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The Historical, Archaeological, Religious & Cultural Significance Of 'Kangla': The Ancient Citadel Of Manipur

Pandit N.Khelchandra Singh

Related Notes of Interest while on this topic

4. Kangla As A Central Place Market System:

The role of long-distance caravan trade-route in the pre-Christ and early post-Christ years in stimulating political and economic development is yet to be investigated. However one need not fail to see the impact of such caravan trade on redistribution of societal wealth, given the continuous movement of products from the villages towards, say, a series of nodes finally networked by Kangla as a ceremonial center. The apparent micro-diversity rather than macro-scale similarity would further lend credence to the view that such redistribution networking did evolve as a direct impact of the caravan trade.

The simplest inference one can draw from the growing recognition of the fact that village-level markets (much of which might have functioned in barter terms) were neither isolated nor self-sufficient both in the valley and hill segment can be inferred from the fact, for instance, that pottery from Chairel or other southern villages of the valley used to circulate throughout the region in the very ancient period. Naturally there must have been a two-way trade _ for in the return journey the pottery-seller must have ferried back items scarcely found in those villages or nodal centers on the way. Such exchange system of the last millennium or earlier first millennium A.D. can be related to models of the economic role of Kangla central marketplace and other nodal centers, functioning on scarcity-based value differentials.

Although it is not yet possible to demonstrate the presence of other nodal centers which regulated economic exchange, the reorganization of society and creation of redistributive and market institutions to meet societal needs were already under way prior to the creation of the Meitei polity. Apart from these nodal centers frequented by local buyers and sellers, professional pedlars must have apparently circulated with the periodic markets. Above all the central Kangla market place functioned with a record 3,000 women vendors, which was regularly operating day in and day-out, which even the tribal people used to access as Ngais or agents_ other than for paying tributes and annuities to the Meitei king.

Hence a hierarchical market system would seem to have been in place, even if the relevance of itinerant traders and merchants passing the caravan route are discounted on account of their being seasonal or limited to winter months. Add to this the evidences of the economic activities centered around the temples in Kangla and other directional deities and various other localities, where rice, cattle, fruits, areca nuts and leaves, besides clothing and donations used to be offered by the devoted many for the few temple priests and the king. Considering the mobilization of labour and materials for construction of temple, digging of moats, these very temples, Kangla or any of the regional temples and moated centers can be looked upon as storage and redistribution centers.

In addition, the system provided a sanctioned means by which resources _ underutilized land and capital _ be transferred and labour mobilized in the service of the king, perhaps through the local elites. Herein one can discern the local elites cementing political alliances thereby helping towards legitimization of the subordination of one local area to another center by sharing in the giving of gifts in return for social recognition. In the process regional elites themselves evolved so as to become regional satraps through consolidating land management under the authority of regional moated centers and associated temples.

What has wonderstruck any unbiased observer is as to how the pre-Christ years saw in Manipur the introduction of iron and the new pottery-making tradition as per archaeological evidences _ the southeast Asian tradition over to Manipur. Hypothesizing a population density of 50 persons/km2 in the valley during this pre-Christ period the villages must have been fairly self-sufficient in matters of food-supply through rice-planting in diked and plowed fields _ wet rice production. Incidentally all the autochthones and all the enterprising natives, including many from the hills, must have been drawn to such wet rice cultivation as a more remunerative form of economic activity. Groups of Tangkhul workers used to dig trenches and do all the earthwork in valley households during the winter, showing how migratory they used to be. Under such integration-engendering economic role of the Kangla as an institution, some autonomous process of political integration would be powerfully undercurrent.


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