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Economy of Manipur during Burmese rule in 17th Century

RS Ning *

During 17th century Manipur was under the rule of Myanmar (Burma) for a period of about seven years. The period was very short but the change of the socio-economy of the erstwhile Kingdom was significant.

Politically the erstwhile Manipur Kingdom was devastated, but economically there was a symbol of prosperity. The significant development during the period may be mentioned on the following aspects.

  • There was a change in the agricultural system.
  • New black scented variety was widely cultivated in Manipur valley.
  • Board Mustard leave (Kabo Hangam) was cultivated.
  • Floating rice for low lying areas was started for large scale cultivation.
  • The use of boat and waterway development along the rivers were significant.
  • Construction of earthen dams (Awapally) for rural road cum waterways were developed.
  • The use of buffaloes in agriculture was started and a number of improved seeds of Pulses, Nut, Rice, Maize, Sesame and Turmeric. etc. were introduced in the State.
  • The development of fruit and vegetable sector by introducing new variety of Mango, Tamarine, Papaya, Wing Bean and many other edible beans were also cultivated from the migrated seeds of Myanmar.
  • The handloom and handicraft goods from Manipur was the major items marketed from Manipur to Myanmar.
  • The people of Manipur was employed in Myanmar in the sector of carpentry, blacksmith and goldsmith.
  • Iron produced from adjoining area was the most valuable, item purcrhased by the Burmese.
  • Gold, precious stones, sandalwood, medicinal plants and medicinal animal products were imported in Manipur.
  • After harvesting Manipuris collected semi-industrial goods of brass and copper from Dhaka and exchanged to Myanmar with gold, Agar woods and other animals and animal products for the demand of the Manipuris and the Dhaka and sythel people.
  • Large scale colour (pink) cotton was developed in Manipur's Chandel and Ukhrul districts for the export of the cotton goods and cotton yarn to Myanmar.
The people of Myanmar being Buddhist there was an environment of peace and honesty among the people. Theft and robbery was unknown.

There was a mark development of Buddhist culture by large scale plantation of banayan tree all over the roadside as a symbol of peace.

Manipuri people collected a large number of gold, precious stones, Agarwoods, etc, from Myanmar as an exchange of skill and knowledge for construction of houses, bullock carts and fisher net, etc.

There was no political freedom but the economic freedom of the people was not restricted during the period.

Historically, the people of Myanmar bordering to Manipur was backward in Agriculture. Irrigated system of fanning with the use of buffaloes was started in the Chindwin river valley during 17th century.

That was a major transfer of Agriculture Technology from Manipur to Myanmar. Again the technology of the production silk yarn from cocoons was transfer to Manipur for Myanmar. But the silk products from Manipur was exported again to the Bangladesh (Dhaka) and mainland India.

The relationship of India and Myanmar will be a revival of the prosperous history of the south Asian region.




* RS Ning wrote this article for The Sangai Expres . This article was webcasted on October 17, 2008.

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