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Historical facts of Dimapur ruins

The Dimapur ruins also called Kachari Rajbari presently looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the standing evidence of a prosperous state in the medieval period.


Sentinel Digital Desk

K Naben


The Dimapur ruins also called Kachari Rajbari presently looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the standing evidence of a prosperous state in the medieval period. The ruling clan was from among the sub-tribes of the Kachari entity which remains unacknowledged perhaps due to ignorance. The word 'Kachari' is a generic term used to denote certain groups of people by the British ethnographers considering the similarity of the language or dialect. B. H. Hodgson (a British ethnographer) was the first one who assumed that certain tribal communities of Assam descended from the same historical root. Based on this assumption, Hodgson attempted at a definition of what he termed as 'Bodo-Garo' grouping. He admitted that his use of this term was to designate a wide range of people. Guided by Hodgson's classification, Rev. Sidney Endle, G.A. Grierson and J. D. Anderson followed the same categorization. Arranging numerous sections of hill and plain tribes into one collective identity helped the British administratively. However, in the past deploying such collective identities witnessed great fluidity and ambiguity. Such illustrations are testified in the Census reports where a particular tribe gets included and excluded in the process of grouping. For instance, B. C. Allen (the Census enumerator of 1891) stated that Bodo and Dimasa were shown under the same head 'Kachari'; but J.D. Grierson had conveyed to him that they had less in common like that of French and Spanish (Census of Assam 1901, pp. 88). Therefore, the initial Kachari grouping that included Dimasa, Boro, Garo, Mech, Tripuri and Barman was not to be the final list of tribes coming under one collective identity. The census enumerators went on to include Sonowal, Deori, Hajong, Lalung, Saraniya equating the same language family or claiming to have the same ancestral root. These colonial practices of classification had an impact on ethnic formations and ethnonational fault lines in post-Independence India. In short, this explains the complexity of memory and history.

But the fact is that not all these Kachari groups were rulers of the so-called Kachari or Hidimba Kingdom. A powerful group known as Dimasa was the ruling clan which is corroborated by historical sources and colonial archival records. According to Edward Gait, the invading Ahoms called the rulers of Dimapur 'Timia'. Gait advocated that the term 'timisa' in the Ahom buranjis (court chronicles) was the corrupted version of the word Dimasa. This indicates that from the time of buranjis there was indeed the memory of a ruling clan called Dimasa. This fact is validated again in the Census Report of 1931, where J. H. Crace, (Political Officer of Sadiya & formerly Sub-divisional Officer, North Cachar Hills) stated that seven Dimasa clans ruled the Dimapur before it shifted the capital to Maibang (in Assam). These clans were Bodosa, Thaosen, Hasnu, Langthasa, Jigdong, Haflong and Sengyung. The clan increased to 40 after the tribe left Dimapur (this written piece can be found in Section II of Appendix, Census of Assam 1931).

Traces of the forty clans (sengphongs in Dimasa dialect) still exist among the Dimasas in the forty titles or surnames of male clans. Thomas Fisher, the first Commissioner of Cachar in 1830, discovered that the election of the Cachar throne (at Khaspur, the capital of Dimasa dynasty) was done by an institution called 'Forty Sengphongs'. When Cachar King Govind Chandra Hasnu died leaving without any heir, these forty sengphongs sent petitions to the British Government at Calcutta in support of Tula Ram to be elected as the next Dimasa king. One of these petitions can be traced at the National Archives of India (New Delhi) under the subject 'Arzee of Forty Senpphongs' to the Agent of the Governor-General, Foreign Political Proceedings, 7-21st May 1832, Document No. 82. Historians like R M Lahiri's 'The Annexation of Assam 1824-1854'; JB Bhattacharjee's 'Cachar under British Rule in North East India' and SK. Barpujari's 'History of the Dimasas (from the earliest times to 1896 AD) has already referred to the existence of this institution of forty sengphongs of Dimasa kingdom in their historical works. The Dimasas living in Nagaland and Assam have preserved this number system of the patrilineal clan to this day. And this practice is not to be found among the Mech, the Boro or any other Kachari sub-groups.

Epigraphic and numismatic evidence reflecting on the historical past of the so-called Kachari kingdom also testify to the rule of Dimasa. In the introduction of their book 'A history of Dimasa Kacharis as seen through coinage', N.G. Rhodes & S.K. Bose points out that the epigraphic evidence shows the ruling tribe was known as Dimasa. The authors assert that the Dimasa king was also known by various names such as Herambeswara, Haidambesvara or Herambadhiswara. The inscriptional remains at Maibang mentioned that the ruler belonged to the Hasnu clan.

Although the history cannot be conclusive the records unearthed from the available sources and the existing works of historians is

indicative of the facts on the ruling clans of Dimapur. The truth mentioned above is not intended to hurt the sentiments of other Kacharis but the re-iteration of the true history of the rulers of the Kachari kingdom. One should not take the few works of colonial officials (like that of Sidney Endle & Edward Gait) as the final authority on history. Also not be overwhelmed by British ethnographer accounts alone as they presented a narrow truth undermining historical objectivity. Rather one should emphasize narrating history based on documents, archival records, etc. This important story about Dimasa being the ruling clan of the Kachari kingdom remains to be pieced together and coherently told to a wide public. And this piece is a small effort in that direction.

There are colonial records mentioned about the various raids conducted by the Angamis over the Dimasa villages at North Cachar Hills in Tularam's territory (under British jurisdiction) for salt and human labour. In 1839, when Mr Grange (sub-Assistant of Nowgong District) was sent for the first expedition against the Angamis, he was shown the remains of a circular fort built by the Cachar Raja Krishna Chandra (1790-1813) at Beremah village. The Angamis told Mr Grange that the raja had invaded their hills once. The British officer recounted that there was an old 10-pounder which the raja had left behind him on his retreat (Source: Alexander Mackenzie, History of the Relations of the Government with the Hills Tribes of the North-East Frontier of Bengal, published in 1884). To pacify the Angamis, the British officers established a stockade and salt depot in Dimapur and a market in Samaguting as early as the 1840s. It is important to mention here that by the defeat at the hands of the powerful Ahoms the Dimasa King had left the kingdom in the 16th Century leaving behind some subjects in and around the Dimapur. The remnants were none other than the ancestors of the present Kachari or Dimasa. It is by destiny some Dimasa remain part of the people of Nagaland today.

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