TODAY -

Remembering Maharaj Gambhir Singh
- Significance Of 9th JANUARY, 1834 -

State Archaeology *

Floral tributes being paid to Maharaj Gambhir Singh on his death anniversary
Floral tributes being paid to Maharaj Gambhir Singh on his death anniversary



The history of Manipur at the dawn of 19th century, presents an unvarying scene of treachery between the numerous sons of Jai Singh ( Raja Bhagyachandra ), who in their contests for supremacy, arrayed the unhappy people of the country in hostile warfare against each other and inflicted untold miseries upon them.

Labanyachandra(Rabainachandra), the eldest son, who had been left in charge of the country by his father Jai Singh was murdered in 1801 and Modhuchandra (1801-1803) became the King of Manipur and Chourjit as Jubraj and Marjit as Senapati respectively. But the combined attack of Chourjit and Marjit defeated Modhuchandra. Chourjit ascended the throne in 1804. He made Marjit, the Yubraj as he supported him in his revolt against Modhuchandra. Marjit was an ambitious prince. He conspired to capture power, but being unsuccessful; he fled to Ava and supplicated assistance from the King of Ava. Marjit became King of Manipur (1813-19), after expulsion of his brother Chourjit with Burmese support. Marjit executed all of Chourjit followers and attempted to murder many of his nephews. Gambhir Singh escaped to Cachar and joined hands with Chourjit.

In 1819, Bagyidaw became the King of Burma after the death of his grandfather Badawpaya. At this time, Burma was at the Zenith of his power.

The new King summoned Marjit to be present at his coronation ceremony at Ava and pay homage to him. Marjit refused to attend the Ceremony on the plea that he apprehended troubles from his brothers Chourjit and Gambhir Singh. The Burmese King to humble Marjit sent an army under the command of General Maha Bandula, one of the greatest Bumese generals in the history to conquer Manipur. The outcome was a foregone conclusion, Marjit was defeated and he fled to Cachar. [The Burmese invasion of Manipur was a part of a greater plan of conquest of North-East India and even Bengal.] The invading Burmese easily overrun Manipur and let loose a reign of terror for seven years from 1819 to 1825. This period of Burmese rule came to known as "Chahi Taret Khuntakpa (the seven years devastation) in the annals of Manipur.

CHAHI TARET KHUNTAKPA (THE SEVEN YEARS DEVASTATION):
Manipur had never before faced such a national catastrophe brought about by the Burmese conquest. The oppression and cruelties with which the Burmese dealt with Manipur had no parallel in the history of Manipur. It was sort of a genocide of the Manipuris. The country was depopulated. One third of the population accompanied Marjit in his flight to Cachar, a sizeable section took refuge in the western hills of Manipur, and the rest lived in great fear of the Burmese and many thousands were made war captives and taken to Burma. The population of Imphal valley was reduced to about 10,000 or about 2,000 households only. (Gangmumei Kabul: 289)

RESISTANCE MOVEMENT OF PRINCE HERACHANDRA:
Herachandra, a son of the late King Modhuchandra started a guerilla war against the Burmese occupation force. Herachandra gathered about 400 youngmen but they did not have enough equipments and they could not get enough provisions to feed themselves. The people of capital area had fled already and there was no food. But there was food in countryside. The Burmese took great care to find out their camps and tried to suppress the resistance movement. To starve Herachandra and his followers, the Burmese officials sent a group of five hundred soldiers to collect foodgrains from Moirang. Herachandra and his dedicated forces ambushed the Burmese soldiers and killed 200 and 300 fled. Herachandra also looted some guns.

Meanwhile, Yumjaotaba, the elder brother of Herachandra, returned to Manipur and joined force with Herachandra. The two brothers started the guerilla war in right earnest. But the Burmese defeated Herachandra and Yumjaotaba.

GAMBHIR SINGH AND LIBERATION OF MANIPUR
In 1823, the Anglo-Burmese relation suffered a strain, the situation became very tense and a fatal war almost unavoidable. In January, 1824, the Burmese even hoisted their flag at Cachar and made a formal-demand for withdrawal of the Company's sepoys from there. With a view to saving such a situation, the British authorities felt that it would be indispensable to raise a Corps of Manipuri or other border people for service in the Sylhet frontier and Cachar.

David Scott, the agent to the Governor General in Assam and North East India, decided to employ Gambhir Singh, the most courageous and skillful among the Manipuri Princes, for such service to the British. David Scott recommended raising of native force under the personnel command of Gambhir Singh. In return, Gambhir Singh was assured of regaining the State of Manipur if succeeded to drive out the Burmese. The British East India's Company Government approved the scheme. Gambhir Singh, with British help, raised his troops consisting of 500 strong of purely Manipuri and Cachari. The force was named "Manipur Levy".

On 17th May, 1825, Gambhir Singh and Lt. Pemberton with 500 strong Manipur Levy commenced their march to Manipur from Sylhet. The contingent reached the Manipur Valley on 10th June and entered at Kangla on 12th June, 1825 A.D.

The Burmese could not resist the contingent of Gambhir Singh and they retreated to Burma. In 1826, January Gambhir Singh reoccupied KabawValley.

Manipur Levy under the command of Gambhir Singh & Nara Singh played the key role in driving out the Burmese from Manipur and beyond the Ningthee (Chindewin) river and the subsequent regaining of the independent status of the princely State of Manipur after the signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo at the close of the Anglo-Burmese War in 1826.

But, the Burmese Government refused to agree to the inclusion of the Kabaw Valley in Gambhir Singh's domain, claiming it to be an integral part of the Burmese territory. In the treaty of Yandaboo (Feb. 1826) the matter was not included. After the treaty, the Burmese always entered the valley. Gambhir Singh submitted the matter to the decision of the British Government. The authorities in Calcutta were inclined to support the claim of Gambhir Singh to this valley until 1832. After many debates and correspondences, between Burma and Government of India, the Kabaw valley was handed over to Burmese on 9"1 January, 1834 without the assent of Manipur king, Gambhir Singh.

On hearing the final decision from Major Grant, the British political Agent in Manipur, Gambhir Singh quietly accepted and saying "you (British) gave it to me and you can take it away. I accept your decree". Maharaja Gambhir Singh died on 9th January, 1834, the day of transfer of Kabaw Valley due to heart attack.

From 1827 A.D., he ruled Manipur from Langthabal Capital. Gambhir Singh was not only brave a Soldier/ Warrior but also an able administrator.

He constructed temples, royal residences and magnificent gate-ways and dug a number of tanks at Langthabal. As a mark of respect to Maharaja Gambhir Singh, the Great Patriot and Warrior of Manipur and many unsung heroes of Manipur who fought for liberation of Manipur from the hands of Burmese invaders, the 9th January of every year is observed as the"Chahi Taret Khuntakpa Ningshing Numeet" at the memorial complex of Maharaj Gambhir Singh.

(Courtesy: State Archeology)


* This article was published at Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was posted on January 14, 2012.



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