TODAY -

6th of April 1891
The fateful day of the beginning of the end of the age-old Manipur's independence

By Waikhom Damodar Singh *



Deity-king Pakhangba ascended the throne of Manipur in the year 33 AD and established the independent sovereign kingdom of Manipur which existed as a very powerful small kingdom under the rulings of some 66 kings of his dynasty. Out of all the kings so ruled independently, Mungyaba (1562-1597), Khagemba (1597-1652) and Pamheiba, alias Garibniwaz (1709-1748) were the most powerful and warrior kings who ascended the throne of Manipur and very widely extended its territories on all the sides.

Out of the three kings, Pamheiba is known, in the annals of the history of Manipur, to be the one who rose invincibly like Alexander, the great, in the South-East Asia region.

Pamheiba had ten wives and his son, Ibungshi Kainou Chingshomba Shyamshai Khurailakpa was born to his first wife Arambam Chanu Tabang Lanthabi. Shamshai had two wives—Iwanglon Wayenbam Chanu Chakkhya Maring Loikhombi and Thongbam Chanu, and to the former were born three sons—Gourshyam, Bheigyachandra (Chingthangkhomba, Nungnang-khomba, Jay Singh, Karta) and Krishnachandra, and to the latter, Bhavananda.

Chingphuron Chingngakham Chanu Devahuti was the fourth wife of Bheigyachandra to whom were born Hemchandra Senapati and Chourjit Maharaj (1804-1813). Ibungshi Brindabantaba was the son of Maharaj Chourjit Singh born to his tenth wife, Khayoiron Ngangbam Chanu Apanbi and Ibungshi Haojaomacha Yaiskul Lakpa was the son of Ibungshi Brindabantaba born to his wife Maibam Chanu.

Ibungshi Haojaomacha Yaiskul Lakpa became a Menjore and Senapati of the Bijaya Garot, the commander of the Temple guards. Out of the 8 recipients of "khullets" (Robe of Honour) from the British Government during the time of Maharaj Chandra Kirti Singh for the outstanding defence works done on the border areas of Manipur in suppressing the Sepoy Mutiny revolt that erupted out in 1857 against the British East India Company, Ibungshi Haojaomacha was one who received the distinguished award.

At the time of Maharaj Gambhir Singh (1826-1834) Manipur was the "formidable Allies" of the British but from the time of his son, the weaker king, Chandrakirti Singh, they began to "usurp" in the internal political affairs of independent State. And it was at the time of Surchandra Singh, who being the eldest son, became the king of Manipur after the death of his father Chandrakirti Singh in 1886, that the British took full control of the political affairs of Manipur.

And due to a very seriously strained relationship developed in between the two allies which arose out of a very unfortunate incident occurred—in which 5 British officers led by Mr JW Quinton, Chief Commissioner of Assam were murdered on 24 September 1891 in the premises of the Manipur palace at Kangla by a very violent civilian mob who so acted because of their extremely provoked anger for the killings done to their innocent "dear and near ones" by the treacherous act carried out in the previous night by the column of the British force, in that, they made a sudden night attack on the residence of senapati Bir Tikendrajit Singh for arresting him and in the process a fierce encounter between them and Manipur force took place which resulted to the killings of the innocent civilians including women and children.

The ill-fated five British officers came to Manipur led by Mr Quinton along with a strong contingent of 400 Gurkha soldiers under the command of Colonel Skene to announce the decision of the Government of India regarding the kingship of Manipur in favour of Yubaraj Kulachandra singh and arrest Senapati Bir Tikendrajit Singh and strip out power from him and deport him outside Manipur.

As an ill-consequence of the most unfortunate incident of murder committed the greatly humiliated British Government of India declared "war" against Manipur on 31 March 1891 to assert their superiority and a punish the Manipur's people for their thoughtless acts carried out against them a full invasion in the State took place by three very strong British Army columns—one from the north through Kohima under the command of Major General H Collet, another from the west under Colonel RH Ronnick through Silchar and the third from the south from Tammu under the command of Brigadier General T Graham and the last decisive battle of the Anglo-Manipuri war was fought at Khongjom some 40 kilometres south of Imphal on the 25th of April 1891.

Before that a British contingent of 80 men under Lt Grant advanced from their Tammu Garrison on 28 March 1891 early morning and reached Thoubal on 31 March 1891 morning and tried to advance further to Imphal but they met heavy resistance there from the Manipuri strong column who were already in their well prepared positions and therefore Lt Grant and his force immediately retreated and established their camp at Thoubal Athokpam at Sagolshem compound fortified by thick mud-walls all around with deep trenches dug up where they safely took covers and continued fighting with the Manipuri column stationed at Thoubal Waikhom Ingkhol (compound) on the west of Thoubal Tomjing hillock from 31 March to 6 April 1891.

It was on this fateful day that the brave Manipuris under Sanakhwa Yaiskul Lakpa and other valiant commanders, as a final do-or-die assaulting offensive action, advanced very close towards the position of the British and encircled them by taking positions outside the mud-walls and were about to begin the deadly "close quarter battle" and in the process the gallant old man (some 70 years old) Sanakhwa Haojaomacha, Yaiskul Lakpa was suddenly hit by the firing from the pistol of cunningly hiding Lt Grant.

On seeing his father wounded seriously Sengoisana, the brave son of Yaiskul Lakpa jumped out of the thick mud-walls and with his lightening and unparalleled sword display made the fleeing British Commanding officer severely wounded and three of his Gurkha escorts killed instantly. However Sengoisana was also hit by the firing from the pistol of Lt Grant who was lying injured on the ground.

Thus ended the lives of two Manipuri heroes—a father, Sanakhwa Haojaomacha Yaiskul Lakpa and his beloved and gallant son, Sengoisana in the preluded "Anglo-Manipuri war of 1891 April" and they were indeed the two "martyrs" who laid down and sacrificed their lives for the sake of defending independence of their motherland, the independent sovereign kingdom of Manipur.

The 6th of April 1891 was indeed the fateful day of the beginning of the "end of Manipur's age-old independence" and sovereignty, and it will be a great failing on the part of the people if they do not remember the day by paying their due "homage" and "tribute" also to the two brave sons of Manipur.




* Waikhom Damodar Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on April 14 2010.

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