Thangal General : The Patriot

K Jayanta Singh *

 Thangal general statue at Palace Gate Imphal :: September 2009
Thangal general statue at Palace Gate Imphal

In Manipur, Patriots Day is observed on the 13th of August of every year. Why do we observe Patriots Day on this day?

The reason is that two brave sons of Manipur named Yubraj Tikendrajit and Thangal General was put to death on 13th of August, 1891 by hanging on the gallows constructed at Pheidapung, before a crowd of thousands of Manipuris as an exemplary punishment for waging war against the British Empire to save the freedom of motherland. Patriotism is a very interesting and special quality possessed by human beings.

It is a true love and attachment of men to his motherland or fatherland. It is an inherited spontaneous feeling. It is the spark that lightens up the country’s spirit. A patriot can sacrifice for his country and genuinely loves the motherland. Patriotism does not mean only to fight for the liberation of one’s motherland from the burden of foreign rule.

It includes true love and honest feeling for fellow men and passionate work for progress of Motherland. A patriotic person always deserves and gets respect from other countrymen and never ending love, support and affection. This is not only because of their sacrifices but also for the love, care, dedication and affection they shower on the motherland.

On Patriotism, Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of U.S.A. puts thus “Here is your country, cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty its riches or its romance”.

Thangal General truly loves his motherland and dedicated his whole life to protect the freedom of Manipur and for bringing progress of his motherland. Some events from the historical records may be taken up to establish his love for his motherland.

In 1872, Thangal General accompanied by General Balaram Singh Sawaijamba led an expedition into Lushai and conquered the three large districts Po-in-Swe, Linkkham and Thanzan-Khummaha in Lushai, consisting of 112 villages and the villages are conquered and subdue the rebellion. Consequently, the villages paid to the king of Manipur a yearly tribute of gongs, elephant tusks and salt. To commemorate this event, a stone inscription was erected in 1872 A.D. at Chibu depicting his name.

Thangal General was acquainted with every part of Manipur and, though ignorant of English could point out any village in the State on an Englishmap. In fact he had studied in every branch to enable him to defend the cause of Manipur against the survey officers who were suspected by the Manipuris of wishing to include all they could within British territory.

He knew all the technical terms in English such “Water shed” and had gained such credit for enabling the survey to carry on their work in 1873. In this survey work, Thangal General said the British that the water (river) Lanier flows towards Burma in the east. Captain Butler and other Sahibs with 20 (twenty) sepoys went down to the downstream of the river in order to see what way the water runs.

Thangal General sent Konjeng Aondar Major with five sepoys to accompany the Sahibs. On reaching there, they saw the running down from north to the south. The river was 43 Sana Lamjei wide. The stone scattered in the bed were brown and white. They also saw a river called Ngari by the Nagas, by the Sahibs Naria, by the Manipuris (Meitei) Lai-ee running in the north meeting the river in the east of Thasimei Khunou.

Thence, the two rivers run towards Burma. The correctness of Thangal General was thus proved. The party return to camp and Captain Butler called Thangal General and said you were right and that he saw with his own eyes the river running towards Burma. The Sahibs took photo of Thangal General. Doctor R. Brown’s photo were also taken. Thangal General asked Captain Butler to efface the water of the river in the map running to Assam and pass the water running to Burma.

On Patriotism, George William Curtis also asserts that “A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle”.

Thangal General was a man of principle, the principle that is dedicated towards the love of his country, country fellow’s and progress of his country. Captain E.W. Dun in his Gazetteer of Manipur wrote – “The only two important and powerful subjects are the two ministers – Tangal Singh and Balram Singh. Tangal Singh is the most forward and active and readiest speaker of the two and had most sympathy with western notions. Balram Singh has the reputation of being the most astute. They may be fairly accurately described as representing in Manipur the liberal and conservative parties.”

To understand the astonishing characters and principle of Thangal General some observation made by some European writers and a daily published then in Calcutta may be taken on record. Sir James Johnstone, K.C.S.I, in his book “My Experiences in Manipur and the Naga Hills” (London, 1896), observed that “He realized the power of the British Government, and though he would resist them to the utmost in the interest of Manipur, nothing would have induced him to join in any plot against the British rule in India”.

“He was strong, able, unscrupulous man, not likely to stick at trifles, and like most Asiatics of his type, capable of anything. This does not, however, mean that he was worse than his neighbours, our characters are made by our surroundings, and in Manipur the surrounding are not of an elevating nature. Thangal was in many ways kind hearted, in others ruthless, and for the moment cruel, his wrath flared up and, except when kept aglow for policy’s sake, soon burned itself out.”

Mrs. Ethel St. Clair Grimwood in her book “My three years in Manipur” (London 1891) also stated that “If he had his faults he had his virtues also, he was very enterprising, fond of building bridges, and improving the roads about the capital. Like the Senapati, he was a keen soldier, enjoyed watching good shooting, and had been in his younger days a first rate shot himself.

He was an obstinate old man, and it was very difficult to get him to listen to any proposition if it did not please him at the outset, but when once he had promised to get anything done, he did not go back from his word, and one knew it was reliable.”

The English, dated 17th June 1891 (Calcutta) published that
“The Tongal (Thangal General) has been for years past the thorn in the side of the Political Agent – a man of wonderful energy, vast in sight into human nature, and a hater of all strangers, merely because they were such, he had determined that as long as he lived the soil of Manipur would not be contaminated by the feet of the white man, except by force of arms.”

In the light of the above facts on historical records and observations, it is to conclude that Thangal General lived a dedicated life with love and attachment of his motherland. At the last moment of his life, he attained the Martyrdom sacrificing his life on the gallows of the enemy in order to save the freedom of his motherland.

The love of his country, Thangal General means not only that he loves the Kangla, the valleys glistering in the sun, the hills and mountains around, the sparkling rivulets, streams, rivers between the mountains, the dotted lakes. He means that he loves an inner air, and inner light in which freedom lives and in which a people of Manipur can draw the breath of self-respect.

* K Jayanta Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on August 13, 2017.

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