TODAY -

Khongjom Day

Budha Kamei *

Khongjom Day Observation of historic Battle of Khongjom 1891 at Khebaching :: 23rd April 2015
Khongjom Day Observation of historic Battle of Khongjom 1891 at Khebaching on 23 April 2015 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



Khongjom day is observed on the 23rd April every year to pay rich tributes to the brave sons of Manipur who made supreme sacrifice for the cause of their motherland. They are the heroes of Manipur. Lack of unity and conflicts among the ruling princes and the British interference in the affairs of the state were the key factors of Anglo-Manipur war of 1891. Killing of five British officers including Mr. Quinton was the immediate cause of the war.

The execution of the five British officers without proper trial was unjustified, though as per the laws of little country what they had committed was the cause or waging war against Manipur (sovereign state) and thus liable to be punished by death. One can say that the events occurred from 22-25 March, 1891 were really tragic. The friendship between the two countries had been destroyed by tactless and arrogant Mr. Quinton. It was also the disaster for the British prestige in India and tiny Manipur did not comply in the foul play and pressure threats of Mr. Quinton.

The British came to India as a trading company and later on became the master of the sub-continent. The purpose of a trading company is to earn profit through trade. First, they made friendship with the native rulers, presented gifts to impress and later interfered in the internal affairs of the state by helping one group or another of the ruling family/dynasty (as and when the Colonial masters considered it opportune).

At last, the foundation of the ruling family/dynasty crumbled. ‘Divide and rule’ is the only policy they employed in all parts of the world. So, one should never enter into friendship with the British. Only a few number of British officers stationed in India. They were sent to India after receiving well training of anthropology. As anthropologists they collected ethnographic data of the native people by conducting field work or through interpreters before venturing in the particular area or state. In this way, Colonial masters could easily deal with the native peoples of North East.

Situated at a strategically important area between China and Indian sub-continent, Manipur was very much an arena of British imperial concern. The British Colonial masters wanted to use Manipur as a buffer zone for many factors; for smooth trade between Assam (Assam and Cachar were a part of British India) and Burma; to deal with the frontier tribes like Mizos, Nagas, Kukis, and Suktes. The British policy towards Manipur was mainly dictated by Burmaphobia till the outbreak of Anglo-Burmese war 1885. Even after the war of 1885, Manipur did continue to serve as a frontier defense because of the growing influence of France in the Indo-China.

During the whole of the 19th century, Manipur was an independent Kingdom. Truly speaking she was never colonized. Manipur was not a Sanad state like other Indian states before 1891. She of course had diplomatic level contact with British by signing treaties now and then. In 1762, the first formal treaty was signed between the two equal powers. It was essentially a defense alliance. Several factors contributed to the signing of the treaty.

Manipur was repeatedly invaded by the Burmese. To make the situation worse, there was no any unity among the ruling princes. Sons murdered fathers and brothers murdered brothers. Under the agreement of the treaty, the British were supposed to help Jai Singh in the expulsion of Burma from Manipur. But, they didn’t. It was only after the conquest of Manipur (1819), Cachar and Assam by the Burmese, the British attitude changed from one of the indifferent to alarm.

And they were now ready to assist Gambhir Singh in liberation of Manipur on the thought that it would ensure the security along the eastern frontier, and secondly, it would also enable the British to impose favorable terms to the king of Ava at the time of negotiation for peace. Manipur was liberated by Gambhir Singh and his men with the assistance of British. By the treat of Yandaboo 1826, Manipur was recognized as an independent Kingdom. But, she lost Kabaw valley to Burma because the British was in favor of Burma. This clearly proves the changing face or attitude of the British.

The main theatre of the Anglo-Manipur war of 1891 was in the south east of Manipur, where was fought one of the battles of the war of Manipur’s independence which was a saga of heroism and patriotism of the great warriors of the country who fought against heavy odds, the outcome of which was a foregone conclusion. The greatest battle was fought at Khebaching, Khongjom. The Manipur camp at Khongjom was defended by majors Paona Brajabasi and Chongtha Mia who earned immortal fame in the famous battle of Khongjom. The Manipuri forces were outnumbered and the enemy was superior in arms too.

Those were the days when the sun never set in British Empire. A little Kingdom like Manipur could not hope to meet the resourceful of the British located in their Indian Empire. It is a historical fact that the Manipuri soldiers fought bravely against the mighty British forces for their motherland. According to local version, about 400 Manipuri warriors were killed and the British too suffered very losses.

The fall of Khongjom is the turning point in the history of Manipur. After the battle, the British entered Imphal and occupied the palace, sounding the death knell of whatever sovereign power Manipur had enjoyed. The union jack flag was hoisted over the palace of Manipur. As a mark of victory, the British soldiers had blown up the masonry dragon which stood at the entrance of the Durbar hall. Thus, Manipur lost her sovereign and independent status and marked the integration into the British India Empire. Freedom they lost, but love of freedom they retained.

Lastly, we, the people of Manipur salute to the brave soldiers who laid down their lives for the freedom of their motherland.


* Khongjom Day wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 24, 2015.


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