April 23 is the main Khongjom battle day

Dr Suresh Singh *

Rich tributes paid to martyrs and War Heroes on Khongjom Day  :: April 23 2018
Tributes paid to martyrs and War Heroes on Khongjom Day on April 23 2018 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

With Khongjom day approaching, there will be again controversy regarding main Khongjom battle day-23rd or 25th. Manipur's habit of dividing 1 into 2, 2 into 4 etc. continues. Having attended a 2-day seminar on Anglo-Manipuri war 1891 by Justice Committee 1891 at Press Club as Special Invitee on 31/3 & 1/4/2018, I though it proper to give a better account to my readers. The article is a bit longer as I have to accommodate many views.

Background: The whole controversy started by some learned gentlemen favouring 25th, based on some British reports. These are those of Captain F.M. Rundall & Captain Drury of 4th Gurkha Regiment which are quoted at Cheitharol Kumbaba. Besides this, I have Lt. Grant's narrative letter to his home as quoted by Mrs. Grim Wood in her book. Grant is the commander of 12th Regiment, Madras Infantry.

All subsequent reports, be it by Tamu Colum Commander General T. Graham, Manipur PA and other high-ups, are based on the reports of these 3 field commanders. To me, the major culprit seems to be General Graham, overall command of Tamu column who forced his subordinates to mention 25th instead of 23rd as he wanted to show that he participated in the active war when he was actually not. The commander was at Pallel on 26th, he must have been at Tamu and other Burmese garrisons on or before 25th.

British records:

a) Rundall mentions ground situation of Manipur army and severe hand to hand fight, but did not mention timing of the war.

b) Drury's report mention 1000 strong Manipuri army, retreat closed by Drury and Graham with 350 army of 2nd battalion Gorkhas + 12th Madras infantry, hand to hand fight and stubborn defence by Manipuris. He also mentioned 128 Manipuris killed with many more killed in the pursuit by the mounted infantry; surprisingly, he mentioned 2 British killed and 12 wounded including many officers eg. Drury, Carnegy, Grant, Cox etc. Can one believe it in such a hand to hand fight? He also did not mention timing of the war.

c) Grant's letter mentions British army strength as-50 with Grant, 50 Mounted Infantry under Cox and another 50 of 2nd-4th Gorkhas under Drury (total 150) with Drury requesting the General to send more troops. He mentioned the time as 11.30 am and Manipuri death as 75 in the main fort + 56 near the main fort + another >100 killed by mounted infantry (total > 231). British casualty was- 2 death & 10/11 injury i.e. more or less as Graham's. Can we believe it? He did not mention the reinforcement nor the hand-to- hand fight.

Grant's other narratives to his home are-
i) on 27 March, 35 men of 43rd Gorkha light infantry came to Tamu and reported great fight on 25th and those killed/prisoners/escaped (besides the 5 British officers) as 500 Gorkhas
ii) he got order to proceed to Imphal at 11 pm of 27th and started next day at 5 am with 50 men having 160 rounds each
iii) fought peaches battle on way and reached Pallel at 7am of 30th
iv) 30th- his force driven out 150 enemy army from hill-trenchment, driven out 200 enemy from Pallel and reached Thoubal at 7 am of 31st and fierce fighting at Thoubal
v) fighting continued up to 1st April, then peace negotiation from 1 to 5th April
vi) 6th – again attacked by Manipuris, 10 Manipuris killed vii) 8th (Saturday) –large bodies of Manipuris seen moving and had order from Burma to retreat, accordingly grant retreated
viii ) 9th- at Pallel, they found 300/400 Manipuri shoulders, Manipuris did not expect them. They killed 40 Manipuris and there were re-enforcement by Major Charles Leslic with 400 Gorkhas (2-4th Gorkhas). After this, his narrative is silent from 10th to 24th April.

Cheitharol Kumbaba record:

The actual war for Tamu column started on 24th March itself. The narrative says:
i) 24th-1 British led 50 army ran towards Kabo (Biramani says it is led by Jamadar Birbal Nagarkati of 42nd Gorkha Regiment) and it was chased by Yengkhoiba Major led 100 army. They reached Tengnoupal on 29th, there was fight, British succeeded and they reached Athokpam on 31st (Biramani-war at Tengnoupal & Nungourok, only Yengkhoiba survived, many died and some ran away; yengkhoiba ran to Nungourok to Maring Khunbi village to Athokpam)

ii) 31st-Senapati Angousana+Wangkheiraka Maipaksana+Dolairoi Hanjaba+ Yaiskul Lakpa + Chongtha Major+ 300 army reached and camped at Thoubal ,fighting started

iii) 4th April–Darbar held at camp, decided to invade next day

iv) 5th Sunday, 5pm- Wangkheirakpa + son Yaiskullakpa+ Dolairoi Hanjaba + Yengkhoiba Major +Chongtha Major + Wangkhoi Poila etc went to war at Athokpam. British were in trench, started shooting from there; hence decided for hand-to-hand fight

v) 6th Monday-Severe hand-to-hand fight, 5pm-Yaiskul Lakpa + son Sanahal fought with 3 Britishers and the 5 died together. At night, the British run away

vi) 7th-morning, heard the news of British run away.

vi) 17th Friday- Paona + Chongtha Mia + Haobam Anganghan were promoted to Major, Longjamba Subedar was promoted Poila. Wangkheirakpa + Yengkhoiba+700 army left to defend Thoubal

vii) 19th Sunday- Paona + Chongtha Major + 400 army left for Thoubal

vii) 20th- they reached Thoubal Athokpam, requested Wangkheirakpa party to stay at Thoubal; Poana party will proceed up to Pallel and hence requested for 1 Top, but it was refused by Wangkheirakpa party. At midnight- Wangkhei Poila party left for Kakching Pallel and Paona Party left for Pallel

viii) 22nd Wednesday- an important event took place at Kangla. Around 1/2 pm, one Dolai(chariot) with flag flew down from sky near Pakhangba Santhong and disappeared before it touch down the ground, many at Kangla show it. Wangkhei Poila + 30 army, who made their camp near hilltop, faced gun shoot from the British hiding at villages and they had hand-to-hand fight.

Wanghkhei + 20 army died, others escaped. Paona and Chongtha made army camp by the side of Khongjom river, the camp was bombarded 4 times by the British, but the last one reached the camp. Hence, they requested Wangkheirakpa + Yenkhoiba Major for Top and re-enforcement, but the same was refused.

23rd Thursday- severe battle started from early morning, around evening our force was surrounded by British horse-riding army( cavalry), many also injured due to gun-shoot. All Manipuris had hand-to-hand fight. Paona and others died; all front-guard army died. Chongtha + about 100 army survived with injury, some run away. Many front-guard British army also died, at approach of darkness, British also returned to their camp. All rear-guard army at Athokpam i.e. Wangkheirakpa+ Yenkhoiba party ran away to capital

viii) 26th-the king gave donations to Brahmins, Maiba Sanglen, Cheirap etc. at 6 am-many people from Kangla came out and wept. Shree Gobinda and other Gods shifted to Thakurdas Ningthem Purit situated at Khongman Mapal with Rs 1000/ donations. 1 hr. after darkness-king+all brothers+noblemen with 200 male ran to the east towards Porompat.

Moirang Tonjao + 1 Kabo who were sent 3 days ago with Rs 3000/ as advance party to lead to China was not available (disappeared) at the waiting place ix) 27th –at 7am, Western column entered Kangla, PA was the 1st to inter; PA stayed at the residence of Mama Shija and became king (Regent); he later on shifted to Utra. Market was closed for 1 month, PA sent messages to open to all and then opened.

Points & counter points:

i) Rundall's report did not mention time of the war and no. of casualties

ii) Drury's report mentioned many Manipuris killed, surprisingly, he mentioned only 2 British killed and 12 wounded including many officers. Is it believable in such a hand- to -hand fight? He also did not mention timing of the war

iii) Grant's letter mentioned British army strength as total 150, he did not mention the reinforcement nor the hand-to- hand fight. British casualty was-2 deaths & 10/11 injury i.e. more or less as Graham's. Can we believe it?

iii) Grant's letter says-on 27 March, 35 men of 43rd Gorkha light infantry came to Tamu and reported great fight on 25th . This itself is wrong, The Kangla fight was on 24th, everyone of us knew it. He also mentioned 8th April as Saturday which is wrong, it is Wednesday as I confirmed from Cheitharol Kumbaba

iv) Luwang further quoted Evening post (Wellington, New Zealand), New York Times etc. published on 24/25/26 mentioning the war on 23rd. He also quoted other wrong narratives of Gen. Graham. He also mentioned Koireng's defence lawyer Janakinath Basak mentioning 23rd as the war day in his other write ups.

All these reports did not mention the whereabouts of its commander, Brigadier-General T. Graham which is surprising. Luwang mentioned that the Commander arrived at Pallel on 26th April. This all the more strengthened my suspicion that the General forced his field subordinates to mention Khongjom war on 25th instead of 23rd so that he could claim that he himself was involved in the war.

Of all the British reports, Graham's is the most important as he was involved from the very beginning i.e. from 28/03/1981. Hence, it requires great scrutiny; but he is silent from 10 to 24th April, the all important period. Why so?

Hence, we should try to avoid thinking British records as Gospel truth. I can cite many of their miss-writings. Cl. Johnstone , the PA at page 48 of his book, wrote Gambhir Singh agreeing to hand over Kabaw Valley to Burma quoting the King as " you gave it me and you can take it away".

The man who was PA during 1877-86 was speaking about 1833 Treaty as if it happened in his front. His British hypocrisy and double standard can again be seen in his 1878 Kohima and Konoma campaign when he praised British officers, including himself, sky high without mentioning the role of Surchandra, Koireng, Thangal General and 2000 strong Manipuri troops. He was also deadly against Tikendrajit and Thangal General who were more patriotic than anybody else.

Similarly many British writers wrongly mention Brahmaputra as the origin of Ningthee river (it originated from the southern slope of Patkai ranges) and so on. But Manipuri mindset won't change; they will follow British and other writers blindly. They are afraid to tell the truth for the simple reason that we lack in-depth research, in-depth analysis and in-depth writing.


The great war on the Tamu/Eastern front started on 28th March when Lt. Grant left Tamu on 28th with 50 army. 1st war started at Tengnoupal on 29th with Yenkhoiba Major party. Off and on battle continued at Pallel, Thoubal and Thoubal Athokpam on 31st-4th April. On 5th & 6th, great battle was fought at Athokpam, Yaiskullakpa with son Sanahal died within 3 enemy army in hand-to-hand fight on 6th. On 22nd -Wangkhei Poloi led 30 army had great battle at Kakching, Poloi and 20 others died fighting.

The Great Khongjom war started on 22nd with British bombarding 4 times to Manipuri camp. On 23rd – war continued from morning to darkness, Poana and around 300 army died by hand to hand fight and from British bombardment, hence, the Khogjom day. Chongtha +100 army survived, some injured. The war be declared as the great Anglo-Manipuri war remembering the 3 fronts. Happenings on 24th March and before be written as a separate chapter i.e. as Precursor to the great Anglo-Manipuri war.

Regarding 23rd April, it be taken as correct based on Cheitharol Kumbaba and Paona family records as contained in Paonam Pholendrajit's book . I have verified the same from one Paona family member. The family is observing Khongjom day on 23rd since 1956. All these controversies had been examined by the 1982 Committee chaired by the then Hon'ble speaker Shree Y, Yaima Singh.

Hence, those who challenge the Great Chronicle should be able to give proof of what happened from 25th March to 27th April in detail. I have no objection to have an in-depth research/analysis by a committee consisting of un-biased intellectuals. Those narratives which challenge Cheitharol Kumbaba without full-proof should be consigned to the dustbin.


1. Cheitharol Kumbaba 4th, edn., 2012, P. 483-495.

2. Grim Wood, E.St.Clair : My three years in Manipur, Indian publication, 2008.p.181-195.

3. Sarangthem Biramani - Meitei Ningthourol, 5th edition,p.299

4. Ph. Nando Luang: Cheitharol Kumbaba lali hairibra, Sangai Express (Manipuri Edn.), 15th May,2017.

5. Cl. Johnstone James, Sir: Manipur and the Naga Hills, 2010 Indian reprint,p.90.

6. Paonam Pholendrajit Singh: Paona Brajabasi and Khongjom day, 1998 publication.

* Dr Suresh Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Dr Suresh Singh is Ex-Director, Health & WHO Fellow
This article was posted on April 26, 2018.

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