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Imperial gazetteer of India .. (Volume 17) online

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The origin of the Manipuri people is obscure, and the written
records, having been mainly composed since they became Hindus, are
not worthy of credit. From the most trustworthy
traditions, the valley appears originally to have been
occupied by several tribes, which came from different directions.
Although the general facial characteristics of the Manipuris are Mon-
golian, there is great diversity of feature among them, some showing
a regularity approaching the Aryan type. The kingdom of Manipur
first emerges from obscurity as a neighbour and ally of the Shan
kingdom of Pong, which had its capital at Mogaung. The regalia of
the royal family are said to have been bestowed by king Komba
of Pong. The history of Manipur contains nothing of special interest
until about a. D. 17 14. In that year a Naga named Panheiba became
Raja of Manipur, and adopted Hinduism, taking the name of Gharlb
Nawaz. His people followed his example, and since that date have
been conspicuous for the rigidity with which thev observe the rules
of caste and ceremonial purity.

Gharlb Nawaz made several successful invasions into P)urma, but no
permanent conquest. After his death, the Burmans invaded Manipur,
and the ruler, Jai Singh, having sought the aid of the British, a treaty
of alliance was negotiated in 1762. The force sent to assist Manipur
was, however, recalled, and after this little communication passed
between the British Government and the State for some years. On
the outbreak of the first Burmese War in 1824, the Burmans invaded
Cachar and Assam, as well as Manipur ; and Gambhir Singh of Mani-
pur asked for British aid, which was granted. A force of sepoys and
artillery being sent tcjwards Cachar, and a levy of Manipuris being
formed under British officers, not only were the Burmans expelled from
the Manipur valley, but the Kubo valley down to the Ningthi river,
situated to the east of the old boundaries, and peopled by Shans, was
added to the State. In 1826 peace was concluded with Burma, and
Manipur was declared independent. Until 1834, when Gambhir Singh
died, the country remained quiet and prosperous. On his death, his
son being at the time only one year old, Nar Singh, his uncle and
great-grandson of Gharib Nawaz, was appointed regent. In 1834 the
British Government- decided to restore the Kubo valley to Burma,
the government of which had never ceased to remonstrate against its


separation from that country. The valley was given hack, and a new
boundary laid down by an agreement dated January 9, 1834. The
British Government at the same time bound itself to pay to the Raja of
Manipur an annual allowance of Rs. 6,370, in compensation for the loss
of the Kubo valley. In 1835 a I'olitical Agent was appointed to act as a
medium of communication between the State and the British Government.

An unsuccessful attempt was made on Nar Singh's life in 1844,
and the Raja's mother, being implicated, fled with her son, Chandra
Kirtti Singh, to Cachar. Nar Singh upon this assumed the throne,
which he retained until his death in 1850. Debendra Singh, his
brother, was then recognized as Raja by the British Government.
Three months afterwards, Chandra Kirtti Singh invaded Manipur, and
Debendra Singh, who was unpopular, fled towards Cachar. Chandra
Kirtti Singh, having established his authority, was in February, 185 1,
recognized by the British Government ; and though numerous attempts
were made by other members of the royal family to head a rebellion,
the leaders were all defeated, and either killed, imprisoned, or placed
under surveillance in British territory. In 1879, when the Angami
Nagas killed Mr. Damant, the Deputy-Commissioner of the Naga Hills,
and besieged the stockade at Kohlma, the Maharaja dispatched a force
under Colonel Johnstone, the Political Agent, who raised the siege.
In recognition of this service, the Government of India bestowed upon
the Maharaja the dignity of K.C.S.L During the Burmese War of
1885, which ended in the annexation of king Thibaw's dominions, a
small force under Colonel Johnstone succeeded in rescuing a number
of British subjects and Europeans in Northern Burma. In the course
of these operations the Political Agent was seriously wounded, and
compelled to take leave ; and his successor, Major Trotter, was shortly
afterwards treacherously attacked near Tammu, and received a wound
which caused his death two months later.

In 1886 Chandra Kirtti Singh died, and was succeeded by his son,
Sur Chandra Singh. As on previous occasions, a series of attempts
were made by other claimants to the throne to oust the lawful heir.
The first two expeditions were led by Bora Chaoba Singh, a son of the
Nar Singh who ruled Manipur from 1844 to 1850, but proved un-
successful. Two more attempts were made in 1887, but the pretenders,
were defeated and killed and their followers dispersed. In September,
1890, two of the Maharaja's brothers attacked the palace, and Sur
Chandra Singh fled to the Residency for protection. He then announced
his intention of resigning the throne, and left Manipur for Cachar en
route for Brindaban. His younger brother, Kula Chandra Singh, pro-
claimed himself Mahanija, though the real power seems to have lain in
the hands of his brother Tikendrajit Singh, who was Senapati, or
commander-in-chief of the Manipur forces.



On reaching ikitish territory, Sur Chandra Singh repudiated his
abdication, and applied for help. It was decided that the Jubfaj,
Kula Chandra Singh, should be recognized as Maharaja, but that the
Senapati should be removed from the State and punished for his law-
less conduct ; and the Chief Commissioner was directed to visit Mani-
pur early in March, 1891, to give effect to these orders. Mr. Quinton
was accompanied by an escort of 400 men from two Gurkha battalions,
which, in addition to the Political Agent's guard of 100 men, was
thought sufficient to check any attempt at opposition. After much
deliberation, the Chief Commissioner determined to hold a darbar, at
which the orders of the Government of India were to be announced
and the Senapati arrested. The latter, however, refused to appear, and
it was decided to arrest him on March 24. Troops were accordingly
sent to his house, but were attacked, and Lieutenant Brackenbury, one
of the officers in command, was killed. Fighting went on throughout
the day, but at evening an armistice was agreed to and the Senapati
invited the Chief Commissioner to meet him. Mr.' Quinton, accom-
panied by other British officers, proceeded to the rendezvous and then
into the fort, where they met the Senapati, but no agreement was
concluded. As the party were leaving, their way was barred, Mr. Grim-
wood was fatally speared, and Lieutenant Simpson severely wounded.
Mr. Quinton and the officers with him were detained for two hours,
and were then marched out to an open space, and beheaded by the
public executioner. The attack upon the Residency was renewed, but
after a short interval the British force drew off towards Cachar, which
they reached without serious misadventure. The Superintendent of
Telegraphs, Mr. Melvill, who had left Imphal for Kohlma before the
outbreak, was pursued by the Manipuris, and both he and a European
signaller who accompanied him were killed.

As soon as news of the disaster was received at Kohlma, the Deputy-
Commissioner marched down the road to the Manipur boundary and
drove back the rebels. Lieutenant Grant also advanced from Tammu
with 80 men to within 14 miles of the capital, but was unable to proceed
farther and was recalled. Three British columns entered the State
from Burma, Cachar, and the Naga Hills, and arrived before the palace
on April 27, to find that the Jubraj and the Senapati had taken flight.
They were, however, captured ; and the Senapati and several of the
actual murderers were tried and hanged, while Kula Chandra Singh
and the other ringleaders were deported to the Andamans. Chura Chand,
a boy belonging to a collateral branch of the royal house, was then placed
on the gaddi. During his minority the State has been administered
by the Political Agent, and numerous reforms have been introduced.
In 1907 the young Maharaja, who had l)een educated at the Ajmer
College, .was formally installed.


The disturbances of i