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Kiang Nangbah, The Freedom Fighter of JAINTIA People

- Heibormi Sungoh

Kiang Nangbah was a gifted son to the Jaintia People during the British rule in our Land, that is Jaintia  and Khasi Hills. He was born to  Smt Rimai Nangbah from the Sookpoh (Four Clans). The four Clans are,  Wet,  Tein,  Bon, and Doh,  settling in particular  village known as Jwai, near Tpep Pale.  His naming ceremony was performed in his birthplace according to Niamtre religion (the traditional religion of  Jaintia people) derived  his name after long chanting to the creator.   Kiang Nangbah was a child who really loved his lovely Jaintia Hills since his childhood.  He used to sing a country patriotic song, listened the story narrated by the elders about the valoUr of his maternal uncle and his colleagues for defending our Jaintia Kingdom. The best story he had ever listened around the hearth, was about Sajar Nangli, the Army Chief of Jaintia Raja. 

Kiang Nangbah, in his  childhood days  was very interested in traditional sports and Games , like Dat Mooñiaw,(counting point by  overlapping stones), Iahai (Kabaddi),  Archery, Pamwyrngaiñ (swords fighting by using hands), Rah mookhrah (weight lifting), Yaslait (wresling), Dainphlir ( resemble like Cricket). During his young days he was very much interested in playing the flute, traditional drums, Chakudiah  (bamboo musical instrument) and many others  traditional musical instruments. He was very fond of running with high speed, running  up and down the pines hills in vicinity of Jowai village.  He used to take part in social carrying of paddy from the paddy fields to the village organized by his kith and kin. Sometimes there was a competition known as Phetnangsiang, literally means the carrying of paddy from distant paddy fields to the house of the organiser with equal weighing load; and Kiang Nangbah always became the champion of the arena. His father was a blacksmith who made spades, traditional swords, sickles , knives, Axes, swords and shields. Most of his products were exported to Jaintiapur and to different parts of neighboring countries.   His father was popularly known as  woh Wania.   

Jaintia kingdom was owned by the British force in the year 1835 where all the powers of Jaintia Raja came to an end and fell  in the cruel hands of British Government.  In the early stage of its rule the British did not malign the social fabric of Jaintia people; they respected the Administration of the traditional heads, traditional customs and religion.  They solely relied on the traditional rules of 12 Daloi (Daloi  = traditional head) ruling in their respective Elaka.  As the years passed, the administration of British turned from bad. There were many reasons which provoked the Jaintias to stand against the British forces; some of which included,

(i)   The house tax imposed by the British on the Jaintias in 1860.

(ii)  The interference by the British in the religion and rituals of the Jaintias, such as the cremating of the dead, Behdienkhlam Festival, Pastieh Festival and many others.

While the rest of Bharat were wobbling under the shadow of the first war of Independence, popularly known as Sepoy Mutiny 1857, the same bitter experience was also being felt in our Jaintia Hills. 

In 1860 a house tax was imposed and within a few months, the people were in open rebellion. Unfortunately a large force of troops was sent there before the revolt could make any headway. In Jaintia Hills 310 persons were taxed on whom the whole amount assessed was Rs1259. The highest amount levied was Rs 9 per head, and the rest Rs 5 per head.

The most burning issue of the war was the interference of the British at Pastieh of Yalong on Saturday the 21st April 1860 (Muchai market day) in a particular dance platform known as Khliehmyntang, where shields and swords were destroyed and some shields and swords were taken away by the British. The Shad Pastieh is a religious festival performed during late March or early in the month of April. It is performed at different altars located in Raij Yalong such as (i) Kaikso (2) Myntang (3) Kupli (4) Thanglipdang (5) Knein rapati (6) Musko Daloi (7) Blailakroh (8) Moomulang (9) Ha iung u Lyngdoh (in the Priest house) etc. The people could not resist the might of the British Empire equipped with sophisticated arms. The people were irked by the ghastly behavior of the British Army and were totally helpless.

In Jwai the people under the leadership of U Kiang Nangbah, were actively motivating people of the different Kingdoms/Elakas particularly Shangpung Elaka and motivated Kiri Daloi to take initiative for a rebellion against the British Empire. Kiri Daloi convened a meeting of the neighboring Daloi at Iawmuchai (Shangpung market) during Kupli Puja festival, late in the year 1861 where the Daloi of Elaka Mynsoo, Daloi of Elaka Raliang, Daloi of Elaka Nangphyllud and Elders of Khonchnong village under the leadership of Long Suiai and others discussed the suppression by the British. Jwai people played a very active role in convening different regional Durbars to mobilize and revolt against the mighty British force.

The Jaintias held a General meeting at Madiah Kmai Blai, Syntu Ksiar on 15th January 1862 and unanimously elected Kiang Nangbah as the leader of Jaintia force and Kiri Daloi as the spokes person of the Jaintia Durbar, to fight against the British force for their own rights. After the General meeting was over, the Jaintias with their brave hearts began a fierce rebellion and attacked the Jowai Thana where some of the British soldiers were killed and few of them had a narrow escape.

On Monday 20th Janaury 1862 Jaintia people rose in fierce rebellion. This war is popularly known as Thma Jaintia in local Pnar language (which literally means Jaintia rebellion). The wife of Kiri Daloi, Mrs Chyndon Papang narrated the consequences of agitation to Lakhma Sungoh (my grandmother), who told that after exactly two weeks, "The British came here and invaded us at Raliang market day". The Jaintia people burnt the houses of the native Christian in Jowai on the 23rd January 1862 because they were suspected as the informers of the British and also they didn't join the struggle against the British troops.

In Shangpung sector British troops were led by Lieutenant Colonel W. Richardson with the help of Pator of Nangbah and Shangpung people were lead by Kiri Daloi himself on 5th February 1862. Shangpung people fought bravely against the British force with their bows, arrows and muskets to resist the British force. British made their stockade in the western part of Pynthor Umiurem just opposite to the stockade of Shangpung located on the hillock known as Lummukut. The location of the wyrchakor (stockade) is along the banks of river Umiurem, a steep sloping landscape divided by this River, which flows through Shangpung village and joins Kupli River at Testar. Some of the soldiers from both the parties were wounded and even lost their lives during the battle. As per information from Mr Subor Tkhoh Suchiang, the right hand man of Kiri Daloi, eleven persons from Shangpung who were killed during the encounter and Kiri Daloi was among them. Shangpung village was burnt down and the fire raged all through the night. During the incident some old aged and sick persons were burnt alive inside their houses which in-turn traumatised the people of Shangpung. The villagers along with the family of Kiri Daloi were chased out and they fled and hid themselves in the eastern part of the village known as Thlumynchong and Chahong. During their narrow escape many crying babies were thrown away, and some of them died of starvation.

Taxation is another burden added to the tension of people which troubled them and their daily life. The poor people had to pay their taxes using their utensils, ear rings and other domestic items such rice, clothes, etc.

During the cold night of the Thursday 25th December 1862 (Thymblein market day) at 6.30 P.M British force under the leadership of Lieutenant T.R Saddlier and Lieutenant E.W Walcott from Nartiang led an army to Umpara village where Kiang Nangbah and his followers had escaped. They traveled through the night which was a full moon night without using torchlight except in extreme cases and rested during the day.

Umpara is a small village of 12 houses inhabited by Pnar language speaking people locally known as Khyrwang, which is within 8 hrs to 10 hours of walking distance from Mynser. It is located near a small village known as Rymphum village. The British force were given information by Mon Daloi of Nartiang (Bordaloi or the chief of Daloi) and his right hand man Mr Long Sutnga from Nartiang village itself. The route for dynamic operation to Umpara village was guided by Mr Long Sutnga. The British troop and Long Sutnga reached Umpara at 6 A.M early in the morning when almost all the people were still asleep.

The British troop found it a very difficult task to locate the exact house where Kiang Nangbah and his followers are hiding. So the two Lieutenants sent with Long Sutnga to spy out each and every house. Umpara is a small village divided by a road in the middle so; it is easy for Long Sutnga to perform the task of spying. At last Long Sutnga reached in one hut with a snoring sound of many men. Long Sutnga is a Pnar native speaker, and shouted and called the name of Kiang Nangbah and his followers. Kiang Nangbah and his followers awoke on hearing the Pnar language with a sense that it might be their own supportive people.

People inside the house responded to the request of Long Sutnga and opened the door to see him, with an exhausted mood and shivering from cold. Long Sutnga on seeing Kiang Nangbah screamed and called the British and suddenly grasped Kiang Nangbah, but he was thrown away by physically very strong Kiang Nangbah.

The Troop rushed to the spot and Kiang Nangbah quickly took his gun and aimed at the head of Lieutenant T.R Saddlier from a very close range but the gun didn't discharge the flames and bullets. The Lieutenant had a narrow escape in this fraction of a second and he promptly ordered his troop to fire while Kiang was picking up his sword. Kiang was shot in his hand and the British captured and forcefully tied his hands behind his back. The beloved wife of Kiang Nangbah from Challam clan and his two children also were taken along with her.

After the British force had accomplished their goal they ordered the villagers to prepare food for them, supervised by the British people. At first instant the local people rejected the order but they had to do it at the gun point. After they had eaten their launch at Umpara the British force returned back to Nartiang along with the hostages

In the afternoon of the same day (ie 27/12/1862) the British returned back and halted at a Pnar village known as Nonglaket for a night which situated on the way to Nartiang. In the next day ie on (28/12/62) early in the morning they left Nonglaket and reached Nartiang at 8 P.M in the evening and halted at Nartiang with Mon Daloi and Long Sutnga for further work and benefit of the British. The British handed over the wife of Kiang Nangbah and his two children (one male and one female) to Daloi Mon for care taking, but these family of Kiang Nangbah vanished away from the hand of Mon Daloi and Long Sutnga. And early in the morning of the next day (i.e. 29th December 1862), they left Nartiang and reached Jwai at 2 PM in the Evening. U Kiang Nangbah was brought in front of Colonel Dunford and he convicted Kiang Nangbah a final trail with death sentence. 

Jaintia Hills was betrayed by Manik Daloi Pakyntein of Jowai, Mon Daloi of Nartiang and Long Sutnga. The British Government had informed that anyone who could give information about Kiang Nangbah would receive a reward of Rs1000/- and for his follower would be Rs 500/-. This reward of Rs1000/- increased the ambition of Long Sutnga which lead to the incarceration of Kiang Nangbah. For a week, Kiang requested Colonel H.F Dunsford to allow him to meet his wife, children, family, and other important friends, but sir Dunsford rejected his request and hanged him to death on 30th December 1862 (Musiang market day) at 5 P.M in the evening at Úawmusiang, Jwai, Jaintia Hills, Hynniewtrepland, India. Before being hanging he uttered the last words, "If my face turns towards the East- my country will be free within a hundred years and if it turns to the West - we will be slaves forever".

In the present context of modern society, Kiri Daloi and Kiang Nangbah are examples of strong aith in the divine and strong will to fight corruption and exploitation of the under-privileged. Their strong commitment and dedication to the Pnar people are examples of love for the motherland and its people. They will forever remain a source of inspiration, determination for the generations to come. 


(a) From Smt Lakhma Sungoh the granddaughter of Kiri Daloi, Shangpung Jaintia Hills collected in 1986.

(b) From Shri Tokin Rymbai an IAS officer Government of India collected in 1989.

(c)  From Shri Jopthiaw Pariat an independent researcher, Jowai Meghalaya 2012.

(d) From local people from Umpara when i and my friends from Thoohtre cultural and film Society, Jaintia Hills in guidance of Mr Jopthiaw Pariat visited the site on March 2008.

(e) From Don mulieh collected in the year 2000 a Harmuid (traditional drummer) of Raij Yalong and from Mr Lomy Pale.

(f) From the travelling Diary of the Commissioner and Governor General`S Agent, North East Fontier, on special duty in the Cossyah and Jynteeah Hills, from Saturday, 21st March, to Saturday , 4th April 1863, inclusive.

(g) From the North East frontier of India by Alexander Mackenzie published in 1884.

(h) from shri Wellington Pakyntein a noble elder person  from Jowai.

(The author can be reached at heibormis6@gmail.com)