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Gambhir Singh and the Call for Resurgence in Manipur

by Rinku Khumukcham
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Gambhir Singh and the Call for Resurgence in Manipur

The upcoming anniversary of Gambhir Singh’s passing prompts reflection on a pivotal era in Manipur’s history and the need for a contemporary resurgence. Gambhir Singh’s legacy is deeply intertwined with Manipur’s struggle during a critical period, serving as a beacon of national spirit during challenging times.
In 1823, as tensions escalated in the Anglo-Burmese relationship, the British sought Gambhir Singh’s assistance to raise a force for service in the Sylhet frontier and Cachar. Recognizing his courage and skills, David Scott, the agent to the Governor General in Assam, recommended Gambhir Singh to lead a native force. In exchange, he was promised the restoration of Manipur if successful in expelling the Burmese. The “Manipur Levy,” consisting of 500 Manipuri and Cachari soldiers, was formed with British support.
Embarking on a march to Manipur in 1825, Gambhir Singh and Lt. Pemberton, along with the Manipur Levy, played a pivotal role in driving out the Burmese. The subsequent reoccupation of Kabaw Valley marked a significant victory for Manipur’s independence after the signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826.
However, the inclusion of Kabaw Valley in Gambhir Singh’s domain became a contentious issue in the aftermath. Despite Gambhir Singh’s efforts, the valley was handed over to the Burmese in 1834, leading to his acceptance and subsequent passing on the same day due to a heart attack.
Gambhir Singh’s reign from 1827 showcased not only his bravery as a warrior but also his administrative prowess. His contributions included the construction of temples, royal residences, gateways, and the development of Langthabal. The observance of “Chahi Taret Khuntakpa Ningshing Numeet” on January 9th each year honors not only Maharaja Gambhir Singh but also the unsung heroes who fought for Manipur’s liberation.
As Manipur commemorates Gambhir Singh’s death anniversary, there is a pressing call for resurgence—acknowledging the historical significance and drawing inspiration from the spirit that drove Manipur to reclaim its independence. In recognizing and honoring the past, the people of Manipur can forge a path towards a resilient and empowered future.
In the current milieu, the imperative for resurgence in Manipur has become more evident than ever. The very idea of Manipur seems to be dispersed, with ethnic identity politics casting a pervasive influence on the land. Amidst this complex landscape, there arises a critical need for a collective path towards unity, particularly at a time when the societal fabric is plagued by division.
The multifaceted challenges confronting Manipur underscore the urgency of a resurgence. The fragmentation of the idea of Manipur reflects not only geographical disarray but also a socio-political divergence driven by ethnic identity politics. The intricate interplay of diverse ethnic groups has created a tapestry of complexity that demands a unifying force to weave together the threads of a shared identity.
Unity, in this context, is not just an abstract concept but a pragmatic path forward. It necessitates a deliberate and inclusive effort to bridge the gaps that have emerged over time. The call for resurgence gains additional significance in the face of a society grappling with the debilitating consequences of division.

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