1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Manipur

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MANIPUR, a native state on the north-east frontier of India, in political subordination to the lieutenant-governor of Eastern Bengal and Assam. Area, 8456 sq. m. Pop. (1901), 284,465. It is bounded on the N. by the Naga country and the hills overlooking the Assam valley, on the W. by Cachar district, on the E. by Upper Burma, and on the S. by the Lushai hills. The state consists of a wide valley, estimated at about 650 sq. m., and a large surrounding tract of mountainous country. The hill ranges generally run north and south, with occasional connecting spurs and ridges of lower elevation between. Their greatest altitude is in the north, where they reach to upwards of 8000 ft. above sea-level. The principal geographical feature in the valley is the Logtak lake, an irregular sheet of water of considerable size, but said to be yearly growing smaller. The valley is watered by numerous rivers, the Barak being the most important. The hills are densely clothed with tree jungle and large forest timber. Some silk is produced and there are a few primitive manufacturing industries, e.g. of pottery. Rice and forest produce, however, are the principal exports. The road from Manipur to the Assam-Bengal railway at Dimapur is the principal trade route.

The kingdom of Manipur, or, as the Burmans call it, Kasse or Kathe, first emerges from obscurity as a neighbour and ally of the Shan kingdom of Pong, which had its capital at Mogaung. The valley appears to have been originally occupied by several tribes which came from different directions. Although their general facial characteristics are Mongolian, there is a great diversity of feature among the Manipuris, some of them showing a regularity approaching the Aryan type. In the valley the people are chiefly Hindus, that religion being of recent introduction. Their own name for themselves is Meithei, and their language is a branch of the Kuki-Chin family, spoken by 273,000 persons in all India in 1901. One of their peculiarities is the high position enjoyed by women, who conduct most of the trade of the valley. They have a caste system of their own, different from that of India, and chiefly founded on the system of lallup, or forced labour, which has been abolished by the British. Every male between the ages of seventeen and sixty was formerly obliged to place his services at the disposal of the state for a certain number of days each year, and to different classes of the people different employments were assigned. About four hundred Mahommedan families, descendants of settlers from Bengal, reside to the east of the capital. The aboriginal hill-men belong to one of the two great divisions of Nagas and Kukis, and are subdivided into innumerable clans and sections with slight differences in language, customs or dress. The state is noted for the excellence of its breed of ponies. The English game of polo was introduced from Manipur, where it forms a great national pastime.

The first relations of the British with Manipur date from 1762, when the raja solicited British aid to repel a Burmese invasion, and a treaty was entered into. The force was recalled, and little communication between the two countries took place until 1824, on the outbreak of the first Burmese War. British assistance was again invoked by the raja, and the Burmese were finally expelled from both the Assam and the Manipur valleys. Disputed successions have always been a cause of trouble. The raja, Chandra Kirtti Singh, died in 1886, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sur Chandra Singh, who appointed his next brother, Kula Chandra Dhuya Singh, jubraj, or heir-apparent. In 1890 another brother, the senapati, or commander-in-chief, Tikendrajit Singh, dethroned the raja, and installed the jubraj as regent, the ex-raja retiring to Calcutta. In March 1891 the chief commissioner of Assam (Quinton) marched to Manipur with 400 Gurkhas, in order to settle the question of succession. His purpose was to recognize the new ruler, but to remove the senapati. After some futile negotiations, Quinton sent an ultimatum, requiring the surrender of the senapati, by the hands of the political resident, F. Grimwood, but no result followed. An attempt was then made to arrest the senapati, but after some sharp fighting, in which Lieut. Brackenbury was killed, he escaped; and the Manipuris then attacked the British residency with an overwhelming force. Quinton was compelled to ask for a parley, and he, Colonel Skene, Grimwood, Cossins and Lieut. Simpson, unarmed, went to the fort to negotiate. They were all there treacherously murdered, and when the news arrived the Gurkhas retreated to Cachar, Mrs Grimwood and the wounded being with them. This led to a military expedition, which did not encounter much resistance. The various columns, converging on Manipur, found it deserted; and the regent, senapati, and others were captured during May. After a formal trial the senapati and one of the generals of the rebellion were hanged and the regent was transported to the Andaman Islands. But it was decided to preserve the existence of the state, and a child of the ruling family, named Chura Chand, of the age of five, was nominated raja. He was sent to be educated in the Mayo College at Ajmere, and he afterwards served for two years in the imperial cadet corps. Meanwhile the administration was conducted under British supervision. The opportunity was seized for abolishing slavery and unpaid forced labour, a land revenue of Rs. 2 per acre being substituted in the valley and a house-tax in the hills. The boundaries of the state were demarcated, disarmament was carried out, and the construction of roads was pushed forward. In 1901 Manipur was visited by Lord Curzon, on his way from Cachar to Burma. In May 1907 the government of the state was handed over to Chura Chand, who was to be assisted by a council of six Manipuris, with a member of the Indian civil service as vice-president. At the same time it was announced that the government of India would support the raja with all its powers and suppress summarily all attempts to displace him. The revenue is £26,000. The capital is Imphal, which is really an overgrown village; pop. (1901), 67,093.

See Mrs Ethel St Clair Grimwood, My Three Years in Manipur (1891); Manipur State Gazetteer (Calcutta, 1905); T. C. Hodson, The Meitheis (1908).