Manipur history reflects the rich and ancient history the region boasts of. Ruled by more than hundred kings over the years, the ancient history of Manipur goes back to 33 A.D. Not only the region was ruled by different kings in different times, it was called by various names from time to time.
Some of the many names that Manipur was known as are:
The first famous king of Manipur was Pakhangba who ruled during 33 A.D. Maharaja Bhagyachandra, who ruled during the 18th Century, rose with same valor and fought against the Burmese to protect his land. He is the person behind the popularity of Vaishnavism in Manipur.
Manipur came under the British rule in 1891 when they defeated the Burmese. Manipur has witnessed many battles during the World War II. The Indian National Army led by the great Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose marched towards Imphal before they were defeated by allied forces.
Once an independent kingdom, Manipur was declared free once more in 1947. However, the then king of Manipur – Budhachandra signed an agreement under which the state became a part of the Indian Dominion. In the year 1972, it became the state we know today.
Battle of Imphal
The battle of Imphal was a failed attempt of Japan to invade India during the World War II. The fierce battle continued from March 6, 1944 and continued till June 22, 1944. One of the greatest failures of Japan in world history, the huge Japanese army comprising of around 120,000 men tried to remove the British and Indian troops out of Imphal, the capital of Manipur and invade India. An intense battle was fought and the Japanese force was driven out incurring heavy losses on them. The supremacy and the command of the British and Indian combined forces in air and artillery during the battle of Imphal brought the biggest success in Manipur history.
The battle of Imphal is important from the perspective of Indian War of Independence against the Britishers. The battle actually included the Indian National Army led by Subhash Chandra Bose on the Japanese side. This was because they planned to drive out the colonizing Britishers from India and thereby attain freedom but the plan failed.
The Manipur hills covered with dense jungle, disease, monsoon rains, exhaustion, the difficult terrain, starvation and supply problems posed severe troubles for the Japanese army. The Japanese logistic plan relied on the captured British supplies, but the supply was cut off by the Britishers and the army starved. The Japanese were also under the misconception because they thought that the Britishers would not be able to use tanks on the steep terrain. The unfamiliar routes and unfavorable weather conditions loomed large over the Japanese army and eventually led to their downfall. By the end of the Imphal war, the huge number of casualties from the army counted to be 30,000 for the combined Indian and British forces and 80,000 for the Japanese troops.
Kings of Manipur
The kings of Manipur played important roles in framing Manipur history. The kingdom of Manipur has been known by various names like Tilli-Koktong, Sanna-Leipak, Poirei-Lam, Mitei-Leipak, Meitrabak and the present day Manipur during the reign of a total of 109 rulers. From as early as 33 AD, Lord Pakhangba and his dynasty continued to rule the kingdom directly in chronological order and it was Pakhangba himself who introduced Kangla in Manipur. Their rule lasted till 1949 AD when the merger of Manipur with the Indian Union came into effect.
The kingdom of Manipur lost its sovereignty in the year 1891 AD after the Britishers defeated Manipur in the Anglo-Manipuri war in Khongjom. The Britishers ruled Manipur till the Indian independence in 1947, followed by the annexation of the state in the Indian Territory. Famous Manipuri kings, Khagemba (Sana Hihonhan) in the 16th century and Pamheiba (Garib Niwaz) during 17th century further extended the kingdom of Manipur by storming deep into the neighboring kingdom of Burma.
Among the vast chronicle of the Manipur kingdom, Maharaja Bhagyachandra (1762 – 1798 A.D.) deserves special mention. The famous dance form, Ras Lila, was fabricated by Maharaja Bhagyachandra. The legendary Maharajah spread Vaishnavism in a large scale in Manipur. Credit also goes to the Maharajah for fighting and defending Manipur from the Burmese invasions time and again. The merger of Manipur with the Dominion of India came with Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh, who continued to enjoy his authority on Manipur for his lifetime as per the agreement.
The Meitei Christians are the converts to Christianity from among the Meitei community of the north eastern state of Manipur. The Meitei Christians of Manipur are mostly distributed as the Baptist Meitei Christians under the Baptist Churches of the hilly areas and the Presbyterian Meitei Christians under the Presbyterian churches of the southwest of Manipur. Christians of other denominations are also found in a small numbers among the Meitei community of Manipur.
The movement of the Meitei Christians was started by William Pettigrew, a member of the Anglican Church of England. He came to Manipur in the 1890’s and started teaching the Manipuri boys in a school. He established a permanent station for his mission in Manipur and attempted at evangelistic work among the Meitei community. This resulted in the uproar of the conservative Hindus who believed that Pettigrew was trying to impose Christianity among the Meiteis as part of the deliberate colonial policy. However, Pettigrew continued his work and established many schools in the Ukhrul district of Manipur.
It is still uncertain as to who was the first Meitei Christian convert in Manipur, but names like Parom Singh and Ningol Kaboklei are strong contenders. The disturbances regarding the conversion to Christianity of Parom Singh under Pettigrew became aggravated as he was just eleven years of age at that time. This introduction of Christianity was an important turning point in Manipur history. Later on Parom Singh also assisted Pettigrew in his mission. At present, there are around 15,000 Meitei Christians in Manipur under 1,000 churches.
Merger of Manipur
The merger of Manipur with India was made on 21st September 1949 between the then Governor General of India and his Highness, the Maharajah of Manipur. An agreement was made as Manipur was one of the most uncertain native states due to some delicate issues and problems. The agreement stated that in the interest of both the state of Manipur and the Indian governance, Manipur would be under the administration and jurisdiction of the Dominion Government of India. This agreement made between the newly formed Congress-led government of India and Maharajah Bodhchandra Singh came into effect from 15th October 1949.
The merger of Manipur with India vested all the jurisdiction of the state on the central government. One of the most important chapters in Manipur history, it was made to bring peace and improvement for Manipur. However it also stated that the Maharajah would continue to enjoy the same personal rights and privileges he had till date. It also meant that the Maharajah of Manipur, his family and successors would continue to have the authority and power they enjoyed before the merger. In spite of the signing of the agreement, it was decided that the Maharajah of Manipur would continue to have his titles, customs, religious practices, rites, dignities, institutions and ceremonies as it used to be.
The transfer of power through the historic merger of Manipur, however, was made in lieu of 30 million rupees annually that the Indian government agreed to pay to the Maharajah and his family. This sum was ensured to cover all expenses of the Maharajah and his family, during his lifetime. The government of India also assured the private property of the Maharajah to be only his.