Dimapur: Recollections of a brick metropolis

On the banks of the Dhansiri River sprawls a metropolis that’s the cosmopolitan and industrial coronary heart of Nagaland as we speak. The ruins that dot its panorama, amongst them a set of mysterious mushroom-domed pillars, are testomony to an equally distinguished previous. Dimapur was as soon as the seat of the Dimasa kingdom, additionally known as Cachar, which was established by the Dimasa Kachari folks and dominated components of the Brahmaputra valley from at the least the thirteenth century — the time of the earliest out there written information, though Dimasa rule in Dimapur could return so far as the tenth century, in keeping with historian Uttam Bathari — to the Nineteenth, when it was annexed to British India.

There are two accounts of the best way during which Dimapur acquired its title. Most students are of the opinion that it’s derived from the Dimasa Kachari phrases
di (water) and
ma (giant) — referring to the Dhansiri — and Sanskrit
pura (metropolis). Others are of the view that Dimapur is a corruption of ‘Hidimbapur’, which means town of Hidimbi, a personality within the
Mahabharata who married the Pandava prince Bhima and gave beginning to Ghatotkacha, believed to be the progenitor of the Kacharis. In the meantime, different accounts usually confer with the ‘brick metropolis’. As an example, within the Ahom chronicles, Dimapur is known as the
Che-din-chi-pen (town-earth-burn-make) which means ‘brick city’.

The Kacharis have been described as “the unique autochthones of Assam”. S.Ok. Bhuyan in
Kachari Buranji writes that they constructed political and administrative items, vestiges of which have lingered until this present day. Captain Thomas Fisher, the primary superintendent of Cachar after the dominion’s annexation by the British in 1832, stated the Kacharis had steadily constructed an empire over Assam, Sylhet, Mymensing, and the valleys to the east of the Brahmaputra, their authentic seat being at Kamrup; and that their rule finally embraced all the pieces from Kamrup all the way down to the ocean.

A brick archway within the metropolis.

Far and vast

Evidently, the Kacharis have been broadly distributed and exercised their sovereignty all through Assam in numerous ages, with completely different names and somewhere else. In keeping with Bhuyan, the dominion of Cachar dominated by Tamradhwaj Narayan, a recent of the Ahom king Swargadeo Rudra Singh within the early 18th century, and by Govinda Chandra on the time of the British occupation, was solely one among quite a few states based by the Kachari folks.

Dimapur, which was the capital of the dominion from the thirteenth century to the sixteenth, was initially enclosed on three sides by a brick wall 4 toes vast, 16 toes excessive and two miles lengthy, surrounded by an outer ditch 16 toes in width and 12 toes in depth, besides on the southern facet the place the Dhansiri shaped a pure moat. On the japanese facet, there was a advantageous stable gateway with brick masonry of pointed double arches. The gate was secured by heavy double doorways, the hinges of which have been seated in holes pierced in stable stone blocks. There have been half-quadrant-shaped turrets at each ends of the battlements, and niches like decorative home windows between these turrets and the archway. Excessive up, on both facet of the arch, is a carving of sunflowers that have been initially confronted with brass in order to current a stunning spectacle when seen glowing within the solar from afar.

H.H. Godwin-Austen’s plan of Dimapur.

H.H. Godwin-Austen’s plan of Dimapur.

Watering the fields

Deodhai Ahom Buranji , there are references to the Kacharis establishing tanks and harnessing water from rivers by chopping canals. They made small dams or water channels to divert streams and irrigate their fields. There have been giant numbers of excavated tanks, massive and small, close to settlements and cultivated websites within the Dhansiri valley. These have been used for each agricultural and home functions, the river offering a perennial supply of water. The presence of so many tanks — 52 in all — within the neighborhood of Dimapur signifies that it supported a big inhabitants. The Nineteenth-century surveyor and mountaineer H.H. Godwin-Austen’s plan of town revealed three tanks — one throughout the walled enclosure, and two huge ones exterior. The previous appears to have been for ingesting and the latter for irrigation. One of many main actions of the king was the development of irrigation works, which additionally signifies the existence of an organised workforce below the state that could possibly be deployed for agricultural functions.

The event of crafts like masonry, quarrying, metallic smithing and brick-making, and the architectural edifice, all level to the presence of craft specialists. B.C. Allen in his gazetteer has advised that skinny flat native bricks have been used to construct the monuments, indicating that the Dimasa kings had brickmaking centres of some type. Stone blocks used within the monuments have been procured from the Naga Hills and transported to the capital advanced in elephant carts, which had wood wheels connected to shafts with iron axles. Using brass and iron exhibits that metalwork was pretty developed.

The fifteenth century was characterised because the golden age of Dimasa rule by T. Bloch and E. Gait. It’s one among many epochs and civilisations which have been uncared for and forgotten, due to colonial directors who branded the folks of the north-east as ‘primitives’, ‘savages’ and ‘godless’. This perspective was handed all the way down to Indian students, too, and the area was seen as an remoted frontier with no connection to the cultural continuum of India for a really very long time. I consider it’s excessive time we grew to become the voice for a lot of such unrecognised locations from the previous, and commenced to accord the civilisations of the north-east their place within the historical past of India.

The author is assistant professor, Centre for the Research of Social Techniques, Jawaharlal Nehru College.

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