E-Pao! Manipur - Chieftainship among the Meiteis & Mizos - 7

Chieftainship among the Meiteis & Mizos
- Part 7 -

By: Dr. (Mrs.) Priyadarshni M Gangte *

In those days, the King administered his country with a system called ‘Lallup’ under which system the entire Meitei population was divided into Pannas, each Panna consisting of a number of families and tribes.

The head of each family or tribe would select from his family or tribe the men who could render service, called ‘Lallup’, to the King on behalf of the Panna to which they belonged.

This system, according to Cheitharol Kumbaba, was in practice since the reign of King Loyumba (Ibid, p.294). It was pivot of the Government Machinery of the early Manipur.

Lallup was abolished on September 29, 1892, the day of coronation of Sir Churachand Singh, which was substituted by an annual tax of Rs. 3/- per house. Besides Lallup, there existed another system which assigned work allocation to each of ‘Seven Salais’.

Such similar systems existed in other primitive communities as well. This system is called ‘Yumnak Mashin’. Khelchandra pointed out that another ‘text’ known as ‘Mashin’ has been added by the Editor of the published text.

Added to this it is observed (Gangmumei Kabui: A Note on “Loyumba Shinyen” (1110 A.D.) : (The First Written Constitution of Manipur): Manipur Past and Present, Vol.I, 1988; p.307) that ‘Loyumba Shinyen’ had been mixed up together with ‘Mashin’ in ‘Loina Shinyen’,( O. Bhogeshwar Singh : Loina Shinyen, 1967, Imphal) and further observed that despite a little confusion, ‘Loyumba Shinyen’ and ‘Mashin’, if read together, give a mine of information on the social and economic history of Manipur.

In the Lallup system, the male adult selected to render service to the King attends royal office, while the ‘Yumnak Mashin’ attends to the work assigned to each ‘Yumnak’.

Thus, all the ‘Yumnaks’ of the seven Salais played their respective roles as assigned for specific work in the life and well-being of their society (M. Ibohal, M.J.S.:Op cit; p.294).

The names of Yumnaks or assigned surnames of each of the Salai are given below (T.C. Hudson : The Meitheis, Neeraj Publishing House, Delhi, 1984, Reprint).:
Salai Yumnak

  1. Angom 74
  2. Ningthouja.... 131
  3. Luwang 69
  4. Khuman 111
  5. Moirang 80
  6. Khaba Nganba 23
  7. Sarang-Leishangthem .... 50
Incidentally, ‘Salai’ is derived from ‘Sagei-Lai’, ancestor of Lineage. Salai has been described by many as clan. Perhaps, this is not exactly so. S.N. Pratt (Religion in Manipur) traces the origin of the Salai to a tribal ancestor (Gangmumei Kabui : Social and Religious Reform Movement in Manipur in 19th and 20th Centuries:, Bulletin of History Div., JNU, Imphal 1974-75.)

In this system, there was a branch office called ‘Khundin’. This office looked after the men liable to ‘Lallup’ so that they performed their work well. The jurisdiction covers the whole State dividing into Pannas.

In times of peace it worked for economic development of the State and in times of war it did military services. The liability to Lallup commences as soon as a man attains the age of seventeen when he also is entitled to cultivate one part of the land with tax in kind imposed by the King or Raja.

It is a royal edict (Constitution) and is an important historical document for the reconstruction of the social, judiciary, political and economic history of Manipur.

It is also the first written Constitution of Manipur as promulgated by Meidingu Loyumba during his reign from 1074 to 1112 A.D.( Cheitharol Kumbaba, p.4) and that the decree was issued reliably in 1110 A.D., according to Chei-tharol Kumbaba. (N. Khelchandra Singh : Ariba Manipuri Sahitya Itihas, 1969, Imphal).

The Constitution was in force with some modifications from time to time, codifying “...the ancient customary laws of Manipur. It embodied the traditions and customs that were followed by the Kings who reigned before Meidingu Loyumba”, incorporating features, such as, the early Meitei polity, the land tenure system, the administration of justice and social organisation, “... besides throwing sidelights on various aspects of life.

The Constitution also embodied both theological and legal norms” (M. Ibohal, M.J.S.: op. cit; p.295) Whatever the King ordered was obediently complied with and followed by his subjects as if that was law provided, of course, without elements of disregard to traditions and customs that were then prevailing and that the form of Government as laid down in the Constitution was absolute Monarchy based on Theocracy.

Loyumba Shinyen was expanded further as innovative dimensions were added by the kings to effectively deal with such emerging situations during the reigns of Kyamba from 1467 to 1508, Khagemba from 1597 to 1652, Garib Niwas from 1704 to 1748, Bhagyachandra from 1763 to 1798 and Chourjit from 1803 to 1813.

This expanded original text of the decree of Loyumba was published in 1975 (Khulem Chandrasekhar Singh : ‘Loyumba Shinyen’ published by All Manipur Umanglai Lai-haraoba Committee, 1975, Imphal; pp. 16-27).

The decree deals with the distribution of occupation according to Yumnaks, assignment of duties to priests and priestesses, assignment of works for maintenance of abode of Village deities (Umanglais), creation of administrative departments (Loisang), duties and functions of Kings and Queens, royal etiquettes, titles and decorations awarded to the nobles, administration of justice, keeping of standard time.

It was expanded also to include royal painters, court singers, procedures for delivery of royal children, feudal dues and services to be rendered by different tribes, etc.

Land Revenue : It was one of the main sources of royal incomes. Land records for which duties in cash were prepared and collected at the rate of hundred coins per PARI of land.

As for virgin lands, reclaimed for cultivation were also subject to payment of revenue at the rate of five hundred coins per PARI of land. Revenue in kind at the rate of sixty pots of paddy per PARI was exacted in case of unauthorized reclamation ( M. Ibohal, M.J.S. op. cit, p.295).

Administration of Justice: The principles of criminal laws were very severe. Cattle-theft was punishable with mutation of the legs. Burglary was punished with mutation of the hands.

Giving of false statement and false accusation were punished with deprivation of tongue. Indecency towards the queen or King was punished with deprivation of the eyes ( M. Ibohal, M.J.S. op. cit, p.296).

Services of Pana : There were eight Panas under Meidingu Loyumba (Cheitharol Kumbaba : p.8).

They were –
  1. Khongchalup,
  2. Nongmaillup,
  3. Angoubalup,
  4. Leichol-Lakpa,
  5. Tolongkhombalup,
  6. Khurailup,
  7. Lipphambalup and
  8. Khangjenglup.

Related Articles:

to be continued ..

* Dr. (Mrs.) Priyadarshni M Gangte wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on February 19 , 2008 .

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