Satyamala Devi: The Most Fortunate Manipuri Princess in the 18th Century Southeast Asian History

/ Guest Column / Thursday, 07 January 2021 18:51

By- Manglemjao S.Sorokhaibam,
Retd. IPS,
Ex-Inspector General Police, Manipur

Satyamala Devi was the daughter of Maharaja Garibaniwaz @ Pamheiba’s brother KhamlangPamsaba, the Wangkheirakpa who had been brought up by Garibaniwaz as his own daughter.Manipur during the time of Garibaniwaz (1709-1748) was at its peak in its military expeditions in the neighbouring kingdoms.His tactics in war complete and always successful. None could revenge against him during his time,that made him the greatest conqueror as well as a great fighter. There were repeated invasion and devastation in the northern Upper Burma west of the Irrawaddy Riverby the Manipuri Cavalry under the command of Maharaja Garibaniwaz and the Kingdom of Upper BURMA at Awa (Ava) was very much weakened by this invasion from Manipur.Here we may quote from- The Mons: A Civilisation Of Southeast Asia by E.Guillon- “The last episode in Mon history, at last in terms of power, had its origin partly in the events which left on their mark on Burma and Thailand around 1724.It was at that time that horsemen from Manipur (where the Burmese had lost the influence they once possessed) began their raids on Upper Burma, speciallySagaing. During these raids which went on for almost twenty-five years,they made off with peasants and herds and massacred the Burmese soldiers. At their head was GaribNewaz, a mercurial warrior whom they had made a national hero. Some of these horsemen who had newly been converted to Hinduism became convinced that if they bathed in the Irrawaddy at Sagaing they would became invincible. These disturbances, which the Burmese court had not been able to quell, considerably weakened the kingdom of Ava.”
During this time Burmese king MahadhammarajaDipati send Burmese emissaries repeatedly to the court of Manipuri king to seek the hand of a Manipuri princess (see Royal Chronicle of Manipur: CheitharolKumbaba). Ultimately Maharaja Garibaniwaz send princess Satyamata Devi as Awa Leima in 1749 and she became one of the queen of MahadhammarajaDipati, the last king of Toungoo Dynasty and titled as “ Maha Devi”. Her son KhuraLetpa was titled- MinyeSithu (Nwe Ni Hlaing-2015,)
The later periods were the most bloody time in the history of Manipur also.. The ex-king Garibaniwaz on his returned journey from Awa he was attacked slightly north of Myedu by tribal forces and bandits in the north Upper Burma and on return to Manipur, again he was expelled by his son Chit Sai in 1750 and he went back to Ava but no help received from Ava king as the Burmese kingdom was under attack from Mons and with great disappointment he returned to Manipur again but was mercilessly killed by forces of TollenTomba(SatrughanShai), the youngest son of Garibaniwaz who were sent by Chit Sai near Tonphang on Ningthi River (source: Meitei Ningthourol-SarangthemBormani, Page 73).
In the meantime Mons in the south became very strong and the Pegu Court chosedBinnyaDala,an ethnic Shan who hails from Chiangmai as the king of Pegu, and sacked and destroyed Ava in 1752 and hundreds of royal families including the king were deported to Pegu including Princess Popa and Maha Devi and there were mass massacred. But fortunately “Maha Devi” was not killed but made the queen of Pegu by king BinnyaDala and conferred her the title “ThirizeyaMingala Devi”.
This historical period in Southeast Asia was one of the most bloody and there were great wars of leadership in Burma and Manipur. Alaungpaya the leader from Moksobo was firm to occupy Ava and he after consolidating his position at his village with 46 village leaders he came down to Ava to fight the invading Peguers under the leadership of BinnyaDala.
Satyamala Devi, who had been queens to Burmese King MahadhammarajaDipati (1749 to 22nd March 1752) and Mon king BinnyaDala (1752 to 1756) who had been so fortunately survived the mass slaughter had been again submitted to Alaungpayaon29th December 1756 as Pegu was devastated by the forces of Alaungpaya. Actually she was escaped from Pegu along with Mon General Dalaban (Talaban) and she was submitted to Alaungpaya and later became a concubineof Alaungpaya (Konbaung Set Vo. I)(according to Bryce Beemer in his thesis “The Creole city in Mainland Southeast Asia” slave gathering warfare and cultural exchange in Burma, Thailand and Manipur, 18th -19th Centurynarrated this incidents – “A few years later in 1757, Alaungphaya forcesattacked Pegu where it was reported that dead bodies were piled so high at the city gates that residence become trapped inside the wall. Maha Devi was capture yet again and made the wife of the Aluangphaya. Meanwhile, the assassination of Gharib Nawaz had the stabilised the monarchy in Manipur).
Thus, Satyamala Devi, the daughter of KhamlangPamsaba,one of the brother of Maharaja Garibaniwaz, who wasWangkheirakpa became the queen of two kings in successive events of Burma and lastly became a wife of the great king Alaungpaya in 1756 can be describe as one of the most fortunate Manipuri princess in the history of Southeast Asia and South Asia.
Alaugpaya after consolidating his positions in Burma, he turns his attention towards Manipur and invaded it in 1758. He started the Manipur campaign on 12th November, 1758 and took the town on 2nd January, 1759 (Royal Order of Burma Prt.III, Page-55).
“In Konbaung-zetMahayazawin, Alaungpaya is reported explaining that he decided to invade Manipur out of an obligation to his wife, Maha Devi. The Manipuri queen is ‘under my golden foot,’ the king explained, meaning he is responsible for her protection and by extension the peace of her homeland. Therefore, I will capture Manipur and put on the throne a righteous successor.” (Bryce Beemer-2013, University of Hawaii at Manoa)’.
We may see a Proclamation of King Alaungpayaas described in Royal Order of Burma,Part-III on his conquest of Manipur: King Alaungpaya’sProclamation on Manipur on 12th January, 1759: Alaungpaya, the Most Excellent King, Defender of the Buddha’s Religion, Possessor of Arindama, Lance, Master of White, Red, and Spotted Elephants, Lord of the GoldenPalace, Liege of Various Kingdoms in Jambudipa, proclaimed that all lands known as Manipur is annexed to his empire from this day of 12th January 1759 and make to it a lasting record for all generations to come, this proclamation is inscribed on stone. Any ruler over this land of Manipur shall send either his sister or his daughter as bride to his liege lord in Burma once in every three years.
The yearly tribute is as-
10 viss of gold,
100 horses,
500 bows,
5000 arrows with poisoned iron tips and
1000 viss of tree gun.
In the time of war he has to join the imperial army with a force of 2000 men(1000 Horsemen, and 1000 Archers). He shall be allowed to rule Manipur solong as he accepts Burma’s suzerainty. But in case he becomes disloyal the Burmese king, may he suffer all the great miseries enumerated below:
The curse of all guardian spirits of the Buddha’s Religion,
The curse of all guardian spirits of the Burmese King
The curse of all Hindu Gods
The horrible death of being eaten alive by leopard, lions,tigers and
Ogres on land or crocodiles and sharks
The horrible death of being struck by a thunderbolt
The horrible death of being burnt alive
The affliction of all the ninety six kinds of illness
The affliction of the loathsome disease of leprosy
The inexplicable failures in all trade ventures
Thelostof property like water in an ebb tide
The horror of war, epidemic, famine and plunder
The disintegration like salt in a sunken boat.

On the other hand if he remains loyal, may he be healthy and prosperous in this life and in all lives to come and ultimately may he be obtain the bliss of nirvana. This record was inscribed on stone by Thet Shay Nawyatha and the inscription stone was erected right in front of the Manipur palace on 19th January, 1759. ( Royal Order of Burma-Part III, Page-54-55). (In the month of Sajibu -‘April-May’ 1759 Meiteis destroyed one memorial build by Burmese forces to commemorate their victory over Meiteis – CheitharolKhumbaba 1989by L. Ibungohal Singh and N. Khelchandra Singh)
Further Readings:
1) Mons: A Civilisation of Southeast Asia by Emmanuel Gillon, Bangkok-1999,
2) A Pageant of Burmese History by W S Desai, 1961, Orient Longman,
3) A History of Burma by MaumgHtinAung, Columbia University Press, New York and London,1967
4) The Creole City in Mainland Southeast Asia : Slave Gathering Warfare and Cultural Exchange in Burma, Thailand and Manipur 18th- 19th Centuriesby Bryce Beemer, University of Hawaii at Manoa,2013.
5) The Meitei(Kathe): Crown Service Group in Myanmar from the earliest times to the end of Monarchial Rule by New Ni Hlaing, University of Mandalay : Journal of the Myanmar Academy of Arts and Science Vol.XIII,No.9,June 2015.
6) Gazetteer of Upper Burma and Shan States,1900 by George Scott.
7) Meitei Ningthourol (in Manipuri) by Sarangthem Bormani.
8) Royal Orders of Burma Part-III translated and introduction by Than Tun, Kyoto University, Japan.
9) Cheitharol Khumbaba 1989 by L. Ibungohal Singh and N. Khelchandra Singh.

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