A brief note on Manipur and the Lushai Expedition, 1871-72
- Part 1 -

Prof N Lokendra Singh *

 The inscription on stones at Chibu
Original Inscription on Chebu stone :: Pix - TSE

The Department of History, Manipur University, is deeply concerned with some recent publications in the press and social media in relation to the history of the Lushai Expedition, 1871-72 and the proposed Park at Chibu/Chivu, the salt-spring at Tonjang village in Churachandpur District of Manipur. These publications have evidently generated confusion among the reading public.

The Department believes that history belongs to the past and it is a heritage for everyone in the present. This belief press us to inform the public of that past as we read in history. As the history of the said Expedition now turns out, we like to put together all the available facts at our disposal so that readers would be able to see for themselves.

Before we do that, it is pertinent to understand the political context of Manipur within which the said Expedition should be located. Although Manipur was a British's "protected/dependent state", its existence until 1891 was based on the Treaty of Yandabo (1826) which recognized its independence from Burma and British India.

Unlike other princely states in India, Manipur was not bounded by any specific sannad with the British government. The Treaty of 1833 and 1834 merely relates to Manipur's boundary and the movements of British troops, goods and traders across these borders. It was within this boundary of Manipur that the Maharaja of Manipur was to maintain law and order.

The British Political Agency was established at Imphal in 1835 for the "preservation of a friendly intercourse, and as a medium of communication with the Manipur Government, and, as occasion may require, with the Burmese Authorities". A small British garrison was also stationed at Imphal to provide a feeling of security to the inhabitants of the state against external aggression.

It was under such circumstances that the Maharaja of Manipur ruled almost independently of the British control. As it would be to any responsible ruler, all the Maharajas from Gambhir Singh had attempted to pacify the country which now fell under their sovereign control.

Since Maharaj Nara Singh's time, the Political Agency was entrusted to deal with the hill tribes, but all of them ensured that law and order prevailed within Manipur state. With such objective in mind, expeditions were often sent out into the hills, sometimes the Maharaja himself at the head of the expeditionary forces, to pacify some recalcitrant villages.

I. The role of Manipur in the Lushai Expedition, 1871-72

When the Lushai Expedition, 1871-72 was planned by the British Government of India, the Manipur state was asked to defend its southern frontier and "restrain eastern Kamhows". Manipur being a protectorate state was then obliged to send its troops to assist the British expedition.

Accordingly, a total forces of 3,833, including 1554 Manipuri troops, 530 Kuki contingent, and 1749 coolies, with 1000 maunds of rice, under the command of Major-General W.F. Nuthall, then officiating Political Agent in Manipur, was despatched. The instruction, dated 19 October 1871, from Brigadier-General Bourchier, who commanded the Expedition, to Major-General W.F. Nuthall was as follows:

"I have to request that you will take steps for occupying strongly a line of posts along the southern frontier of Munnipoor, and keeping in the valley near Moirung a small compact force capable of supporting itself to act against the most eastern tribes (Kamhow's) should information reach you that they have been tempted to join Lalboorah, Tangdoong, and others against whom the Column I command will advance". [National Archives of India (NAI), Foreign Political (FP), August 1872, No 83: Nuthall to Aitchison, 12 April 1872].

Brig-Gen. Bourchier also wrote to Nuthall on 11 November 1871, instructing him that "the eastern tribes [Kamhows] will require watching, and this will be the special duty of the [Manipur] Contingent" so that the Kamhows should not take advantage of their hostile relationship with the Lushais. [NAI, FP, August 1872, No 83: Nuthall to Aitchison, 12 April 1872].

Accordingly, Maj-Gen. Nuthall took his forces and camped at Chibu/Chivu as the most strategic point to fulfil his dual responsibilities. From there, he controlled over "a lines of posts" at Kowpoom, Limetak, Bishenpoor, Moirung Hills, Koomos Chumbupoong, Koongshangkool in the Hills, Muttarook, Tesklapi (head-quarters), Shooganoo, Mangchangoway, Kengyang, and Koongamaroo. [NAI, FP, August 1872, No 83: Nuthall to Aitchison, 12 April 1872].

We have some interesting stories while the Manipur's column was stationed at Chibu Camp. It was a well documented event. We intend to bring them together so that we may be able to form a clearer view of the subject.

1. Cheitharol Kumbaba, the Royal Chronicle of Manipur

(Edited by L. Joychandra Singh, pp. 188-89)

It records briefly of the events connected to Chibu during Lushai Expedition. On 26 November 1871, "Sagawaijam Major and Kangba Major with 2000 sepoys and 4000 coolies went to Lushai country, a Shaheb also accompanied". On 13 December 1871, "the expedition reached Chibu, the Lushai came to offer a woman of Nanfao village".

On 23 December 1871, "the Lushai placed elephant tusks on the road intimating that they would submit". On 30 December 1871, "32 houses of Khoojingkai villages came into the Chibu camp and submitted". On 1 January 1872, "the Poiboi Ningthou sent Lomboon Ningthou and Lairik Ningthou with 2 tusks to Chibu camp, and submitted. A house was built before the camp and a road of 60 ft. breath was constructed, the General Shaheb and the 2 Majors had a Durbar with the Lushais. The Lushais expressed their fear of the Manipuris and prostrated".

On 3 January 1872, "a salt well was dug there. Lairick Ningthou and others came into the camp and promised not to commit raid and solemnized their promise by killing a dog at the Toyai river and breaking iron".

On 8 January 1872, "the Maharaj's feet were printed on 2 stones and on 2 other stones were painted the form of Thangjing and Lairema, the dog of General Nuthall was also printed on stones. The stones were put at the salt well".

On 9 January 1872, "the villages of Warungel, Lengkhum, Poiboi Mamkhulm lamboom, Larakhul, Helhing, Larakhundol, Hawbiran, Thanthou, Thingjatoom, Hongoo, Lamshaow, Poomhangm Lanainglook paid tribute to the Maharaj and settled at Takhang Hill". On 11 January 1872, "Sagwaijam Major, Kangba Major the 2000 sepoys, the 3000 Khongjais and 4000 coolies collected stones in a pile near the Maharaj's foot print".

On 12 January 1872, "Bamon Laehawthaba Gokul Takur called the people of Sikhong and Ningel and had Chibu Salt well manufactured by them". On 22 January 1872, "Mr. Brown returned from Lushai expedition".

On 28 January 1872, "Sagwaijam Major and Kangba Major returned. 32 Naga villages consisting of 1126 houses were brought in 1st day of moon Saturday Fairel (February)". On 9 February 1872, "5 guns were fired announcing 2nd expedition against the Lushais".

On 4 March 1872, "700 Lushais ran to Chibu thana and took refuge. The Kamhow Nagas who pursued the Lushais were captured by Sagwaijam Major and Kangbam Major. Among the captives were Yaton Ningthou, his brother Lokethong Thangapoa, Thomlen, Howboom, Khootil yaton Ningthou Thombel, Yapao, his son Kokethong, Withong Nowthong Nowthong, Kokethong Ningthou, his brother Kamlen, his son Sukam, Illeloomai, Poomlen, Howtol and 50 Akhamhaw Nagas. 44 guns and Burmese swords were taken".

On 23 March 1872, "Tamboom Ningthou, Lairick Ningthou offered a gong and 2 elephant tusks". On 24 March 1872, "the Maharaj gave in return 6 broad cloths, dolaifees, head dresses with flower works, silver and iron. The Lushai made an oath drinking the waste of a double barrelled gun of Maharaj as well as the water of a mountain gun". [Please see, Manipur-Lushai Treaty, 1872, below] On 22 April 1872, "Akhamhaw Kokethong and his 2 brothers died of cholera in the jail".

2. Manipur-Lushai Treaty, 1872

[Source: Annual Administration Report of the Munnipoor Agency for the year ending 30th June 1873, pp. 7-8].

The Manipur-Lushai Treaty of 1872 is a significant document that explains the larger picture of the expedition in relation to Manipur and the Lushais. Several of the Lushai chiefs visited Imphal after the expedition and before the Maharaja, the Political Agent and his officials "renewed their engagement, taking the oaths usual to the tribes and consenting to the following Treaty, which was explained to them". The Treat was, in verbatim, as follows:


We, the undersigned, viz., Damboom, Raja of Tikung, on the part of Poiboi; Daloom, Muntri on the part of Lenkoom; Lallkoop, Raja of Laireek; Konga, Raja of Puchoohi; and Bolool, Muntri of Dalkoom, hereby swear according to our custom that mutual friendship shall always be maintained by us towards the British Government and the Maharaja of Munnipoor, and we will faithfully abide by the following Articles of Treaty with Maharaja:-

Article I: We engage never again to be guilty of acts of aggression towards the subjects of aforesaid powers, and to renounce making human sacrifices for the obsequies of our Chiefs.

Article II: We engage to hold no communication whatever of a designing nature with any tribes hostile to the aforesaid powers, and we promise to give due notice of inimical intentions in their part that may come to our knowledge.

Article III: We engage to give free passage through our country to any forces which the aforesaid powers may deem necessary to send through it, to reach other tribes, and we promise to give any assistance to such forces as we may be called upon to render.

Article IV: We promise to afford support and encouragement to traders from British and Munnipoor Territories.

Article V: The Maharaja of Munnipoor on his part promises to forgive all acts of aggression against his subjects committed by us previous to this treaty conditionally that none of his subjects who are in captivity shall be detained against their will.

Article VI: The Maharaja further promises to support us if unjustly attacked by any of our neighbouring tribes, and in such case to assist us in recovering any of our people who may be carried into captivity.

Article VII: The Maharaja also promises, in event of drought or famine, to assist us with food, also to exact no dues whatever for a period of five years from merchants or traders going to and coming from our country.

To be continued .....

* Prof N Lokendra Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Prof N Lokendra Singh is the Head of Department of History, Manipur University
This article was webcasted on July 04 2020.

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