An ancient state in the extreme east of India bordering Bengal, Tripura dates its foundation from the year 100 AD. The ruling dynasty claims descent from Jayati, Emperor of India during the heroic age. The verifiable history of the state dates only from the middle of the fifteenth century. The earliest recorded history being the epic known as the Rajmala, perhaps the earliest extant work in the Bengali language.
According to tradition, King Tugral Khan of Bengal, granted the rulers of the dynasty the hereditary title of Manikya in return for the presentation of a costly gem, said to have been obtained from a frog. The title has been used as a unique title by the rulers of Tripura ever since.
The territories held by the Rajas reached their greatest extent during the 16th century, extending from the Hughli River in the west, and to Kamrup in the North. The Mughals invaded the principality in 1618, and although later forced to withdraw due to en epidemic, the low-lying areas remained under Mughal control thereafter. These territories fell under the administration of HEIC after Lord Clive obtained the diwani of Bengal in 1765. The Tripura raja continuing possession of his large and valuable estates in the British districts as a zamindar, or landlord. The revenues of the Roshanabad zamindari exceeded those of the state of Tripura proper, which the rajas continued to rule directly.
The system of succession, peculiar to Tripura, often resulted in disputes and contests for the throne. During former times this frequently induced intervention by the Muslim rulers of Bengal, usually after a disgruntled prince had appealed for help. Similar disputes continued after the HEIC established their control over Bengal. The most serious of these established British influence over the state in 1809. Yudha Rama Ganga Manikya had assumed power on the death of his father. The British deposed him because he was not the official Heir Apparent and the throne transferred to his cousin. By lucky fate, the cousin died four years later, allowing Yudha Rama Ganga to resume his rule. Thereafter, the British intervened very little in local affairs, leaving the country under the relatively peaceful rule of the Manikyas.
Development in Tripura proper was slower than in other princely states, largely because of poor economic conditions. State revenues were supplemented by the Raja's zamindari in British Bengal, but these were insufficient for more than the very basic reforms. It is only with the reign of Maharaj Bir Chandra Kishore, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century that the first tentative steps towards reform and development began. However, no determined programme emerged until the reign of Maharaj Kirit Birendra Kishore during the second decade of the twentieth century. Perhaps due to his modern education his outlook may have been more receptive to change. Despite modest means, he reformed the revenue system, the courts, police, and army, built roads, hospitals and schools. He contracted marriages with several Nepalese princesses and sent his sons and brothers to be educated in modern institutions outside the state. Many of these princes acquired skills valuable to the administration and development of their homeland.
Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore succeeded his father aged fifteen 1923, reigning under the guidance of his powerful uncles. For several years he ruled under a Council of Regency, a form of rule which usually prompted a deeper interest in state affairs by British officials. A series of administrative and other reforms were encouraged, education expanded, communications and infrastructure improved. When the young Maharaja assumed full control, the state was on a par with other princely states. His keen interest in military affairs were to stand in good stead, particularly when the War in Burma reached India's borders and the Japanese threatened invasion. The small Tripura army served with distinction and honour, winning several decorations for gallantry. Amongst the latter, the Maharaja's own younger brother.
Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore's early death in 1947 left his throne to his fourteen year old son, Maharaja Kirit Bikram Kishore. This was a crucial time, not only because of British withdrawal and the subsequent uncertain status of the princes, but also due to the birth of East Pakistan. Tripura faced an immediate refugee problem, which brought conflict between the people, severe strain on the administration and threatened to exhaust the meagre resources of the state. The Maharaja's mother who had assumed charge as Regent at her husband's death, was forced to cede sovereignty to India within a few months.
By January 1948 the central government had assumed charge and the state continued to be ruled directly for many years. Tripura has now been recognised as a state of the Indian Union in its own right and democratic government has been in place for thirty years. However, large sections of the population have long been unhappy about the Indian annexation and have campaigned vigorously against it. Armed liberation groups continue to operate in many parts of the state where the writ of the Indian government does not run.
Maharaja Kirit Bikram Kishore expired in November 2006, following a sudden heart attack at his home. The late Maharaja and his family largely resided in Calcutta, but continued to play a very active part in the cultural and political life of Tripura. Several members of the family have served in the state legislature and in the national parliament in Delhi, the Maharaja, his wife, his uncles and cousins amongst that number. He has been succeeded by his only son from his second marriage to Maharani Bibhu Kumari Devi, the thirty-year old Maharaja Kirit Pradyot Deb Barman Manikya Bahadur.
ARMS: Argent, a trident gules; on a chief azure a crescent and a mermaid of the field. Crest: A lion rampant gardant argent holding a hurt in his paws. Supporters: Lions rampant argent. Motto: "Bir ta Saramekam" (Courage is the one thing most needed or nothing is better than a warrior). Lambrequins: Argent and gules.
STYLES & TITLES:
The ruling prince: Bisam-Samar-Bijojee Mahamopadhyaya Pancha-Srijukta Maharaja Sri Sri Sri (personal name) Deb Barman Manikya Bahadur, Maharaja of Tripura, with the style of His Highness.
The senior consort of the ruling prince: Maharani (personal name) Mahadevi Sahiba, with the style of Her Highness.
The junior wives of the ruling prince: Maharani (personal name) Devi Sahiba, with the style of Her Highness.
The Heir Apparent: Srila-Srijukta (personal name) Jubaraj Goswami Bahadur.
The Heir Presumptive: Sri Bara Thakur Bahadur.
The younger sons of the ruling prince: Maharaj Kumar Srila-Srijukta (personal name) Deb Barman Bahadur.
The daughters of the ruling prince: Maharaj Kumari Srila (personal name) Devi.
ORDERS & DECORATIONS:
The Order of Tripura: founded by Maharaja Sri Sri Sri Sir Bir Bikram Kishore Deb Barman Manikya Bahadur, on 10th Kartik, 1346 Tripurabha. Awarded in two classes 1. Mahamanyabar: limited to two recipients at any one time. Insignia: A breast star shaped as a five-petal gold lotus flower with a five-pointed star resting on it, all studded with rubies. The diameter of the lotus flower measuring 3.9/16 inches and the star 3.7/8 inches across the widest span of the arms. The uppermost arm of the star a crown studded with diamonds. In the centre of the star, a circular medallion with crescent and trident studded with diamonds, upon a base of gold meenakari work. Around the upper circle of the medallion the word Mahamanyabar in Devanagri script, raised in gold and encrusted with diamonds. Around the lower circle of the medallion the words Kil Bidurbirata Sarmekong. The star was worn on the left breast. Accompanying the star, a gold badge consisting of a lotus flower in full bloom, suspended from a club-shaped locket measuring 2.7/16 inches by 2.1./8 inches. The badge was worn from a silk ribbon in red and gold suspended from the neck. 2. Manyabar: limited to four recipients at any one time. Insignia: A breast star shaped as a five-petal gold lotus flower with a larger five-pointed star resting on it and studded with rubies. The diameter of the lotus flower measuring 3 inches and the star 3.1/2/16 inches across the widest span of the arms. The uppermost arm of the star a crown studded with diamonds. In the centre of the star, a circular medallion with crescent and trident studded with diamonds, upon a base of red meenakari work. Around the upper circle of the medallion the word Manyabar in Devanagri script traced in raised gold. Around the lower circle of the medallion the words Kil Bidurbirata Sarmekong. The badge was similar to the badge of the first class, but smaller. The badge was worn from a silk ribbon, suspended from the neck and coloured gold, with narrow border stripes in red.
RULES OF SUCCESSION:
By the terms of the sanad dated 21st June 1904 issued by the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, succession was declared hereditary in the Bir Bikram Manikya family. The ruler could nominate his immediate successor, the Jubraj, from amongst any of his descendants in the male line, or those of a previous ruler. Should the ruler expire before nominating his successor, his eldest male descendant, in the male line, succeeds according to the rules of lineal primogeniture. In the absence of any such descendants, then his next senior male heir in the male line succeeds.
Prior to the sanad of 1904, the ruler was entitled to nominate his successor as Jubaraj, and to appoint the successor to the Jubaraj, the Bara Thakur, from amongst any of his male relatives. However, he could not substitute or cancel the appointment of any living Jubaraj or Bara Thakur nominated by a predecessor. For a period, the title of Karta, entitled the holder to succeed to the title of Bara Thakur, but this was short lived. This system of succession is very similar to that still operating in the state of Perak, in Malaysia.
SELECT GLOSSARY: Barman: armour. Fa: family name of the dynasty until 1279. Manikya: gem or jewel, conferred as a family name by King Tugral Khan of Bengal in 1279. Rajmala: the state record, or saga of the reigning dynasty, said to be the oldest extant composition in the Bengali language.
Administration Report of the Political Agency, Hill Tipperah. 1872-1884/85. IOR/V/10. Oriental & India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Apurba Chandra Bhattacharyya. Progressive Tripura. Calcutta, 1930.
Gayatri Devi and Santha Rama Rau. A Princess Remembers, The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur. J.P. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1976.
List of Ruling Chiefs and Leading Personages of States in the Eastern States Agency. Government of India Manager of Publications, Delhi, 1936.
The Rev. James Long. Rajmala, or An Analysis of the Chronicles of the Kings of Tripura. Isan Press, Dacca, 1911.
Report on the General Administration of Tipperah State. 1893/94-1897/98, 1909/10-1919/20. IOR/V/10. Oriental & India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Report on the General Administration of Tripura State. 1920/21-1943/46. IOR/V/10. Oriental & India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
N.G. Rhodes and S.K. Bose. The Coinage of Tripura, With notes on the Seals, Orders, Decorations and Medals of the State. Mira Bose Library of Numismatic Studies, Kolkata, 2002.
Nalini Ranjan Roychoudhury. Tripura Through The Ages; A Short History of Tripura from the earliest times to 1947 A.D. Sterling Publications Private Limited, New Delhi, 1983.
Maharaj-Kumar Sahadev Bikram-Kisor and Dr. Jagadis Gan-Chaudhuri (comp.). Tripura Historical Documents. Firma KLM Private Limited, Calcutta, 1994.
H.H. Maharaja Sri Sri Sri Kirit Pradyot Deb Barman Manikya Bahadur.
Father Lawrence Ober, SJ.
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