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The Transcendental Role Of Women In Manipur History

Dr. M. C. Arunkumar & Irengbam Arun

8. Unintended Benefit under Lallup System: Gender Empowerment

As in any other Asiatic monarchy, the Manipuri king used to be a despot. All the land would belong to him and his subjects had to pay tax of one kind or the other. The state had two sets of people in the Manipuri kingdom, based on the spatio-historical region: i) the Pana; and ii) the Non-pana. The Pana people had to attend the Lallup but would not pay any tax. Lallup would imply mobilization of labour on a regular fixture, on the lines of the corvee system. In addition, they would render free labour in road construction and maintenance; digging and clearing the river beds, canals; or any other service for the king. And all ablebodied male members of a family were the ones who would attend the lallup. Such mobilization of labour for state service would be implemented at the leikai level. Every ablebodied male had to attend lallup for ten days out of forty days of privacy. No wage whatsoever would be paid, but their family would be exempted from paying any tax to the State. All males, ranging from seventeen to sixty years of personal age, would be liable to lallup. The lallup was administered at the level of the monarchy in terms of four panas: viz. Laipham, Khabam, Ahallup and Naharup.

T. C. Hodson comments about the failure of one person in joining lallup and notes: "If a man did not come to his lallup, he is forfeited one rupee, and for this sum a substitute was hired." 8 Further R. Brown elaborates on the lallup system and one's liability in the event of default:

"On an individual coming of age to perform lallup, he is entitled to cultivate for his support one paree of land, subject to the payment in kind of the tax to the raja. In case of permanent illness or disability, a man under sixty may be excused from labour, but notice must be given and the authorities satisfied of the true nature of the case. In the event of an individual wishing to escape his turn of duty, he must provide a substitute or pay a certain sum, which sum goes to pay for a substitute or may agree to do the extra duty receiving the money and agree to do the extra duty,... There is no lallup for women." 9

As the menfolk of the family would be tied down to their services in the lallup at regular intervals quite naturally the womenfolk could not help but confine themselves in their domestic chores. Thus all adult females would be regularly engaged in various production activities: weaving, blacksmith, fishing, agriculture, kitchen-gardening etc. Moreover most of them would also be engaged in the central market system exclusively for females. In fact, males would not be allowed to go to the market place to buy or sell articles. Such a functional socioeconomic division as between males and females went so far as to assign a distinctive glitz to thew dtatus of women as the mainstay of home, as important as, if not more than that of, males. Above all, these women would also perform their various normal housekeeping chores, in addition to dehusking paddy, bringing up children and nursing aged persons in the household; then of course joint families.

Above all, if any male member in the family would become sick, his counterpart would attend to the sick. As already cited, even the sick man's liability for default from pana would be shouldered by the woman. In addition for such rainy days, a woman was expected to earn one rupee more and keep it in reserve so as to find a man for the substitution of her sick husband in his lallup. Because of these implicit burdens on females under the lallup system, the Manipuri women could not confine herself within the divine parameters set by Imoinu. So as to make both ends meet, women had to come on par with men on these occasions, and they would as well discharge the instrumental role required of them.


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