Unfortunate events leading to bifurcation of Hima Shillong into Hima Mylliem and Khyrim in 1853


 By Basan Nongkseh

Hima Mylliem

Before the advent of the British East India Company, the Hima Shillong was one of the largest and the most important Hima (Syiemship) in the entire North Eastern part of India extending from Umngot River in the South to Brahmaputra River in the North. The Hima Jaintia (Jaintia kingdom) and River Kupli formed the Eastern boundary while the Umtrew (Digaru) River formed the natural boundary with the Hima Nongkhlaw in the West (Bareh). The Syiem (Chief) of Hima Shillong then, was also known as Raja of Assam-Shillong owing to his rule over a large Raid Ri-Thor (a plain Community) lying in Lower Assam valley along the Southern bank of the Brahmaputra River known as Raid Dumria (Desh Demoreah) extending from Topatoli, (Kamrup M, Assam) in the East to Byrnihat of Raid Marwet, Mylliem Syiemship in the West.      

The Hima Shillong was founded by the confederation of Raids (Community) of the Basan(s) and Lyngdoh(s) spread over Them (valleys) of Ri Bhoi and the upland Khasi Hills. The Hima Shillong was therefore also known as “Hima Sawkher Lai Lyngdoh” in honour of the Saw (four) Kher/Basan and Lai (three) Lyngdoh who founded the Hima Shillong (Lyngdoh, 1938). The 4 Founders Basan were – (1) Basan Nongkseh from the Thangkhiew Laikpoh clan, (2) Basan Nongumlong from the Nongneng Daloi clan, (3) Basan Swer from Swer clan and (4) Basan Synrem from Synrem clan. While the Lai (three) Lyngdoh were (1) Lyngdoh Mylliem from the Lyngdoh Marbaniang clan, (2) Lyngdoh Nongkrem from the Pyngrope clan and (3) Lyngdoh Nongbri from the Lyngdoh Nongbri clan (Giri, 2012). 

  Nongkseh, the ancestral Raid of the Basan Nongkseh was chosen as the Capital of the Hima Shillong while a Iing Sad (traditional residence) of the Syiem Shillong, protected by deep moat was also constructed at Myrshan, Nongkseh. Ka Pung Sum Hati (elephant bathing pond) was also dug where visiting dignitaries used to bathe their elephants. A weekly market known as Iew Rynghep using Megaliths as Basa (stalls) was also established. The remains of these ancient monuments are still present in Nongkseh. 

   The Hima Shillong had strong trade relationship with the Ahom kingdom and records confirmed of the frequent exchange of dignitaries. Two envoys, U Narleng and U Manu Rai were sent to the Ahom Court of Gaurinath in 1784 to discuss trade and border relationship with Raid Dumria (Desh Doomreah) which was also known as Raid Khad-ar Bangthai as there are 12 Bangthai (Clan Chiefs) of the Amri Karbi tribe, who are the indigenous inhabitants. Two years later, another large emissary visit was received by the Bar Phukan at Bharalumukh (Kamrup M, Assam) on the 17th April, 1786 (Bareh, 1967 reprint). The Basan and Syiem Shillong travelled extensively by elephants all over Raid Dumria (Desh Demoreah) to interact with the subjects and usually halted at the residence of the Recho Dumura (Chief of Desh Demoreah). A massive monolith was erected by past Syiem of Hima Shillong at Noakuchi (Nakuchi village, Khetri, Kamrup (M) District, Assam) to commemorate the goodwill rapport with the Ahom Swargadeo (King). On 26th December, 2017, the Administrative Body of Nakuchi Village handed over the plot of land to the Hima Mylliem for development of the surrounding areas around the monolith. 

A Monolith at Noakuchi (Nakuchi village, Khetri, Kamrup (M) District, Assam)

When the colonial British took administrative control of Assam, they deliberately collected revenues from Raid Dumria (Desh Demoreah) as well, fully aware that it was under the Hima Shillong. Immediately, on getting information, Bor Manik Syiem along with the Basan Nongkseh went down to Raid Dumria (Desh Demoreah) on March 1828 to seize the illegal revenues collected. A year later, in 1829 the British began to claims Borduar (Barduar, Assam) of Hima Nongkhlaw lying to the West of Guwahati. These two incidences led Tirot Sing Syiemlieh, the Syiem of Hima Nongkhlaw and Bor Manik to realize the colonial intention of the British East India Company and with the endorsement of all Khasi Himas (Syiemships), a war to drive away the British from all the Khasi Himas was declared on 1st April, 1829. Unfortunately, while the Anglo- Khasi war was raging on, David Sott, the Agent to the Governor General sent a jemadar (zamindar) to Bor Manik Syiem to convey the intention of the British Government to cease collection of revenue from Raid Dumria (Desh Demoreah) and restored all possessions if he ceased participating in the war. On May 1830, Bor Manik, the aged and simpleminded Syiem (Chief) without informing the Dorbar (Council) hurriedly left to Nongkhlaw, accompanied by only his nephews U Ksan and U Joy Syiem. But on the way he was arrested along with his nephews. In order to secure release, he was required to sign a declaration relinquishing all claims of Raid Dumria (Desh Demoreah) and abdicate in favour of Shan Sing Syiem. Unfortunately while in custody, young Joy Syiem died and the aged Bor Manik Syiem devastated by the cruel incidence decidedly loss all the will to fight (Bareh, 1967).

  However, the Bakhraw(s) of Hima Shillong protested against the forced relinquishments and refused to accept Shan Sing Syiem as the Syiem of Hima Shillong. Ultimately, this led to a civil war known as Thang lieh Thang iong (burn the white-British, and the black) amidst the full rages of Anglo-Khasi war. The Iing Sad of the Syiem Shillong at Nongkseh was razed to the ground by the Lyngdoh of Mylliem and Lyngdoh Nongkrem and it was only through the timely intervention of the Basan Nongkseh that the royal lineage of the Syiem Shillong was kept safe. Shortly after the burning of the Iing Sad, the Basan Swer and Basan Synrem proposed to proclaim themselves as the new rulers of the Hima Shillong at a Dorbar held at Sadew (Sadew village, East Khasi Hills). While the frenzied crowd shouted in support of the proposal, the Basan Nongkseh with his supporters stood up and thundered “Why should we elect the Syiem-briew (people-Syiem) when we have the Syiem-blei (Gods-Syiem) who is still alive”. With this revelation, the Dorbar abruptly ended and the Basan Swer dejected by the disclosure defected to Hima Sohra while the Basan Synrem moved to Shella and remained anonymous up to this day (Giri,2012). 

  Gradually after the war ended in 1833, the Hima Shillong began to slowly disintegrated and following a report by AJM Mills it was finally bifurcated into Hima Mylliem and Khyrim in 1853 (Giri, 2012). The Basan Nongkseh and the Basan Nongumlong choose to remain with the Hima Mylliem but continue to be an integral part of the Hima Khyrim in religious traditions associated with the Syiem Hima Shillong. The Lyngdoh Mylliem went to the Hima Mylliem while Lyngdoh Nongbri and Lyngdoh Nongkrem remained in the Hima Khyrim. But owing to the past complication at Nongkseh, the Lyngdoh Nongkrem was not allowed to partake of traditional sacrifices. To this day, a wooden pillar (Rishot Sawkher) is kept at the front of the Iing Sad at Smit, East Khasi Hills in honour of the four Sawkher/Basan, the Founders of the Hima Shillong.

  After, the bifurcation of the Hima Shillong, Shan Sing Syiem the successor of Bor Manik Syiem had demanded for the restoration of Raid Dumria (Desh Demoreah) wherein Captain F.G. Lister and Captain Jenkins had agreed to it but due to the objection raised by A. Bogle, the Collector of Kamrup District the matter was kept in abeyance.  Although Sir Charles Metcalfe, the then officiating Governor General of India had declined to accept the proposal, he expressed his willingness to approve the arrangement proposed by Captain Jenkins provided that it would not jeopardise the interests and convenience of the occupants (Bareh). 

  Subsequently, when Assam was carved out from Bengal on 6.02.1874, the colonial British instead of restoring Raid Dumria (Desh Demoreah) to the Hima Mylliem tagged it to Kamrup District of Assam vide Notification No.1430 dated 14.09.1876. Since then, there has been periodic demand by the Dorbar (National Council of Amri Karbi) for restitution of the 487.72 Sq.km of Raid Dumria (Desh Demoreah) to the Hima Mylliem usurped from Syiem Bor Manik on the ground that the Syiem alone cannot give away any territory without the approval of the Dorbar (Council). Colonel H. S. Bivar, DC (1874) wrote that, “it has to be observed that the Chiefs in the Khasi Hills States are no territorial sovereigns, but elected democratic Chiefs and that they have no rights whatsoever in the soil.” Sir K. Cantlie observed, “The Jaintia Rajas like the Khasi Chiefs (Syiem) are not territorial sovereigns but democratic Chiefs, whose authority is over the subjects and not over the lands, properly speaking they cannot assert territorial limits, but their jurisdiction extends over villages and the boundaries of such localities constitute the confines of their respective rule (Cantlie, 1934).


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