BLOG | History of Manipuri Queens in Tripura & their contribution towards development of state


TNT | BLOGS | Oct 02, 2018: 

By Rishiraj Sinha

In this article, I would like to dwell on the the matrimonial relationship between Tripura and Manipur which has helped to spread and develop Manipuri culture in Tripura.

The Manipuri settlement in Tripura grew due to the numbers of Manipuri queens moving to the royal palace of Tripura. The queens also enriched the royal palace with their religion and culture, besides they receiving the royal patronage to preserve and spread their culture and religion.

As a result, Manipuri dance became world famous. The development of women education in Tripura was initiated by the Manipuri queen and succeeded in establishing first girls' school. This article has attempted to focus on Manipuri queens in royal Tripura and their contribution in developing women education, health infrastructure and welfare of the subjects. Moreover, it has also attempted to focus on their contribution in preserving and spreading the Manipuri religion, society and culture across the kingdom.

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Tripura is a small and landlocked hilly state situated in North-east India. Surrounded by Bangladesh in three sides, Tripura was formerly a princely state that had a long list of tribal kings stretching back to antiquity and is believed to have been one of the oldest kingdom in ancient India.

There are legends which speak of the existence of Tripura as a political entity from the days of the epic of Mahabharata, many scholars explain, an ancient king named 'Tripur' (46th descendant of Chandra dynasty), who probably, a contemporary, with the Emperor Yudhisthir of the Mahabharata, ruled over the territorial domain known as 'Tripura' and the name of the kingdom was derived from his name.

1. Apart from this, it is also said that originally the land was known as 'Tuipra' meaning a "land adjoining to water areas" (in local language 'tui' means water and 'pra' means nearby)

2. Tripura is the third-smallest state in the country, it covers 10,492 km2 with density of 350 population per square km, Assam and Mizoram are the only two states which adjoined her to the mother nation India.

3. It is the 21st state of Union of India which lies in between the latitude of 22*56'and 24*32' North and longitudes of 91*10' and 92*21' east. Tripura has an international boundary of 832.20 km with Bangladesh.

4. According to 2011 census, the state had 3,671,032 residents, constituting 0.3% of the country's population, while the indigenous population amounted to 31 per cent. The sex ratio of the state is 961 females per thousand males, higher than the national average 940. The literacy rate of the state in 2011 was 87.75 per cent, higher than the national average 74.04 per cent, and third best among all the states.

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Royal history of Tripura

Tripura is believed to have been one of the ancient kingdoms ruled by the Chandra dynasty. The 'Rajmala' – a chronicle of Tripura kings which was first written in the 15th century, provides a list of kings from antiquity. Total 186 kings from this dynasty ruled this Kingdom.

According to Rajmala, Krishna Kishore Manikya (1830-1850) was the 179th king of this Chandra dynasty. The Kings of the dynasty assumed the title 'Manikya' during the reign of Ratna Fa (Ratna Manikya) in 1280.The boundaries of the kingdom changed over the centuries, in 16th century the borders of the kingdom reached south to the jungle of Sundarban on the Bay of Bengal, east to Burma, and north to the boundary of Kamrup kingdom. There were several Muslim invasions in this region from 13th century onwards. A "remarkable" king Bijaymanikya ruled over Tripura for a considerable portion of the third quarter of sixteenth century, Chittagong remained under the reign of Bijaymanikya. He was reported to have been contemporary of the Mughal Emperor Akbar and in Ain-i-Akbari, the Majaraja's name was mentioned.

In last part of 16th century, the Arakan king Sikandar Shah (Meng Phalaung 1571-1593) occupied Chittagong and marched towards Tripura and ransacked the capital Rangamati, looted wealth and committed massacre. The Tripura King Amar Manikya had to desert the capital and took shelter in the forest on the bank of river Manu. It was the starting of 'era of decline' of Manikya dynasty. The Mughals found foothold in Chittagang and Commilla culminated its dominance in the kingdom in 1733. The Mughals had influence over the appointment of the Tripuri kings also. In 1748, the king of Tripura was defeated by Shamser Ghazi, and Ghazi virtually ruled over Tripura for seven years.

In 18th century itself, the king of Tripura lost the south-western portion of his kingdom- Chakla Rosanabad to the Nawab of Murshidabad, due to internal conflict. Ultimately the King of Tripura agreed to hold Chakla Rosanabad as jamindari on payment of tax to Nawab. Further during the reign of Krishnamanikya (1760-61 A.D.), the capital was shifted from Udaipur to Agartala but  Tripura was reduced to the state of obedience to the British due to issue of Chakla Rosanabad. Mr. Ralph Leak was then appointed the first resident of Tripura. The East India Company fixed the revenue.

In first half of twentieth century, many tracts of wasteland were converted to tea garden. The Forest Rule, The Arms Act, The Penal Code Amendment Act were enacted. The overall development of Tripura was planned during the reign of Maharaja BirBikram Kishore Manikya (1923-47) who ensured progress in administration, education, health system etc. The Maharaja is called 'the architect of Modern Tripura'. But he could not fulfill his dream due to sudden demise on May 17, 1947 at the age of 39.

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After the demise of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya in 1947, his infant son Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya was designated the king even though he was too young to rule, a Council of Regency had to be formed with his mother Maharani Kanchan Prava Devi as the Regent President. Following the Independence of India in 1947, Tippera district – the estate in the plains of British India – became a part of East Pakistan, and Hill Tippera remained under a regency council until 1949.

The Maharani of Regent of Tripura dissolved the Regency council on the advice of the Government of India on 12th January 1948 and took over all the powers to herself and appointed Chief minister to aid her in administration. After a few months, the post of the Chief Minister was transferred to the post of Dewan on 21st March, 1948.

The Regent's rule came to an end when the Tripura Merger Agreement was signed on 9 September 1949, as a result of which Tripura became a Part C state of India. An administrator 'Chief Commissioner of Tripura' was appointed on October 15, 1949. As a result of re-organisation of states effected on November 1, 1956, Tripura became a Union territory with an Advisory Committee at the Centre to advice the Union Government. Tripura Territorial Council was formed on August 15, 1959 and its the members were elected on the basis of adult franchise.

In July 1, 1963, the Union Territory of Tripura gained more stature with dissolution of the territorial council and formation of a Council of ministers and a Legislative Assembly. Tripura became full fledged state on January 21, 1972.

History of Manipuri queens in Tripura kingdom

Tripura had a relation with Manipur in the ancient age. The Manipuri call the Tripuri as 'TAKHEL' and the Tripuri call the Manipuri as 'MEKHLI'. A Manipuri book 'Takhelngamba' talked about the third decade of eighteen century under the reign of King charai longba, where Manipur was defeated by Tripura.

Later King Garibnawaj succeeded in retaining Manipur and became an independent king. The first reference of matrimonial relation between these two kingdoms is found in 'Rajmala' – a chronicle of Tripura kings, TAIDAKKHIN- the 43rd king of Tripura married a Manipuri princess. The Tripuri and Manipuri first came close to each other during the last decade of eighteenth century through a historical marriage of Tripura King Rajdhar Manikya –II (1785-1804 A.D.) to Manipuri princess Hariseshwari Devi, daughter of Manipur King Bhagyachandra (1759-1761 & 1763- 1768).

a. Maharani Hariseshwari Devi.

Maharani brought an idol of Sri Sri Radhmadhab from Manipur, the same was first installed in old capital and with the change of capital it was installed at Radhanagar of present capital Agartala. The Radhamadhabji is worshipped at Sri Sri Radhmadhab jio temple, which is situated at Radhanagar, Agartala and Raasleela is organised every year in Raas purnima.

b. Maharani Kutilakshi 

Maharaja Kashi Chandra Manikya (1826-29 AD) was fascinated by the beauty, and cleanliness of the Manipuri girls. In 1826 A.D., being captivated by the beauty of Manipuri princess Kutilakshi of Manipur, the king married her. The Maharaja married three other Manipuri women.

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c. Rani Purnakala

Maharaja Krishna Kishore Manikya (1829-49 AD) at his old age married a Manipuri Brahmin lady Purnakala- who was a cook in the Tripura royal kitchen. The marriage became a matter of discussion and criticism among the subjects in the kingdom. Curved with numerous problems, Raja Krishna Kishore Manikya did not take the new Maharani to the royal fortress. However, her association with the King was the reason behind the growth of present Agartala town. Agartala had its origin in the growth of Manipuri community and Rani Purnakala became one of the factors behind the establishment of the new capital at Agartala. Krishna Kishore Manikya married to three other Manipuri princesses- daughters of Manipur King Marjit Singh (1813-1819 AD). They were
Akhileshwari, Chandrakala, and Bidhukala.

d. Maharani Muktabali

Maharaja Ishan Chandra Manikya (1849-1862) married to three Manipuri girls who were not royal origin. They were Muktabali, Jatiswari and Chandreswari. Maharaja brought Muktabali from Srimangal area and gave lands to her brother Shovananda to settle at Dhaleswar area. Shovananda was the father of Nrityaguru Moirangthem Babuni, who was one of the notable teachers who introduced 'Raasleela' dance in Tripura. Maharani Jatiswari gave birth to prince Nabadwip Chandra, who was the father of legendary musician S. D. Barman.

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e. Maharani Rajeshwari.

Birchandra Manikya (1862-1896 A.D.), the next new king not only continued the tradition of marrying Manipuri girls but also encouraged the development of Manipuri culture in Tripura as the king being a patron of art, literature and music. He is also considered as the maker of modern Tripura. Birchandra Manikya had many wives, of which there were three Manipuri Maharanis and one Rani. The Manipuri Maharanis were Bhanumati, Rajeshwari or Kaboklei and Manmohini.
Rajeswari alias Kaboklei was the second Maharani of the king. The father of Maharani Rajeswari was Panganbam Premsingha Thakur, a settler of Sylhet. Maharani Rajeswari gave birth to three sons, they were – Kumar Radha Kishore, Kumar Debendra and Kumar Nripendra. The eldest son of the Queen, prince Radha Kishore succeeded the throne of Tripura after his father. During the reign of Birchandra Manikya many development work of Manipuri culture was promoted. He encouraged his Manipuri Maharanis to construct temples and 'mandapa'. Maharani Rajeswari installed the 'Sri Sri Radhamadhab' temple at Dhaleswar and 'Lainingthou Pakhangba' temple at Math Choumuhani. The temple is popularly known as 'Pagla Debta'. It is to be mentioned that the Manipuri traditional festival 'Lai Haraoba' was introduced for the first time in Tripura by Maharani Rajeswari.

f. Maharani Bhanumati

Maharani Bhanumati was most favourite Queen of Maharaja Birchandra Manikya. She was the daughter of Rajkumar Ningthem Kulendra of Kasba (Keilashgar) and sister of Rajkumar Ranadhwaj who was one of the influential ministers of Birchandra Manikya. Maharani Bhanumati gave birth to prince Samarendra who was appointed as Barthakur. When the King was in a state of shock following the untimely death of Maharani Bhanumati Devi in the year 1881, he studied young Rabindra Nath Tagore's celebrated love-poem 'Bhagna Hriday'. Bir Chandra found a resonance of his anguish in Tagore's elegiac lyric and sent his political Secretary to Jorasanko near Calcutta to congratulate the poet on his behalf. Moreover, the depression and cry in the heart of king made him to compose many narratives which were compiled and published in the form of novel called "Prem Marichika Kabya".

g. Maharani Manmohini

Maharaja Birchandra Manikya married Maharani Manmohini, when she was only 13 years. The king gave the land at Math Choumuhani as her share. She also established a temple and a 'mandapa' near the present Iskcon temple at Tripura.

h. Maharani Ratnamanjuri

Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya (1896-1909 A.D.), whose mother was Maharani Rajeswari, like his antecedents married many Manipuri girls. He had three Manipuri Maharanis and six Manipuri Ranis. The three Maharanis were – Ratnamanjuri, Tulsibati and Manmanjuri. Maharani Ratnamanjuri was also known as 'Dhaka Rani' means maharani from Dhaka. She was the daughter of Manipur Maharaja Debendra Singh (1849-1850). The dethroned Manipur king was exiled to Dhaka, capital of present Bangladesh. The Tripura king Radha Kishore Manikya married the daughter of the exiled Manipur king ahead of his succession to the throne. The queen was accompanied by her relatives, maids and others etc. and the king arranged their settlement at a place near Bishalgarh. The area where the relatives of Ratnamanjuri settled is at present known as 'Dhaka bari'. Maharani Ratnamanjuri was the mother of the next Maharaja Birendra Kishore Manikya. The Queen built the temple of 'Lamdem Lairembi' at Bajalghat, presently under Mohanpur Sub-Division

i. Maharani Tulsibati.

The legendary queen of Radha Kishore Manikya was Maharani Tulsibati. Unlike others, Tulsibati was a girl of simple cultivator family of village Nalgaria, situated a little far away from Agartala, Tripura. Her father was Thongam Rupananda. Maharani Tulsibati made remarkable contribution in the history of women education in Tripura. She was a pioneer in spreading women education. The whole women society was in great debt to Tulsibati who understood very clearly that without education and literacy women can never stand on their feet. With her effort on 9th April, 1894, she succeeded in establishing the first girl's school with the name 'Agartala Balika Bidyalaya' within the imperial palace. The school was run by the queen's personal treasury. Later the school was shifted to outside the palace and today it became one of the largest girl schools in the state named 'Maharani Tulsibati Girls H.S. School'.

Even today she is remembered by the people of Tripura for her various contributions for the development of the society. She influenced Maharaja to establish vocational training schools where handloom training was given priority. In 1905, the Maharani established a separate 10 bedded women ward to treat women patients only in Victoria Memorial Hospital (presently known as Indira Gandhi memorial Hospital) at Agartala. Considering the rural people and farmers of nearby areas who faced difficulties in marketing their produces, Maharani Tulsibati established a market near Nalgaria, her own village. The bazar was named as 'Ranirbazar'. The temple of Sri Sri Radhamadhav at Nalgaria and 'Lainingthou Puthiba' at Abhoynagar were installed by Maharani Tulsibati.


The Manipuri queens in Tripura kingdom influenced the cultural atmosphere in the royal citadel. Manipuri kirtan, Raas leela dance, Holi were introduced in royal palace. The princesses of Tripura royal performed Raas Leela, Nupikartal etc. in the palace. Gurus were appointed to teach Manipuri dance and songs in the palace. The Manipuri dance was presented in the honour of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore at Malancha Niwas, Agartala. The Gurudev, being an artist realised the value of this form of art, it's gorgeous attire and was so impressed that he introduced Manipuri dance in
Shantiniketan. He requested the king to send one dance teacher to teach Manipuri dance in Shantiniketan. Accordingly the King sent Rajkumar Buddhimanta Singh of Agartala to Shantiniketan. The rest is history- Manipuri dance became world famous by encouragement of Rabindranath Tagore. The Holi festival was also observed in royal palace in utmost care. To flourish the Manipuri culture, temple and mandap (community hall) were constructed in different places. These temples and mandaps complex became the hub of cultural activities of Manipuri song, dance and other performing arts. The queens constructed many temples in different places. Maharani Rajeshwari constructed 'Pakhangba' temple (Pagla Devta) near Motor Stand, Agartala. Maharani Tulsibati erected 'Puthiba' temple at Abhoynagar, Agartala.

In creating the landmark development of women education and vocational training, to give them dignity, self respect, strength and freedom, Maharani Tulsibati will be remembered forever in the history of women education in Tripura. Maharani was expert in compositions of songs and poems. Her composed songs related to 'Holi' festival were very famous during the time.

The Manipuri queens enriched the royal palace with their religion and culture besides receiving royal patronage to preserve and spread their culture and religion.

(Rishiraj Sinha is a BASS 3rd Semester student of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati Campus)