The boundaries of Manipur – Naoroibam Indramani

Manipur is a small state situated at the north easternmost border of the Indian Union and it is surrounded by the lofty mountains on all four sides. The present geographical area of Manipur is bordering Myanmar in the east and south, Nagaland in the north and Assam and Mizoram in the west. The present state of Manipur lies in longitude 94°47′ to 93°2′, East of Greenwhich and Latitude 23°50′ North covering a total area of 22,327 more or less remained fixed since the controversial transfer of Kabaw valley to Burma in 1834. Naturally and geographically Manipur is divided into the hills and the centrally situated valley. In comparision with the size and area of the hills, the portion of valley is so small that it is one tenth of the total area and the remaining nine tenth of the total area is the area of hills. In view of this point, it can easily be stated that Manipur is a hilly state.

Before king Gambhir Singh’s reign, the boundaries of Manipur fluctuated at various times with the power and dignity of the ruling princes. During the Seven Year Devastation in Manipur, the whole Cachar kingdom was occupied by the three brothers i.e. Chourajit, Marjit and Gambhir Singh after expelling Govinda Chandra, the king of Cachar from his throne. Capt. Pemberton rightly states in his Report of 1835 that – ‘The territories of Manipur have fluctuated at various times with the fortunes of their princes, frequently extending for three or four days’ journey east beyond the Ningthee or Khyendwen river, and west to the plains of Cachar’. After completion of state formation in the Manipur valley after annexing the Moirang principality during the reign of king Ningthoukhomba, his son king Kiyamba began to show the power and dignity of Manipur by defeating the king of Khampat of Kabaw valley with a joint force of Pong king Khekhomba. As a result of this victorious expedition, the area of Kabaw valley was annexed to the territory of Manipur.

King Mungyamba, by crossing the Ningthi river, conquered Mungkhong Mungyang (Mogaung), the kingdom of Pong. From this victorious event, king Mungyamba renamed `Mungyamba’, the conquerer of `Mungkhong Mungyang” from his original name of `Thangwai Ningthou Kiyamba’. King Khagemba, the son of king Mungyamba, conquered the kingdom of Khagi, the “Khagi Khullenlei”. We may presume it as Yunnan of south China. From this event Khagemba was renamed `Khagemba’, the conquerer of Khagi from his original name of `Poirei Ningthouhanba, Sana Hihonhan’. In early period, Meitei called the Chinese Khagi.

From such historical records of Manipur, the accounts given by Capt. Pemberton in his book ‘Eastern Frontier of India’ is proved to be the right account. But after the death of king Gambhir Singh, the portion of Kabaw valley was handed over to Burma on 9th Jan., 1834 under the provision of the treaty of 1834 signed between the Commissioners of Burma and British India. As a compensation for handing over the Kabaw valley to Burma, the British government in India regularly paid Sica 500 per month to the king of Manipur. About the extended boundaries to the north, here we may remember the war expeditioin of king Gambhir Singh who conquered Kohima and many other Angami villages. At this event of war expedition, king Gambhir Singh collected large quantity of tributes from the conquered villages. From this point, it may also be assumed that the territory of Manipur during the time of king Gambhir Singh extended upto Dhansiri river of Dimapur of Nagaland.

The boundaries of Manipur before king Chandrakirti’s reign were not well defined. The government of British India had their special interest to maintain a proper boundary position of Manipur and its neighbouring countries. So, the government of India was interested to form a Boundary Commission for proper demarcation of eastern frontier of Manipur and the said Boundary Commission was set up under Sir James Johnstone, the Political Agent of Manipur in the year 1881 and the eastern boundary of Manipur between Kabaw valley and Manipur was demarcated and again a new Boundary Commission was also set up for proper demarcation of boundary line between Manipur and Chin hills during 1894 and the said Boundary Commission demarcated the southern boundary of Manipur which was bordering with Burma and Tripura, at that time. In the said demarcation, the Boundary Commission erected eight numbers of pillar to the southern boundary of Manipur.

Southern boundary of Manipur :

As earlier mentioned, it is known to all that before 1894 boundary commission, the southern boundary of Manipur between Manipur and Chin hills was not properly fixed. But, many British officers reported about the southern boundary of Manipur in their own ways or views. Some accounts given by the British officers may be mentioned here as under-

Capt. Pemberton’s report of 1835 remarks -`The confluence of the Chikoo with the Barak is a point politically important as it marks the union of boundary of no less than three states, those of Manipur, Cachar, and Trippurah. From this point, the southern boundary of the Manipur territory is very irregular and ill defined; unconquered tribes, of whose existence we have but recently become acquainted.’

Here the Chikoo or Tooyaee river is now generally known by the name Tipai. The latter portion of the boundary here referred to by Pemberton was laid down by the Kubo Valley Convention of 1834, which defined the boundary between Manipur and Burma. The second heading of the fourth clause of the agreement runs as follows-

`On the south, a line extending from the eastern foot of the same hills, at the point where the river, called by the Burmese `Nansaweng,’ and by the Manipuries `Numsanlung,’ enters the plains up to its source, and across the hills due west down to the Kathe Khyong, or Manipur river.’

The next is Colonel McCulloch’s report of 1859 and it shows he view regarding the southern boundary of Manipur –

`East and south, the boundary is not well defined, and would much depend upon the extent to which the Manipur Government might spread its influence amongst the hill tribes in those directions, and in the south by one drawn west from the source of the Numsailung river, the fixed south east boundary, till its junction with the Tooyai river.’

Dr. Brown, who succeeded Colonel McCulloch, is more Vague in his opinion on the question of this boundary. In his report of 1868-69, he writes about the southern boundary of Manipur as follows-

`On the south, the boundary, is undefined, and abuts on the country inhabited by the various tribes of Loosai Kookies.’

An extract from the letter of the king Chandrakirti to W. F. Trotter, Political. Agent of Manipur is taken up here regarding the Southern boundary of Manipur as-

`In Sakabda 1708 (1786-87 A.D.) Maharaja Jai Singh (Bhagyachandra) went to Teepai and settled the boundary of Trippurah and Manipur. He also confirmed the boundary which was settled by Raja Gareeb Nawaz. In the same year he proceeded from Teepai to Chiboo, where he dug a tank and a well for salt manufacture, for the use of Kooki tenants, which are still in good condition to confirm the boundary from Chiboo to the Punji of a Naga named Chote, where he also dug a tank. In Sakabda 1793 (1871-72), General Nuthal went to Chiboo and visited the tank and salt well. He confirmed that Chiboo belongs to the Maharaja. After this some 23 people came from Poiboi, Lengkhum, Damboon, and Saileth, and acknowledged themselves before General Nuthal, General Tangal (Thangal) and General Balaram Singh be the slaves of Jai Singh, Maharaja. They also promised that neither they would commit any wrong against the Maharaja of Manipur nor attack any of his people crossing the river. They confirmed their oath by killing a dog (Huirin Thatpa) according to their custom. Besides this they solemnized their oath by several other customary rites.’

From the reply of the above accounts of the king Chandrakirti, Major Trotter wrote on 25th September, 1882. Some extracts may be taken up regarding the southern boundary of Manipur as under—

`The southern boundary of Manipur has never, as far as I can ascertain from the records in the office, been laid down. Captain Gordon in 1841 recommends that the boundary should be a line drawn due west, from where the Numsailung river enters the Kubbo Valley to the `Tooyai’ or `Chikoo’ river. If this line were accepted, it would extend Manipur territory in a straight line considerably south of Tipaimukh and thus include portions of Lushai land to which the Maharaja lays no claim. He contends that the Tooyai river is his southern boundary in that part of the country, and that this fact is accepted and admitted without cavil by the Lushais, so all he wants is that this southern boundary should be regularly demarcated in order to prevent all chance of complications hereafter.’

In such a manner, the southern boundary of Manipur could not well be defined and fixed in a systematic way before the Manipur and Chin Hills Boundary Commission was formed in the year, 1894. This Commission took a great hardship for permanent demarcation of the southern boundary of Manipur and erected boundary pillars on the border line of southern boundary of Manipur.

Historical events relating to the southern boundary :

The following is a rough sketch relating to the history of the Burmese and Manipur boundary taken from Mackenzie’s History of the North-east Frontier of Bangal.

‘The first record we have is in 1823, when the British Government opened communications with the Manipur State in order to arm her, so that she in conjunction with British troops, might resist the attacks from the Burmese who at that time had devastated Manipur mid had turned Gumbeer Singh and the ruling family into Cachar, and mibsequently in 1826 at the treaty of Yandaboo, the king of Ava gave tip claim to Manipur. From this date the right to the Kubo (Kabaw) Valley became a subject of dispute, because for many years it had been changing hands from Burma to Manipur. At the date of the treaty it was held by Manipur, but in this treaty there is no mention of the K ubo Valley, but the boundary was supposed to be the Ning The (Ningthi) or Chindwin river.

to be contd.

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