The geographical location of Manipur, coupled with its diverse and vibrant culture, made it an attractive target for the expansionist Mughal Empire. It was during the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the late 17th century that Manipur first came under the Mughal radar. A series of events unfolded, eventually pitting the resolute Manipuri kings against the colossal power of the Mughal empire.
Pamheiba, later known as Maharaja Garibniwaz, was the first Manipuri ruler who made his presence felt on the Indian subcontinent. Ascending the throne in 1709, Pamheiba reigned during a tumultuous period marked by external invasions and internal strife. It was under his rule that the kingdom of Manipur engaged in its first major battle against the Mughals in 1724, resulting in a victory for the Manipuri forces.
While the Mughals struggled to establish a foothold in the region, Manipur continued to strengthen its defences under the reign of its next ruler, Gaurisiam. He was a relentless warrior who adopted guerrilla warfare tactics to keep the powerful Mughal forces at bay. Gaurisiam’s military acumen and unwavering determination played a crucial role in thwarting multiple attempts by the Mughals to annex Manipur.
The next significant ruler, Jai Singh or Rajshree Bhagyachandra, had an equally remarkable impact on Manipur’s history. His reign, which began in 1759, marked the apex of Manipuri’s resistance against the Mughals. In the Battle of Khongjom in 1764, Jai Singh’s forces faced off against the Mughals, led by Mir Jumla III. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Manipuri army managed to repel the Mughal invaders and protect their kingdom.
Jai Singh’s reign was not only marked by his military prowess but also by his contributions to the cultural development of Manipur. He is credited with the creation of the famed Ras Lila dance, a classical dance form that is an integral part of Manipuri culture even today. Jai Singh’s multifaceted legacy has left a lasting imprint on the history and culture of the region.
The final ruler in our chronicle of valiant Manipuri monarchs is Ching-Thang Khomba, or Maharaja Gambhir Singh, who came to power in 1825. He ascended the throne during a period of political instability and turmoil, as Manipur was embroiled in a bitter conflict with neighbouring Burma (present-day Myanmar). Ching-Thang Khomba displayed exceptional leadership, forging alliances with British India to drive out the Burmese invaders and restore order to his kingdom.
Following his victory, Ching-Thang Khomba continued to focus on fortifying Manipur’s defences against potential aggressors. He initiated a series of reforms and infrastructure projects, including the construction of forts, to bolster the kingdom’s military capabilities. His reign marked a period of relative peace and stability, allowing Manipur to flourish culturally and economically. (ANI)