British writer Horace Hayman Wilson, M.A., F.R.S. in his book “The History of British India: From 1805 to 1835” had clearly stated that the petty chief of Manipur separated Kachar from the Burma dominions. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, Manipur was a state holding a prominent place among these semi-civilised communities, and was able to send into the field an army of twenty thousand men. Under a prince, who rather unaccountably bore the Mohammedan designation of Gharib-nawaz, Manipur engaged in a successful war with Ava, overran the Burma territory and planted its victorious standards on the walls of the capital. The murder of the Raja by his son, and the family dissensions which followed, exhausted the energies of Manipur; and the country was shortly afterwards invaded by the Burmas, under one of their most celebrated sovereigns, Alompra, by whom that career of conquest was commenced, which ended in the annexation of Pegu, Arakan, the Shan districts, Manipur and Asam, to the dominions of Ava.
On the other hand Sir Arthur Phayre in his book “History of Burma” had stated that after the death of the monarch Alaungphra, the chief of Manipur applied to the Governor of Bengal for protection. This was promised, and somewhat precipitately an alliance, offensive and defensive, was concluded by Verelst, then acting as governor. In pursuance of this treaty of 1762, six companies of sipahis marched from Chittagaon with the object of expelling the Burmese from Manipur. The detachment only reached Kaspur, the capital of Kachar, and had suffered so much from sickness that it was recalled. The raja again applied for assistance, but the government of Bengal, by this time aware of the difficulties to be encountered, refused to fulfill their engagement. Manip
ur again suffered from a Burmese inroad, but after this for several years was unmolested. At length dissensions among the members of the royal family brought foreign interference and loss of independence. The raja, Jay Sing, died, and his sons fought for the succession. Three survived this struggle, of whom the elder, Chorjit, became raja. The second brother, Marjit Sing, sent presents to Bodoahpra, soliciting his support. Chorjit also sent presents, and one of his daughters, in token of fealty. Marjit came and dwelt for a time at Amarapura. He returned to his own country, but again appeared with complaints against his brother. Bodoahpra summoned the raja to his presence in order to settle the dispute. Chorjit refused to come; a Burmese army marched into Manipur; the raja was defeated, and fled into Kachar; Marjit was placed on the throne, and the Burmese army was withdrawn. From this time the Kubo valley was annexed to Burma in 1813. In support of Sir Arthur Phayre’s account, Jacques P. Leider had recorded that dynastic conflicts at Manipur’s court after 1799 favoured Burmese meddling and a number of King Bodawphaya’s orders illustrate this interference in the years 1806 and 1807.
According to the Burmese record known as the Royal Order of Burma (ROB) on 8 March 1818 Bodawpaya the Burmese king sent a letter to Maharaja Marjit Singh to drive out the English from Manipur but Bodawpaya the mentor of Marjit was offended at the action of the king of Manipur who was accepting himself as an independent ruler free from vassalage of the Burmese. On 5 June 1819 Bodawpaya died and was succeeded by his grandson Bagyidaw (r. 1819-37). Further Sir Arthur Phayre stated that pursuing the plans of his grandfather in foreign policy, Hpagyidoa (Bagyidaw) sent a mission to Buddha Gaya with offerings. The chief Brahman, who had formerly come from Benares, and became known to foreigners as the Raj Guru, accompanied the Burmese officers, and proceeded on to Benares. At this time there appeared no opportunity for making an alliance with any of the native princes of India, though this object was probably kept in view. Nearer home, prompt measures were taken to enforce the supremacy which had been established during the previous reign of Manipur.
Burma was at zenith of her power. The Raja of Manipur Marjit had for sometime past shown at disposition to evade the promise of fealty which he had made to Bodoahpra. On being summoned to appear at the capital, where all the umbrella-bearing chiefs of the empire were to do homage to their superior lord, he made excuses. Hpagyidoa at once determined to depose him. An army marched for Manipur at the close of the rainy season. In this force the officer afterwards known as Maha Bandula served as Sitke, and by his skill and daring during the operations made himself conspicuous. The raja escaped to Kachar. The country having been subdued, a force was left to garrison it under the Kanni Myuwun, and the rest of the army returned home. Some thousands of the inhabitants were carried away.
The outcome of invasion was a foregone conclusion. Marjit Singh was defeated and he fled to Cachar. The Burmese invasion of Manipur was a part of a greater plan of conquest of North East India and even Bengal. The Burmese conquest of Manipur in 1819 was different in intention and character from their earlier invasions. This time, they meant to rule Manipur through their puppet rulers. Thus Manipur was brought under the Burmese rule for seven years (1819-26) which is known as the seven years devastation in the history of Manipur. The flight of Marjit from Manipur and Burmese conquest in 1819 marks the end of the medieval period in the history of Manipur.
In Kachar, Marjit found his brother Chorjit, who, by treachery and force, had acquired a portion of that country. Marjit and Ghambir Sing joined together and expelled their brother. The rightful raja of Kachar, Govind Chandra, who was also a fugitive, after having been refused assistance by the British government, applied to the king of Burma. The Burmese troops left to occupy Manipur were insufficient to hold it. The son of Marjit began to make incursions from Kachar, and before long the Burmese commander was shut up in a stockade near the capital. A relieving force marching rapidly arrived in time to save the garrison. The British government, alarmed at the progress of the Burmese on so many points of their eastern frontier, determined to take Kachar under their own protection and to support Govind Chandra. The Manipur chiefs were conciliated by pensions, and were placed in command of an irregular levy, formed principally of fugitives from Manipur.
The king of Burma prepared vigorously to pursue the policy of his grandfather in Asam. Chandra Kanta having turned against his supporters, a Burmese army was sent, under the command of Maha Bandula, to reinforce Maha Thilawa. The Asamese chief was defeated, and fled into British territory, where his relative and rival, Purandar Sing, was also. Asam was declared a province of the Burmese empire. The chief authority was vested in Maha Thilawa, who was left with two thousand men, while Maha Bandula returned home with the rest of the army. A Burmese agent arrived in Calcutta bearing letters from the Burmese generals, demanding the surrender of Chandra Kanta. This was refused. The Burmese contented themselves with demonstrations on the frontier, and some villages within the British district of Goalpara were plundered, probably by local marauders.
Marjit remained at Mouluvibazar of Bhanugach, Bangladesh till his last day and died in 1824. Now, the place has come to be known as Konung Leikai (Manipuri Rajbari). The descendants of Maharaja Marjit Singh can be traced at Rani Bazar, Bhanugach, Bangladesh till date.
With reference to the account of Sir Arthur Phayre that on refusal of king Marjit to pay homage, the Burmese monarch Bagyidaw had subdued him and thus the Manipur Maharaja had escaped to Cachar, the Manipuri scholar Mutum Jhulon Singh in his book “Bijoy Panchali” had recorded that out of three portions of inhabitants of Manipur, one portion including queens and nobles had accompanied the Maharaja to Cachar, the second portion had stayed scattering in Manipur and the third numbering thousands of the inhabitants were carried away by the Burmese force. But the scholar did not mention any names of queens, sons or daughters of Maharaja Marjit and nobles who were carried away by the Burmese. On the other hand, the account of the Manipur inhabitants brought to Burma still remains buried so far in the present historical account of Manipur.
However, very recently Nyien Kyaw, 74 years old, a well reputed lawyer of Myanmar practicing since 1979, the Managing Partner of NK Legal Myanmar and Vice-President of SME-Development Bank, Yangon has claimed that he is one of the descendants of Maharaja Marjit Singh in Myanmar. In this context he had sent over an account of Burmese historical facts for more clarification to bo
th the Authors of “The Political Monument: Footfalls of Manipuri History”, L. Memo Singh and Maheshsana Rajkumar after thorough study of the book available in his hand. The Author Maheshsana Rajkumar belongs to the fifth generation of Maharaja Marjit Singh. The following is the excerpts of his related account:
“The following is the historical account of the descendants of Maharaja Marjit Singh in Myanmar as narrated by my grandfather. I belonged to the fourth generation of descendants of the Maharaja. Our grandfather’s father was a Manipuri and son of Maharaja Marjit Singh. The son of Maharaja was a leader of Manipuri mounted troop and thus i came to know that my grandfather was a grandson of Maharaja Marjit Singh. My grandfather further told us that Maharaja Marjit Singh escaped from Manipur and sheltered under Myanmar king because of the conflict between his brothers, Chaurajit Singh and others. I do not know the particulars of the mother of my grandfather, but i only knew that his father was a head of Manipur mounted troop and was assassinated during the crisis where royal princes fought for the throne. In this event, starting from assassination to crowning of prince Ka Naung to King Thibaw, many royal princes, relatives, partners and followers were killed which i estimate that years before 1878. I also estimate that our grandfather was born around 1875. He passed away at the age of 82.
My grandfather told me that after the death of his father, he was adopted by a Myanmar practitioner
of local medicine and was given new
Myanmar name which was U Myaing. I do not know the Manipuri name of my grandfather U Myaing. But U Myaing remembered the name of his father (son of Marjit) Myanmar awarded name Bo Hla Kyaw (I guess this is not a full name). Since Burmese kings or prince/princess or ministers, dukes, regional head man, generals, knights used to be called by the awarded names and the original names were not used in official matter or in public. Even in the case of King Bo Daw, his first Burmese name was U Wine, also King Ba Done. It applies the same; the Burmese name of King Ba Gyi Daw was Maung Maung Sein and also king Sagaing. So was the same for son of Marjit, father of my grandfather who lost his Manipur name and in public he was known by the Myanmar awarded name.
I came to know through genealogy for Marjit Singh family tree on www.geni.com, there were three sons of Marjit namely Kanhai, Durjai and Jogindra. I couldn’t find out the record showing where they were during the war with Ba Gyi Daw. I also couldn’t find their date of birth and death.
However, I found one of the history research books in Burmese version which have shown many names of Manipuris who were brought in to Myanmar from 1820-23. Those books mention the names of princes, followers, wives and servants. From those books, I have found out one name of prince (in Myanmar pronunciation it is “Draw Jin Draw”). This pronounced similar as “Jogindra”, son of Marjit. My grandfather said that they were also of the race of “Khamti Shan”. My grandfather U Myaing married to a Shan lady name “Nan Ngwe Mai” and gave birth to my father U Bo Gyi in Mandalay. My father U Bo Gyi married to the lady who came from the family of the Duke of Myanmar king.
From what i know, my grandfather U Myaing was the only son and he had seven children, three sons and four daughters. My father U Bo Gyi was one of the three sons. Now they all had passed away. If my father U Bo Gyi were alive, his age would be 106 years old.”
Interestingly, Nyien Kyaw has expressed his simple intention that he is not wishing to publish about him in a high profile but only for the evidence of the Manipur history related to Myanmar. He is married to Sandar Myint and has two daughters, elder daughter Miss Yamon Oo is Doctor by profession and the younger daughter Miss Mya Thway Chel is Lawyer who works in her father’s law firm NK Legal Myanmar. He wishes to come to Manipur with his wife and daughters and get contact with Maharaja Marjit Singh’s blood line and know the history. Now he is planning to attend the upcoming festivals of Manipur including Sangai festival. He is a good horse rider and enjoys horse riding as his hobby. He wants to learn the art of Arambai from the experts of this art in Manipur.
Image sources: Golden Palace Three-Piece Pipe Painting (Commonwealth Office, London, Library) Myanmar Record No. 99 Figure No. 335-43. In the foot note, Burmese letter said Kathe prince entered with presents at Bodawpaya’s royal court. Sourced from Naotam Yaima (U Htun Ohn) and Ph. Chandra Kumar Sharma (Pyay Nyein) of Mandalay
The writers are independent scholars and researchers, and joint authors of The Political Monument: Footfalls of Manipuri History