Unforgotten relationship of Manipur and Tai kingdoms : A historical perspective
- Part 3 -

Maheshsana Rajkumar *

J. George Scott & J.P. Hardiman, in Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States, 1901, writes, "The population of the Ka-le Township consists of Shans to the north, Shans and Burmans in the centre, and a mixture of Yaws and Shans to the south. Originally the whole country was inhabited by Shans of the same race as the Shans of Hkamti and Hsawng Hsup (Thaungthwut).

Of late years, however, the Burman element has been introduced by immigration from Burma via the Chindwin River and Ka-le-wa, and a strong contingent of Yaws from Yawdwin, Pauk, and Gangaw settled in the valley on the accession of Po Kan U, the first Sawbwa, to power.

To such an extent have outside influences (notably Burmese) prevailed of late years that the Shan is no longer a predominant nationality in the valley, and their language is also fast losing ground, except in the extreme north of the valley near Yaza-gyo, which from its secluded position is least exposed to contact with the outer world."

Manipur had cordial relations with Tai Ahom kingdom of Assam. Sushil Chandra Dutta in his book, "The North-East and the Mughals (1661-1714)", 1984, writes, "Although, the ruling family in Assam had a matrimonial alliance with its counterpart in Manipur during the reign of King Suhungmung (1497-1539), the Ahom monarch, there is no mention of Assam-Manipur relations in the chronicles of the either State till the second half of the eighteenth century."

Manipuri historian Gangmumei Kamei in his book, "History of Manipur: Volume One Pre-Colonial Period", 1991, writes, "The contact between Manipur and Ahom kingdom of Assam was also seen during the reign of King Kabomba (1523-1542). Ahom was known to the Manipuris as Tekhao (derived from Dikhu River). A trade route to upper Assam was opened in 1536. The Ahom chronicle records that "envoys were exchanged with the Raja of Manipur and presents were exchanged."

Renowned Manipuri scholar RK Jhalajit Singh in his book, "A Short History of Manipur", 1992, writes, 'The Manipuri Princess Kuranganayani was married to Ahom King Rajeswar Singh, she became the principal queen. Rajeswar Singh died in 1769. After his death the Moamaria, a religious sect professing Vaishnavism revolted against Lakshmi Singh, brother and successor of Rajeswar Singh.

The rebels successfully occupied the capital city Rangpur and ousted the Ahom Government for a few months. During this period, Ragha Moran, one of the principal leaders of the rebellion, misbehaved towards her. In secret collaboration with the supporters of Lakshmi Singh, she stabbed Ragha Moran with a sword just below the calf during the Assamese festival of Bihu.

The royalists disguised as Bihu singers were already present before her and put him to death, thus completing the work valiantly begun by her. The numerous virgins collected by Ragha Moran at the palace came out with sword in head and participated in the massacre of his family. Lakshmi Singh regained the throne. The services of Kuranganayani were publicly acknowledged in her presence. She was given the privileges and dignity of a principal queen.

Lakshmi Singh died in 1780 after a troubled reign. The Moamaria revolt briefly noticed above began to go out of control in the reign of Gaurinath Singh, son and successor of Lakshmi Singh. The Moamaria revolt of 21 April 1783 was suppressed with some difficulty, but their fresh revolt of 1786 under a new leader was far more difficult to tackle.

Gaurinath fled from Rangpur towards Guwahati on 19 January 1788 at midnight. He remained there for 6 years. Gaurinath sent messengers to the kings of Cachar, Jaintia and Manipur for help. The kings of Jaintia and Cachar sent evasive replies.

Jyotirmoy Roy in his book, "History of Manipur", 1958, writes, "Manipur Raja Jai Singh (Bhagyachandra) was mindful of the services rendered to him a few years previously by Gaurinath's uncle, Rajeswar and marched with five hundred horses and four thousand foot to Nowgong, where he was received by Gaurinath.

He then proceeded up-country to assist Burha Gohain. When he approached the Moamaria lines, the latter at once gave battle and, after a short engagement, put his troops to fight. Many were killed during the fight and more in the pursuit that followed. He lost no time in hastening back to Manipur. He left a thousand of his men with the Burha Gohain".

When Major Wood was in Assam in 1794, he saw a contingent of troops from Manipur which came to the assistance of Gaurinath, whom the British forces then restored.

J. Roy further writes, so far as the records show, the relationship between Assam and Manipur is always found to be very cordial. A coin circulated by Swarga-deo Pramatha Singh in 1746 A.D. has been found in Manipur. It indicates the commercial relationship existing at that time between the two kingdoms.

It may be mentioned that Manipur was invaded by her neighbours in different times but Assam never carried its sword to Manipur. The Swargadeos had many alliances with the Raja of Manipur and frequent intermarriages with that family. "Since the usurped authority of the Burha Gohain, all intercourse with Manipur had been prohibited as its Raja favoured Gaurinath. The roads were choked, and even commerce had ceased".

Coming to the present turmoil in Manipur since 3 May 2023, a strong concern on Manipur unrest was mentioned in an email by Dr. Pradip K. Gogoi, a Tai Ahom Academician and a retired Professor, in the Department of Chemistry at Dibrugarh University, Assam. He categorically mentioned Meiteis and Kukis belonged to mongoloid groups and are being entrapped in a nasty political game played by some fascist players.

There is not only loss of hundreds of innocent lives, properties and resources but there is loss of faith between two ethnic groups, which is very alarming. Political parties will come and go, people will forget them, but once faith built up for decades is damaged, it is an irreparable loss. The recent happening in Manipur has lowered our esteem/self respect globally.

In view of these I hope good sense will prevail between brotherly groups and peace will return to Manipur and once again we will be proud of the culture and all round development of Manipuri people.

The kingdom of Manipur shared special historical relationship with the Tai kingdoms of Northwest Myanmar and Tai Ahom kingdom. The rulers of Manipur had encouraged the retention of Tai/Shan traditions all over the country.

In fact, the kingdom of Manipur was one of the Northern Shan States. The kings of Manipur were proud of themselves to build up their capability to protect the boundary of Manipur along the Ningthee River and maintained their unique identity. The relationship that once existed with the Tai peoples still remains unforgotten to this day.


* Maheshsana Rajkumar wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is an independent researcher & joint author of "The Political Monument: Footfalls of Manipuri History".
He is one of the Group Admin members of Tai Worldwide (TWW) Group on Facebook since 2022.
This article was webcasted on 29 August 2023.

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