Purum - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Animal Domestication (i.e., pigs, cows, buffalo, fowl, pigeons, ducks, dogs, and cats) and agriculture are part of the repertoire of Purum subsistence activities, though the latter is by far the most important. It is believed that the Purum economy was at one time largely self-sufficient and village-based (i.e., before the pressure to increase food supply). The availability of land suitable for jhum (slash-and-burn) agriculture was probably one of the motivating factors in the selection of Khulen as a village site. Villages constructed after Khulen were founded in order to secure additional lands for cultivation with the plow. While a typical Purum village will control the lands on the slopes immediately below it, additional land in the valleys and at the base of the hills in the region belongs to the Meitheis, who occupy these areas. Purum agriculturalists lease some of these tracts for the growing of rice, sell their surplus produce to the Meitheis, and purchase additional agricultural land from them. Wet and dry agriculture are practiced by the Purum. The latter was a practice probably adopted from the Meitheis. Among the products grown by the Purum are plantains, sweet potatoes, rice, cotton, taro, gourds, cucumbers, saukri (a local vegetable with bitter leaves), maize, onions, and sesame. Hunting and fishing (by means of traps in addition to the rod and line) are engaged in to a limited extent, but neither is an important part of the Purum cycle of subsistence.

Industrial Arts. With their raw materials obtained from the markets at Imphal, Purum smiths fashion essential tools and weapons (e.g. small hoes, spindles, vessel stands, spear and arrow heads, chisels, and hammers). Some of these items (e.g., plowshares, daos [adzes], etc.) are purchased from the Meitheis. Purum women weave cloth from yarn spun from locally grown cotton. Spinning and weaving are activities engaged in chiefly by women.

Trade. The Meitheis and the markets at Imphal are the sources from which the Purum obtain essential and luxury items. Iron and steel are obtained in the markets at Imphal. High-quality fabric, metal ornaments, and other luxury items are purchased from the Meitheis. The Meitheis are major consumers of agricultural products grown by the Purum.

Division of Labor. Among those activities associated specifically with either gender, men manufacture baskets while women are responsible for the spinning and weaving of cloth, prepare meals, and gather firewood. There are no taboos reinforcing this task specialization. Women are also primarily responsible for the socialization of children. Men and women share agricultural duties.

Land Tenure. Inhabitants of a Purum village select parcels from the jhum land belonging to the village. Individuals are entitled to the use of this land but are not considered in any way to be its owners. Usufructuary rights may be inherited or transferred to another village member. Valley fields, which are owned individually, may be disposed of in any manner deemed appropriate by their owners. Areas that have not already been marked or cleared by others may be selected. There is no attempt at regulating the size or location of these plots by village officials. Once a site has been selected, a portion of it is cleared by the owner and a mark is made on a large tree (by removing part of the bark and attaching a crosspiece of wood in the body of the tree) by the claimant so as to prevent another from staking claim to it. Jhum land is farmed for four years and then allowed to lie fallow for ten years. Land disputes are mediated by village elders.

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