ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Polity, Policy, and the Economy of Salt in Manipur circa 1826–1947

While the traditional production of spherical flat salt chunks through the evaporation of saline water from salt wells dates back to the ancient history of Manipur, notions of salt monopolies and salt as a revenue source evolved during the colonial period in Manipur. The British became involved in local politics and took control of the fiscal policy of the state. Under them, the quantum of salt produced reduced, and salt production itself became more expensive. This paper studies how British business practices, and, later on, an uninterested state government, caused the self-reliant salt economy to become a dependent one.

 

The traditional production of circular, flat salt chunks dates back to the ancient history of Manipur. Saline water from salt wells was evaporated to manufacture spherical salt slabs. Some salt was kept for domestic consumption, and the remainder, surplus amount was sold in local markets.

In Manipur, salt was scarce but a necessity. It had a high barter rate and so was a highly valued commodity. It is still used for medicinal purposes and for social and religious occasions. In addition to agricultural land and royal cloths, a salt cake was one of the three honourable gifts or rewards that the king of Manipur offered a person for their distinguished performance. Traditionally, menstruating women and royal family members were barred from visiting salt wells as it was considered unlucky. So, kings always sent their subordinate officials and nobles to the salt wells (Haokip 2019: 248, 250).

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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