The Role Of Manipuri Women In Administration
- Part 1 -

Pangambam Bharat Singh *

Women Market (Ima Keithel) - From a painting from RKCS Art Gallery
Women Market (Ima Keithel) - From a painting from RKCS Art Gallery
These images CANNOT be reproduced in any form or size without written permission from the RKCS Gallery

The women of Manipur have been playing a major role in huge spectrum of the society. They contribute prominently in the areas of political, economic and cultural aspects. Different from any other women of the nation, they are found to be more independent and courageous. Such special quality of Manipuri women is still existed in their blood. Hence, the Manipuri women are still having their major contribution in every part of social activities.

Mr. T.C. Hodson, the then Political Agent in Manipur wrote in his book "The Meitheis" The women hold a high and free position in Manipur, all the internal trade and exchange of the produce of the country being managed by them. The habit of the country is to have bazars at convenient spots by the road side, where a handful of women congregate at the early hour...........!

With the advent of Modern age and the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights, things are beginning to look for the women who have been content with languishing in their men's shadows. They are now setting aside their traditional roles, coming out of seclusion, and leaving behind four walls of the house that has been their home for a long time.

Now, they have started looking beyond such seclusion by breaking the social injustice the shackles of superstition and oppression that have bounded them for a long time. They are spreading their wings that have so long been clipped and getting to fly to leave the pat and the darkness behind.

They are entering the areas, fields and professions which were an exclusive domain of male counterparts.

It is not possible to cover the contributions of all the brave daughters of Manipur some of them except the contributions of the following women in a selective way :-

Maharani Linthoingambi

Leima Linthoingambi was the wife of king Ningthoukhomba of Manipur who ruled the kingdom from 1432 to 1567. When the information for invasion of Manipur by the king of Ankla was received, king Ningthoukhomba invaded there. In his absence, when Maharani Linthoingambi was visited Tangkham village with his nobles, Tangkhuls revolted against the kingdom. In the guise of the king wearing the royal dresses, She defeated the revolting Tangkhuls by offering strongwine in time before returning the king. Thus, Maharani Linthoingambi could save the kingdom. It is clearly written in the book Ningthourol Lambuba. Her activities are still remembered by the Manipuris.

Maharani Kuranganayani

She was the daughter of king Goura Shyam of Manipur. She was married to Swargadev Rajeshwara, the Maharaja of Assam (Ahom) during the region of Rajashri Bhaigyachandra. The Moriyama lies under the command of Raghav invaded Lakshmi singh, King of Ahom. King Lakshmi singh was defeated in said battle and he and Maharani Kuranganayani were kept in jail as war prisioner everyday Maharani Kuranganayaini was thinking for escape from the clutch of the Meriyamlies.

In April 1770, when Raghav was offering batel nut during the play of Huchari Pala in Bhag Bihu with his followers, Maharani Kuranganiyani stopped Raghav from behind. When Raghav was on the ground due to sword injury, he was beheaded by Ramkrishna, the staunch follower of king Lakshmi Singh, thus, Maharani Kuranganayani could refare their lost kingdom from the Mariyamalies and King Lakshmi Singh became the king of Ahom. Unless the success was there, the history of Ahom might have gone in other ways. Thus, the wit of the Manipuri Princess is still appreciated by the Ahoms people and the Manipuris.

Maharani Induprava

Induprava was the daughter of King Modhuchandra of Manipur. She was married to Shri Krishnachandra King of Cachar (1780-1813). However, King Krishnachandra died without any cause. After his death, Govindachandra, his younger brother succeeded the throne (1813-1860). During his coronation ceremony, Induprava was made Maharani. He was killed in the battle by the Meiteis. After his death, Maharani Induprava claimed for the throne of Cachar to the British East India Company. However, the British East India Company colonised the kingdom on 14 August 1 832. The activities of Maharani Induprava is still appreciated by the Cacharies and Manipuries.

Yairipok Thambalnu

Sanoujam Chanu Thambalnu was the daughter of poor widow of Yairipok Poiroukhongjin. She being a beautiful and mild girl with decent characters, most of the local elders wanted her to be their daughter-in-law. The youths of the village always wanted to make friend with her. Mohon Singh of Yairipok Khunjao, the song of a poor widow loved her.

But Pranam Singh selungba wanted to merry Thambalnu. Their love affair was always disturbed by Pranam Singh, who was Salungba of Maharaja Gambheer Singh of Manipur 1825-1833). He wanted to make Thambalnu as his wife. He attempted to kill Mohon Singh many times. Thambalnu, being a girl could not prevent the bad activities of Pranam Singh. She was always in a fix what to do.

When there was breach of the eastern bank of Imphal river at Wangoi (Laluthem, Kyamgei near Leisangkhong) king Gambheer Singh prayed to Ibudhou Khana Chaoba for enabling the bunding of the breach of the river bank, the God advised for offering a girl there. The king was in a fix. Lastly, Thambalnu volunteered to sacrifice her life for bunding the breach by Imphal river and for saving the people of the kingdom from the flood disaster. She thought that her death would save Mohon Singh from the atrocities of Pranam Singh also. Her sacrifice for the people and kingdom of Manipur is a legend now.

Maharani Kumudini

Maisnam Chanu Kumudini was the wife of Maharaja Gambheer Singh of Manipur (1825 to 1834). She was the mother of king Chandrakriti Singh, Son of Maharaja Gambheer Singh. When Maharaja Gambheer Singh died on 9th January, 1934 his monor son chandrakriti ascended the throne. Kumudini Maharani was always thought that Nara Singh, the brother of Maharaja Gambheer Singh who was the Regent of the Kingdom during the minority of King Chandrakriti might dethrone her son.

Due to this doubt, She plotted to kill Nara Singh by hiring one Nobin Singh, a relative of the royal dynasty on 27th January 1744. While Nara Singh was Praying to Shri Shri Govindaji. But Nara Singh could escape from such attempt and Nobin Singh was killed by his followers instantaneously. Maharani Kumudini fled with her minor son for Cachar. Due to public pressure, Nara Singh ascended the throne but Maharaja Nara Singh died on 1 1 April 1850. After his death, Chandrakriti became the king of Manipur due to the plot of his mother.

During the reign of Maharaja Chandrakriti, his mother played a very important role in the administration of the Kingdom. He always consulted his mother before taking any major decision. Due to her advice, the king could continue the writing of royal chronicle which was started by his father. The activities of Maharani Kumudini is still remembered by the Manipuris.

To be continued...

* Pangambam Bharat Singh, IAS (Retd.) wrote this article as part of the "Manipur Today" - Published by DIPR on Khongjom Day 2013
This article was posted on May 16, 2013.

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