Every community has at least a chapter in their history which reverberates their profound ethics, patriotism and nationalism. And, for sure, in such pages are written in bold letters the names of the protagonists for whom the future sings. One, among such few chapters which reiterate the ethos of the Manipuri community, is that chapter where the valour and patriotism of the community during the Anglo Manipuri War, 1891 is scribed.
The line ‘the sun never sets on the British empire’ was not just a saying but a fact. By 1891, British imperialism had already been deeply rooted and no power on earth was competent enough to supersede the British power. To fight against such a majestic empire by a small kingdom like Manipur meant nothing but the defeat of Manipur. Despite the inevitable and predictable defeat, the gallant Manipuri warriors fought back against the British- the idea of giving up and surrendering was out of the question. That’s the spirit of those heroes. To embody the spirit of those gallant ancestors and to pay homage to them, Manipuris observe Khongjom Day every year on the 23rd of April.
The Battle of Khongjom has remained one of the most important events in the history of Manipur. Historians noted the battle as one of the fiercest battles in the history of India’s freedom struggle. The hero of the battle, Major Paona Brajabashi is being honored by the Manipuris as the epitome of patriotism and bravery. Till his last breath, he refused to surrender and bravely chose death over serving for the British. Even the British were humbled to see his bravery and love for his motherland. Among others who fought gallantly in the battle were Major Chongtham Mia, Chinglen Sana, Khumbong Major, Loitongba Jamadar, Keisa Jamadar, Heirang Kongja, and many more.
The Khongjom battle bequeathed to Manipuris a legacy of patriotism and heroism. The heroism of the gallant warriors is being passed down through generations in the form of a traditional ballad ‘Khongjom Parva’. Every year, on the 23rd of April, the whole state of Manipur pays homage to those great warriors at the Khongjom War Memorial Complex. The solemn memorial site stands at the very place where the warriors gracefully accepted the historic defeat. It stands there as a living symbol of the spirit of patriotism and heroism of Manipuris.