The Martyrdom of Tikendrajit Bir Singh & Thangal General
- Part 3 -

By Lt Col (Retd) M Ranjit Singh *

Maharaja Surchandra had come to Political Agent's Residency with a high hope. He was under the impression that British troops will crush the revolt as he was under the protection of British Crown. But seeing the inaction of Political Agent, his hopes were completely shattered and decided that the best way was to go and meet the Chief Commissioner of Assam in person, who was at that time in Silchar and to explain all that has happened.

And the safest way he could think to go to Silchar was to give the impression to his adversaries that he has abdicated the throne. So he wrote a vague letter to Tikendrajit informing that he has no hope of fighting against Tikendrajit and that he intended to go to Brindaban and that he should make necessary arrangement.

At this point of time Maharaja Surchandra was completely tired both physically and mentally. He has had no food for the last two days as his caste does not permit him to drink or eat anything from the house of an Englishman. In fact he was under tremendous mental pressure due to the revolt by his step brothers and his inability to get any help from the British side.

This was his mental state of his mind when he wrote the abdication letter. The Political Agent advised Maharaja Surchandra not to decide hastily till his meeting with Takendrajit. The Political Agent also told him that he must understand he could never return to Manipur, Cachar or Sylhet once he leaves Manipur and Paka Sana also must accompany him. However Maharaja Surchandra was quite adamant and refused to change his mind.

Takendrakit and his brothers were very happy at the Maharaja's decision. The Maharaja before leaving, handed over all the arms, some keys, a gold ornament, a State sword and a State Coat to Colonel Samu for handing over to Takendrajit. The Maharaja along with Samu Hanjaba and Gopalsana and several attendants, in all about sixty persons left Imphal in the evening of September 23, 1890 at about 7.30 pm.

The Political Agent sent an escort of 35 Rifles of 44th Gorkha Light Infantry to accompany them to Cachar. On the same night the Political Agent informed the Chief Commissioner of Assam regarding abdication by the Maharaja and also recommended Kulachandra to be the next king. Chief Commissioner agreed to the recommendation of the Political Agent and confirmed Kulachandra as Reagent till the receipt of approval from the Government of India.

Maharaja Surchandra and his party reached Silchar on October 3, 1890 and there to his greatest disappointment found that the Chief Commissioner had already left Cachar. On October 6, Maharaja Surchandra repudiated his abdication and sent a telegraph to Chief Commissioner saying that he has not abdicated and Political Agent has misunderstood him.

To this, the Chief Commissioner replied that he would give his best consideration to any representation he might submit but that the Maharaja and his brothers who accompanied him could not be allowed to return to Sylhet, Cachar or Manipur and that for the present he must remain in Calcutta.

The Chief Commissioner on 9th October 1890 requested the Govt not to pass any final order on succession till receipt of Surchandraís complaint Maharaja could give his representation only on 14th November 1890. On receipt of the complaint, Chief Commis- sioner sent the same to Mr Grimwood, the Political Agent in Manipur on 22nd Nov 1890 for his comment... The Political Agentís comment was dispatched on December 4th, 1890. The recommendation of the Chief Commissioner to the Govt was forwarded on December 31st 1890.

The final decision of the Government of India on the Manipur Revolution was taken on 19th February, 1891. The Government of India was disposed to reassert the authority of Maharaja Surchandra to the throne as they have promised the guarantee of 'Raj' during his father Maharaja Chandrakirti's life time; they however gave away to Mr Quinton's opposition and decided to recognise Maharaja Kulachandra as ruler of Manipur.

The British felt that they could not permit a revolt against a Chief recognised by them. To remain wholly successful and unpunished and virtual authority on Manipur to pass into hands of Senapati who was according to them notoriously turbulent and the real leader of the revolution. Therefore, Tikendrajit, the Senapati was to be removed from Manipur. The Chief Commissioner was asked to visit Manipur and make known on the spot the decision of The Government of India and that a sufficient force was told to be taken, even though opposition was not expected.

In Manipur during this time, the atmosphere was entirely different. Almost five month's have passed after the September 1890 revolution. The Regent, Jubraj and people of Manipur have taken it for granted that the succession of Maharaja Kulachandra has been approved by the Government of India. But the news of sudden visit of Chief Commissioner with large force put everybody associated with the revolution under tremendous pressure. The Chief Commissioner along with his escort arrived Imphal at 9.30 am on 22nd March, 1891.

Maharaja Kulachandra has already been told about a Darbar to be held at Residency at 12 o'clock of the same day where decision of the Government on succession of king was to be announced. The proposed Darbar never took place. The British then attempted to apprehend Jubraj Takendrajit Singh from his residence on the night of 23rd March 1891. Their mission failed miserably.

On the night of 24th March 1891, the five British officers (Mr James Wallace Quinton, Chief Commissioner of Assam, Colonel C Mc Dowai Skene, Commanding Officer 42 Gurkha Rifles, Mr Frank St Clair Grimwood, Political Agent, Manipur and Mr WH Cossins, Asst Secy to Chief Commissioner of Assam, and Lieutenant Walter H Simpson, 43 Gurkha Rifles ) along with a bugler, Guna Rama were beheaded by the King's executioner using a long handled sword known as 'Tendon Thang' in front of Kangla Sha or Dragon as the British loved to call.

There were three official executioners in Manipur at that time. They were Sagolsem Dhana Singh of Khongnang Pheidekpi, Thambou of Bashikhong and one Naga named Hordung from Heino. They were under the command of Trilok Singh Nongthoiba Satwal can utilise the service of, anybody on duty at Lanmi Yarekshang.

On that fateful night of 24th March 1891, Sagolsem Dhono was on duty. He had the experience of beheading one Irengba Thundangba during 1881 for revolting against Maharaja Chandrakirti. The execution that time took place at Karong 12 miles away from the palace.

It is widely believed in Manipur that the executions of five British officers had been prophesised in "Ningthoural Singkak", a prophecy book written during King Khagemba's time (1597 to 1652). For the interest's sake, the relevant portion of the prophecy is produced here.

"(He) will come in 1771.
The northern capital will be constructed in 1779.
Let it be known that it is on this high ground.
Royal house will be constructed.
The king who ruled during that time will be like a spark.
Many sacred places will be constructed.
The next king will rule for four years.
The next king will rule for three years.
The next king will rule for one year;
In his reign, five heads of white men will fell in front of Kangla Sha (Dragon)
(There is a difference of 79 years between Manipur calendar and English calendar)

To be continued.....

* Lt Col (Retd) M Ranjit Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This was webcasted on November 30, 2008.

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