The rise and fall of glorious Cachari kingdom

Yangsorang Rongreisek

Contd from previous issue
The Cacharis were therefore compelled to be satisfied with North Cachar Hills and Cachar plains as their sole possession. After the arrival of Cacharis in the Barak Valley, the plains came to be known as Cachar.
One remarkable feature about the Cachari people was that while at Maibong they paid greater attention to the Hindhu way of life and belief than to their animistic faith. The court was brought under paramount Hindhu influence so much so that many Brahmins and high caste people were brought from Assam—mainly Kamarup and Nowgong to their kingdom.  Hindhu gods and goddesses were introduced to them. As a result, more and more high caste people as well as different professionals were encouraged to come in from even distant places like Tripura and other districts of East Bengal.  On top of all, the Cachari court encouraged the use of Bengali as a learned language. Not only the Cachari kings but the kings and queens of all other countries in eastern India used Bengali for communication with the outside world.  By contrast the Cacharis were more advanced and ahead of all others in using Bengali as early as the 16th Century. The Cachari rule from Khaspur ushered a new era in the history of Cachar.  The king Krishnachandra and his brother Govindachandra underwent formal process of Hinduization through a ceremony after which they were accepted by the Brahmins as the Hindus of the Kshatriya caste in the year 1790 A.D. People from Sylhet and other neighbouring areas came to live in Cachar in large number.  Cachar was thinly populated. Being a marshy flat land, it was not well habitable. But the land was fertile and there was enough rainfall.
Crop cultivation was easy. This lured the land-hungry people to migrate to the plains of Cachar. And there was no security among the few thousand people who lived there. They had to flee the country every time there was foreign invasion which was tribal inroads from across the border. The land was no doubt fertile and crop-bearing.
But as soon as Khaspur was made the capital, the kings and nobles settled there permanently. Things changed altogether.  Sense of security also returned among the inhabitants and people from Sylhet, Mymensingh and Tripura started arriving in their thousands in search of lands and livelihood. These were easily granted.
Within a very short time, Cachar became a good place for settlement.
The Cachari people in general were, left behind at the North-Cachar Hills. They had developed some weakness for that place. Being driven from one place to another within a relatively short time, they had been, moreover, averse to further immigration.
That is why they were not found in Cachar plains in large number. In fact, only a handful of them came to the plains along with the royal patronage. The North Cachar Hills remained within the Cachari kingdom and the king used to take due care of their subjects living there. The people are now known as Dimasa who are greatly almost thoroughly Hinduised in their life-style although they retain their Cachari language called also Dimasa. North Cachar Hills is a separate district today with a population of 2.14 lakhs as per Census Data of 2011, the majority of whom are Dimasa. They have an Autonomous Council under 6th Schedule which can make budget and formulate policy for the council unlike Autonomous District Councils existing in Manipur. Status of fund release under Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council (DHATC) Package during the year, 2016-17 was Rs.24.66 Crores. So, how lamentable it is to be reverted from an independent kingdom to an autonomous council! The Cachari power diminished further at Khaspur. Foreign inroads continued as before. The Kukis and the Burmese almost bulldozed the country by their cruel plundering that went on for generations. The Cachari kings had little power to stop the invading enemies to their country. On a number of occasions it so happened that the kings like their subjects also fled and asked for refuge in foreign lands such as Jaintiapur or Manipur. Soon afterwards the Manipuris in Cachar posed even a bigger threat. Marjit Singh, king of Manipur invaded Cachar in 1818 A.D. Raja Govindachandra who succeeded to the throne after his brother Krishnachandra death in 1813 A.D. called to his aid an exiled Manipuri Prince, Chaurjit(or Sarjit as spelt differently) Singh who had been given shelter in Cachar by the former. By the help of Chaurjit, Govindachandra expelled the invader Marjit. But the invader Chaurjit in turn established himself securely in Cachar. The following year, Marjit driven by the Burmese came back, with whom also came his brother Gambhir Singh. The three, as Gait wrote, rested by taking the country among them and forcing the lawful king to flee to Sylhet. In a somewhat different description, Govindachandra made Gambhir Singh who was in exile in Cachar, his general. While Marjit invaded Cachar, the king by the help of Gambhir Singh and another Manipuri Prince, Sarjit Singh who took refuge in Jaintiapur drove the former. The two Manipuri brothers, however, remained on in Cachar. Govindachandra was king in name only having no power. In this situation, some nobles and influential persons like Gulu Milan and Barjuram made secret contact with Gambhir Singh who in no time attacked the palace. Govindachandra fled to North Cachar Hills. Cachar plains fell to the hands of Manipuris. A few years later Marjit
Singh defeated by the Burmese who were in Assam for some years came to Cachar and joined Sarjit and Gambhir. The three divided the country among them and established each the king over a third of it. Govindachandra begged for help to the British Govt but in vain. He then appealed to the Burmese who promised to reinstate him. Accordingly, the Burmese made their advance towards Cachar. The British took it to be a serious threat, and thus began the conflict between the Burmese and the British. Meanwhile, Gambhir Singh who had already fled to Sylhet made secret communication with the Burmese which was let known to the British Govt. It was now impossible for the Govt to ignore the cause of Govindachandra who was invited to Sylhet for discussion. And as a result when the Burmese were driven out, the country was given finally to the legitimate ruler Govindachandra. A treaty was made between David Scott of East India Company and the Raja on 6 March, 1824 A.D. Govindachandra shifted his capital at Haritikar near Badarpur and he did not find time to rule peacefully. Everyone was dissatisfied with his rule.  The country was already ruined. A large number of cultivators were either killed or carried away by the Burmese. Some fled. After the treaty, a few villages were restored but most remained empty and deserted. There was little food and no subsistence. The king had no other alternative than to lift a severe exaction on his own people. Even riding on doolie (palanquin) and wearing of ornaments were taxed. The Treasury was all but exhausted. The Company was not happy with him either. He became a defaulter to the company. But everything was settled at his sudden death on 24 April, 1830 A.D. It is recorded in the History of Manipur by Prof.Jyotirmoy Roy that some Manipuri assassins carried out the murder of the king and it was also suspected that Gambhir Singh himself was involved in the murder. (This episode reminds this writer of his visit to the old palace of Gambhir Singh at Langthabal hillock in 1971 during his high school days riding a rickety bi-cycle from Longa Koireng, Kangpokpi dist to the palace with his valley friends.) Govindachandra had no legal descendant. Naturally, there were many claimants to the throne but nobody was able to prove his right.
The Company then proposed to establish his widow, Rani Induprabha who is said to be of the Royal Family of Manipur. But the proposal was not accepted by the people-both Cacharis and Bengalis on two counts. Cachari custom did not permit a woman to rule. In addition, she was the widow of Krishnachandra on whose premature death his younger brother Govindachandra married her. The Bengalis raised objection on this point. There was no other person of Cachari origin fit for the throne. There was Tularam, Govindachandra’s former General who was ruling as a king in North Cachar Hills. But the British simply ignored him. The inevitable result was, therefore, annexation of Cachar with the British Empire which took place on 14 August, 1832 A.D. The British Annexation of Cachar transformed everything overnight. There was a phenomenal growth in population while the country had about 50,000 inhabitants in all in 1837 A.D. five years after annexation. The population swelled up to more than five lakhs a few years later.  The fate of the Cacharis was such that they were always on the run—from Dimapur to Maibong, from there to Khaspur and from there again to North Cachar Hills.  Thus, a glorious independent kingdom once very powerful of our region fell to a trading company.