Sanakhwa Haojaomacha Yaiskul Lakpa and his son Sengoisana of 1891
- Part 1 -

Waikhom Damodar Singh *

Sanakhwa Ibungshi Haojaomacha, Yaiskul Lakpa, son of Maharaj Chourjit Singh and Rani Maibam Chanu, born in 1813 and his eldest son, Sengoisana were the two warriors of Manipur who laid down their lives for the defence of their motherland, the independent Manipur from the hands of the mighty British in the beginning of the "Anglo-Manipuri War" that had taken place in April 1891.

But their names and heroic deeds remained unknown and unremembered to many and the due "homage" and "tribute" of the people unpaid till now to the two great souls like done in the cases of other "martyrs" by the State Government on April 23 at Khebaching at Khongjom and by two groups of NGOs on April 23 and 25 at Kakching Wairi and Khongjom Maning respectively.

On behalf of the people of Manipur "observation" of the "death anniversary" of the two warrior patriots—a simple function of offering floral tribute preceded by a short "tarpon pujah" and followed by a condolence meeting at Thoubal Athokpam at the place which had been "sanctified by the blood" of the two heroes who breathed last after a spell of their most gallant fight with the much better armed enemy, is being carried out every year commencing from the ensuing 6th of April 2010 under the initiative of a Committee just formed on last 14th March 2010 in a meeting held as was convened by RK Jaysana, Chairman and Chief Promoter, Manipur Sports Persons Co-operative Bank Ltd of Sougaijam Leirak, Yaiskul, Imphal at Sanakhwayaima Radha-Madhop Mandop, Moirangkhom.

The committee is headed by Shri RK Bidur Singh of Moirangkhom, Yaiskul as the President, and the writer as the working President with Sarvashri RK Achobisanan, Padam Shri-designate of Loklaobung Makha, B Kulachandra Sharma of Thangapat Mapal and M Devananda Singh, special contractor and others, including RK Lokendra Singh of Loklaobung, Lecturer and grand son of Sanakhwa Yaiskul Lakpa as the active members.

It is a well known fact all over the world that Manipur, though small in her territorial size, had been an independent sovereign kingdom established by Pakhangba in the early Christian era (33 AD) and it existed under the independent and powerful sovereign rulings of the kings of his dynasty till the year 1891 April 27, the fateful day of the unique little kingdom when it fell under the "jaw" of the mighty British Imperialists after their humiliating defeat in the "Anglo-Manipuri" war that broke out in the aforesaid year and month.

Manipur rose to the highest peak of her sovereign power during the beginning of the 18th century and she began to control the borderlands of the South-East Asia. It was during the reign of Pamheiba alias Garibniwaz (1709-1749) that Burma was virtually brought under his subjugation. During the years 1725 and 1749 the great warrior king overran the mighty Burmese forces and captured many of their strategic places and penetrated upto the easternmost wall of Ava, the old Capital of Burma situated on the bank of the great river, Irrawady.

However with the assassination of the king by his eldest son, Chitsai who was installed as the successor of his father out of love, the great military power of the Manipuris weaned down and the Burmese under king Alaungpaya who had been waiting for such a thing to happen, took the upperhand and began taking full revengeful actions with most devastating invasions launched in the State with their outnumbered forces. The Burmese onslaughts and devastations culminated in the years 1819-1826 which is called a period of seven years' devastation (Chahi Taret Khuntakpa) in the history of Manipur.

During the most unfortunate period, Manipur remained without her own king to rule and to protect its people who lay bleeding and defiled at the feet of the Burmese. The Manipuris were herded and locked in the houses and killed by the gas of burning chillies. While women were hunted and raped, males were very mercilessly tortured—they were pulled like catt1es by cane ropes perforated through their palms.

Because of the unbearable inhuman atrocities of the Burmese, whose intention was really to annihilate and wipe out the Manipuri race once for all so that there may not be any more trouble and disturbance from them, as mass exodus of Manipuris to the neighbouring areas of Cachar, Assam and East Bengal (now Bangladesh) had taken place with their king Chourjit Singh along with his cousin brothers, Gambhir Singh and Nara Singh retreated and established there temporary capital at Shylet, now in Bangladesh.

During the period of asylum of the Manipuri princes in Cachar, as was agreed upon amongst themselves, Gambhir Singh became the king with Nara Singh as the Senapati. They raised a Manipuri Army initially called Gambhir Singh Levy and later on called Manipur Levy for which they took all the required helps from the British East India Company whose HQ by that time was at Dacca.

The Company Governnent bore all the expenditures on salaries etc and provided the highly required Arms and ammunition and given their training including imparting of fair knowledge on war tactics for which they deputed two of their military officers, captain Grant and Lieutenant Richard Boileau Pemberton who worked under Nara Singh, the commander-in-chief of the Levy of strength initially of 500 men but later on increased upto 2000 who were enrolled by conscription, mainly, from the able Manipuris living scattered all over the places of Cachar who left Manipur during the period of the mass exodus.

The Manipuri Army so raised and received training led by Gambhir Singh and Nara Singh accompanied by the two British military officers invaded the Burmese occupied Manipur and drove them out of Manipur, many of whom fled without resistance and he (Gambhir Singh) ruled the state with his capital established at Canchipur on the south of Imphal. The British East India Company formally recognised Gambhir Singh as the king of the independent Manipur duly endorsed by the Burmese authorities as was recorded in their treaty signed known as the "Yendaboo or Yendabou Treaty of 1826".

While the British authorities were thankful for their priceless assistances rendered in "retrieving Manipur" from the hands of the Burmese their one sided and dictorial decision given, according to which a large portion of Manipur's land known as Kabow valley, had been transferred to the Burmese by way of appeasing them for the purpose of establishing peace between them and the Burmese had been taken as a very much regrettable action on their part done to Manipuris and their king, Gambhir Singh who died out of great shock on hearing of it on 9th of January 1834, the very day on which the enforced transfer took place.

After the tragic death of Gambhir Singh, his minor son Chandrakirti Singh, aged 2 years only, was installed as the minor king of Manipur with the consent of all, particularly of his cousin brother Nara Singh who remained as the faithful Regent of the infant king. Nara Singh later on occupied the throne of Manipur as its king under compelling circumstances as the queen mother, Kumudini Maisna fled to Cachar along with the child king after her "plot" to murder Nara Singh whom she wanted to get rid of and consolidate the ruling power in her hand had failed.

On the information of Nara Singh passed on to the British authorities at Silchar, Cachar the arrival of both the queen mother and the child king was intercepted. Chandrakirti was separated from the possession of his mother and he was brought up under the care and custody of the British till he attained some 18 years old and escaped from their custody through a very daring plot executed by a very loyal and courageous Manipuri official, named Nepra Shelungba later on became Menjore, who as very much saddened by the partial and mockering treatment done to him by Nara Singh fled from Manipur and came into contact with the queen of Manipur living in asylum in Cachar and carried out the most daring and self-sacrificed act for the sake of rescuing the young king of Manipur from the custody of the British.

The brave Manipuri officer entered the premises of the custody where Chandrakirti was kept confined in disguise and hypnotised the Gurkha sentries and thus the young king hurriedly escaped out and he (Nepra) remained as a substitute in the custody. When the British officials came to know, to their utter surprise, of the most unbelievable thing they could do nothing more than to put Nepra in their regular jail and ventilated their great anger and shame by issuing orders under which the Manipuri courageous officer underwent terrible sufferings from the inhuman "tortures" carried out on him for days. In the meantime the queen and Chandrakirti Singh reached Manipur escorted by a strong group of Manipuris living in Cachar. Manipur by that time was under the short spell of rule under prince Devendra Singh, brother of Nara Singh who grabed the throne when the latter died in a cholera epidemic in 1850.

With the help of the majority of the people with great affection led by Senapati Thangal, Chandrakirti Singh sized the throne of Manipur and he ruled the state peacefully keeping in quite good relations with the British authorities who finally recognised him to be the bonafide and legitimate king of Manipur with Devendra Singh sent away to Dacca on pension where he settled with his royal family and died.

Cnandrakirti Singh, who died in 1886 was succeeded by his eldest son, Surchandra Singh, who being a weak king could not carry on the administration of the State peacefully and in proper manner. Since he was more inclined on religious matters than tightening his ruling, the peace of the State was frequently disturbed, particularly by the "infightings" of his seven brothers who were broken up into two factions. On one side was his three uterine brothers headed by Pucca Sana and on the other side was his four half brothers under the leadership of Senapati Bir Tikendrajit Singh (Koireng Juvaraj).

Surchandra was quite unable to assert his ruling and elderly authority over these two turbulent factions and as a result, suddenly on 21 September 1890, a revolt against him engineered by Senapati Tikendrajit Singh began by opening a few threatening shots fired in the air after sealing the palace walls all around.

Instead of putting up resistance the weak king fled to the Imphal British residency and had informed the British Political Agent, Mr Grimwood that he had abdicated the throne of Manipur as compelled by a revolt from his brothers and therefore wished to proceed to Brindaban and settle there peacefully. Accordingly he departed Manipur immediately escorted by a British force arranged by the Political Agent who actually did not wish the State to continue to remain under the weak king. But most surprisingly enough on reaching Calcutta, he applied to the British Government saying that he had been misunderstood as regards his abdication by the Manipur Political Agent and therefore he be reinstated as the king of Manipur.

However the clever British authorities decided, taking full advantage of the situation developed, to 1eave Surchandra Singh in the lurch and to the furtherance of British interest to recognise Kulachandra Singh as the new king of Manipur with the removal of Senapati Bir Tikendrajit Singh from his power because of his possessing "anti-British" feelings all the time.

To implement the above decisions of the Government of India, Mr JW Quinton, the Chief Commissioner of Assam accompanied by an escort of 400 men of the Gurkha Battalion under. Colonel Skene left Golaghat on March 7, 1891. Mr Quinton and hiss party arrived at Imphal on the morning of 22 March, l891 and immediately ordered for a "Darbar" with a view to announce the Government of India's decisions and arrest Tikendrajit then and there.

To be continued...

* Waikhom Damodar Singh wrote this article for Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on July 03, 2010.

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