TODAY -

Maharaja-in-council of Manipur for customary and religious : Matters of its people
- Part 2 -

Waikhom Damodar Singh *

Beheading of Mr Quinton and the officer.
Beheading of Mr Quinton and the officer.
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They overcame the battle in which many gallant Manipuri soldiers and General Paona' Brajabasi and others laid down their lives for the defence of their motherland, and they proceeded towards Kangla and reached there on the early morning of 27 April 1891. The column from the west under Colonel R.H.F.Rennick, who did not face much resistance reached the Manipur Capital, Kangla first on the same morning of 27 April followed by the column from the north. Thus all the 3 British columns converged on the Capital and occupied the already deserted Palace- in the morning of 27 April 1891 and they hoisted their flag,'the Union Jack after pntti pulling down the Royal Manipurfs Flag,,and since then the Manipuris lost their "age-old independence" and came under the yoke of the powerful British rule, Kulachandra, Tikendra and two brothers, Thangal and the other leading personnel were arrested and they were tried by a special SBMxi Commission.

Tikendra and Thangal were convicted of waging war against the Queen Emperor and abetment of the murder of the British officers, namely, the British Political Agent of Manipur, Mr.Frank Grimwood, Chief Commissioner of Assam, Mr.J.W. Quint on, Colonel Skene, Lieutenant Simpson and Mr.Cossins, and were sentenced to death and "hanged" at Imphal Polo Ground on 13 August -1891 evening in the presence of a big gathering of weeping crowd and loudly "wailing" female relatives of the two great heroes of Manipur, Tikendrajit Singh and General Thangal (Kangabam Chidananda Singh, 87 years old).

Kulachandra Singh, his younger brother Jhalakirti Singh and others were sentenced to transportation for life and were sent to Jail in Andaman Nicobar islands. The State was declared confiscated in September 1891. The question as to whether the vanquished and confiscated Manipur should be annexed to the British India or not, was seriously debated in the British Parliament in London. As Lord Northbrook and some Members opposed the question. Queen Victoria issued a Royal Proclamation finally for the State to remain under a "Native Rule" with reduced powers i.e. under the supreme control of the British Government.

A search for a new Raja (Chief) was therefore started in the right earnest. Since the British lost their confidence and spirit of friendship with the descendents of Maharaja Gambhir Singh, after the "Anglo-Manipuri war" had taken place, though he was earlier their confident Ally, they picked up, after weighing things nook and comer, one Churachand Singh of 8 years old, youngest son of Rajkumar Chaobiyaima, grandson of Rajah Nar Singh, younger cousin brother of Maharaja Gambhir Singh, who rendered very valuable services to the British in their war against the Burmese, and installed him as the minor king of Manipur (the 67th king of Pakhangba's dynasty) on the 18th of September 1891 with a gun salute of 11 guns granted and groomed him to become a king quite faithful to the British sovereignty as Churachand did upto the end of his reign in November 1941.

The minor king Churachand Singh was sent out of the State and educated at the princes' Mayo College at Ajmer, Rajasthan (then Rajputanaa Province) along with his step brother, Rajkumar Dijendra Singh from 1895 to 1905 during the period of which Major Horatio St.John Maxwell, the Political Agent of Manipur administered the State as Superintendent. Major Max well, a very enterprising Engineer and who incidentally married the daughter of Maharaja Surchandra Singh, princess Sanatombi Devi, built a very neat and admirable looking new Palace of Manipur with a new Temple of Govindajee within its enclosure and other infrastructures at the then barren land lying in Wangkhei area known as "Guru Lampak" where Churachand Singh shifted after he became the full fledged king and took over the full charge of the administration of the State on attaining his age of majorship and lived quite luxuriously and aristocratically under the well protection and control of the British Government of India.

Under much restricted powers of the British Government Maharaja Churachand Singh brought lot of social reforms and improvements for the people of Manipur, particularly for the valley people, in education, in modem sports and games, in cultural and religious activities. Then in the year 1940, sometime in November/December, he left Manipur for Naba-dwip, West Bengal where he rested undergoing treatment of a protracted illness, TB (Tuberculosis) in his royal enclave (Gopalkunja) established by him. However, he succumbed to the chronic illness and he "breathed his last" there on 5 November 1941 in the late evening. Before that he abdicated the throne of Manipur in favour of his eldest son, Jubaraj Bodhchandra Singh very rightly, in accordance with the "primogeniture Law" in force.

Thus Juabaraj Bodhchandra Singh became the full fledged Ruler of Manipur from 30 September 1941 but his reign became a very short one as it abruptly ended on 15 October 1949, as was very rightly predicted by the Manipuri Puya saying that he was a "bubble king" i.e. he was a king who will rule very shortly, as the State was merged with the interim Dominion of India under a Merger Agreement signed under "duress" in Shillong on 21 September 1949. His short reign also underwent a period of "solacing days" from 10th May 1942 to 1945 prevailed from the great "woes" of the second world war taken place between the defending allied Forces under Lt.General William Joseph Slim of the British 14th Army and the invading Japanese Forces under Lt.General Renya Mutaguchi of the 15th Japanese Imperial Army. Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh was forced to sign the Manipur

Merger Agreement despite his strong plea made saying that he was no more the "plenipotentiary of the State" since he had already handed over his independent political powers to a peoples 1 Government formed by elected Members and he, by that time, remained only as a mere Constitutional Monarch under the provisions of the Manipur State Constitution already framed independently in 1947 when she regained her "age-old soveriinty" again.

Though Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh was "illegally" and quite "unconstitutionally" stripped off of his political powers he remained as the Supreme Head of the people of the State in the customary and religious matters, the "de jure", the "de facto", the "non-alienable and non-abolishable" royal powers and rights of which were execised by him upto the end of his life through the service of a Customs Secretary appointed by him, namely, his former Darbar Member and Guardian Tutor, Shri Waikhom Chaoba Singh of Loklaobung.

Then Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh, greatly shocked by the "betrayal" and "ill-treatment" done to him by the then Congress Party of both the centre and the State renounced his wordly life in 1954 and led an ascetic (yogic) life and had spent his last days at his Ashrams at the premises of Thongam Mondum Shiva Mahadev's Temple near Kakching Khunou, at Gour-Nagar established by him at the foot of Baruni Hill and at Khallong on the top of it, and finally he "breathed his last" very peacefully at the simple thatched roof cottage temporarilly constructed just adjacent to Govindajee's Mandir on the northern side from an illness of coronary Thrombosis in the brain in the early cold morning of 9 December 1955.

He was succeeded by his son Okendrajit Singh, younger brother of princess Tamphasana Devi who could not ascend the Manipur Throne she being a female. Maharaja Okendrajit Singh who succeeded his father at the age of 5 as a minor king also fully exercised the non-alienable and non-abolishable royal rights as the Supreme Head of the customary and religious matters of the people through the Customs Secretary, Shri Waikhom Chaoba Singh. Then after the sudden death of Maharaja Okendrajit Singh in the year 1977 his eldest son, Leishemba Sanajaoba succeeded him and ascended the "unabolished age-old deitic Throne of Manipur" and under the provisions of the "unabolished" Manipur Constitution of 1947 he is very much functioning presently as the "Maharaja-in-Council" with Members appointed by him and he had been carrying out as the Supreme Head of the Royal Council for Religious (indigenous Sanamahi cult) and other customary functions and ceremonies of the people of the State.

The powers so exercised by him "undisturbingly" so far are fully protected by the Mandatory Provisions of the Articles II and VI of the Manipur Merger Agreement of 21 September 1949, which say - "His Highness the Maharaja of Manipur shall continue to enjoy.......the Authority over religious observances, customs, usages, rights and ceremonies and institutions incharge of the same in the State ......" and the "Dominion Government guaranties the Succession, according to law and custom, to the gaddi of the State and to His Highness'...".

But most confusedly (lidli), as against the Mandatory Provisions that have been so thoughtfully and "trustworthily" kept by the Government of India, the Manipur State Assembly, had just recently, passed an "amendment Bill" empowering the so called "Govindajee's Temple Board" to control "also" over the functioning of the age-old indigenous "Umang Lai Haraoba festivals and ceremonies of the people of the State" to the vehement "disapproval" of many sections of the people of the State, saying that the authority of the Govindajge's Temple Board, which had been constituted only in the year 1967 is "confined only to the exercising" of powers over the day-to-day's managements of the Govindajee's Temple, and not even having the over-all powers of controlling over all the Hindu festivals and ceremonies of the vaisnhnavite Hindu people of Manipur, and also even of the managements of the once Maharaja's personal institutions, Mahabali Thakur and Kallmai Mandir which have been are running by private individuals, the descendents of the sevaites appointed by the Maharajas.

Therefore, bringing the age-old indigenous festivals and ceremonies of Umang Lai Haraoba etc., which are of very much different entities of their own, under the control of the Govindajeefs Temple Board would be tantamount to "seizing the powers and rights of others without legal authority".

It will be therefore better, in the fitness of things, to withdraw the bill as early as possible as it will be violating definitely the Mandatory Provisions of the Manipur Merger Agreement, and also the Constitutional rights and safe-guards enshrined under articles 13 and 26, which makes the customary matters of the people to be beyond the ambit of the Legislative Laws and purviews, and which gives no power to anybody to interefere with the fundamental rights of the others1 religious freedom, respectively.

Concluded...


* Waikhom Damodar Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 27, 2014.


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