TODAY -

The Rise and Fall of Glorious Cachari Kingdom
- Part 1 -

Yangsorang Rongreisek *



This writer is first fascinated by the striking activities of the newly floated Manipur Peoples against Citizenship (MANPAC) when its strong delegation toured all the Seven Sisters States of the North-East Region of India with the exception of Sikkim in the recent past in connection with Citizenship Amendment Bill, (CAB), 2016/19.

The team visited all the state capitals and other places of the region which will be affected by the bill when it becomes an act. It is encouraging that the team was well-received everywhere. It won't be too much to say that such discourse to have taken place and initiated by MANPAC is the first of its kind in the region.

It is taken as the coming together of the north east people in pursuit of a common goal—to restrict the influx of outsiders in the region. It is all the more interesting to know that the team met leaders of ZORO of Mizoram, Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl, the leader of the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra etc.

B.K. Hrangkhawl is a great humanist, also a dreamer who cares much for the security, unity and well-being of the ethnic minorities of the North-East Region when there are as many as twenty-one recognised Scheduled Tribes in Tripura alone. After absorbing the ruling Manikya Dynasty of Tripura along with their custom, culture and polity into their fold, the outsiders had captured everything there--land and government.

Then, as late as 1967, Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS) was born. The situation soon started worsening when the Left Front Govt was installed in 1977. The Tripuri Sena, militant wing of TUJS was formed in the same year to spearhead a movement to protest outsiders' domination in Tripura. After serving as the Organising Secretary of TUJS, B.K. Hrangkhawl became the leader of the Tripuri Sena.

It soon evolved into the Tripura National Volunteers (TNV). For ten years from 1977 to 1988, B.K.Hrangkhawl led a violent struggle as the supremo of the TNV which sought to expel the dreaded more than two million Bengali majority from Tripura. How had he thought it to be realistic? It is really enigmatic.

TNV soon got infamous for their ethnic cleansing in the rural areas of Tripura though it was converted into a political party after signing a Peace Treaty with the Indian Govt in 1988. Truly, B.K. Hrangkhawl is the bravest ethnic tribal hero that the NE has ever produced. The MANPAC team conferred with him in a meeting attended by many on the CAB.

Now that Tripuris are marginalised and many more will follow suit is what the youngsters in the present generation of the North-East Region fear most. This great fear is fit for revisiting how the glorious Cachari Kingdom rose to fame, how it fell in the hands of aliens. However, how Cachari Kingdom fell differs from how Tripuri Kingdom of Manikya Dynasty lost to the outsiders.

But the two kingdoms are gone forever. To begin with, this writer refers to S.S.Tunga, Author of Bengali and Other Related Dialects of South Assam. It is highly alluring that there was a glorious Cachari Kingdom at Dimapur in the 12th Century as it is only some kilometres away from the border of Manipur--so near.

It is said that the early history of the Cacharis is shrouded in mystery. Robert Gait thought that the Cacharis were probably the earliest of known inhabitants in the Brahmaputra Valley. But before them, Koches and Tipperahs were already there in the Cachar Plains. There is a tradition among the Cacharis of North Cachar Hills, now Dima Hasao that they once ruled in Kamarupa somewhere in the 7th Century.

Cachari establishment in Western Assam was as old as the 12th Century, if not earlier. Their rule began at Dhansiri Valley around 1150 A.D. In fact, the Cacharis were among the earliest of the Tibeto-Burman Tribes in Eastern India who came in contact with the Brahmanical order of Hinduism. They learned various arts and crafts from the bearers of this order.

They learnt the art of building houses with bricks from their Aryan neighbours and deeply swayed by the Brahmanical religion and customs so much so that they did not merely rest satisfied by holding Hindhu ceremonies such as Durga Puja and others but sought ultimately their descent from the Mahabharata hero Bhima, the Pandava and called themselves Hairambas after the wife of the former.

This happened at a later date, probably in the 15th Century. But the Hindhu influence began to dawn on them from the very beginning. The Cacharis built their capital city at Dimapur on the bank of the Dhansiri River by 1200 A.D. which grew eventually to become a great city of brick-built houses and fortresses. They ruled from Dimapur for nearly four centuries.

What is most wonderful is that their kingdom then included Nowgong, Sibsagar, Lakhimpur, North Cachar Hills, Darang, even Bhutan and hilly tracts in the north-east. It is also probable that their kingdom extended, at least in part, to Kamarup and Goalpara as well after the Palas ceased to be a ruling power in Western Assam by the beginning of the 13th Century.

From Dimapur, a fort as big as Kangla Fort only, the Cachari rule extended even upto Jaintia Hills. The major tribe which stood in the way of the Cachari supremacy was the Ahoms during the 13th-16th centuries.

The Ahoms changed the course of Cachari life-style, and events forcing the latter to depart from both the Brahmaputra and the Dhansiri Valleys, their two very important possessions. The Ahoms entered the Patkai range in 1228 A.D. from Yunan Province and some say from Shan State in Burma and after roaming about there for some years came down finally and settled in the upper Brahmaputra Valley around 1238 A.D.

In this way, the Ahoms began their rule in Assam, and in course of time, became a strong political power here which they were able to retain until the British took over it in 1826 A.D. It is known to all that the Ahom rule of Assam lasted for more than 600 years. However, the Cacharis did not yield to the Ahom pressure entirely.

They managed to hold their own at the Dhansiri valley for a long time, and at tracts which are now Dima Hasao and part of Kamarup and Goalpara districts. While at Dimapur the Cacharis considerably enhanced their strength and power. Their national glory, too, was increased here and as a people they found themselves very well-organised worthy of a valiant nation.

But the Ahoms with their bigger population and stronger strength were determined to exert their sway over everybody. Naturally, they had a series of encounters with the Cacharis spreading over for more than two-hundred years in which the Cacharis mostly lost. Subsequently, being unable to bear the Ahom pressure any more, the Cacharis left their country and fled southward to Maibong near the present Haflong in Dima Hasao in 1536 A.D.

The Ahoms who ruled from Sibsagar destroyed the Cachari capital at Dimapur which had become a lonely city after the Cacharis fled. The ruins of Dimapur are now tourist attraction though not the size and beauty of Kangla Fort in Imphal City in many respects.

The Cacharis, thereafter, never returned to the Dhansiri Valley. Instead, they built a new capital at Maibong on the Mahur River in the present Dima Hasao District about 70 miles south of Dimapur. It is very close to Tousem Sub-Division of Tamenglong District of Manipur.

Their might and glory diminished at Maibong. (It was during the reign of Maharaja Chhandrakirti Singh that the Cacharis of Maibong entered the boundary of Manipur to attack it at Barail Range. It is said that the Maharaja hired some Koireng fighters to repulse the invading Cacharis. For this, the writer doesn't claim that the fighters were the present Koirengs of Manipur as there was no proof of Koireng settlement around that range. It is also a mystery to ascertain which fighters of the Koirengs were mentioned in the theatre. It is also mentioned in the History of Manipur Vol-I by Prof.Gangmumei Kamei and other History Books on Manipur.)

At this time, the territory of the Cacharis which they had was also equally small. The adjoining Nowgong was their only possession. And here also, they did not get any opportunity of living peacefully. The Ahoms always tried to make frequent inroads to the Cachari kingdom.

On the one hand, the Koches of Kamtapur dreamt of establishing a great empire in the North-East India. Their king Naranarayan sent expeditions in different directions immediately after he became king in 1534 A.D. and his brother Gen Chilaray reduced to submission many nations including the Ahoms. The Cachari king also submitted to him.

Thus, the Cacharis had very little opportunity to organise themselves and live peacefully as a dominant race like the Ahoms or the Koches. Yet, from Maibong they were able to rule for a comparatively long time and extend the boundaries of their kingdom to Mikir Hills, now Karbi Anglong and Cachar plains in the extreme south.

Even after they had been weakened, their king Jasanarayan could defeat the king of Jaintia Hills and extended his rule over there and he even won a war with the Ahom king Pratap Singha in 1606 A.D. When the Ahoms attacked the Cachari kingdom again in 1706 A.D., the Cachari king Tamradhvaj abandoned Maibong and fled to Khaspur on the bank of Barak River in the plains which became his new capital until 1824 A.D.

To be continued.....


* Yangsorang Rongreisek wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a Longa Koireng in Kangpokpi District and can be reached at yangsorangr65(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 25, 2019.



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