GUWAHATI, Jan 7 – In a development that may have immense significance for the tea industry of the country, one of the first two tea estates set up by Maniram Dewan has now been discovered. This discovery has been made by Dr Pradip Baruah of the Tocklai Experimental Station of the Tea Research Association. Maniram Dewan was the first Indian commercial tea planter.
Dewan established the Cinnamara TE at Jorhat and Senglung TE near Suffry, Sonari, around 169 years back, in 1845. However, the Senglung TE of Maniram Dewan, who is regarded to be the first martyr of the Indian tea industry, remained a myth so far. There was virtually no recorded evidence of the existence of this historic TE. However, Cinnamara is still a vibrant TE.
Tea expert Dr Pradip Baruah, who is undertaking a research on Assam tea on behalf of the NGO ‘TEAVISION,’ for a documentary on Assam tea, discovered the remnants of the Senglung TE on January 4 this year, while conducting a survey in the Sonari area. He was accompanied by Abir Sharma, manager, Suffry Tea Estate, Luis, garden moharar, Dewan, garden sirdar and Kamal, garden worker. M P Sharma, General Manager, Singlo Division of the Apeejay Tea Group, offered assistance to the team in this venture.
The team discovered the site of the Senglung TE on a hilly area on the Assam-Nagaland border, along with the wild tea plants, suggestive of the tea plants planted by Dewan.
Tea plants were discovered in their wild state in the Upper Assam areas in 1823. It is believed by many people that Maniram Dewan was the man who in fact informed Major Robert Bruce about the existence of wild tea plants in Assam and he might have even introduced Beesa Gaum, head of the Singpho tribe, to Major Robert Bruce.
Dr Baruah said there were only three private tea gardens in the undivided Sibsagar (now Sivasagar) district till 1852. Of them, two belonged to Maniram Dewan, while the third belonged to Mornay, an Englishman.
Maniram Dewan became a successful tea planter and records state that in 1853, Cinnamara garden comprised of 270 acres of land. It had about 200 acres of tea in full bearing with about 100 acres covered by plantation in 1854 and covering another 100 acres in 1855.
There were about 143 acres of young tea plants planted in 1856 and 1857. The 200 acres of mature tea produced a crop of 45,000 pounds in 1857, which increased to 70,000 pounds in 1858. However, crop and area record of Senglung garden are not available, said Dr Baruah, the author of the widely acclaimed ‘The Tea Industry of Assam: Origin and Development’ and the popular encyclopaedic book on Assam tea, ‘Chitra Bichitra Asom.’