TODAY -

Manipur and some of her historical facts for the consolidation of the State
- Part 1 -

Dr O Kumar Singh *



Peopling of Manipur began since the prehistoric Stone Age, her earlier settlement took place in the hills, particularly in the Songbu cave in Chandel district and Khangkhui cave in Ukhrul district. Later towards the closing stage of the Pleistocene probably due to the increase of cold temperature, people came down to the lower altitude near the periphery of the Imphal valley. Present archaeological evidences show that the Neolithic people populated valley as early as about 2000 BC.

In the primitive stage of social evolution, one very important event was the village formation that was later headed by a leader and he became the chief of the village. Each village had a definite boundary of its own and trespassing was prohibited. In course of time the presence of supremacy of one village over another village became the natural process of expanding the village boundary.

It is true everywhere in the world. Here in Northeast India also before achieving the present status, there was no such fixed territorial boundary of each State. Because it's territorial boundary was fluctuating from time to time depending on the power of the ruler.

In the case of Manipur formerly there were seven different principalities in the valley itself and later all the remaining six principalities were subdued by the Mangang (Ningthouja) principality. The power and strength of the unified group under the Ningthouja principality grew day by day and became a very well organized kingdom having both civil and military administrations.

Historical facts revealed that subjugation of the inferior groups by the superior one was the rule of the day in the process of Nation or State formation. This is true in Manipur also.

The Meitei kingdom in the valley expanded by conquering the tribal villages that were better described as stateless society. Its zenith of expansion was obtained during the reign of Garibaniwaz in the 18th century CE., he could cover almost all the tribal villages and subsequently after him also it extended beyond the present territorial boundary upto the Chindwin river of Burma (Mynmar) in the east, upto the bank of Brahmaputra and nearby areas in the west, most part of the erstwhile Naga Hills and sometime beyond it in the north, and upto Chibujang (Behiang) in the present Churachandpur district in the south (G. Kabui & H. Goshwami).

Here we may quote from the proclamation made by His Highness Maharaja Budhachandra in the Inauguration of the First Manipur State Assembly on October 18, 1948 as "She had her domination over a wide area extending as far as the southern portion of China in the north, the gold mines in the Sibasagar valley, the river Chindwin in the east and south, and Chandrapore (Cachar) in the west. Her present area is 8,650 square miles plus 7,000 square miles of Kabaw valley, including 7,900 square miles of the hills." (Naorem Sanajaoba 1988:362)

Sir James Johnstone (1971:22-23), who was one of the political officers of Manipur during British Indian Empire, had acquired first hand information on the historical affairs of the State, and he stated " There is every reason to believe that the Manipuris in former days did penetrated into the Naga Hills, and extracted tribute .... All the villages have Manipuri names in addition to their own... and Ghumbeer Singh reduced several villages to submission, including the largest of all, Kohima, at which place, he stood upon a stone and had his footprints sculptured on it, in token of conquest."

The erection of a stone inscription at Thibomei as stated above with the engraved footprint of Maharaja Gambhir Singh, now preserved in the Kohima Museum, is the concrete indication of its control over Naga Hills. Though initially these subjugated hill people resisted, but later they accepted the administration system of the Rajah of Manipur. They also became member of Lallup system of the king.

'Lallup' is the organization for military purpose; in this very system adult active member of the family should join the organization and must report to the king as and when necessities arise. Introduction of this Lallup system by Garibniwaj Maharaj in 1727 CE is recorded in the Cheitharol Kumpapa (2015:41). According to Gangmumei Kabui (2003:261), the hill tribes had close contact with the king personally.

During the Burmese invasion of 1723, 4000 hill tribals joined the Manipuri forces under the command of the king. These tribes gave tributes mostly in the form of forest products and agricultural produces to indicate the State control. A Department known as 'Haomacha Loisang' was introduced by the king Garibaniwaza for the welfare of the tribal, and every year a festival called 'Mera Haojongba' was performed in the royal palace wherein all the chiefs of the tribal villages participated.

Later the traditional village administration was modified by the meitei king Garibaniwaza with the introduction of the three officials as Khunpuba (Head or Owner), Khullakpa (Administrator) and Luplakpa (Assistant Administrator) in 1736 CE. Gangmumei Kabui (2003:262) said that replacement of the title of Ningthou by Khunbu and Khulakpa was a significant transformation of the administrative control and relation of the king of Manipur over hill villages.

But during the period of British rule from 1891 to 1947 CE, though dependent on the Manipur State, the hill tribes were administered separately by the Political Agent. However, as and when the British left India Cheitharol Kumpapa (2015:367) records the return of the hill administration to the king of Manipur in 1947 CE.

The extension of the administration of Manipur Rajah over the hill villages is also indicated by the records in the Cheitharol Kumpapa (2015:130,235) of the punishment of culprits. In 1884 CE 2 Siroi, 19 Nunghar, 27 Nungbi and 2 Khambason tribals were convicted and put in jail by Chandrakriti Maharaj for their inter tribal village feuds leading to killing themselves.

During the reign of Narashing Maharaja Cheitharol Kumpapa recorded a case for punishing of a man of Choithar for spearing a woman of Phadang village in 1846 CE. Budhachandra Maharaj also had extensive tours in the Hills of Manipur during 1945-1949 to confirm the administrative control of the hills by the Manipur Kings.

Another evidence of control over the hills is the establishment of police posts prior to 1891 AD at several places within the jurisdiction of the Manipur Rajah (H. Goshwami, 2004:43-51). To mention a few are as follows.

1. Chakpi police post is situated in the Yumadoung hills, nine miles from the mouth of the pass into the Kabo valley by the Nasinga route.

2. Chattick post situated in the Chattik Tangkhul village bordering Burma.

3. Jiri post situated on the western frontiers of Manipur bordering Assam, but earlier the police post was at Chandrapur of Chachar and shifted to this Jiri post later after an agreement with the British India.

(To be contd)


* Dr O Kumar Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on October 30, 2016.


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