys were arrested and handed over to the British. For the first time in 1868 AD photography was introduced in Manipur.
Re-demarcation of Manipur’s boundary (present day map) was done again on
13th Dec, 1873 AD with Dr. Brown (FRCSE) and Thangal General as leaders from both sides. The British considered the Meiteis very illiterate who did not want to be educated. They did not know that Meiteis had a very long history of its own and education system, and the   maichous and puyas were prohibited by the Maharaj not so long ago. Dr. Brown published the Meitei script for the first time in 1877 AD for the Asiatic Society of Bengal. The then Bengal Government donated a few books and started teaching Bengali script and English. The Meitei script became obsolete.
        Naga rebels, in the north, at Khonoma killed Dr. G.H. Damant on October 4, 1879. Lt. Col. J. Jonstone, the political agent in Manipur and Thangal General subdued them. Maharaja Chandrakirti was given the title of K.C.S.I. by the British Government for his help and friendship to the British. He also introduced “Sagol Kangjei”, Manipuri Polo, to the British. He died in 1886 AD at Kangla in Yumphal.
Maharaja Surchand Singh (1886-1890 AD or 3289-3294 MF.).
        Maharaja Surchand, the eldest son of Chandrakirti ascended the throne after his father. He ruled for 5 years. In 1890, his younger brothers, Zillangamba and Angousana revolted against him along with Jubaraj Tikendrajit.  Kullachandra, the elder brother of Tikendrajit, became the king.   Surchand and his brothers left for Calcutta in the pretext of going to Brindabon. He requested the British Government to restore his throne.  Lord Landsdowne, the viceroy of India ordered Mr. J.W. Quinton, Governor of Assam, to recognise Kullachandra as the King but to arrest Jubaraj Tikendrajit. Accordingly Mr. Quinton and his army raided the residence of Jubaraj without prior notice. However, they could not capture Tikendrajit. In further attempts, Mr. Quinton, Mr. Grimwood, the political agents along with five other British officers were killed.
        The British Government waged open war against Manipur. Three columns of army were sent to Imphal from three directions: 1. Tamu (Moreh)- in south-east, 2. Kohima (Nagaland)- in the north and 3. Cachar (Assam)-in the west. In this Anglo-Manipuri war, the forces from the west and north advanced to Imphal after strong fighting. But in the south  at Khongjom (40 km from Imphal), Paona Brajabashi and his army resisted repeatedly in spite of the larger and superior British Army. Paona lost his life on the war and British conquered Manipur on 27th April, 1891 AD. Thus, Manipur lost its independence. Jubaraj Tikendrajit and Thangal General were hanged by neck on 13th August, 1891 AD at Mapan Kangjei-bung (Polo ground).
Maharaja Churachand Singh (1891-1941 AD or 3289-3339 MF):
        On Thursday 22nd of Langban, 1891 AD, the political agent of Manipur called Maharani Moirangthem Chanu and Jubaraj Churachand (8 yrs old) and made him the king. At this time Sri Govindaji was brought to the newly constructed Palace at Imphal. During his reign, NUPI LAN I (Woman’s war, 1904 AD, a revolt against the forced labor) and NUPILAN II (1939AD) occured.
Maharaja Budhachandra Singh (1941-1955 AD or 3339-3353 MF):
        After his highness Maharaja Churachand, his eldest son Budhachandra became the king of Manipur with Ishori Devi, the princess of Nepal as Leima or Maharani. World War II broke out in Manipur from April 1942-Jan. 1945 AD. Manipur was bombarded continuously for two years and the country was destroyed completely including Imphal and the Maharaja’s Palace. Markets were closed and paddy fields were not harvested during the war. People were suffering but Manipuris were  too proud to beg for help. Several movements led by Neta Irabot sprang up in the demand for self rule of Manipur against the British Government. He went undergound in 1946 AD and died in 1955 AD in Burma. After the war, at 12 midnight of Thursday 28th August (Thawan), 1947 AD, the British handed over Manipur to Maharaja Budhachandra Singh and Maharani Iroshi Devi.  Maharaja entered Kangla at Imphal and hoisted the National Flag of Manipur bearing the Dragon God Pakhangba. Top-guns were fired 18 times in honor of the Sovereign Kingdom in the presence of a large crowd. However, it did not last long.   The newly formed independent India and its Government in New Delhi pressured the King to sign a merger agreement with India under very unusual circumstances. Maharaja signed the documents on 21st September 1949 AD at Shillong without prior consideration and approval from elected members of the Manipur Assembly. On October 15, 1949 AD, Major General Rawal Amar announced the annexation of Manipur at the Assam Rifle’s ground. Thus, Manipur’s status was lowered to a Part C territory under the Indian rule. In 1953, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru discontinued the payment of Kabow valley agreement to Manipur.  This  angered many of the local people. Budhachandra Maharaja died in 1955 AD.
Present Manipur:
       On 21 January 1972, Manipur was granted Statehood after several years of demand by All Manipur Students Union and several political organisations. The ceremony was performed at the Palace Polo ground in Imphal . In 1992, Meitei-lon (Manipuri) was included in the Eighth Schedule as one of the 18 official languages of India. Manipur has yet to see an industry and a proper road connection to the rest of India. Air transportations are provided from Calcutta, New Delhi, Gauhati  and Silchar but much beyond the reach of commoners.