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A review of Prof. Gangmumei`s `Social Chance In Manipur`

By Sanamani Yambem

With all the scholarship and exposure of Prof Kamei one was somewhat surprised to see that the Hinduisation of Manipur is still being termed a Sanskritisation. When Prof. M N Srinivas had coined the term in his Tagore Memorial Lecture at the Columbia University what was implied then is what was popularity known then as the`Yuppies` or the Young andUpwardly Mobile Professionals. Although the young part may had not been considered but the upwardly mobile aspect was definitely an issue.

When the Meities adopted Hinduism, it did not create a separate class of people except perhaps the Bramhins who were ,to use a popular term not `indigenous `. and who would readily accept what the King had accepted.

As prof Kamei himself would admit ,one essential reason why Islam could spread so easily in Eastern India as against the tardy spread of Islam in Northern India ,was essentially the rigidities of the Brahminical being more rigid in North India compared to the Eastern part of the country, which resulted in the large concentration of Muslims in Eastern India leading to the creation of the then East Pakisthan and subsequently Bangladesh.

What Islam offered was equality ,which implies liberty and the choice to worship alongside your king. Adoption of Hinduism did not provide this.To call Manipur`s adoption of Hinduism purely as Sankritisation would not be doing justice to the original meaning of the word. We need to wake up to that.

Despite having adopted Hinduism ,the Hinduism of Manipur is Manipuri Hinduism and not the Hinduism of Tanjavur or say Somnath. The Hinduism of Manipur is Manipuri Hinduism unique in its own way. For while the rituals may be Hindu the customs are definitely are of the pre Hindu era. If there is a death or a child birth even in a Bramhin family , that family is not permitted to enter the temple or perform any ritual. This is exactly the blending of the rituals with the customs.

Yet, having said that Hinduism did not provide any upward mobility , it is about time that a true explaination be looked for rather than simply putting it as Sanskritisation.

Social change follows economic transformation .What one would have expected would be to examine the impact of the introduction of land revenue system in the state. How this had created a new class of petty officials yet,they had exercised tremendous influence n society. The creation of a bureaucracy within a very feudalistic set up. The social implications of the British rule could provide a possible answer.

What needs to be looked into would be the creation of a contractor and trading class in the state . The end of the Second World War in Manipur created a new group of people who had benifitted from the war. Often the question was how to spend the money. Air travel was newly introduced to the state and Calcutta was linked by Kalinga Airlines to Calcutta. Apart from the officials who were the people who travelled by air and for what.

My first trip was in the year 1955 when I travelled to Calcutta when I accompanied my parents. The aircraft was a Dakota (the famous DC-3) and the first stop was at Silchar followed by Agartala. That was purely pleasure trip. But there were others who went to Cal to cut a disc at the studios of His Masters Voice.

There were the book stores such as the Students Store and Book land . They have to travel to Cal to print their books or buy paper and ink. The emergence of a new class of entrepreneur need to be examined if we are to study social change.

We need to read the lyrics of the songs recorded in the immediate post war Manipur. The dress code, the shoes they wore and the cigarettes they smoked all these are manifestations of social change.

None of these aspects have been touched upon.

I wish Prof Gangmumei had given some insight as to why Manipur was let as a princely state and not as a part of British India. For when we examine the pattern of investment, particularly the railway network we see that while British India Assam had a railway line from Lumding to Badarpur to Silchar laid in early 20th Century Manipur is yet to have a rail line in the21st century.

Social change as reflected in the dress code , in the music , the plays , and also other forms of expression should have been looked into for a better appreciation of social change. One must ,however admit that the article has been well documented ,but not well analyzed. The treatment of the arrival and spread of Christainity deserves praise.

As an old friend ,nevertheless it is always a pleasure to read Gangmumei.



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