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Ima Keithal’s exact origins remain unclear, scholars believe that the market dates back to the 16th century. Studies suggest that the market’s female-only workforce originated as a result of the enforcement of the Lallup-Kaba, an ancient forced labour system in Manipur that sent men of the Meitei community to cultivate faraway lands and fight wars. The women stayed back in the villages, working in their own paddy fields, taking care of their household and selling their farm produce in improvised markets. This led to the creation of markets where women played a central role, the most important and largest one being the Ima Keithal.
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