E-Pao! Manipur - The administrative report of Manipur 1868-69

The Administrative Report of Manipur 1868-69
By:- Usham Dhananjoy Singh *

The Annual Report of the Munnipore Political Agency 1868-69 is a voluminous work. It consists of 159 pages. R Brown the political agent published a book entitled 'Statistical Account of Manipur' in 1873. Its materials were mainly drawn from this annual report.

A few extract from this annual report is reproduced for perusal of general public.

Page 38/39 of the Annual Report deals with Meitei proper. It reads... 'Amongst the Meithei or Munniporie proper population there are four great divisions in their order of seniority as follows:

Laiphum, Kaphum, Ahullup, Naharoop.

These, again, are divided into the following classes, the names of which, with the nature of their employment, I now give:-

Sub-division of classes

  1. Ningthou Selba -- Raja's body and house servants
  2. Leima Selba - Ranee's body and house servants
  3. Maiba Sunglel - Act as Kobiraj or Medical practitioners.
  4. Paga (Pacha) - Court of justice for women.
  5. Pena Kongba - Musicians and singers
  6. Sagong Sung (Sagol sung) - Overseers of the Raja's stable
  7. Samoo Sung - Overseers of elephants.
  8. Arangba - Butlers, look after the food.
  9. Thangja panaba -- overseers of blacksmiths
  10. Boladeb Seina - Overseers of firewood.
  11. Phauroongba - overseers of rice
  12. Toomjaroongba -- overseers of salt
  13. Poogay (Pook-kei) -- charge of money chest
  14. Maiba tal -- Strike of the gongs
  15. Dulai baba (dolai Paba) - Chuprassies and Messengers
  16. Apalba - mounted troops
  17. Sebok Achanba -- Raja's sword bearers
  18. Oosaaba - carpenters
  19. Laurungba - cultivators
  20. Thangjaba - working blacksmiths
  21. Konyoung (Kon-sang) -- Jewellers and workers in brass.
  22. Koodumba -- Bone-setters
  23. Ahaiba -- Metal casters
  24. Sunglel -- cutcherry work.
  25. Sungooba (Shang-khuba) -- Cutcherry work
  26. Lai Kai -- House builders.

Others classes

After the above come the following Phoongnai (a pair of slaves) : This class was formerly slaves of the Raja (according to another account they still are so) who were liberated and fo-rmed into separate class, they chiefly reside at a pla-ce called Tengkul, near the western slope of the hills. They are Munnipories.

Potsungba: These take care of the Raja's property Tengkul act as gardeners etc. They both belong to the Phoongnai.

Ayokpa: Consist of Nagas and other hill-men who have at any time become fugitives and become destitute. They have been settled in the valley by the various Rajas, and supported by them for a time; they are allowed to cultivate one purree of land, and perform lallop as the Munnipories do.

Kei: Slaves of the Raja, and formerly Nagas. They cultivate land chiefly on account of the Raja, each family cultivates two purrees, half of which goes to the Raja, half for their own support. They also have to do their lallop besides like the others; during that time they are chiefly employed in making brooms and baskets for use in the Raja's stables. They number about 200 families.

Loee: The loee is not recognised as a pure Munnipores, they appear to be descendants of the former inhabitants of Moirang one of the original tribes which formerly occupied the valley of the south. They were formerly independent but were reduced ages ago by the Meitheis; hence the name Loee or subdued which was given to them after their subjugation...

Slavery in Munnipore: Another of the institutions of the country which I will now briefly describe is slavery. The name of slavery, however, as it appeals to Europeans ideas, is perhaps too harsh a name for the mild form which is most, if not in all, instances obtains in Munnipore.

Its forms: The slavery which exists in Munnipore may properly be divided into two classes- 1st that in which any one becomes a slave either temporarily or permanently of his own free will, and 2nd when he or she is made a slave forcibly and against the will. Debt is perhaps the most general case of voluntary slavery.

In this case a man in debt will confers his inability to pay and agree to serve his creditor until such time as the debt can be paid, his services thus are credited as interest on the original debt, although it does not follow that the original debt, although it does not follow that the original sum is in all cases taken, a greater or less summary be taken, as may be agreed on.

Men not in debt also becomes slaves for a money consideration of which they may have need, often as they are fed and clothed at their owner's expense, as MC Culloch observes, from 'Sheer Laziness'. Nothing can be said in favour of the system under which people may become slaves not of their own free will.

A not uncommon form of this kind of slavery is that of parents disposing of their children either temporarily or permanently - a fruitful source of immorality. It is said that this is only resorted to in extreme cases, as want of food etc and is looked upon as a disgrace, but this is somewhat doubtful. For certain crimes, people are made slaves.

In cases of theft, when the culprit is caught but the goods not recovered in full, he and his family may be seized and sold until the claim for the stolen goods is recovered.

In cases of debt, when the claim is not settled and no arrangement is made, the debtors and his family may be sized and sold in satisfaction of the debt. In adultery cases, when the claim for damages cannot be realized, the same may happen.

The Raja's slaves number about 1200 or 1500. The classes who are the Raja's slaves are the Ayokpa, Tengkul and Kei. MC Culloch (account page 13) says: 'On a change taking place in the rulers of the country, it was formerly the custom to seize the slaves of those who had held office, and divide them among the adherents of the new ruler.

This practice, when the changes of rulers became so very frequent as it latterly did, was found to entail upon individual more hardships than the worth of the slave. Slaves, therefore, when seized were not distributed amongst adher-ents, but made to work for the Raja under the name of Ayokpa'.

The present Raja has, it is said ordered that slave shall remain, in case of a change of officers, the property of their owners under all circumstances. It usage of slaves do not seem common, they are generally treated as part of the family with whom they reside and do not hesitate to run away when they are ill-treated which creates a scandal and is carefully avoided.

Cases of cruelty do however occur and I have seen one case, that of a woman who had on their person many scars of severe beatings. This case was doubtless exceptional - a showcase in all probability.'

* Usham Dhananjoy Singh wrote this article on The Sangai Express.
This article was webcasted on 10 July 2006.

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