Alcoves Gallery

Alcove 1 – Sacred Grove, Mawphlang

The Sacred Forest, located in Mawphlang of East Khasi Hills District, is the most celebrated forest-groves of Meghalaya. Held sacred by Jaintias, the Sacred Forest is a deep insight into Khasi history and religious beliefs. Its total area is 100 sq. km.

The State of Meghalaya is basically an agricultural State. It has a total geographical area of 22,429 sq. km. The total estimated forest area of the State is 8,514 sq. km. of which only 722.36 sq. km. are directly under the control of the State Forest Department. The remaining areas are managed by the respective District Councils of Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills as per provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India. Except the reserved forest areas and protected forests in and around Shillong (being managed by the department in arrangement with the District Councils), the rest of the forest areas are subjected to the primitive agricultural practice of shifting cultivation or slash and burn method especially in Garo Hills. However, there are few pockets of undisturbed natural forests still in existence, comprising about 1000 sq. km. being protected by the tribal as ‘Sacred Groves’. Essentially, they are located in strategic watersheds and still play an important role.


Music is integral to the Khasis’ life, and whatever it lacks in formal sophistication of established schools and forms of music, it makes up in purity, beauty and a certain complexity in skilful rendering. Music is everything in a Khasi Life – every festival and ceremony from birth to death is enriched with music and dance. One can hear natural sounds enmeshed in the songs – the hum of bees, bird calls, the call of a wild animal, and the gurgling of a stream.

One of the basic forms of Khasi music is the ‘phawar’, which is more of a “chant” than a song, and are often composed on the spot, impromptu, to suit the occasion. Other forms of song include ballads & verses on the past, the exploits of legendary heroes, and laments for martyrs. Khasi musical instruments (Ksing Shynrang, Ksing Kynthei) are also interesting because they support the song and the dance. Flutes and Drums of various types are used. The ubiquitous Drum takes on the most prolific role. Drums not only provide the beat for the festival, they are used to ‘invite’ people to the event.

“Tangmuri” (a kind of flageolet); “Shaw Shaw” (Cymbals); Percussion instruments of various types, including the “Nakra” (Big Drum) and “Ksing Padiah” (small drum); the “Besli” (flute for “solo” recitals) and a variety of other wind instruments like “Sharati”, “Shyngwiang” (used for different occasions, sad or joyous); the “Duitara” (a stringed instrument played by striking the strings with a wooden pick), [Dymphong-Reeds of Bamboos].Today, the “Spanish Guitar” is more popular and is widely used for festive occasions as well as for general entertainment.


The Khasis speaks a Mon-Khmer language. Khasi is believed to form a link between related languages in central India and the Mon-Khmer languages of Southeast Asia. While dialectal variation may be noted within different Villages, the major Khasi dialects are Khasi, Jaintia, Lyngngam, and War.

There is a distinct similarity between the Khasi language and the Mon Khmer-Palaung dialects prevailing in Burma and Indo-China. The earliest written literary reference to the Khasis is to be found in Sankardeva’s Assamese paraphrase of Bhagavata Purana composed around A.D. 1500. However, in various Sanskrit sources, notably the chronicle of Kashmir i.e. Rajatarangini, reference is made to a hill people called the Khasis. Those people dwelt chiefly in the mountains of Southern Kashmir where the descendants are to be found to this day.

Khasi is an Austro-Asiatic language spoken primarily in Meghalaya state in India. Khasi is part of the Khasi-Khmuic group of languages, and is distantly related to the Munda branch of the Austroasiatic family, which is found in east-central India. Although most of the 865,000 Khasi speakers are found in Meghalaya state, the language is also spoken by a number of people in the hill districts of Assam bordering Meghalaya and by a sizable population of people living in Bangladesh, close to the Indian border.

The Mon-Khmer languages are the autochthonous language family of Southeast Asia. Together with the Munda languages of India, they are one of the two traditional primary branches of the Austroasiatic family. However, several recent classifications have abandoned this dichotomy, either reducing the scope of Mon-Khmer (Diffloth, 2005) or breaking it up entirely (or equivalently reclassifying Munda as a branch of Mon-Khmer: Peiros 1998).


The Sacred Forest, located in Mawphlang of East Khasi Hills District, is the most celebrated forest-groves of Meghalaya. Held sacred by Jaintias, Sacred Forest is a deep insight into Khasi history and religious beliefs. Its total area is 100 sq. km.


Traditional dress: The traditional Khasi male dress is Jymphong or a longish sleeveless coat without collar, fastened by thongs in front. Now, the Khasis have adopted western dress. On ceremonial occasions, they appear in ‘Jymphong’ and dhoti with an ornamental waist-band.

The Khasi traditional female dress is called a Jainsem or a Dhara, which are rather elaborate with several pieces of cloth, giving the body a cylindrical shape. On ceremonial occasions, they wear a crown of silver or gold on the head. A spike or peak is fixed to the back of the crown, corresponding to the feathers worn by the menfolk. The Jainsem consists of two pieces of material fastened at each shoulder. The Dhara consists of a single piece of material also fastened at each shoulder.

Female Dancers: Cloth draped from waist to ankle (Ka Jingpim Shad). Full sleeve blouse with lacework at the neck (Ka Sopti Mukmor). Two rectangular pieces of gold-thread embroidered cloth, pinned crosswise at the shoulders, overlapping each other (Ka Dhara Rong Ksiar). Necklace made of red coral and foil-covered beads in parallel strings (U Kpieng Paila). Golden ear-rings (Ki Sohshkor Ksier). A gold or silver crown with a braid of very fine silver threads in the back that falls past the waist, often adorned with fresh flowers (Kapangsngiet Ksiar Ne Rupa). Large silver armlets on both arms (Ki Mahu), golden wristlets or bracelets (Kikhadu Ne Ki Syngkha). Semi-circular collar of gold/silver plate tied with a thread around the neck. A silver chain worn round the neck (U Kynjiri Tabah). Handkerchiefs tied to both hands to wipe perspiration off face and forehead (Ki Rumal Rit).

Male Dancers: Male Festive Regalia. Beautiful golden silk turban (Ka Jain spong Khor). Semi-circular collar of gold/silver plate tied round the neck (U Shanryndang). An 18-inch long ‘plume ‘stuck in the turban (U Thuia). A richly embroidered sleeveless jacket (Ka Jympang). A silver chain worn across the shoulders (U Taban). Silver ‘quiver’ with silver ‘arrows’ tied to the waist and an animal tail dangling from the end (Ka Ryngkap). A silver-mesh belt at the waist to cover the cord of the quiver (U Parnpoh Syngkai). Maroon silk cloth worn like a ‘dhoti’ (Ka Jainboh). A whisk (U Symphiah). A ceremonial sword (Ka Waitlam) and a Handkerchief (Ka Rumar).


Cultivation is the major Khasi subsistence activity and the family farm (managed by a single family with or without the assistance of outside labor) is the basic operating unit in crop production. The Khasi are multi-occupational and their economy is market-based. Marketing societies exist to facilitate trade and to provide aid in times of personal need. Crops are produced for consumption and trade. There are four types of land utilized for cultivation: forest; wet paddy land (hali or pynthor); homestead land (ka ‘dew kyper); and high grass land (ka ri lum or ka ri phlang).

The Khasi also engage in other subsistence activities such as fishing (by poisoning or with rod and line), bird snaring (quail, partridge, lapwings, coots, and wild geese), hunting (deer, wild dogs, wolves, bears, leopards, and tigers), and the raising of goats (for sacrifice), cattle (cows and oxen for manure, field cultivation, and dairy products), pigs, dogs, and hens (for sacrifice), chickens and ducks (largely for eggs), and bees (for larvae, wax, and honey).


Women here are very fortunate as they are treated equal to their male counterparts, but the head of the family is always the father. In this society the question of illegitimate child, child abandoning, dowry and bride burning are unknown. Offsprings, whether male or female, are treated alike. On the whole, the society is unique. Women are the property holders and keepers of the family purse and other movable and immovable properties.

In a matrilineal society, marriage is strictly exogamous i.e. outside the clan (Kur). There cannot be a greater sin than a coition between members of the Kurs. Women in Khasi & Jaintia society are accorded high respect. At home, women take care of the nursing and rearing of the children, supervision of domestic activities, attending to the sick aged parents and other relatives in distress. This is the duty of the youngest daughter in both Khasi and Jaintia families. The women folk are very sociable. This is reflected in the structural pattern of their socio-political system, which by itself formed a social organisation from the family unit to the Hima or State. There is no caste or class system and women are free to participate in any social activities.

The women are hard working, contributing in many respects to the family income by lending a helping hand in different economic activities. With the spread of education, women have taken jobs in govt. offices, many working as engineers, doctors, teachers of colleges and universities and are known for their sincerity and proficiency. One unique feature of the society is that the man has a dual crown, being an uncle in his sister’s house and a father to his children. The fact that the ancestral property is vested with the mother could be a mistake to suppose that the father is nobody in the Khasi-Jaintia society. The father has a strong position in his wife’s house as well as at his mother’s house.

The women have never been under the shadow of their men. The fame of Ka Latympang and Ka Pring Sariang, the queens of the Jaintia are well known. Many women folk stood up for elections and make known their presence. As early as 1937 we had a woman MP, Miss. Mavis Dunn Lyngdoh. In 1952, Mrs. B. Khongmen became an MP, now people like Mrs. R.Warjri, Mrs. M. War are MLA’s. Women like Mrs. M.R. Kyndiah a Jaintia woman, Phidalia Toi, Probity Nongpluh social activist, and others have stood for elections. Prominent entrepreneurs like Mrs. Dolly Khonglah, Mrs. M.J. Passah, Mrs. Edwina Lyngdoh, Mrs. Obilet Tariang and many more are coming up as successful business women.

As Panchayati Raj does not exist in the Khasi-Jaintia society, the 73rd Amendment leaves the woman untouched. As majority leaders in the political scenario are men, women need no special reservation for Assembly seats, as they are vested with enough power under the matrilineal system. Women do not sit idle; they make their voices heard. Recently, Probity Nongpluh, a social activist won a case in the Gauhati High Court seeking one-third reservation for women in Municipal polls. The matter is still pending in the Supreme Court.

In the Bodo Language Ba means five and thou means deep. Five is a significant number in the Bathou religion.

In Meghalaya, all decision-making bodies are male dominated, where all major decisions are in the hands of men. Therefore, real improvement can only happen when the patriarchal mindset of these bodies is reversed. It is only the inclusion of women in decision-making process which will enable a change in attitudes in a far more effective manner than any legislation and amendments. The society will move forward if there is an equal partnership between men and women.


The Khasi are monotheistic. They do, however, invoke God by various names according to the need of the moment, as God has all the attributes of goodness and all the power to do well. So they call him “lei long spah”. The Khasis are now mostly Christians. But before that, they believed in a Supreme Being, The Creator – U Blei Nongthaw and under Him, there were several deities of water and of mountains and also of other natural objects.

Marital System

The Khasis have a matrilineal and Matrilocal society. Descent is traced through the mother, but the father plays an important role in the material, mental life of the family and social welfare. According to Khasi laws, a woman cannot be forced into marriage, she owns the children and properties. In Khasi tradition, the youngest daughter will also inherit the property. A woman may end a marriage at her will with no objection from her husband. The Khasi have an unusual dedication towards matrilineal customs, most notably similar to the Minangkabaus. Marriage within a clan is a taboo. Rings or betel-nut bags are exchanged between the bride and the bridegroom to complete the union. In the Christian families, however, marriage is purely a civil contract.

Housing Pattern

A typical Khasi house is a shell-shaped building with three rooms: the Shynghup is a porch for storage; the Nengpei is the centre room for cooking and sitting; and the Rumpei is the inner room for sleeping. The homes of wealthy Khasi are more modern, having iron roofs, chimneys, glass windows, and doors. Some have European-style homes and furniture. A marketplace is located outside a Khasi village (close to memorial stones, by a river or under a group of trees, depending on the region). Within Khasi villages one may find a number of public buildings, Christian churches, and schools.


Traditional food: The staple food of Khasis is rice. They also take fish and meat. Like the other tribes in the Northeast, the Khasis also ferment rice-beer, and make spirit out of rice or millets by distillation. Use of rice-beer is a must for every ceremonial and religious occasion.


The small kingdom of Mawphlang is noted in British Colonial records as early as 1820s. The 18 villages that comprise Mawphlang Lyngdohship are linked through their clan ties within the Khasi cultural community and share a common history in the area that probably dates back at least to the 15th century. According to Mawphlang’s indigenous leaders, their Sacred Forest has been protected since the settlement of the area hundreds of year ago. It is also a sacred cultural location with large stone monoliths around which rituals are performed. Strict community rules ensure that no human interference is allowed within the Sacred Grove, banning any cutting, collection, fires or settlement. Today the forest is managed by the traditional Lyngdoh and the clan heads of the area.

The Sacred Groves of Meghalaya largely fall under the temperate type. This wet temperate forest covering 100 sq. km. is a unique habitat with impressive biodiversity, including 400 tree species, unusual orchids, mushrooms, amphibians and birds. Ancient stone megaliths dedicated to fallen warriors occur throughout the dense forest of oaks, rhododendrons, chestnuts, alder and figs with its prolific variety of epiphytic growth including aroids, piper, ferns allies and orchids. The Sacred Grove of Mawphlang is one of the few still being managed according to traditional beliefs and customs, and where indigenous religious rituals are still performed. Managed by a religious chief (Lyngdoh) and his ministers, together with village headman and clan chiefs, responsibilities for forest protection, fire control, and ritual observances are shared by the local communities.

While East Khasi Hills ranks high among the world’s heaviest rainfall areas, communities now experience extended droughts in the dry season where springs run dry and rivers shrink to trickles. The upper hill slopes of the major highway passing through the site are riddled with pockets of stone quarries. The upper ridges of these quarries are steadily advancing towards the Sacred Grove posing an immediate threat to its existence. The quarrying debris is dumped downhill causing mud-slides during the rainy season, generating heavy sedimentation in the ponds and streams that destroys all aquatic life including rare amphibians.

The Sacred Grove is not only beautiful to look at but at the same time is a storehouse of great natural diversity. Therefore, it is now our utmost duty to look into its maintenance as well, apart from enjoying its scenic beauty.

Prof J.B. Bhattacharjee has analyzed how the India’s North Eastern region is the homeland of a number of ethnic and cultural groups with different languages, religions, faiths and beliefs and traditions.

The important part of the region is the hilly people by the Indo- Mongoloid tribal groups, while the Indo-Aryan (non-tribal) population is mostly concentrated in the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak valley of Assam and the plain areas of Tripura. The importance of the tribal population is in the hilly areas. The region is the homeland of a number of ethnic and variegated cultural groups with their languages, religions, faiths and beliefs and traditions.

Meghalaya was declared the 21st state of India on 21st January 1972. It united the areas of the Khasi, Jaintia and the Garo Hills under the leadership of Captain Williamson A. Sangma, the State’s first Chief Minister. Meghalaya, approximately 22,429 square kilometers (8,659 square miles) in area, lies between the latitudes 251degree – 265 N and the longitudes 8549- 9252 E. it is bounded by Assam in the North and Eastern and the plains of Bangladesh in the South and West Meghalaya is divided into two main administrative divisions; West and East Meghalaya.

The hilly state of Meghalaya has been termed as ‘a patch of beauty and grace’. It is linked to the Borail Range, an offshoot of the Himalayan Mountains. The sedimentary rocks that characterize Meghalaya’s upper surface protect the hills from being washed away during the violent monsoon. Meghalaya has been a very exciting subject in many respects for pre-historic investigations and research works. The state is divided into four geographical regions; the Northern Slope, the Central upland, the Southern Slope, and the northern and Western Lowlands. The northern Slope has undulating Hills and thick forests with ‘sacred groves’.

At the time of their first contact with the British, the Khasis had organized into 25 principalities. The largest of these principalities were Khyrin, Mulliem, Nongkhlaw, Nongstin and Cherra. Fourteen of them were under constitutional heads called ‘Syiems’, seven were under Sirdars, three under priest- rules called ‘Lyngdohs’ and one actually a confederacy of independent villages Southern Khasi Hills. The offices of Syiems and Lyngdohs have always been hereditary and according to the Khasi usage, succession falls on the eldest son of the previous incumbent’s sister.

Contacts between the British and the Khasis began by the end of the eighteen century. The British’s East India Company had obtained the Diwani of Bengal from the Mughals and began to establish themselves in the plains of Sylhet which lies in the South of the Khasi country. The Khasi Hills, what is now called Meghalaya, lies between the new possession of the British in the plains of Assam and their already occupied areas of Sylhet. David Scott, the agent to the Governor General for the North-East Region, planned to have communication between Sylhet and Guwahati. U Tirot Singh was the Syiem of Nongkhlaw. His predecessor had owned some duars in the plains of Assam which were occupied by the British. Mr. Singh wanted them back. David Scott agreed, he wanted to build a route to link Guwahati with Sylhet through Mr. Singh’s territory.

Shillong is the capital of the present State of Meghalaya, and was the seat of the Government of Assam from 1874 until 1905. Shillong’s picturesque setting and salubrious climate were considered suitable for sanatoriums and holiday homes for British civilians suffering from the sweltering heat of the plains. It was described as a “Mini London”. Cradled in the rain shadows of Shillong peak, flanked by Mawpat Hills in the North and overlooking hum Diengiei further west, Shillong lies in the midst of idyllic surroundings. Before the arrival of the British, from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries, the Jaintia dominated a large number of kingdoms. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Jaintia rule was extended to Sylhet and this marked the beginning of Brahman influence on the Jaintia. By 1860, the British had annexed the entire Jaintia Hills region and imposed taxes on it as a part of British India.

The Khasi States had limited cultural relations before the arrival of the British, characterized in large part by internal warfare between villages and states. The incorporation of the markets at Sylhet into the British colonial economy in 1765 marked the beginning of Khasi subjugation. In 1837, the construction of a road through Nongkhaw State linking Calcutta to the Brahmaputra Valley led to the eventual cessation of Khasi-British hostilities, and by 1862 treaties between the British and all of the Khasi States (allowing Khasi autonomy and freedom from British taxation) were signed. This showed a significant amount of cultural change like an increase in wealth, decline of traditional culture, rise in educational standards, and frequent intermarriage. The Khasis now have their own State, Meghalaya, in which they predominate.


  • Khasi in Bangladesh. (n.d.). Retrieved from Joshua Project
  • Gurdon, Peter. The Khasis.
  • Hussain, Seema (1999). The Week, India. The Week, India. pp. 181.
  • Ahmed, Syed (1994). What do men want. New York Times. pp. 5.
  • Lyndem, Biloris. Role of the Khasi- Jaintia women.
  • Festivals of Meghalaya. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Department of Arts & Culture, Meghalaya:

Alcove 2 – Traditional Weaving

The indigenous handicrafts that in other parts of the country are confined to professional castes were practiced as household industries in the valley of the Brahmaputra. In Assam proper, there is no dearth of raw materials. Every family in Assam proper has looms to meet the requirements of the household. The looms are in fact the centre of domestic economy.

Weaving is done with handlooms. They are of the plainest kind and none of the latest improvements had been introduced. The different local varieties of spinning and weaving had been used in different parts of the province and posted loom used in the plains are different from the hill tribes in which the warp is tied up in split bamboo to the ends of which are fastened a leather strap which passed across the weavers.

The ancient loin loom, seen in the painting, found generally in Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram and some parts of Assam is a typical primitive loom. The dhakbundas of Garo tribe, the breast cloth of the Tripura girls, phenek belt and the longhand of the Naga and Vaishnava ladies of Manipur, and the dance dresses of the Ukhrum Naga girls provide ample testimony to the large variety of fabrics that can be manufactured on this loom. These age-old looms are simple in construction and easy to operate. They are cheap too. They have neither permanent fixtures nor heavy frames and so are easily portable. Apart from these, the greatest advantage that lies with these looms is the unlimited scope that they offer for designing. It is also called the Back Strap loom.

Nearly all types of weaves can be woven in the Loin Loom. The possibilities of weaving pattern in a Loin Loom are unlimited. The weaver sits with a loom fixing the back strap, keeps her legs against the footrest, which is adjustable for keeping the loom in tension.

The weaving in the loin loom is governed by the shedding motion, the picking motion and the beating motion. The healt bar is lifted up with the left hand and the circular bamboo bar is pressed down by right hand simultaneously. Sword is then placed in the shed and kept vertical and the weft is passed from the right side by the right hand by means of the shuttle (a bamboo piece ship containing yarn) and picked up by left hand. The weft is then beaten up by the sword. The sword is then taken out and the center shed is produced through which the shuttle is passed by the left hand and is picked up by the right hand. The sword is then again placed to beat the weft. The process is repeated. When the weaving just begins, the two-bamboo splits work as the first weft. This is the technique of plain weave of one up and one down and the process is continued until any pattern is woven.

The main distinctions between tribal weaving and village or city weaving:

1) The weaver and the designer are usually the same person.
2) Designs are usually woven from memory and passed down from one generation to the next.
3) The weavings are usually made for use by the weaver or by the tribe to which she belongs.
4) Weavings often have a practical function as well as an aesthetic one.


The culture of the Bodo people in Assam is influenced by the land where they currently live. For a long time, Bodos have been farmers, with a strong tradition of fishing, keeping poultry, piggery, rice and jute cultivation, and betel nut plantation. The Bodos also cultivate mustard and corn. They make their own traditional attire. In recent decades, they have been influenced by social reforms under Brahma Dharma, Assamese Sarania, Islam and the spread of Christianity. They are deeply independent and proud of their Bodo identity, which has given rise to political assertion in recent times. The Bodo linguistic ethnic groups arrived the earliest and settled in the region, and have contributed to the cultural traditions of the Assamese and others in the north east of India.

Weaving is also a popular occupation of the Bodo tribes. All the exquisite products that these Bodo tribes have created over the years have been the main force of enabling the Bodo tribal community to reach to its zenith. Several Bodo families rear their own silkworms, the cocoons of which are then spun into silk. Amongst the Bodo tribal females, weaving has gained fame and popularity. Since a very early age, these Bodo girls learn the art of weaving, and thus loom is an inseparably thing in the courtyard of a Bodo house.


Bodo (pronounced as BO-ro) is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by the Bodo people of north-eastern India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The language is one of the official languages of the Indian State of Assam, and is one of 22 scheduled languages given a special constitutional status in India.


The Bodos (pronounced BO-ros) are an ethnic and linguistic community, early settlers of Assam in Northeast India. According to the 1991 census, there were 1.2 million Bodos in Assam which makes for 5.3% of the total population in the state. Bodos belong to a larger ethnic group called the Bodo-Kachari. The Bodos are recognized as a plains tribe in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Udalguri and Kokrajhar are considered the centre of the Bodo area.

Traditional Dress

Dresses of the Bodo tribal community is quite exquisite, thereby, exhilarating the beauty and glamour of females to a wide extent. The conventional dress of a Bodo female is popularly called Dokna, which these Bodo women knit on their own hands only. Shawls also are in fashion of the Bodo tribal community.

Music & Dance

The Bagurumba: The Bodos traditionally dance the Bagurumba. It is practiced and performed usually by young village girls and also evident in schools and colleges dominated by the Boro community. This dance is accompanied by the Bagurumba song which goes like this:
Bagurumba, Hai Bagurumba
Bagurumba, Hai aio Bagurumba
jat nonga bwla khun nonga bwla
thab brum homnanwi bamnanwi lagwmwn kha
hwi lwgw lagwmwn kha…

Musical instruments: Among many different musical instruments, the Bodos use –

Siphung: This is a long bamboo flute having seven holes rather than six as the north Indian Bansuri would have and is also much longer than it, producing a much lower tone.
Serja: A violin-like instrument. It has a round body and the scroll is bent forward.

Siphung: This is a long bamboo flute having seven holes rather than six as the north Indian Bansuri would have and is also much longer than it, producing a much lower tone.
Tharkha: A block of bamboo split into two halves for clapping.

Siphung: This is a long bamboo flute having seven holes rather than six as the north Indian Bansuri would have and is also much longer than it, producing a much lower tone.
Kham: A long drum made of wood and goat skin.

Siphung: This is a long bamboo flute having seven holes rather than six as the north Indian Bansuri would have and is also much longer than it, producing a much lower tone.
Khawang: A pair of round metallic plates, tied by a rope, a smaller version of that being used in namghar.


Over the years following the traditions and culture of some of the other tribal communities of the whole of the Indian subcontinent, these Bodo tribes too have taken up several occupations. In the early years, the Bodo tribal community practiced all types of cultivation and farming. Rice farming, tea plantation, pig and poultry farming, and silkworm rearing are quite significant amongst them. Moreover, the Bodos are excellent bamboo craftsman and the Bodo tribal community has also developed craftsmanship in creating several products from things like bamboo.

Tea Plantation: One of the major income sources, the Bodos turn to working in tea estates. The women working in assam tea estates are mostly bodos. Sericulture: Silk rearing, the Bodos take special interest in this work. Not only it is a source of livelihood, it is also one of the best means to know about the best quality silk.


The Bodo society is patriarchal with some features of matriarchal society. For e.g., if a man dies without paying the bride money, the daughter in absence of the wife pr wives can inherit the property of the deceased.


In the past, Bodos worshipped their forefathers. In recent years, Bodos practice Bathouism, Hinduism. Bathouism is a form worshipping forefathers called Obonglaoree. The siju plant (belonging to the Euphorbia genus), is taken as the symbol of Bathou and worshiped.

In the Bodo Language Ba means five and thou means deep. Five is a significant number in the Bathou religion.

A clean surface near home or courtyard could be an ideal for worship. Usually, one pair of Betel nut called ‘goi’ and betel leaf called ‘pathwi’ could be used as offering. On some occasion, worship offering could include rice, milk, and sugar. For the Kherai Puja, the most important festival of the Bodos, the altar is placed in the rice field. Other important festivals of the Bodos include Hapsa Hatarnai, Awnkham Gwrlwi Janai, Bwisagu and Domashi.

Marital System

Unlike the general caste people, a groom did not go to the bride’s house. But now-a-days, this system has become obsolete. ‘Donkharnay Haba’ and ‘Raikhas Haba’ are no more amongst the Bodo-Kacharis. The non-tribals never agree to offer a girl for marriage to a boy of different religion but the Bodo-Kacharis recognise a marriage between Hindu and Christian communities.

Moreover, as the Bodo-Kacharis of this region have been living along with the non-tribals generation after generation, they have been influenced by the non-tribals and vice-versa. The non-tribals have accepted many ingredients of the Bodo culture.

Originally, the Bodo marriage continued for seven days and seven nights and so soon as the marriage ended the family had to face abject poverty. They overspent money for eating and drinking. But now-a-days the Bodos do not overspend. The marriage ceremony according to Braha Cult is very simple. The Bodo priest performs the marriage ceremony reciting mantras written in the Bodo language. In the wedding ceremony of the Brahmas, only tea and sweets are served to the guests. Like the caste-Hindu people they also arrange feast at night for the groom and his party.

Current Scenario

The Bodos led a gory struggle in the name of self-determination in late 80’s under the leadership of Upendra Nath Brahma, who is now regarded as the father of the Bodos (Bodo-Fa). After a decade long agitation, the Bodos have been granted the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), an autonomous administrative body that will have within its jurisdiction the present district of Kokrajhar and adjoining areas. The movement for autonomy was headed by the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), an outfit believed to have undertaken many extremist activities in Bodo dominated areas. The BSF, Boro Security Force, an underground organization of the Bodos, now known as NDFB, National Democratic Front of Bodoland, is still involved in insurgency. Following the establishment of the BTC, the BLT has come over ground.

During the early 1990’s, the Bodos insurgency had a significant impact on forests and wildlife populations in the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The poaching of rhinos and swamp deer, in particular, severely diminished the stocks of these endangered species, to the point where they are said to locally extinct. The damage caused by the insurgency is the main reason why the wildlife sanctuary has been on the World Heritage Council Danger List since 1992.

In 2006 Assam Assembly elections, the former Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) members under Hagrama Mohilary formed an alliance with the Indian National Congress and came to power in Dispur. Educational and job opportunities remain the biggest problem for Bodos.

Traditional Food

Oma Bedor: Most Bodo people like Oma (Pork). It is fried, roasted, or stewed. The meat is often smoked in the sun for several days.

Napham: Napham is a unique dish in Bodo cuisine. It is made by grinding smoked fish, specific leafy vegetables, ground powder, and the mixture is allowed to age in a sealed bamboo cylinder. Thereafter, aged napham could be fried or used as is, – it tastes like pate.

Onla: Onla is a gravy made from rice powder and slices of bamboo shoots cooked lightly with khardwi and spices. Chicken or pork can be added.

Ju Mai: Rice wine is produced mainly during festivals like Bwisagu and Domasi. Jumai can be of two types, (a) Gishi (wet) and (b) Gwran (dry). Gishi is brewed by fermenting rice; when plum is added to the gishi mixture during fermentation, the product tastes like plum wine. Gwran is produced by distillation – it tastes like Japanese sake. The Bodos examine the strength of the wine by throwing a cup into the fire. A flash of fire indicates strong wine.

Narzi: A bitter gravy that is made from dried jute leaves. Pork or fresh water fish can be cooked together to generate a distinct taste. Narzi gravy tastes like Japanese sea weed soup.

Serep: A beverage traditionally produced by women by distillation. It is even stronger than foreign liquors. Sudempuri used to be one of the major places of its production and consumption.


In the aftermath of socio-political awakening and movement launched by the Bodo organizations since 1913, the language was introduced as the medium of instruction (1963) in the primary schools in Bodo dominated areas. Currently, the Bodo language serves as a medium of instruction up to the secondary level and an associated official language in the state of Assam. The language has attained a position of pride with the opening of the Post-Graduate course in Bodo language and literature in the University of Guwahati in 1996. The Bodo language has to its credit large number of books of poetry, drama, short stories, novels, biography, travelogues, children’s literature and literary criticism. Though the spoken language has been affected by other communities, especially the Bengalis, in and around Kokrajhar, it is still to be heard in its pure form, in and around Udalguri district.


Endle, Sidney. (1911). The Kachari, London
Pulloppillil, Thomas., & Aluckal, Jacob (1997). The Bodos: Children of the Bhullumbutter,
Mushahary, Moniram. (1981) Bodo-English Dictionary.

Alcove 3 – Loktak Lake

Loktak Lake: 48 km from Imphal lies the largest freshwater lake in northeastern India, the Loktak Lake, which is also called the only Floating Lake in the world due to the floating Phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matters at various stages of decomposition). Phumdis are floating islands of heterogeneous masses of vegetation, soil and organic matter in different stages of decay. They cover a substantial part of the lake area and are found in different shapes and sizes. The largest single mass of phumdi is in the southeastern part of the lake, covering an area of 40 km2 (15.4 sq mi). This mass constitutes the world’s largest floating park, named Keibul Lamjao National Park; the park was formed to preserve the endangered Eld’s Deer subspecies called Sangai in the Manipuri language, found only in this area.

Phumdis are used by the local people for constructing their huts for fishing and other livelihood enterprise. A tourist lodge has been built on one of the phumdis in the Sandra Island. Reduction in the spread of phumdis to maintain the ecosystem of the lake and its utilization to derive economic value has been studied. Though it is said that phumdi vegetation originated centuries ago, the Manipur Gazetteer recorded, in 1886, that the wetland with floating islands was used by the inhabitants for fishing. Before the Itahi barrage was constructed in 1986, 207 khangpok (a hut or shed) were reported on the phumdis. After the dam was completed, in 1999, the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) reported 800 such huts. Many of the huts are reported to have been converted into permanent dwellings and about 4000 people live in these floating huts pursuing their living by fishing. Athapums are artificial circular phumdis, built by the villagers as enclosures for culture fishing; aquaculture has caused proliferation of the phumdis in the lake.

This enchanting panoramic view is located near Moirang in Manipur state. Etymology of Loktak is “Lok = stream and tak = the end”. The Keibul Lamjao National Park, which is the last natural refuge of the endangered “Manipur brow-antlered deer” locally known as the Sangai, which is one of the three sub species of the Eld’s Deer, covering an area of 40 km2 (15.4 sq mi), is situated in the southeastern region of this lake and is the largest of all the phumdis in the lake.

This lake plays an important role in the economy of Manipur. It serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply. The lake is also a source of livelihood for the rural fisherman who lives in the surrounding areas and on phumdis, also known as “phumshongs”. Human activity has led to severe pressure on the lake ecosystem. 55 rural and urban hamlets around the lake have a population of about 100,000 people.

The Loktak Lake and its precincts have faced serious problems due to loss of vegetal cover in the catchment area and construction of Ithai barrage at the outlet of the lake for multipurpose development of water resources. Deforestation and shifting cultivation in the catchment areas have accelerated the process of soil erosion resulting in the lake’s shrinkage due to siltation. The annual silt flow into the lake is estimated to be 336,325 tons. The thickness of phumdis has dicreased in the Keibul Lamjao National Park thereby threatening the survival of Sangai deer and interference in the migration of fishes from Chindwin–Irrawady River system of Myanmar resulting in changes in the species composition.

Hence, it is not enough to admire this heaven on earth. Through this let us all come and work for the renewal of this beautiful resource that we already possess.


Tangkhul Nagas


Culturally, the Tangkhuls share close affinities with other Naga tribes. The Tangkhuls are fond of singing, dancing and festivities. For every season, there is a festival that lasts almost a week. Luira phanit is a major one among many. The Tangkhuls’ artistic creativity is manifested in their handicrafts and wood carvings.

The life and art of the Tangkhul are attractive and captivating. Their different costumes and wears, utensils, architecture, monumental erections and memorial set-ups depict their dexterity in art, which also speak of their sense of beauty and finesse. Though there are common costumes and wears, both for male and female, there are also some costumes and wear exclusively meant for male and female. Some of the traditional clothes and wears:

Haora (Man’s mostly), Malao, Phangyai, Chonkhom (Women’s mostly), Laokha, Kahang Kashan, Tangkang (for man and woman), Kahang Malao, Seichang Kashan, Luirim (man’s mostly), Thangkang, Thangkang Kashan, Raivat Kachon (Common), Khuilang Kashan, Khuilang Kachon (woman’s mostly), Kongrah Kashan, Phingui Kchon (common), Shanphaila, Phaphir (common), Kuiying Muka (upper cover), Phorei Kachon (man’s mostly), Zingtai Kashan, Luingamla Kashan.


Although the Tangkhul Naga tribe speaks more than a hundred dialects, the lingua franca is the Hunphun (Ukhrul) dialect. The Tangkhul dialect is a dialect continuum in which speakers from neighboring villages may be able to understand each other, but a dialect farther north or south of a speaker’s own will be less easily understood, if at all.

The Tangkhul dialect as spoken by the people of Hunphun (the traditional name of Ukhrul) became the most common dialect among the Tangkhuls because the British set up their administration in Ukhrul. The American Baptist missionary Rev. William Pettigrew translated the Bible into the Hunphun dialect, akin to Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German, which unified and standardised the varying German dialects.


Weaving is a part in woman’s life in the Eastern region in general and Tangkhuls in particular. Weaving is closely associated with the self and soul. Despite tedious hours she spends with the back strap loin loom which take time and concentrated she considers it as her prized possession. Dress and ornaments of the Tangkhul Nagas is fantastic and fabulous. The people are artistic and imaginative, different designs and style have been made with bright colours.Usually the Tangkhul shawls are of black and red stripes. The village headman has a distinctively large and costly shawl. Common people too have a special for festivals and special occasions. The Tangkhul Necklace (Kongsang has 10-18) strings of cowries beads and precious stones with different colors and is usually very costly and essential for weddings. The expensive dresses and ornaments are usually worn by rich bride in her wedding. The Tangkhul war dress consist of spear, head gears, bangles, breast plate, armlets, stocking made of bamboo, war tail, horns, shield, bows and arrows and a Dao. Dresses of Tangkhuls are Haorah, Leirum, Thanggang, Chonkhom, Khuilang, Raivat Kachon, Kahang Malao, Phangyai, Yangrey Kashan, Chonkhom Kashan, Kahang Kashan and others.


The ancestors were agriculturists and the year cycle festivals are associated with the year-round seasonal agricultural activities. All these festivals associated with sacred religious rituals and there were strict codes of conduct for all these feasts. The major year cycle festivals are:

Luira: The seed sowing festival which falls around the month s of January to March. This feast is celebrated with great fervor at Longpi and Hungpung (Hundung). Longpi, befitting their generosity, entertain their guests with lavish eats and drinks, whilst in Hundung one can see the maiden virgin dance performance.

Yarra: This is ante-cultivation festival and it falls around the months of April and May. Thought it celebrated by all, it is a youth festival.

Mangkhap: This is a post-trans-plantation festival. This festival falls around the month of July. During this festival the people pray for luxurious growth the crops after thanksgiving prayer for the timely rain.

Dharreo: This is a pre-harvest festival. Dharreo means the plucking of the new crop. On this day the first crops, fishes, live-stocks and other items are brought out for sale in the village market. It is fete day for the village. This day specially observed in Hungpung (Hundung) village.

Chumpha: This is a festival of thanksgiving for rich harvest, now gathered in the granary. The mother performs special offerings to the God of harvest and the keeper of the granary. While the mother performs her rituals all males are not allowed to enter the house, hence they outside the house for the night but with lavish supplies of eats and drinks. Because of the nature of its celebration, it is sometimes known as the Feast of the mother or the Feast of the granary. It falls around the months November and December.

Longra Khamang: This festival is not general in nature but the family which had a rich harvest celebrates this festival inviting the group of the son’s or daughter’s party who had worked in groups rotation-wise. This is a festival for giving special treatments to the sons and daughters.

Thisham: This is a festival in commemoration of the dead. It is on this occasion that the dance of the Dead is performed. This is the final rite performed by the family for the dead. It falls around the month of January.

Apart from these 6 (six) major festivals, there some event-occasioned festivals like; Kashong Kahao Zakhalat, a sacred ritual for dispelling pests and germs; Maa Khungkashat, acknowledgement of the rich crop. Ears of corn are plucked and placed at a post set apart for this sacred ritual in the house; Mawonzai, a feast to invoke the graceful blessings of God to human labour; Khana Kasa, a purification and naming feast; Ming Kaphok, this is a title endowment feast; Chumsin Sa Kashai, this is the ordaining feast of the daughter-in-low to priestess-hood, thereby endowing her with all the rights and duties of a family mother. Prior to this, she is no allowed to enter into the granary; Shimsak Kasa, this is the royal or noble house construction feast; Maran-sak & Tarung Khangkasang, stone or tree trunks erection feast to display the wealth and power of the noble.


Till about the middle of the 20th century the business transactions of the people were almost nil albeit occasional market days on festival days, but that too was on barter system and within the limit of the village only. We can, therefore, say that there was no commendable trade and commerce. Some stray animal, salt, handloom materials, pottery products, wood and bamboo craft works, balcksmithy, etc. were there, even as we still them today. But till then, the people could maintain and afford to meet their requirements for their day to day subsistence’s and livelihood. This way, one can conclude that they were self-reliant and self-sufficient. But with the advent of modern civilization, they were suddenly exposed to capitalistic trend of fierce market competitions and urbanization. Their limited sources of income and resources could not meet both ends and sooner they were reduced to a people living below poverty line. Even to this day, they have yet to pick-up with the trends of modern economy. The main sources of income of the people can be broadly divided into 5 (five) divisions: Agriculture, Industries, Forest Wealth, Riverine wealth and animal husbandry (primitive method).

The Tangkhul are basically agriculturists, but they do run small scale industries in the village level. Industry consist of weaving, pottery, blacksmithy, salt manufactories, wood and stone works, leather works, carving, wine brewing, basket making and other handicrafts. The Tangkhuls employ three methods of paddy cultivation namely; jhumming, terracing and wet cultivation. Rice is the main food. Other crops and vegetables are chilli, cotton, tobacco, corn, oranges, lemons, plums, brinjals and other fruits. Hunting, fishing, trapping birds are also practiced.


Tangkhul Nagas constitute the major bulk of the population. Others are some small percentage of Kukis, Nepalese and other Non-tribals. The Tangkhuls are fair in complexion and more akin to the Mongolians in facial appearance and stature. The population of the district is 1,09,275 (1991 Census) with a population density of 24 per sq. km. the male to female ratio is 1000:878 with a decennial growth rate of 32 %. The total population of the district constitutes 6.02 % of the total population of the state, spread over about 230 villages. Literacy percentage is 62.54 (1996).


The Tangkhul Religion, known to some as ‘Hao Religion,’ is a monotheistic religion with a little blend of animism and they worship with reverential owe The ‘KAZING NGALEI KASA AKHAVA’ – The God, creator of Heaven and Earth. To this God, they have different titles of addressed like ‘VARIVARA’ ‘KAZINGWUNG’ NGALEIWUNG’ ‘LUIPHILAVA- KASHONGWUNG’ ‘ONGSORWO’ ETC. CORRESPONDING TO THE THEME AND OBJECT/PLACE OF ACTIVITIES. The reason why the people could not address the God directly is that the ‘HE’ was so great that it was incomprehensible to the mind of the ancestors. Hence, they are monotheists with a slight mingling of pantheism. This religious background makes them receptive to Christian Faith, and hence it’s ready acceptance.

This district is the birthplace of Christianity and Western education in Manipur State, brought as early as 1896 by a Baptist Missionary called Rev. Pettigrew. The district, now, has one college after his name, the William Pettigrew College at Somsai, Ukhrul. Now, almost 99 % of the populations have embraced Christianity. The main Christian sects are: American Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church, Seventh Day Adventist Church, and Church of Christ etc. There are also some small groups of Hindus, Muslims, and others from among those who come from outside.

Marital System

Kinship plays a very important role among the Tangkhul Nagas. They are patrilineal by descent and patrilocal by residence. Descent is traced through the father’s line. They have very close ties among kin groups. Nuclear family is the most common type of family found, though there are a few joint and extended family. The Tangkhuls practice mostly tribe endogamy and clan exogamy. Mother’s brother’s daughter cross cousin marriages system is found among the Thangkhuls and is a favored formed of marriage by tradition but is practiced by few now.

In marriage, a girl is free to choose her life partner and rarely in any pressure brought upon her in this matter. In marriage, and also in divorce, a woman was not bound by any constraint of social inferiority. She was free to make her decisions. In fact, for marriage, there was a latent form of bride price which had to be paid in consideration for marriage. There was however, one practice which gives some indication of an adverse status of women. On the death of her husband, his younger brother had the right to marry the widow of his brother.

Housing Pattern

The house structure is more or less similar for all the villages, but the carvings on the posts and blinks vary from village to village and area to area. To display the splendor and wealth of the rich and noble families, tree trunks – TARUNG are erected in front of the house. Some even erect Monumental/Memorial stones in the courtyards or at some prominent sites in the village area. Construction of all these entails strict ritualistic procedures and norms.

Traditional Food

Rice is the main food. Other crops and vegetables are chilli, cotton, tobacco, corn, oranges, lemons, plums, brinjals and other fruits. Hunting, fishing, trapping birds are also practiced.


The evidence of the origin of the Tangkhul Nagas was given byT.C.Hodson who recorded that Hungpung (Hundung) is the center of their dispersion. And he stories declared that they sprang as immigrants from the village of Maikhel Tunggam ( a village which is the traditional home of the common ancestors of Quassi-Angami in Mao group).Another means of proving given by T.C.Hudson was that when the Shan invaded Assam in 1220 A.D.the Nagas were already there to resist their advance.(T.C.Hudson ‘The Naga tribes of Manipur London’1911)Above all, the Nagas generally agreed that they belong to Mongoloid race. Unfortunately, the history of the Tangkhul Nagas was not written in the early days. Still then, history can be read and understood through oral conversation, songs and cultures of the people. Indeed most historical scholars have quoted that the Nagas belong to Mongoloid race that came from the East and this have been agreed by all the Tangkhul Nagas.

Tangkhul Nagas are very ancient people, the most ancient Maharaja (king) of Manipur like Samalung, Morthao, Ayangba and Luitongba are all Tangkhul names. In this case, the people who reigned in the kingdom of Manipur were from the same origin. Thus, the Tangkhul Nagas had their own custom and culture since thousands of years.

Martial Arts

The life and art of the Tangkhul are attractive and captivating. Their different costumes and wears, utensils, architecture, monumental erections and memorial set-ups depict their dexterity in art, which also speak of their sense of beauty and finesse. Though there are common costumes and wears, both for male and female, there are also some costumes and wear exclusively meant for male and female.

Games & Sports

Traditional Games of Tangkhul are Tug of War (Thingneira Khangakhun), “Bean’s Game” (Saotheila), The Wrestling (Khangatuk) competition, etc.

Traditional Dress

Weaving is a part in woman’s life in the Eastern region in general and Tangkhuls in particular. Weaving is closely associated with the self and soul. Despite tedious hours she spends with the back strap loin loom which take time and concentrated she considers it as her prized possession. Dress and ornaments of the Tangkhul Nagas is fantastic and fabulous. The people are artistic and imaginative, different designs and style have been made with bright colours. Usually the Tangkhul shawls are of black and red stripes. The village headman has a distinctively large and costly shawl. Common people too have a special for festivals and special occasions. The Tangkhul Necklace (Kongsang has 10-18) strings of cowries beads and precious stones with different colors and is usually very costly and essential for weddings. The expensive dresses and ornaments are usually worn by rich bride in her wedding. The Tangkhul war dress consist of spear, head gears, bangles, breast plate, armlets, stocking made of bamboo, war tail, horns, shield, bows and arrows and a Dao. Dresses of Tangkhuls are Haorah, Leirum, Thanggang, Chonkhom, Khuilang, Raivat Kachon, Kahang Malao, Phangyai,Yangrey Kashan, Chonkhom Kashan, Kahang Kashan and others.

Alcove 4 – Manipuri Dance

Manipuri dance is one of the major Indian classical dance forms. Manipur presents a mosaic of traditions and cultural patterns. Particularly, it is world famous for the Manipuri style of classical dance, forms very much distinct from other Indian dance.

Phumdis are used by the local people for constructing their huts for fishing and other livelihood enterprise. A tourist lodge has been built on one of the phumdis in the Sandra Island. Reduction in the spread of phumdis to maintain the ecosystem of the lake and its utilization to derive economic value has been studied. Though it is said that phumdi vegetation originated centuries ago, the Manipur Gazetteer recorded, in 1886, that the wetland with floating islands was used by the inhabitants for fishing. Before the Itahi barrage was constructed in 1986, 207 khangpok (a hut or shed) were reported on the phumdis. After the dam was completed, in 1999, the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) reported 800 such huts. Many of the huts are reported to have been converted into permanent dwellings and about 4000 people live in these floating huts pursuing their living by fishing. Athapums are artificial circular phumdis, built by the villagers as enclosures for culture fishing; aquaculture has caused proliferation of the phumdis in the lake.

Pung or Manipuri Mridanga is the soul of Manipuri Sankritana music and Classical Manipuri Dance. It assumes an important ritual character, an indispensable part of all social and devotional ceremonies in Manipur – the instrument itself becoming an object of veneration. Pung Cholom is performed as an invocatory number preceding the Sankirtana and Ras Lila. In this style, the dancers play the pung (a form of hand beaten drum) while they dance at the same time. Dancers need to be graceful and acrobatic at the same time. It is a highly refined classical dance number characterized by the modulation of sound from a soft whisper to a thunderous climax. There is the interplay of intricate rhythms and cross rhythms with varying markings of time from the slow to the quick with graceful and vigorous body movements leading to ecstatic heights. This dance may be performed by men or women and is usually a prelude to the Ras Lila.

The traditional Manipuri dance style embodies delicate, lyrical and graceful movements. The aim is to make rounded movements and avoid any jerks, sharp edges or straight lines. It is this which gives Manipuri dance its undulating and soft appearance. The feet move is viewed as part of a composite movement of the whole body. The dancer puts his or her feet down, even during vigorous steps, with the front part touching the ground first. The ankle and knee joints are effectively used as shock absorbers. The dancer’s feet are neither put down nor lifted up at the precise rhythmic points of the music but rather slightly earlier or later to express the same rhythmic points most effectively.

The musical accompaniment for Manipuri dance comes from a percussion instrument called the Pung, a singer, small cymbals, a stringed instrument called the Pena and wind instrument such as a flute. The drummers are always male artistes and, after learning to play the pung, students are trained to dance with it while drumming. This dance is known as Pung Cholom. The lyrics used in Manipuri are usually from the classical poetry of Jayadeva, Vidyapati, Chandidas, Govindadas or Gyandas and may be in Sanskrit, Maithili, Brij Bhasha or others. The graceful and slow movement of the dance makes it one of the most acclaimed classical dances of India. The costume is elegant, as there are nicely embroidered clothes that give luster to the beauty of the art.


Manipur is known for its rich culture, which has maintained its links with the culture of the rest of the country. The most famous Manipuri traditions are the Manipuri dance, games and the bright festivals. Manipur presents a mosaic of traditions and cultural patterns.

Manipuri Dance – the Manipuri style of classical dance is world famous and is very distinct from other Indian dance forms. The Manipuri School of dancing whether folk, classical or modern, is devotional in nature. The rich culture and tradition of Manipur is also depicted in its handloom clothes and handicrafts. The Manipuri handloom and handicraft are world famous for its craftsmanship as well as ingenuity and colors.


The language used is called Meitei-lon. It belongs to the Tibeto-burman family of languages. Literally it means the “language of the Meiteis”. But for some time now, it has been known as Manipuri. Since 1992, the language is in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution. Commonly the text is written in the Bengali Script. The original script, called Meitei-mayek, has been out of use for a long time but revived recently. The script and language is taught in the schools and colleges at this time in Manipur and has been implemented compulsory with an aim to replace the Bengali script completely within few years.

This much improvement was strongly gained after the Meetei leader Mr. Chingshubam Akaba, who was murdered in connection with the development and popularity of his name in the state on the 31st midnight of December 2006 at his resident gate in Imphal. People are trying to bring this script up to the international standard as it is the only lone script of NE India.


The Meeteis or Meiteis are the majority ethnic group of Manipur, India, and because of this are sometimes referred to as Manipuris. Generally speaking, Meitei is an endonym and Manipuri is an exonym.

The Native State of Manipur or Meeteileipak or Meitrabak or Kangleipak geographically lies between 93.20 E and 94.47 E longitude and 23.50 N and 25.41 N latitude. It is situated on the North-Eastern part of India bordering Myanmar on the East and South. Majority of the people of Manipur are the “Meeteis” who mainly inhabit in the plains whereas the hill tribes dominate the hilly areas who are commonly known as “chingmis”. All the native ethic groups of the present state of Manipur had, at one time, been the cognate of Meetei in Meeteileipak. Meiteis are also written as Meeteis.

Manipur is a State in North East India, with the city of Imphal as its capital. Manipur is bounded by the Indian States of Nagaland to the north, Mizoram to the south and Assam to the west; it also borders Myanmar to the east.


Traditional dress: The traditional dress of the women folk is a sarong called “phanek”. It is worn at the waist down to the ankles, or under the arms, covering the breasts and down to mid-calf. Traditionally women do not wear a blouse when the phanek is worn in the higher position. This is complemented by a blouse and a wrap. Men wear a “khudei” which is similar to the Thai and Khmer men’s garment which is a knee-length cloth wrapped in folds at the waist. In recent years, men’s formal wear is a longer and ankle-length version called a “pheijom” which is similar to the Indian “dhoti”.

Meeties men and women use Khamen Chatpa Phi (a printed cloths with seven different colours) a traditionally very important cloth during the ritual ceremonies. These cloths are in the form of Shirts – (kurta) and cloths – (kumis). There are seven different colours of Khamenchatpa with a single colours in each Cloths based on the colour code of seven clan of the Meetei. These types of cloths are rare and keep with care. And for the casual Meetei women created their designs in the form of Wangkhei Phi, Moirang Phi, etc.


Manipur is a land of festivities and merriments all round the year. To the Manipuris, festivals are the symbols of their cultural, social and religious aspirations which, besides removing the monotony of life by providing physical diversions and mental recreation, help them lead a better and fuller life.

Ningol Chakouba: The social festival of Manipuris is a remarkable festival of the Meiteis. Married women of the family, married off to distant places, come to the parental house along with her children and enjoy a sumptuous feast. It is a form of family reunion to revive familial affection.

Yaoshang:: The premier festival of Manipur Hindus: Celebrated for five days commencing from the full moon day of Phalguna (February/March), Yaoshang is the premier festival of Manipur. The Thabal Chongba, a kind of Manipuri folk dance where boys and girls hold hands and sing and dance in a circle, is associated with this festival. Yaosang to Manipur is what Durga Puja is to Bengal, Diwali to North India and Bihu to Assam.

Cheiraoba (Manipuri New Year): During the festival, people clean and decorate their houses and prepare special festive dishes which are first offered to various deities. Celebrated during the month of April, a part of the ritual entails villagers climbing the nearest hill tops in belief that it will enable them to rise to greater heights in their worldly life. The Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) also observe it.


Manipur has made some progress in the setting up of small scale industrial units of which some 7700 have been set up. A joint sector plant to manufacture drugs and pharmaceuticals has been commissioned and electronic goods, Steel fabrication articles and plastic goods are being produced in the state. A cement plant has also come up in Manipur. Among other industries a spinning mill, a ghee manufacturing unit and similar factories to make other consumer products.

However, agriculture is still the single largest source of livelihood, for a majority of the rural masses, and the state economy depends on it. Paddy is the main crop grown. Manipuri rice is very sweet. It can be eaten without curry. Other crops are wheat, pulses, maize etc. The soil in Manipur is considered fit for all kinds of grain crops, vegetables and fruits.


The Meitei society has shared with the Nagas and Kukis, the other two dominant communities settled mainly in the hills. The seven clans of the meiteis ruled in different principalities, mainly in the valley. The Meitei feudal Kingdom started in 33 AD when King Pakhangba of the Ningthouja Dynasty united all the seven clans and ascended the throne. The term Meitei now refers to four social groups now – the Meitei marup (believe in only Meitei culture and God), Meitei goura (believe in both Meitei and Hindu gods), the Meitei Brahmins (locally called Bamons) and the Meitei Muslims (called Meitei Pangal or just Pangal). All of them have Meiteilon as their mother-tongue.

Meitei women have always enjoyed high economic and social status in Manipur, and today they work in nearly every social and economic sphere of society. In particular, they control traditional retail, including the Meitei markets and the trade in vegetables and traditional clothing. ‘Nupi Keithel’ are markets run by Meitei women only, the most prominent one being the royal market, Sana Keithel (also known to tourists and non-Meitei Indians as Ima Keithel) in Imphal.

The Meitei people are well-known for their sporting prowess, hockey and polo are traditional and the Meitei form of martial art, Thang Ta, has recently been recognised as one of the official forms of international martial arts. ‘Polo’ which has well known place in international sports is known to be originated from Manipur which original name is ‘Sagol Kangjei’ a royal game used to be played by kings and royalty of Manipur


The major population is concentrated in the Imphal valley of Manipur, Cachar valley of Assam, Tripura, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Few of the Meiteis are also followers of Vaishnavite Hinduism without leaving their ancient Meitei religion, recently known as “Sanamahi Laining” (Sanamahism). All Meiteis follow Lord Sanamahi (a divine god) and every family prays Lord Sanamahi every morning and evening.

All the Meities belong to their native Religion Sanamahism as a part of their livelihood. A section to almost half of the total Meiteis follows Sanamahism without mixing with other religion. There are some individuals who follow religions like Christianity and the Bahá’í Faith. The original religion of the native Manipur is Sanamahism. It is still followed and worshiped by the valley and Hill based people even though they are partially converted to Christian and Hindu in recent centuries (1800 and 1700 A.D). Revivalism of this native religion is more or less started by the growing number of educated native people to stand themself stronger in the world of religion.

In the religious history of Manipur, the 14th of May, 1945, the Meetei Marup (Organisation of Meetei Body) was formed in Manipur unanimously. This led to the revival of Meetei traditional, cultures, scripts (Meetei Mayek), customary practices, and traditional religious ceremonies related to the Meetei society. At the end of the 20th century Sanamahism gained a strong foothold owing to the coming of modern education, increase in population and many other social factors. The gap between Sanamahism and Hinduism and Christianity became almost abandon. During this period the impact of Sanamahism became more and more embedded in the hearts and mind of the people at large.

As a result it gave a new hope and dimension in the process of the revivalist’s movement of Sanamahism. Old beliefs and religious bindings were untied and the beliefs of emerging movement began to take their place. Many books on how to conduct religious ceremonies with rites and rituals are being published. Holy Books for Sanamahi religion were selected. All these are the advancement of the growth and development of Sanamahi religion. With the establishment of many religious organizations disposed to Sanamahism several interpretation of religious ceremonies, functions and prayers have come up.

On the other hand the influence of other religion like Hindu, Christian, Islam are increasing day by day in the Hill and Valleys which is simply indicated by the growing number of Hindu Temple, Church, Mosques etc. For Meetei/Meiteis it can become a strong threat to the native religion as Native worship places are not taken care of by the Govt. and local people like other religions.

Marital System

The Manipuri marriages are inevitably as colorful as the other traditions of the land. The Manipuris prefer marriages in their own community but are open to inter-caste marriages outside Manipuri community too.

Costumes: The bridal dress is unique. It is essential for the bride to wear the Raslila skirt. The bridegroom’s dress is white dhoti, kurta and turban. Kirtans and Shahnai music are played when the bride and the bridegroom have completed their seven rounds. The bride follows the steps in rhythmic styles with the music.

Ornaments and cosmetics: Among the Manipuris, there is very limited variety in the ornaments that tribal women wear. In north Bengal they wear almost similar ornaments. Santal and Oraon women wear ornaments in their hands, feet, nose, ears and neck. Oraon women tie their hair in a peak style and wear a tikli on the forehead. Chakma women wear bangles and anklets, as well as coin earrings and necklaces. Garo women do up their hair in bun style, which they then adorn with flowers. Magh women use a kind of herbal powder or wood paste to lighten their faces.

Marriage customs in Manipuri wedding

Manipuris erect colorful wedding pandals, and the bride and groom move round the pandal to be greeted with paddy and durva grass. A Manipuri bride comes to visit her parents for the first time after five days of her marriage thus providing an occasion for a sumptuous feast. According to tribal custom, all members of the clan are invited to this ceremony and they come with presents of rice, meat, fowls, pigs, money and alcohol.

Marriages are performed in accordance with the customs. Before the marriage parents of the boy go to meet parents of the girl. This starting approach is termed ‘Hinaba’. The horoscopes are matched and if both the parents agree then the next date for the meeting is fixed. On the next meeting, called Yathang Thanaga, the consent is given by the girl’s parents. The next stage is ‘Waroipot puba’, the groom’s family members bring food, and the contract is finally sealed. Finally the engagement is declared amongst the friends and relatives; this is called ‘Heijapot’. Friends and relatives from the boy’s side then go to the girl’s parents with fruits, food and presents.

The girl’s parents invite their friends and relatives. The Brahmin decides the marriage date and rituals. A Manipuri marriage party is of a great show but little is wasted for giving meals. Not less than thirty cars will attend a marriage in a Meitei house in Imphal. A marriage attended by a convoy of cars is considered as a status symbol. The men dress in dhoti and kurta with a shawl wrapped around and women in pink ‘fanek’ and white chader.

The reception ceremony is very formal. At the entrance of the gate a Meitei woman offers a Thali containing a banana leaf in which the betel nut, pan and tamul is arranged. The arrangement for sitting is made around the Tulsi platform. In each Meitei house the Tulsi plant is grown over a raised platform. All the auspicious ceremonies are conducted around this plant.

The Manipuri groom is welcomed by lighting a pradip and a young boy washes his feet. At this time kirtan is sung and tradition music is played. Two women from both sides release a pair of taki fish symbolizing the groom and the bride into water. It is an auspicious omen if the pair of fish moves side by side in the water. In a similar ceremony among the Garos, a cock and hen with throats slit are thrown to the ground. It is a good omen if, while they are in their death throes, the two come together to die. Otherwise, it is an ill omen and must be remedied through prayer and spell by a khamal who is the mendicant.

The gods and other deities are offered exceptional food on the occasion so that they may bless the couple in abundance. A Manipuri bride comes and visits her parents for the first time on the fifth day after marriage, providing an occasion for a prolific feast. According to tribal custom, all members of the clan are invited to this ceremony and they come with presents of rice, meat, fowls, pigs, money or alcohol.

Housing Pattern

In earlier times, people living in the Manipur valley commonly built their houses, cooking huts, out-houses and granaries with bamboo and thatch since both the materials were available in abundance. The post World War II era saw changes in the architecture of the Meitei houses. The bamboo supports and pillars began to be replaced by wooden ones. However, the Hoomdaang or lower roof support and the U-ra or the upper roof support of houses with thatched roof survived the immediate changes and continued to be made for sometimes. Although all the bamboo pillars were replaced by wooden ones, one bamboo pillar has been retained in the south-western corner of the house where a secluded space is reserved for worshipping the Sanamahi (the Meitei household Deity). The lone bamboo pillar is referred to as the Utang-wa, and it is more or less a symbol of the vanishing Meitei architectural tradition of using bamboo pillars in the construction of houses. There are more than a hundred names for the pillars, supports, roof-supports, and a host of other parts necessary in the construction of a typical Meitei house.

The important feature of the architecture of a typical Meitei house is non-use of nails or any other metallic objects to secure or fasten the beams and the other supports. Cane and bamboo splits soaked in water are used for this purpose. To secure the beams and other supports firmly to each other, holes are drilled on the bamboo, and Pungjeis (sharp pointed bamboo objects, about 30 cm in length.) is driven into the holes. A Pungjei functions like a modern nail. The tips of the bamboo pillars are cut just above the node so that it provides strength.

The people inhabiting the hilly regions of Manipur cut bamboo and wood from the hills to make their houses. The pillars, the horizontal support beams and the roof support beams are all of wood and bamboo. The upper roof supports are mostly of bamboo split. Thatch is used for covering the roof. The Chin-Kuki groups commonly build houses in the pile-dwelling style, which is normally referred to as Kangthak-haaba. Bamboo is extensively used for the Kangthak-haaba. The houses have an extended verandah made of bamboo, and the platform for this extended verandah is improvised with mats made of bamboo. Temporary walls as well as permanent walls are constructed with bamboo-mats. The Naga groups living in the Tamenglong District build houses having roofs made of bamboo splits. Big bamboo poles are vertically split into two, and the bamboo splits are arranged in alternate turns, i.e., the pieces face up and down alternately. In some areas of Jiribam, the bamboo poles are cut into pieces. The cut pieces are then smashed. Starting from the fringe of the roof, rows of the smashed bamboo are laid out one upon another to cover the whole of the roof, in the same fashion as when thatch is laid out to cover the roof.

Traditional Food

The favoured food among the Meiteis is rice, fish and a lot of vegetables. Food stuffs include “Ngari” meaning “Fermented preserved fish” in the native tongue. Due to the fermentation involved, Ngari has a sharp smell and taste, and is principally used in a delectable dish called ‘Eromba’.

Manipur valley Meitei has a tradition of keeping ponds at every resident has enough preservation of water and fish as a tradition. So, when they like to eat fish dishes they can just fish from their own ponds. A huge water accumulation in low-lying areas (swamps) as well as number of tributary streams received enough water during the rainy days mainly in the monsoons which helps fish migration and breeding. A huge varieties of fishes bears in this mentioned water bodies including paddy fields and canals. During the flood fishing is very popular in most part of the valley where fishes are wash out from private fish firms and ponds to the shallow lands surfaces but this water and fishes ultimately goes to rivers and then to the “Loktak Lake” a world famous wetland at the south western part of the Valley.

Landscape, climate and vegetation, environment of the valley gives an ultimate food habit of eating fish with different varieties with time to time. For example Dry-fish “Nga Ayaiba” generally prepared drying in sun as well as on fire to preserve in earthen pots to eat during other seasons where enough fish is not available in fresh in part of the valley and foothill regions of Manipur. Examples of Nga Ayaiba are Ngamu, Ukabi, Ngachou, Ngakrijou, Fabounga, Pengba, Ngakup etc. Nga Ayaiba means a lot for Meitei food as it can give a good taste to a kind of curry called “Kangsoi” prepared by simple boil with vegetables and pieces of Nga Ayaiba or Ngari along with salt, chilly, ginger, onion, green corianders etc. This is most popular cook food among the Meitei family as it controls overweight and fatness with good digestion capacity.

The Meitei people living outside Manipur i. e. , other state and Countries import Ngari and Nga Ayaiba when they feel homesick and miss home food. Due to the dry and fried without oil involved, Nga ayaiba has a distinct smell and taste. It is found in low quantities in many Meitei dishes.

Another dish contains “Hawaizar”, meaning, “preserved Soya-beans”. Soya-bean is boiled on low heat for a time, washed, packed in leaves and let to cool down for several days where it ferments. It is wrapped in banana leaves and distributed. Both the food forms are a cottage industry in Manipur.

Other world distinct dishes of Meiteis include Eromba, a generic name of the dish prepared with crushed boiled vegetables, fermented fish with chilly. This taste is different depending on the type of vegetable used, for example with Bamboo shoot it is called “Soibum eromba “with Giant bean “Yongchaak eromba” with young banana stem “Laphu eromba” and so on. Where “Ametpa or Morok Metpa and Singju” meaning dry crusted with Ngari with chilly, Chilly with fresh vegetables is even used in the fast food in the local restaurants, it is a hot and tasty preparation. Eromba by its nature is usually on the higer side of hotness when it comes to the amount of chilly used. Oo Morok is a special type of chiily that enhances the taste and it is known to be the hottest chilly in the world. The sizes of these chilly ranges from one to two inches with pista green colour that turns into orange/red when ripe. Although available round the year, Oo Morok has a preserved version called Oo Morok Akangba, prepared simply by exposing to sunlight.

Other food stuffs are well cook with Masalas i. e. , Athongba as generic term Cook with oil and masalas for example Fish dishes cooked with fresh fish with oil and proper masalas are famous for example, Sareng thongba. Ooti thongba (Peas and green leaves with soda (oot), Chagempomba (fine fractions of rich with Hawaizar and green vegetables” makes Meitei food have a distinct taste. Ataoba is also a generic name where every vegetables or meat are fried then we call as Ataoba. Nga-Ataoba (Fried Fish) is most popular food items among Meiteis.


Geographic Location of Manipur: Manipur is one of the eight north eastern states of India. Its boundary is surrounded by Myanmar (Burma) in the east and south, and Nagaland state in the north, Cachar (Assam state) in the west and Mizoram state in the south-west. Manipur is a meeting point, epicenter, between South East Asia and the Indian sub-continent. The Manipur valley, in the middle of the state, is at a height of 790 meters above the sea level and is surrounded by nine hill ranges in circles creating a hill and trough geography. More than 60% of its inhabitants are Meiteis including Bamons and Pangans who settled mostly in the valley and the remaining are hill tribes, namely, Tangkhul, Thadou, Zeliangrong (Zemi, Laingmai, Roungmei – Kabuis), Mao, Maram, Poumai, Paite, Hmar, Maring, Anal, Aimol, Angami, Chiru, Chothe, Gangte, Monsang, Moyon, Kom, Purum, Ralte, Sema, Simte, Salte, Vaiphei, Lamgang, Zhou, etc. Each group has its own language, tradition and culture. Meitei-lon (Meitei language or Manipuri) is the common language adopted by all tribes for communication. Imphal is the capital and a major trading centre. The present political system in the state includes nine districts with headquarters at Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal, Bishenpur (Valley Districts), Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong, Chandel and Churachandpur (Hill Districts) bearing similar names for the districts as well.

Historical Documents he history of Manipur Meities is chronicled in Puyas or Puwaris (stories about our forefathers), namely, the Ninghthou Kangbalon, Cheitharol Kumbaba, Ningthourol Lambuba, Poireiton Khunthokpa, Panthoibi Khongkul, etc. in the archaic Meitei script, which is comparable to the Thai script. The historical accounts presented here were recordings from the eyes and the judgment of the Meitei Kings and Maichous (Meitei scholars). Hill tribes have their own folk tales, myths and legends. Manipur was known by different names at various periods in its history, such as, Tilli-Koktong, Poirei-Lam, Sanna-Leipak, Mitei-Leipak, Meitrabak or Manipur (present day). Its capital was Kangla, Yumphal or Imphal (present day). Its people were known by various names, such as Mi-tei, Poirei-Mitei, Meetei, Maitei or Meitei. The Puwaris, Ninghthou Kangbalon, Ningthourol Lambuba, Cheitharol Kumbaba, Poireiton Khunthokpa, recorded the events of each King who ruled Manipur in a span of more than 3500 years until 1955 AD (a total of more than 108 kings). Ningthou Kangba (15th century BC) is regarded the first and foremost king of Manipur. There were times when the country was in turmoil without rulers and long historical gaps in between 1129 BC – 44 BC. In 1891 AD, after the defeat of the Meiteis by the British in the Anglo-Manipuri war of Khongjom, Manipur’s sovereignty for more than three millenniums was lost. It regained its freedom on August 28, 1947 AD but did not last long. On 15 October 1949, Manipur was annexed into the Indian Territory.

“Many a history has now been written. But none is so authentic as it seems. The reason is, of course, not far to seek. Manipur was absolute all through its past. Its society evolved on its own course or got revolutionized in its own way. So did its religion. And its government followed the suit. Neither India nor Burma had much direct influence thereon, but for a tint from time to time. Its history flowed on in its own course with little disturbance from outside until as late as the eighteenth century when several cults of Neo-Vaishnavism flowed into this soil and wrought the present-day Manipur. Its activities and its achievements are all recorded in its own scripts unintelligible to the world. So the writers however profound scholars they may be, had to work at a forfeit, no less considerable since the building of history of Manipur must need call for a study of some of them at least. So, their works turn unauthentic. Some indigenous scholars also have produced some works. But they are students more of Purana than of history. So their works fall more in the category of Purana than that of history. So is the case, this country badly needs an authentic history of its own. ” [A. Minaketan Singh (1958), Forward p. vii, in “History of Manipur” by Dr. Jyotirmoy Roy, 1958, 1973 editions].

“Leen-Wai Yi-Maru,
Taangja Leela Paakhangba Waai-Chat-Lam,
Hang-Goi Konthing Nuraabee Waai-Chat-Lam,
Hao-Rei Laina Paangba-Lam,
Leel-Wai Yi-Maru,
Paat-Lou Lai Makol,
Leel-Wai Kharang-Pok,
Kak-Len Seenaang Sang-Kon,
Meera Pong-Thok-Lam,
Ouri Saamei-Thaang,
Lam-Yen Konbiraa…. ”
In Short, this piece of script expressed a part of the ancient history of Manipur in a concised manner. [K. C. Tensuba (1991): An Approach to the History of Meiteis and Thais, page 54].

Periods in the History of Manipur: A careful study of a language may reveal a considerable amount of the historical events, the origin, migration, the art and culture of the people. Sir William Jones, a British judge in India in 1786 while studying the Sanskrit literature revealed that it bears a striking resemblance with other two ancient languages – Latin and Greek. The Sanskrit word for father – Pitar – is astonishingly similar to the Greek and Latin – Pater. Similarly, Sanskrit – ‘Matar’ – Latin and Greek ‘Mater’ and English – mother – and Hindi ‘Mata’ share a considerable affinity. Two hundred years of linguistic research had provided evidences that one-third of the human race might have come from this Indo-European “common source” – probably between 3500-2500 BC in the central Europe from where people migrated to the West and East. In case of the Meitei people, since there were no modern system of recording, where the sense of originality was always contemplated with the modern history, the reconstruction of the ancient manuscripts and languages has yielded a considerable knowledge on the history of ancient Manipur. The following is a brief history or Puwari of some prominent Meitei rulers with a view to bring out an understanding of the various developments in Meitei history, art, culture, tradition, sports, etc. The account is not complete but hope to provide an overall grasp on the history of Manipur.

The history of Manipur may be divided into four main periods: (i) The Ancient (before Christ), (ii) The early period (1st-13th AD), (iii) The Medieval period (15-18th AD) and (iv) The Modern (19-20th Century AD).

(i) The Ancient (before Christ): a) Ningthou Kangba (1405-1359 BC): Tang was the 14th generation ruler of a tribe known as Qi who inhabited the central part of the present day China. He founded the Shang Dynasty (1523-1027 BC); therefore, also known as Tang-Shang dynasty by the ancient Meiteis. They were known as the upper or higher class of people. They domesticated horses and used them for transportation. The rulers paid due attention to agriculture. They also developed glazed potter, silk weaving and making of bronze vessels. It appeared that a group of people from the Tang-Shang dynasty might have moved West following the Yangtze river, and came down the Ningthi turen (the Chindwin river), now in Myanmar, passed through the Somra hill range and settled somewhere at the origin of the Ireel river in Manipur. After settling there for many years, a leader from that group followed the Ireel river and reached Koubru hill ranges to the north-west (~35 km) of present day Imphal. The Tang-Shang people settled along with Lei-Hou tribes, an Asiatic Tibeto-Burman group, who were original inhabitants of Koubru.

The Chief of Tang-Shang group married the daughter of Lei-Hou Chief, Sinbee Leima and established his kingdom around 1445 BC. He became to be known as Tang-Ja Leela Pakhangba (1445 BC-1405BC) (Tang-Ja=short name for Tang-Shang; Leela=who followed the Ireel trail; Pa=forefathers, Khangba=knew his forefathers, the Tang-Shang people). His wife gave birth to a son, named Kangba. Thus, the first Mi-Tei kingdom was established. Mi-Tei later came to be pronounced as Mee-tei, Mai-tei or Mei-tei at various period; but carries the same meaning.

Kangba, son of Tangja Leela Pakhangba, ascended the throne after his father’s death. He named his kingdom – Tilli Koktong and constructed a Lai-Yum (a temple) for Saree or Sannamahi God at Waroiching. He ruled over his kingdom for 46 yrs. His wife was Leima Taritnu, daughter of Nongpok Ningthou at the eastern hills of present day Imphal. This indicated that the contact between the people of the North and the East started very early although these places were separated by water until the begining of the 1st centuary AD. At that time Manipur valley did not exist. King Kangba gave the name “LOKTAK” (LOK=water or stream in hillocks; TAK=vast or the end) for the vast water covering the valley. They used dug out boats to communicate between them. King Kangba and Leima Taritnu gave birth to a son- KOIKOI. It was expressed that King Kangba introduced “Sagol Kang-jei” the horse polo. Hence the name Kang-jei for the stick and Kang-droom for the round ball. The story of Ningthou Kangba, his father and his descendants were written down for the first time in a Meitei script “Ningthou Kangbalon” by one Maichou (Meitei scholar) named Thongak Kurumba on Thursday, the 3rd of Kalen (May) during the time of Khu-Yoi Tompok (2nd Century AD), the son of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, which was transliterated into Bengali script by Nongthombamcha Angou Luwang and published by Thokchomba Ibotombi in 1976.

(b) KOI-KOI, also Known as MARIYA FAMBAL-CHA (1359 BC-1329 BC): Koikoi ascended the throne at the age of 25 yr. From this day, the dating of Meitei calender (Cheraoba) known as Mari-Fam was introduced. Hence, 1359 BC will be 25 MF, and 2000 AD will be 3364 MF in Meitei calender taking the birthday of KOIKOI as 00 MF. The surnames Koikoijam, Keirambam, etc. were started from this time. Mariya Fambal-Cha (Koikoi) and his wife, Lee-oi Nungoibee had two sons. His first son, Pong left his parents early to start his own kingdom, so his second son, Kaksu Tonkonba (Born on 3rd November, Meitei Hiyangei month, 1355 BC) became Meidingu (Ningthou or King) around 1329 BC. Meidigu Tonkonba was born prematurely at 8 months, hence the nickname Kaksu (for dwarf or not matured) was given when he was a child. Urum Khou-Chonbi was his Queen.

(c) Korou Nongdren Pakhangba (~934 BC ?): There were no recording of Mari-Fam (dates of kings) at this period. Meidingu Korou Nongdren was a great Pa-Khangba (he who knew his forefathers). During his time, all people lived peacefully and other groups also respected him. His Leima, Queen, was Thadon Leima Lairembi. They had two sons. Kuptreng, the elder was taught the art of administration whereas the younger, Sentreng was taught the art of leadership by his father. Accordingly, Sentreng became the king and Kuptreng became the administrator.

(d) Chingkhong Poireiton (34-18 BC): The region where Myanmar (Burma), Tibet and China meet was once known as Khamtilong or the region of Khams when there was no name for Burma, China, India, etc. Khu, Nung, Lei, Hou, Chakpa, Mon, Lotha, Nga, etc. were the tribes who lived in the region of Kham in the old days. Tai-Pong-Pan was the name of the present Manipur known to the people of Kham-Nung. For about 700 years, there were no rulers in what was known as Tai-Pong-Pan. So some people of Tai-Pong-Pan invited Thongarel, Kham-Nung Saowa, the great man of the Nung tribe, to rule over Tai-Pong-Pan.

By that the time Thongarel was old enough. So he asked his younger brother Chingkhong Pireiton to go there and rule over the region. Poireiton had already lost his wife after having four sons and two daughters. Thongarel offered his second wife Leima Leinaotabi to accompany Poireiton who also accepted the offer. They crossed the narrow Chaukan pass from the region of Kham and sojourned in the Hukawng valley and followed the course of Chindwin (Ningthi) river and then trickled through the norther region of the present day Ukhrul district of Manipur to reach the source of Iril river. Poireiton settled somewhere near northern Kanglatongbi from where a vast water extent and swampy areas could be seen stretched towards the south.

Poireiton worked hard for the unification of the people inhabiting along the Koubru hill range. In his journey from Kham, Poireiton was accompanied by tribes of Chakpa, Nung, Kham, Mon, Khu, Nga, etc. who were all neo-Tibetans. Under the leadership of Poireiton, all the people including the original Tang-Shang people lived and inter-married together. It appeared that they were Buddhists in approach. During his reign, the kingdom was known as Poirei-lam (the land of Poireiton) and the people were called Poirei-Meetei. The accounts of Poireiton and his followers’ migration were recorded in a msnuscript called “Poireiton Khunthokpa” in a perfect prose.

(ii) The Early Period: (a) Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (33-153 AD or 1431-1551 MF): Nongda Lairen Pakhangba was the son of Leinung Yabirok (mother) reigned in the 1st century AD. He married Laisra, a daughter of the line of Poireiton kings. Nongda Lairen Pakhangba and Laisra ascended the throne in 33 AD on one Monday at Kangleipungmayol, the name of his kingdom, after making bards sing “Ougree” a song sung in praise of the god for prosperity of the King and his people. Meidingu Pakhangba was an able descendent of Ningthou Kangba and Tangja Leela Pakhangba; but, the accounts of his father has yet to be traced although Tupu Likleng alias Luwang Langmaiba was suggested his father in “The History of Manipur” by W. Ibohal Singh. He started moving his kingdom toward the low lying areas after the water in the valley started draining slowly at Ching-Nung-Hut in South-West Manipur. He named his palace Kangla [dry land]. From him, the Mangang clan originated. When he was a young boy, he used to catch fish at the source of Ireel turen. One day he came across Kouba Angang-nga who tried to invade his father’s kingdom. He stopped the approach of the enemy. He was a great patronage of Sanna-Mahi. During his long life, Meiding Pakhangba was known as Leinung Lonja Pakhangba and Lolaang Pakhangba and attained the status of a Lai-Ningthou (God King). Cheitharol Kumbaba chronicle started from Nongda Lairen Pakhangba.

“Here, one should not be confused with Meidingu Nongda Lairen Pakhangba and the PAKHAGNBA GOD of Meiteis, the younger brother of Sanna-mahi, the son of Yaibirel (Atiya Kuru) Sidaba and Leimaren Sidabee. The story of Sannamahi and Pakhangba are of religious concept reflecting the origin and the creation of life on earth. The story of Sanna-Mahi faith of Meiteis is briefly desribed. “When there was nothing in this Universe, it was known as Ting-Ka-Kok or total emptiness in the Ancient Meitei verson. Atiya Kuru Sidba (Atiya, the vast and empty sky; Kuru, the round or circular hemisphere; and Sidaba, never ending or no birth and death ever present) asked his elder son Sanna-Mahi (the liquid of life spreading in all direction like the rays of the Sun, so also the Sun God) to create all the life forms on earth. After Sannamahi created the living beings, Atiya Kuru Sidaba, the god-father wanted to appoint a leader to protect the living and to lead a happy life on earth. Accordingly he sent his son Pakhangba to earth to sustain and propagate life there. ” In course of time, Pakhangba became the protector, the king, and was also represented with the symbol of a Dragon God. The Sannamahi laishon (also the worship of Sun) became an everyday life of Meiteis with verbal chantings and singings and was common to all people. On the other hand, Pakhangba laining (mediation) became an art of looking into the self by the self for the self, which was coined as Nung-da Hee-ri Kon-ba. No verbal chanting was allowed in Pakhangba laining and required deep concentration and meditation; therefore, it was performed by Kings, Nobles and Maichous (scholars) to enlighten his self and to be able to rule the kingdom prosperously.

With the Sanskritization process of Meiteis, after conversion of the Kings to Hinduism toward the beginning of the 18th century, Meitei Gods were transformed to align with the Gods of the Hindu mythology. So, Pakhangba became Siva Mahadev and the representation of the Dragon God was dubbed to the snake god, Ananta of Hindus. Panthoibi, the God of prosperity and of war became Durga. Thangjing, the Supreme God of the Moirang Kingdom, was attempted to be personified as Vishnu. Nongpok Ningthou, at the eastern hills of Imphal, was substituted for Barun or Baruni for the rain god of Hindus. Atiya Kuru Sidaba became Atiya Guru Sidaba. But, Kuru is not exactly Guru, the Sanskrit meaning of a Master. In Meitei, Kuru would also mean a scholar of all round knowledge, taking the concept of the limitless semi-circular hemisphere, Kuru Koiba. Mangang Kuru, Luwang Kuru, Khuman Kuru, etc. were the titles of scholars of respective Meitei clans. The process of Sanskritization and Hindunization among Meiteis reached its peak between 1890-1930 AD. With the revival of the Sannamahi faith among some Meiteis in the 1930s, the desanskritization process, supported by Meitei Marups or Phurups, began. Nevertheless, the battle continues till today between the Vaishnavite scholars who cling to their passion for belonging to a larger Hindu religion and society, and the ethnic conscious Meitei Marups of the Sannamahi and Pakhangba faith to resurrect their forefather’s religion and scriptures.

“Before 1891, there was not any remarkable social or religious reform movement in Manipur. Yet the acceleration of the 3:37 pm Sanskritization of Manipuri society was notice during this period. Therefore, it will be worthwhile to trace the historical background of the advent of different cults of Hinduism in Manipur. The worship of Vishnu was strated in Manipur in the 15th century during the reign of King Kyamba (1467-1508). According to tradition, the idol of the Vishnu sitting on a Caruda was presented by Tsawba Khekhomba, the Shan king of Pong in 1474 A. D. ; even, now there is a Vishnu temple at Bishenpur. But the kings of Manipur were not converted to Hinduism till the reign of Charairongba (1697-1709), the presence of Hindu mode of worship in Manipur could be easily implied due to the migration of Brahmins in this kingdom. However, the attempts made by some scholars that Vedic religion was prevelant in Manipur in the pre-historical or historical period are simply excercises on futility. ” [Dr. G. Kabui, Professor of History, Manipur University, Imphal, in “History of Modern Manipur (1826-1946)”, pp 89-90, 1991].

“A small section of Manipuris strongly believe that they are western and Hindu descent. On linguistic and anthropometric grounds this idea is quite untenable… in this respect the Puranas cannot be relied much because they were very much influenced by the Brahminical Purana stories. ” [Dr. Jyotirmoy Roy, Vice Principle of D. M. College, Imphal, in “History of Manipur”, p. 4, 1958 and 1973 editions].

(b) Meidingu Yanglou Keiphaba (965-983 AD or 2363-2381 MF): Khamlang Atonba, the son of Meidingu Chenglei Lanthaba, ascended the throne after his father in 965 AD. One day he went for hunting to a place called Yanglou Louchipan and caught six tigers alive. Henceforth, he became to be known as Yanglou Keiphaba (Kei=tiger; phaba=to capture). He married Lairenjam Chanu Mubisu, the daughter of Louthog-pak Chief. She was a great Sinbee, a master of weaving and embroidary. She invented the Khoi-Mayek style of Meitei Phanek Mapan Naiba [Manipur ladies dress similar to the Sarong of South East Asia]. Still today this design is a favorite for Meitei ladies.

(c) Meidingu Loitongba (1121-1149 AD or 2519-2547 MF): When king Loiyumba, Loitongba’s father, ascended the throne, his mother Sum-Leima was pregnant with Loitongba; hence, the name Loitongba= who ascended the throne together with his parents. He was a man of games and sports. It is mentioned that he invented the game of “Kang-Sanaba” of meiteis. Some scholars argue that Kang-Sanaba had already existed and Loitongba was a master of the game. His son Atom Yoireba ascended the throne (1149-1162 AD) but his brother Hemtou Iwang-Thaba invaded him and drove him out of the Kingdom.

(iii) The Medieval Period: a) Meidingu Senbi Kiyamba (1467-1507 AD): Medingu Senbi Kiyamba, the son of Ningthou Khomba and Leima Linthoingambi, became the king at the age of 24 in 1467 AD. He and the king of Pong (Shan Kindom) were good friends. Sanna Langmeirembi, a princess, was married to the Pong King, Chaopha (Tsatwa) Khekhomba. The King of Pong visited Manipur and presented Kiyamba a golden box containing a stone, known as PHEIYA (Almighty), having the power of God and a sacred spear to guard the stone. At that time, the people of Manipur did not know about the worship of God in the form of a sacred stone. King Kiyamba in respect of the King of Pong built a brick temple at Lamangdong, 27 km south of Imphal, in 1475. Later, a Brahmin, migrated from Cachar understood PHEIYA as the Hindu God, Bishnu. He announced that rice boiled in cow milk should be offered to the deity in order to bring good fortune to the King and the people of his kingdom. Accordingly, Meidingu Kiyamba appointed this Brahmin in the service of the deity. Afterwards, the followers of the Brahmin were known as Bishnupriya and the place was named Bishnupur.

In 1485 AD, King Kiyamba introduced the system of CHEITHABA in which the name of an entire year will be taken after the name of a person so that even illiterate citizens can remember the year. Hiyangloi was the first person whose name was used as the first Cheithaba, which meant he would volunteer to bear the burden and sufferings of the kingdom fell during that particular year.

(b) Meidingu Pamheiba (1708-1747 AD or 3106-3145 MF): Pamheiba was one of the sons of Meidingu Charairongba and Sapam Chanu Ningthil-Chaibi. He was born on 22nd Dec. (Poinu in Meitei month), 1690 AD. After his father’s dead, he became the king on 23rd Aug. (Thawan in Meitei), 1708 AD. Pamheiba had 8 wives and many sons and daughters. During his 39 yrs of reign, he extended his kingdom in the east to Kabow valley, to the west to Nongnang (Cachar), Takhel (Tripura). At one point it was considered that Chittagong hills came under his rule. In 1734 AD, King Pamheiba invaded Takhel and captured 1100 people and brought to Manipur. These people inter-married with the locals and joined the Meitei community. Pamheiba was one of the greatest Meitei kings of Manipur. He was so intensely involved in extending his territory and warfare that he did not pay any attention to Sanna-Mahi laishon and Pakhangba laining religious rituals. He latter was influenced by Hindu religion which had reached to Manipur around 15th-16th centuries. He stopped poultry and piggery in the country in 1723 AD. He excavated all Lupungs (burial grounds for kings, his forefathers) and burnt the remains on the bank of Ningthi turen (at that time Meitei territory extended upto Chindwin) on 20th March, 1724 AD. This began the cremation of dead bodies among meiteis. On full moon day of Mera (October), 1732 AD, he collected all the Holy books, Puya related to Sanna-Mahi religion and burnt them. This is known as Puya-Meithaba among Meiteis. In 1737 AD, he himself was converted to the Ramanandi Sect of Vaisnavism with the help of Shantidas Gosai, a preacher from Sylhet (now in Bangladesh). King Pamheiba expelled all his Maichous (scholars) and those who opposed to this new religion to far away villages. Some of the prominent meitei maichous were Louremba Khongnang Thaba, Langol Lukhoi, Konok Thengra, Wangoo Bajee, etc. He introduced the term “MAHARAJA” in place of “MEIDINGU OR NINGTHOU” for the King.

(c) Ningthou Ching-Thang Khomba (Maharaja Bheigyachandra) 1763-1798 AD or 3161-3196 MF.: Ningthou Ching-Thang Khomba was the son of Samjai Khurai-Lakpa (the eldest son of Pamheiba). Chitsai, Pamheiba’s anonther son, killed his father in Ava (Burma) and became the king (1747-1951 AD). He was expelled by his brother Borot-sai. Chitsai went to Tripura (Takhel) and then to Chittagong. He approached the British East India Company to help him (1751 AD). However, he did not get their help. This was the first contact of Meiteis with the British. Borotsai ruled for 2 years and Gaurisiam, Ching-Thang Khomba’s brother, became King. Later in 1762 AD. , the British and Manipur sign a treaty (signed by Gaurisiam and Mr. Venositart, Governor of Bengal), which spelled that British and Manipur will encourage trade and commerce. The British will give necessary help to protect the kingdom from outside invaders. And Manipur will provide a piece of land in Manipur for the East India Company posting.

In 1763 AD, after the dead of Gaurisiam, Ching-Thang Khomba ascended the throne. The Burmese attacked Manipur in 1769 AD and he fled to Cachar. At last, in 1773 AD, Manipur was taken back. He established his capital at Lamangdong (Bishenpur) in 1775 AD. He moved his capital to Langthaban (Canchipur). When he moved his capital he made the image of Govindaji from a Fig-Tree growing in the Kaina hill. On the coronation, 11th Jan. 1779 AD, (Wakching month) RAS-LEELA was played for five days continuously in the open grounds of Ras Mandal Pukhri.

The name “MANIPUR” for “MEITRABAK” or “SANNA-LEIPAK” came to existence in 1774 AD when Warren Hastings was the Governer General of India. Mr. Rendel assigned the name and the kingdom extended from Ningthi in the east to Chittagong in the South and up to Brahmaputra area in the North and Cachar in the East.

During his reign Chaitanya sect of Vaisnavism was established. Yaosang, the great festival of Meiteis, was invented by Ching-Thang Khomba on the full moon day of Lamta (March). The image of Nityananda was curved and coronated on Thursday March 5, 1779 AD. His brother Ananta Sai and his decendents were made responsible for Sri Bijoy Gobinda and the annual festival of HEGRU HIDONGBA (boat racing) held on the 11th of Langban (September) every year. In 1796 AD his capital was moved from Langthaban (Canchipur) to Konthoujam Yumphal (present Governor’s Bungalow). In 1797 AD, he handed over the throne to his eldest son Labeinyachandra and went on pilgrimage to Nabadweep. He died at Murshidabad, India in 1798 AD.

(iv) The Modern Period: (a) CHAHI-TARET KHUNTAKPA, 1819-1825 AD (seven years of Manipur anarchy, 3212-3218 MF): When Marjeet was the king of Manipur, Burma invaded again in 1819 AD. At that time the princes of Manipur were fighting for controling the throne and the country was in a political turmoil. Manipuris faced the invasion fiercely for seven days. But they were defeated by the Burmes and the people fled to different places in the West. The king went to Cachar which was ruled by two of his brothers – Chourjit and Gambir Sing – who were appointed by him.

(a) CHAHI-TARET KHUNTAKPA, 1819-1825 AD (seven years of Manipur anarchy, 3212-3218 MF): When Marjeet was the king of Manipur, Burma invaded again in 1819 AD. At that time the princes of Manipur were fighting for controling the throne and the country was in a political turmoil. Manipuris faced the invasion fiercely for seven days. But they were defeated by the Burmes and the people fled to different places in the West. The king went to Cachar which was ruled by two of his brothers – Chourjit and Gambir Sing – who were appointed by him.

During this anarchy, Burmese occupants destroyed the country badly. The palace was leveled to the ground. In 1825, Manipuris attacked Burmese occupation led by Gambir Sing and drove them beyond Ningthi (Chindwin) river. On 26th Inga (June), 1825, he declared himself as the king of Manipur and constructed his palace (Konung) at the top of Bishenpur hill in April, 1826 AD. Later, he shifted his capital to Langthaban (Canchipur).

At the request of the British Government by Governor General, Mr. Scott, Maharaja Gambir Sing went to Khasi hills to help the British who were unable to fight the Khasis. In the month of May 1829 AD, he died at the age of 49 years at Langthaban.

(b) Maharaja Chandrakirti (1834-1844 AD or 3232-3242 MF): The only son of Maharaja Gambir Sing and Maisnam Chanu Kumudini Ponglen-Khombi, ascended the throne at the age of 2 years with his uncle Narasing as a caretaker. Previously, before Gambir Sing died, he and British Government made an agreement that Kabow valley will be leased to Burma for cultivation and Maharaja of Manipur will receive a sum of Rs 6000/- per annum as a tribute. This story was recorded in the Cheitharol Kumbaba by Meiteis, but the actual fact was that the British ignored the Meitei sentiments and tried to please the Burmese by giving the controversial Meitei Kabow valley, which had been in the Manipuri territory for several years. On hearing the news, Maharaj Gambir Sing died of heart-attack. So, the agreement was signed on 12th January (Wakching), 1834 AD by Narasing, as a representative of the child king, and by British political agents, Captain Grant, Captain Pamperton and Mr. George Gordon. For the first time a table clock and a big wall mirror were brought from England and presented to the King. On Jan 27, 1844 AD, when Maharaja was 12 years old, his mother ran away with him in Cachar because of a revolt by Nobin, a descendant of Pamheiba, against Narasing. However, Narasing defeated Nobin and he became Maharaja of Manipur. He moved the capital from Langthaban to Kangla at Yumphal (Imphal) on May 9th, 1844 AD. He died on April 10, 1850 AD.

Chandrakirti Maharaja came back from Cachar and became King again (1850-1886 AD) at the age of 19 years. In December, 1857 AD, Sepoys at Chittagong revolted against British, and the news was spread in Manipur by the British Government that Hindu sepoys will invade Europeans and take over Manipur. Maharaja with 600 Meitei soldiers led by Nameirakpam Menjor went to prevent the sepoys. A number of sepoys were arrested and handed over to the British. For the first time in 1868 AD photography was introduced in Manipur.

Re-demarcation of Manipur’s boundary (present day map) was done again on 13th Dec, 1873 AD with Dr. Brown (FRCSE) and Thangal General as leaders from both sides. The British considered the Meiteis very illiterate who did not want to be educated. They did not know that Meiteis had a very long history of its own and education system, and the maichous and puyas were prohibited by the Maharaj not so long ago. Dr. Brown published the Meitei script for the first time in 1877 AD for the Asiatic Society of Bengal. The then Bengal Government donated a few books and started teaching Bengali script and English. The Meitei script became obsolete. Naga rebels, in the north, at Khonoma killed Dr. G. H. Damant on October 4, 1879. Lt. Col. J. Jonstone, the political agent in Manipur and Thangal General subdued them. Maharaja Chandrakirti was given the title of K. C. S. I. by the British Government for his help and friendship to the British. He also introduced “Sagol Kangjei”, Manipuri Polo, to the British. He died in 1886 AD at Kangla in Yumphal.

(c) Maharaja Surchand Singh (1886-1890 AD or 3289-3294 MF.): Maharaja Surchand, the eldest son of Chandrakirti ascended the throne after his father. He ruled for 5 years. In 1890, his younger brothers, Zillangamba and Angousana revolted against him along with Jubaraj Tikendrajit. Kullachandra, the elder brother of Tikendrajit, became the king. Surchand and his brothers left for Calcutta in the pretext of going to Brindabon. He requested the British Government to restore his throne. Lord Landsdowne, the viceroy of India ordered Mr. J. W. Quinton, Governor of Assam, to recognise Kullachandra as the King but to arrest Jubaraj Tikendrajit. Accordingly Mr. Quinton and his army raided the residence of Jubaraj without prior notice. However, they could not capture Tikendrajit. In further attempts, Mr. Quinton, Mr. Grimwood, the political agents along with five other British officers were killed.

The British Government waged open war against Manipur. Three columns of army were sent to Imphal from three directions: 1. Tamu (Moreh)- in south-east, 2. Kohima (Nagaland)- in the north and 3. Cachar (Assam)-in the west. In this Anglo-Manipuri war, the forces from the west and north advanced to Imphal after strong fighting. But in the south at Khongjom (40 km from Imphal), Paona Brajabashi and his army resisted repeatedly in spite of the larger and superior British Army. Paona lost his life on the war and British conquered Manipur on 27th April, 1891 AD. Thus, Manipur lost its independence. Jubaraj Tikendrajit and Thangal General were hanged by neck on 13th August, 1891 AD at Mapan Kangjei-bung (Polo ground).

(d) Maharaja Churachand Singh (1891-1941 AD or 3289-3339 MF): On Thursday 22nd of Langban, 1891 AD, the political agent of Manipur called Maharani Moirangthem Chanu and Jubaraj Churachand (8 yrs old) and made him the king. At this time Sri Govindaji was brought to the newly constructed Palace at Imphal. During his reign, NUPI LAN I (Woman’s war, 1904 AD, a revolt against the forced labor) and NUPILAN II (1939AD) occurred.

(e) Maharaja Budhachandra Singh (1941-1955 AD or 3339-3353 MF): After his highness Maharaja Churachand, his eldest son Budhachandra became the king of Manipur with Ishori Devi, the princess of Nepal as Leima or Maharani. World War II broke out in Manipur from April 1942-Jan. 1945 AD. Manipur was bombarded continuously for two years and the country was destroyed completely including Imphal and the Maharaja’s Palace. Markets were closed and paddy fields were not harvested during the war. People were suffering but Manipuris were too proud to beg for help. Several movements led by Neta Irabot sprang up in the demand for self rule of Manipur against the British Government. He went undergound in 1946 AD and died in 1955 AD in Burma. After the war, at 12 midnight of Thursday 28th August (Thawan), 1947 AD, the British handed over Manipur to Maharaja Budhachandra Singh and Maharani Iroshi Devi. Maharaja entered Kangla at Imphal and hoisted the National Flag of Manipur bearing the Dragon God Pakhangba. Top-guns were fired 18 times in honor of the Sovereign Kingdom in the presence of a large crowd. However, it did not last long. The newly formed independent India and its Government in New Delhi pressured the King to sign a merger agreement with India under very unusual circumstances. Maharaja signed the documents on 21st September 1949 AD at Shillong without prior consideration and approval from elected members of the Manipur Assembly. On October 15, 1949 AD, Major General Rawal Amar announced the annexation of Manipur at the Assam Rifle’s ground. Thus, Manipur’s status was lowered to a Part C territory under the Indian rule. In 1953, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru discontinued the payment of Kabow valley agreement to Manipur. This angered many of the local people. Budhachandra Maharaja died in 1955 AD.

(f) Present Manipur: On 21 January 1972, Manipur was granted Statehood after several years of demand by All Manipur Students Union and several political organisations. The ceremony was performed at the Palace Polo ground in Imphal. In 1992, Meitei-lon (Manipuri) was included in the Eighth Schedule as one of the 18 official languages of India. Manipur has yet to see an industry and a proper road connection to the rest of India. Air transportations are provided from Calcutta, New Delhi, Guwahati and Silchar but much beyond the reach of commoners.

Martial Arts

The Meeteis introduced two Martial arts in the human society i.e. , “Sarit Sarak” and “Thang-Ta” which are still exist in the Manipur. The self defence Martial arts “Sarit -Sarak” is a martial art which is very important among the Meetei people who love to defend themselves from any stranger’s attack. The Sarit Sarak art of unarmed combat is quite distinct from other martial art forms. It is simply flawless in its evasive and offensive action, as compared to any other existing martial art of the same school.

Thang-Ta is most popular Meetei Martial arts which is at present seen in most part of the Meeteis introduced two Martial arts in the human society i.e. , “Sarit-Sarak” and “Thang-Ta” which are still exist in the Manipur. The self defence Martial arts “Sarit-Sarak” is a martial art which is very important among the Meeteis’ world through demonstration in cultural programmes. Fight with the equipment including sword, spear, axe, etc.

The history of Thang-Ta and Sarit-Sarak can be traced to the 17th century. Thang-Ta involves using a sword or spear against one or more opponents. Sarit-Sarak is the technique of fighting against armed or unarmed opponents, but on many occasions there is a combined approach to the training of these martial arts. These martial arts were used with great success by the Manipuri kings to fight against the British for a long time. With the British occupation of the region, martial arts were banned, but post – 1950s saw the resurgence of these arts.

Thang-ta is practiced in three different ways. The first way is absolutely ritual in nature, related to the tantric practices. The second way consists of a spectacular performance involving sword and spear dances. These dances can be converted into actual fighting practices. The third way is the actual fighting technique.

Legend has it that Lainingthou Pakhangba, the dragon god – king, ordained King Mungyamba, to kill the demon Moydana of Khagi with a spear and sword, which he presented to the king. According to another such legend, God made the spear and sword with creation of the world. This amazing wealth of Manipuri martial arts has been well preserved, since the days of god king Nongda Lairel Pakhangba. The fascinating Manipuri dance also traces its origin from these martial arts.

Games & Sports

Meetei introduced Horse-Polo to the world of game which is originated from the Manipur Valley of NE India almost more than 1000 years back. The original name of the game is Called Sagol Kangjei. Sagol stand for Horse and Kangjei stand for hockey stick. Mukna-Kangjei wrestling-with hockey stick is also a game which is much older game still played in Manipur. It is a big competition with a group call “Pana” where clubs like body compete at this game. “Kang-Sanaba” it is an indoor game play in every locality at present too.

Khong Kangjei: Like polo, Khong Kangjei, is also a very popular game for the Manipuris. The game is played with seven players on either side and each player is equipped with a bamboo stick about 4ft. in length made in the form of modern hockey stick. The game is started with a throw of the ball made of bamboo root in the field of 200 x 80 yards in area. A player may carry the ball in any manner to the goal, he may even kick it but he has to score the goal only by hitting the ball with his stick. There is no goal post and a goal is scored when the ball crosses the goal line fully. A player often encounters with an opponent in his attempt at carrying or hitting the ball towards the goal. The encounter may develop into a trial of strength which is indigenously known as Mukna. The game requires much physical stamina, speed and agility. In the olden days players excelling in the game received royal favours and prizes.

Hiyang Tannaba: The sport, which arouses most enthusiasm among the audience with an “apparent lack sporting interest”, is the Hiyang Tannaba (the boat race) in which the different Pannas often compete. It receives direct royal patronage with the king once sitting in the boat. The royal boats, two in number, carry the symbols of Chinglai (dragons) at the helm. To see this race with spectacular audience on both sides of the ditch where about seventy rowers display their skills is indeed an experience. The object of the race is for one boat, to foul the other and bore it into the bank. The boats are thus close together and the race is generally won by a foot or two only. This kind of game is patronage by the kings of Manipur and is regarded as one of the greatest popular sport in Manipur.

Thang Ta & Sarit Sarak (Manipuri Martial Arts): These are the Manipuri Martial Arts, the traditions of which had been passed down over the centuries. It is a very energetic and skillful art and is a way to hone one’s battlecraft during the peace time in the olden days when every Manipuri was a warrior who is required to serve his country at the time of war. Long and precise practices are required and only the brave and athletic could excel. The art as seen today observe elaborate rituals and rules which are strictly observed by the participants. Besides, the above, there are other games like Lamjel (foot race), Mangjong (Broad jump) etc.

Sagol Kangjei (Polo): The Manipuri Sagol Kangjei has been adopted by the International Community as Polo and is now being played worldwide. The ‘PUYAS’ trace it to the mythological age when the game was played by gods. The game is played with 7 players on each side mounted on ponies which are often not more than 4/5 feet in height. Each player is outfitted with a polo stick made of cane having a narrow angled wooden head fixed at the striking end. The ball, 14 inches in circumference is made of bamboo root. The mounted players hit the ball into the goal. Extremely vigorous and exhilarating the game is now played in two styles – the PANA or original Manipuri style and the International style i.e. Polo. It is exhilarating to see the Manipuri players in their sixties and even seventies riding ponies at full gallop and playing Sagol Kangjei with gusto. The ponies are also decorated fully with various guards protecting the eyes, forehead, flanks etc. The British learned the game of Sagol Kangjei in the 19th Century from Manipur after refinement it was transplanted to the countries as Polo.

Yubi Lakpi (Manipuri Style Rugby played with a Coconut rubbed with edible oil): “Yubi” is the Manipuri for coconut and “Lakpi” for snatching. Played on the beautiful green turf of the palace ground or at the Bijoy Govinda Temple Ground, each side has 7 players in a field that is about 45 x 18 metres in area. One end of the field has a rectangular box 4.5 x 3 mtrs. One side of which forms the central portion of the goal line. To score a goal a player has to approach the goal from the front with his oiled coconut and pass the goal line. The coconut serves the purpose of a ball and is offered to the king or the judges who sit just beyond the goal line. However, in ancient times the teams were not equally matched but the players, with the coconut had to tackle all the rest of the players.

Mukna (Manipuri Wrestling): The game is the Manipuri style of wrestling played between two male rivals for trial of strength by sheer physical strength and skill. Athletes of the same or approximately the same physical built weight and, age are made rivals. The game is an absolute must for the closing ceremonies of the Lai Haraoba festival. Mukna is a highly popular and prestigious game. In the olden days the game enjoyed royal patronage.

Kang: Played on the mud floor of a big out-house, fixed targets hit with “Kang” which is a flat and oblong instrument made of either ivory or lac. Normally each team has 7 male partners. The game is also played as a mixed-doubles contest. Played strictly during the period between of ‘Cheiraoba’ (Manipuri New Year’s Day) and the Rath Yatra festival, Manipuri religiously adhere to its time-frame as popular belief holds that if the game is played beyond its given limit, evil spirits invade the mind of players and spectators.

Alcove 5 – Apatani amidst Paddy Field

Picturesque Ziro is 200 km from Itanagar. Situated on the Apatani Plateau (in the lower Subansiri region) and surrounded by pine mantled hills all around, it is spectacular. Ziro, the district headquarter of upper Subansiri, is a tourist’s delight with its dazzling landscapes and tribal culture. Make a point to visit Tarin, the high-altitude fish farm, the famous whispering pine grove and the craft centre.

Ziro is the home of Apatani Tribes. The Apatanis are one of most advanced and intriguing of Arunachal’s tribal people. Both men and women tattoo themselves and the women are distinctive with their great nose plugs (dat) made of bamboo and face tattoos. It has now been banned. The Apatanis grow rice by terrace farming; they also have created an indigenous irrigation system which is unique amongst the Arunachal tribals.

The Apatani village comprises of long rows of houses with a fertility totem in front of each one. In their cooking, they use an indigenous herbal salt that’s rich in iodine. Living in perfect harmony with nature, for every tree they fell, five fresh saplings are planted. The weaving skills of their women are legendary as can be seen from the wonderful Jikhe pattern, woven jackets and intricately patterned Jilang shawls. The men are skilled in metallurgy and bamboo craft.

Tribe Name: Apatani

The Apatani, or Tanii, are a tribal group of about 26,000 (approximately) in Ziro valley in the Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh India. However, more Apatanis live outside this valley, making the total population to approximately 26,000 all over the state.


The culture and socio- economic condition of Apatani needs more elaboration. Apatani family is highly patriarchal. They can be dissected into two classes, popularly known as, the Gyuchii and the Gyuttii. Moreover the Apatani tribe is sub-divided into quite a number of clans. However the common belief is that all of these clans have got the status of having fallen under a single tribal identity. Although amongst them, these Apatani tribes maintain a very cordial and harmonious relation. Inter class marriage is strictly being prohibited. Only the tribal ‘endogamy’ and ‘clan exogamy’ is the directive adopted by all the Apatani tribes.

However, coming in pace with the modern trend, instances of young Apatani getting married to a person of different caste is not rare. Especially, such trends are also being noticed nowadays amongst those Apatani people who are quite educated. Monogamy as the societal norm is widely prevalent. However quite now and then, bigamy is also practiced. Marriage ceremony is again being held either by the way of negotiations. Marriages also are being fixed on the basis of seeing an ‘omen’ with the aid of chicken lever. The process is first initiated from the family of groom. Apatani tribes are mainly businessmen, establishing links with different Apatani classes on grounds of affinity, ritualistic practices and friendship ties only.


Their language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family


In the lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh, Apatani tribes reside in peace and haven. Those anthropologists, who have carried out research on the birth and origin of Apatani, inferred that they have descended from a ‘legendary ancestor, Abotani.’ Further they have added that all the Apatani tribes have emigrated to Arunachal Pradesh from various region of north India that are situated in areas beyond Khru and Kime rivers. These facts have been depicted on the basis of remnants that are being found on 3 ‘neolithic’ zones at Parsiparlo and Raga circle. Also few historical leftovers are there at Talle Valley, to justify the fact as has been mentioned right now.

Traditional Dress

The dress of the Apatanis is elaborate and colorful, yet simple in style. Tattooing (Tiipe) and the stuffing of large nose plugs (yaping hullo) were once popular among the women, although this practice has gradually fallen into decline in recent years. This practice is believed to have started because the women wanted to look unattractive to males from neighboring tribes. Apatani women were considered to be the most beautiful ones among all the Arunachal tribes. Younger members of this community have stopped this traditional practice.

Traditionally, the men tie their hair in a knot just above the forehead (locally called piiding) using a brass rod (piiding khotu) measuring 12 inches, placed horizontally. Strips of fine cane belt painted in red (yari) and bent into the shape of a horse-collar with an elongated end were also worn. These strips of cane are loosely fastened together, with the loop of the horse-collar being tied round the waist. The men also tattoo (tiippe) their chin in the shape of a ‘T’ under the lower lip. The women tattoo themselves with broad blue lines from the forehead to the tip of the nose and five vertical stripes under the lower lip in the chin. The women bundle up their tresses, which are rolled into a ball (dilling) on the top of the head. A brass skewer (ading akh) may then be inserted horizontally.


Festivals and fairs are part and parcel of Apatani tribal community. Dree, Yapung, Murung and Myoko are the main festivals of Apatani. Dree festival is celebrated in the month of July each and every year, whilst Yapung festival is feted in the month of September or October. There is a great merry making and dancing during the Dree festival. Observation of another important festival is celebrated in special way. Usually held every year in the month of March, it is feted in a cyclical manner by creating three groups of villages. The first group consists of Hong village only. Second group are Hari and Bulla, consisting of villages, namely, Kalong, Reru, Tajang and Lempia .

The third and the last group are the villages of Michi, Hija, Dutta, Mudang-Tage, and Bamin. Quite a handful of Apatani tribes celebrate the festival of Murung, every year in the month of January.

The importance of all these festivals is that they all are observed with lots of enthusiasm amongst the Apatani tribes, thus ensuring better cultivation, preservation of the grains from various ill effects like storms, hailstone, insects and wild animals. They are also for the sake of welfare of villagers as well their wealth of ‘livestock’.

In the festivals and other joyful fetes, dancing and musical songs play an important role in all the festivals. In fact the Apatani tribes perform many conventional dances, amongst which the dances like Daminda and Pakhu Ittu dances are very popular.


The Apatanis are agriculturists, producing mainly paddy. Animal husbandry is another popular occupation of Apatani tribes. They rear ‘Mithuns’ cattle, pig, goats and poultry. They practice fishing by nets, angles and traps. Hunting with the help of spears, traps and arrows are practiced. While Apatani women weave nicely, men adapts to basket crafting.

The Apatanis with a highly developed valley cultivation of rice perfected over centuries has often been suggested to be one of the relatively advanced tribal societies in the Northeastern region of India. They make effective use of their land by planting early and late ripening varieties of rice. The Apatanis practice aquaculture alongwith rice farming on their plots. Rice – fish culture in the valley is a unique practice in the state where two crops of rice Mipya and Emoh and one crop of fish Ngihi are raised together. This practice is unique in Arunachal Pradesh and is known to enhance ecological sustainability.

The rice field Aji can be utilized for fish culture in the following ways. Fishes can be reared from the month of April to September when the paddy crops grow in the field. At present it is being practiced at Ziro .The fish culture can also be taken up from the month of November to February after harvesting of paddy crops is completed and transplantation for the next season begins. The culture of fishes in paddy fields, which remain flooded even after the paddy is harvested, may also serve as an occupation for the unemployed youths. Paddy field is suitable for fish culture at Ziro because of having strong bund Agher in order to prevent leakage of water, to retain up to desired depth and also to prevent the escape of cultivated fishes during floods.

The Apatanis are known for the meticulous care they take of their agricultural fields. For example, after the transplantation of paddy saplings they repeat three cycles of weeding to ensure a weed-free field and healthy crop. They practice an intricate irrigation system of canals and channels from the time they started wet rice cultivation. It is impressive to note that the only (small) river in Ziro valley irrigates the whole wet rice fields of Ziro. After transplanting of paddy from the nursery in wet rice cultivation field (W.R.C.), the fish fingerlings are put in Pakho/Hetey (channels in paddy field for drainage of water) at knee-deep height that are kept for 2-3 months before harvesting of fish. Though there is hardly any gap in the agriculture calendar of the Apatanis but the main activities i.e., sowing starts in February with harvesting in October.

At present, however, the biggest threat to this sustainable ecology is the use of chemical substances like bleaching power, other explosive materials, and an electrolyte which is most discouraging in the field of pisciculture practice. As a result of unwanted practice, the death of valuable food organisms of the aquatic environment is taking place. Further, it causes imbalance of ecological niche and thereby damaging the river bank. It is encourage able that some of NGOs have already formed unanimously local conservation Acts to stop such unwanted practices of fishing e.g. for increasing fish production in a sustainable manner, conservation of aquatic life, biodiversity is a necessary prerequisite.


For better administration, there is a village council in each Apatani village consisting of one or two ‘Buliyang’ spokesperson from each and every clan.

The society considers that man folk is higher in status than woman folk. But practically, equal responsibility of duties is shared by both in the field, home and the family affairs. Apatani woman carries out the duties of gathering of both wild and kitchen garden vegetables, cooking, fetching of water, pounding of rice, cleaning of houses, washing of clothes and utensils, nursing and looking after infants and children, preparation of rice beer, ginning and spinning of cotton and other jobs associated with the house hold. In the field, the Apatani woman carries out the tasks like gardening, seedling, transplanting of paddy and millet, padding, weeding of fields and or the activities. In a home managed family incomes internally controlled by a woman.


Most Apatanis are loyal followers of the Danyi-Piilo faith, who pray to the Sun (Ayo Danyii) and the Moon (Atoh Piilo). Abotani is revered as the sole ancestor of all Apatani and other tribes in the surrounding regions. When a misfortune occurs, they believe that it is caused by certain evil spirits, and thus they make appeasement by sacrificing chickens, cows and other domestic animals. Myoko, the festival of friendship and prosperity, is celebrated in a grand manner lasting for all of March each year. Dree Festivalcelebrated in July, is the main agricultural festival of the Apatanis.

Marital System

Apatanis practice monogamy in general but a man may polygamise when he has no male child or his wife is barren or he is of a well to-do-family which can provide sufficient food and shelter or with the consent of his first wife. Polyandry system is totally unknown. The cross cousin marriage and ciciberism practices are not approved. The Apatanis treat the wife of the elder brother as a second mother and the wife of the younger brother as own sister. The customs of the marriage of the Apatanis have no age bar. Marriage is socially approved within the seven villages according to the class and status. Class means ‘Gyuchi’ and ‘Gyutii’ and the status means economic status

The marriage in the Apatani also may be arranged either by negotiations or by elopement or by the capturing. In the negotiation marriage, the boy side must test an omen from chicken liver secretly before taking any decision and carefully examining it. The chicken omen is tested whether she will agree and lead a fruitful life with children and prosperity. If the omen favour it, the two cousin brothers of the boy go to the house of the girl’s parents taking the right omen and these two brothers are known as Gyunta.The right omen of the boy is carefully scrutinized by the parents of the girl who also test an omen from chicken liver. If this omen is also right, the girl’s parents arrange for a formal engagement.

After the preparation of rice beer and meat, the girl’s parents inform the parents of the boy for engagement. On this occasion, the boy along with his Gyunta go to her house and the boy give a Tibetan sword known as Chiri to the parents of the girl. This kind of betrothal is like promising that she is his legal wife from that day. The girl’s side also betroths a locally produced cloth known as Mabo-pulye to the boy along with a dainty meal and rice beer. After these formalities, if both the parents wish they may decide for the exchange of rice and mithun for more or less religious importance, which is known as Rutu Pini. The boys side should present a half grown mithun (sido) to the parents of the girl. In return, the boy brings 70 to100 baskets of rice from the bride’s parents and this rice is known as Arirutu.

Next day, there is an occasion known as Pyali Banii. On this occasion, the sisters of the bride bring small baskets containing varieties of rice for the bride and the groom. If the groom’s parents wish, some small rites are performed in the house of the groom and this performance is called Amohini. During that ceremony, pig and many other fowls are sacrificed to God and Goddesses who bring life and prosperity to the bride-groom. Apatanis approve the remarriage of both widows and widowers.

Housing Pattern

Traditionally there are seven large villages of Apatanis. The settlement and dwelling system of the Apatanis are always of permanent nature. The houses are constructed during the month of August to December with the help of clan members. The construction of the house is begun after preparation of the rice beer, meat and rice. Then the building materials are procured. Usually wood is used. The height of a house rises about twelve feet from the floor and two feet from the ground. Houses are closely situated and often their roofs touch each other. The floor and walls are made of beaten bamboo tied with split cane. At the time of construction of the house, the house owner offers delicious meat, rice and rice beer to the people who help and the construction of the house is completed within two days. After finishing the construction of the house, two minor rites are performed by offering a chicken and hen. These rites are performed to appease the god of house so that the house should last long and the inmates should live in prosperity with the blessing of gods.

Alcove 6 – Garo Hut, Garo Hills

Garos are a well-defined ethnic group of people having common culture and language of their own. A Garo village is a well-knit unit. Generally one finds the similar type of arts and architecture in the whole of Garo Hills. They normally use locally available building materials like timbers, bamboo, cane and thatch.

In the rural areas, people prefer their old-fashioned houses which, besides being comparatively easy and quick to erect, are also cool since the thatch roofing is comparatively non-conducting. The houses are not necessarily built on level ground. They are often long, although the size may depend on the size of the family. The front generally faces the village “square”, and a section of it rests on the ground. This is used for storing odds and ends and even for cattle. The rear portion may, on unlevel ground, rest on long beams which are propped up on numerous posts of varying length, and the farthest end may thus be several feet off the ground.

The walls and flooring are of lengths of split bamboo which are secured to their wooden frames by thongs of bamboo or cane. There are no windows, and this fact explains the darkness and the smoky atmosphere of the interior of the house. There may be only three doorways, the front one connecting with the outside, another with a side balcony or verandah (a’leng) and the third with the privy at the back. Next to the storage room is the main living room which generally has a hearth in the middle, made inside a rectangle filled with earth, to contain the fire which is kept burning continuously, This fire provides all the illumination needed. Bamboo shelves (onggare) suspended above the hearth are used for storing articles that need to be kept dry, including articles of food, utensils etc. Along the sides, away from the openings, there are racks where the inmates keep their belongings.

There may also be a separate room behind the main room where the parents may sleep. The other members of the household use the main room which is also the place where visitors are received. For convivial purposes, the inmates may use the verandah. Here they may also take out their portable looms or perform light chores. To reduce risks of loss by fire, granaries are usually constructed away from the residential houses. In elephant infested region, the Garos construct tree-top houses which are accessible by means of a bamboo ladder. These houses also serve as look-outs during the daytime for crop-watchers.The furniture is of the simplest types, and may be limited to a number of sitting blocks or basketwork seats


The Garos are one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world. The individuals take their clan titles from their mothers. Traditionally, the youngest daughter (nokna) inherits the property from her mother. Sons leave the parents’ house at puberty, and are trained in the village bachelor dormitory (nokpante). After getting married, the man lives in his wife’s house. Garos are only a matrilinear society, but not matriarchal. While property of Garos are owned by the women, the men folk govern the society & domestic affairs and manages the property. This gives a solid security to the Garo women folk. Garo also have their traditional names.

However, the culture of modern Garo community has been greatly influenced by Christianity. Nokpantes are glory of the past and all children are given equal care, rights and importance by the modern parents.


he Garo language belongs to the Bodo branch of the Bodo-Naga-Kachin family of the Sino-Tibetan phylum. As the Garo language is not traditionally written down, customs, traditions, and beliefs are handed down orally. It is also believed that the written language was lost in its transit to the present Garo Hills.

Garo language has different sub-languages, Viz- A-beng, Atong, Me-gam, Dual,ruga,A’we,chisak, matchi,matabeng,gara,ganching Chibok etc. In Bangladesh A-beng is the usual dialect, but A-chik is used more in India. The Garo language has some similarities with Boro-Kachari, Rava, Dimasa and Kok-Borok languages. However, the modern official language in schools and government offices is English and the modern generation is more inclined towards English.


The Garos are a tribe in Meghalaya, India and neighboring areas of Bangladesh, who call themselves A-chik Mande (literally “hill people,” from a-chik “hill” + mande “people”) or simply A-chik or Mande. They are the second-largest tribe in Meghalaya after the Khasi and comprise about a third of the local population. The Garos are mainly distributed over the Kamrup, Goalpara and Karbi Anglong Districts of Assam, Garo Hills in Meghalaya, and substantial numbers, about 200,000 are found in greater Mymensingh (Tangail, Jamalpur, Sherpore, Netrakona) and Gazipur, Rangpur, Sunamgonj, Sylhet, Moulovibazar district of Bangladesh. It is estimated that total Garo population in India and Bangladesh together were about 2 million in 2001.

There are also Garo in the state of Tripura. They numbered around 6000 in 1971. In the recent survey by conducted by the newly revived Tripura Garo Union found that the Garos have increased to about 15000, spread over all the four districts of Tripura.The president of Tripura Garo Union was Mr.Girish Chisim The founder and the reviver of the organisation.Its General Secretary was Mr.Kulendra Marak. Garos are also found in minority number in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Dinajpur of West Bengal.Garos are also found in minority number in Nagaland but many of the young generations are unable to speak the garo mother tongue.

Music & Dance

Group songs may include Nangorere, Serejing, Pandu Dolong etc. Dance forms are Ajema Roa, Mi Su-a, Chambil Moa, Do-kru Sua, Kambe Toa, Gaewang Roa, Napsepgrika and many others.
The traditional Garo musical instruments can broadly be classified into four groups.

  • Idiophones: Self-sounding and made of resonant materials – Kakwa, Nanggilsi, Guridomik, Kamaljakmora, all kinds of gongs, Rangkilding, Rangbong, Nogri etc.
  • Aerophone: Wind instruments, whose sound come from air vibrating inside a pipe when is blown –Adil, Singga, Sanai, Kal, Bolbijak, Illep or Illip, Olongna, Tarabeng, Imbanggi, Akok or Dakok, Bangsi rosi, Tilara or Taragaku, Bangsi mande, Otekra, Wapepe or Wa-pek.
  • Chordophone: Stringed instrument – Dotrong, Sarenda, Chigring, Dimchrang or Kimjim, Gongmima or Gonggina.
  • Membranophone: The seed sowing festival which falls around the month s of January to March. This feast is celebrated with great fervor at Longpi and Hungpung (Hundung). Longpi, befitting their generosity, entertain their guests with lavish eats and drinks, whilst in Hundung one can see the maiden virgin dance performance.
  • Luira: Which have skins or membranes stretched over a frame – Am-beng Dama, Chisak Dama, Atong Dama, Garaganching Dama, Ruga and Chibok Dama, Dual-Matchi Dama, Nagra, Kram, etc.


The common and regular festivals are those connected with agricultural operations. Greatest among Garo festivals is the Wangala, usually celebrated in October or November, is thank-giving after harvest in which Saljong, the god who provides mankind with Nature’s bounties and ensures their prosperity, is honored.

Other festivals: Gal-mak Doa, Agalmaka, etc.

Wangala of Asanang: There used to be a celebration of 100 drum festival in Asanang near Tura in West Garo Hills, Meghalaya, India usually in the month of October or November. Thousands of people especially the young people gather at Asanang and celebrate Wangala with great joy. Beautiful Garo girls known as nomil and handsome young men pante take part in ‘Wangala’ festivals. The ‘pante’s beat a kind of long drum called dama in groups and play bamboo flute. The ‘nomil’s with colorful costume dance to the tune of dama’ ‘and folk songs in a circle. Most of the folk songs depict ordinary garo life, God’s blessings, beauty of nature, day to day struggles, romance and human aspirations.

Christmas: Though Christmas is basically a religious celebration, in Garo Hills the month of December is a great season of celebration. In the first week of December the town of Tura and all other smaller towns are illuminated with lights and celebration goes till about 10th of January. The celebration is featured by worship, dance, merry-making, grand feasts and social visits. People from all religions and sections take part in the Christmas celebration.

Tallest Christmas Tree of the World: In December 2003 the tallest Christmas tree of the world was erected at Dobasipara, Tura by the Baptist boys of Dobasipara. Its height was 119.3 feet and BBC television had come to take coverage and broadcasted. The tree was decorated with 16,319 color electric bulbs and it took about 14 days to complete the decoration. The Christmas tree had attracted several tourists and journalists from outside of Meghalaya, India.


Traditionally, the Garos living in the hills subsist by slash-and-burn cultivation. The iron hoe, chopper, and wooden digging stick are essential appliances. Human hands continue to be the principal tool. Very often in some areas a plot allotted to a family remains underused because of an insufficient number of workers and the low level of technology. To survive the erratic nature of the monsoons, mixed crops—both wet and dry varieties—are planted. A shifting cultivator plants a wide assortment of crops consisting of rice (mainly dry varieties), millet, maize, and many root crops, vegetables, etc. In addition to this cotton, ginger, and chili peppers are commonly raised as cash crops. All crops are harvested in October. At present the available strips of low and flat land lying between the hillocks or hills are used for permanent wet cultivation. The variety of crops cultivated is like that of the neighboring plains peoples. Such lands are owned individually. Additional production from such plots places the villagers in a better economic condition. The expansion of the modern economy and the steady increase of population are causing constant pressure on traditionally owned plots. The same plot is used almost continuously in some areas, thus leading to a decline in annual production. This trend is evident from the 1981 census report, which estimated that about 50 percent of the Garo people are now solely dependent on shifting cultivation and the rest use a part of a jhum plot permanently for growing areca nuts, oranges, tea (on a small scale), pineapples, etc. In this changing situation a producer may not always be a consumer; and reciprocity and cooperation do not exist as dominant forces in the socioeconomic life of this population.

Weaving: Weaving is one of the most important vocations in the economic life of the Garos. The Garo Hills have for long produced short-stapled cotton and the weavers of Garo Hills are known for their exquisite skill in weaving various types of fabrics. The principal products still are the Dakmanda and Daksaria. These are famous for their texture and their variegated colourful designs.Besides these, the artisians also produce other articles like gamchas, bed covers etc. Training centers for artisan weavers are located at Tura, Resubelpara, Baghmara, Williamnagar and Shyamnagar (Phulbari) in all the three districts of Garo Hills.

Sericulture: Sericulture can be a very important source of subsidiary income for those families which are engaged in shifting cultivation, provided they can be persuaded to take up settled agriculture. Mulberry and other plants suitable for rearing Eri and Muga Silkworms grow well in the Garo Hills though most of the plantations are in the interior hills and forests. The Eri silk-growing centers are located at Samanda and the Muga silk-growing centers at A’dokgre. Like the cotton industry, this industry also faces problems as dearth of trained technical personnel, inadequate landholdings and dearth of rearing accommodation for individual silk-worm rearers and absence of research facilities.

Handicrafts: Garos are well known in north-east India for their handicrafts and textiles, specially for handloom industries. However, they produce only for local consumption and not in large scale. Most of the Garo handicrafts are Am (Mat), Kera or Kok (Conical basket), Ruan (winnowing fan), Gitchera (winnowing net), Chokki (chair), and domestic items such as Bamboo-spoon, rice stick, bamboo mug etc. The household furniture are made out of cane, bamboo and wood


The Garos have a matrilineal society where children adopt their mother clan. The simplest pattern of Garo family consists of the husband, wife and children. The family increases with the marriage of the heiress, generally the youngest daughter. She is called Nokna and her husband Nokrom. The bulk of family property is bequeathed upon the heiress and other sisters receive fragments but are entitled to use plots of land for cultivation and other purposes. The other daughters go away with their husbands after their marriage to form a new and independent family. This aspect of family structure remains the same even in urban areas.


Their traditional religious system, Songsarek, is generally described as animist, but from the latter part of the 19th century American Baptist, and later Catholic missionaries opened schools and hospitals in the Garo Hills, and now most Garos are Christians, with the majority belonging to the Garo Baptist Convention, smaller numbers of Roman Catholics, and also some Seventh-day Adventists and Anglicans. Christian work inside Garo Hills having started about 1878 with the American Baptists who had, however, started their work among Garos in Goalpara since 1867. The Roman Catholics began their work in the plains areas first around 1931 -32, following it up with the establishment of a base at Tura (1933); since then it has extended to other parts of the Garo Hills.

Between 1961 and 1971 the number of people returned as Songsarek underwent a decline and it would appear that their decrease has largely been due to the advance of Christianity. It can indeed be stated that the vast majority of Garos profess only these two beliefs that is , they are either Songsarek or Christian. In earlier works on the Garos, as indeed on all the tribes of the North-East, the term Animism, was applied to the tribal faiths. This was perhaps oversimplification of a complex subject. It is true that much of Garo religious practices relate to Nature. They attribute the creation of the world to the Godhead, Tatara-Rabuga. Next in rank but more intimately concerned with human affairs is Saljong, who is the source of all gifts to mankind. He is honored with the Wangala celebrations. Another benign deity is Chorabudi, the protector of crops. The first fruits of the fields are offered to him. He is also honored with a pig sacrifice whenever sacrifices are offered to Tatara-Rabuga.

Living so close to Nature, the early Garo people the world around them with a multitude of spirits called mite, some of them good and some of them capable of harming human beings for any lapses they might commit. Appropriate sacrifices are offered to them as occasions demand. In all religious ceremonies, sacrifices were essential for the propitiation of the spirits. They had to be invoked for births, marriages, deaths, illness, besides for the good crops and welfare of the community and for protection from destructions and dangers. Like the Hindus, the Garos used to show reverence to the ancestors by offering food to the departed souls and by erection of memorial stones.

Like other religions, the Songsarek religion ascribes to every human being the possession of a spirit that remains with him throughout his lifetime and leaves the body at death. There appears to be a belief in reincarnation, people being reborn into a lower or higher form of life according to their conduct in their lifetime. The greatest blessing a Garo looks forward to is to be reborn as a human being in his or her original ma’chong or family unit. Garo society is entirely casteless.

Marital System

As has been stated earlier, the broad divisions of Garo society, the chatchis, are traditionally exogamous. Although the restrictions are probably weakening, particularly among urban Garos or those living in cosmopolitan settings, we can say that the overwhelming majority of Garos still observe them. Even in sophisticated society, however, the harsher restrictions in regard to marriage within the same ma’chong are still scrupulously observed. Broadly speaking, we can say that a man who belongs to the Sangma Chatchi will look for a bride among the other chatchis like the Marak or the Momin and vice-versa.

The initiative in any move towards marriage is usually taken by the bride’s family, perhaps even by the girl herself. When the girl is the heiress, the father, with an eye to the property she will inherit, may as staled earlier, get his own sister’s son, that is, his own nephew, as her prospective bridegroom. Among the Songsareks or non-Christians, the practice of’ bridegroom capture, particularly in rural areas, still goes on. A girl may express her interest in a young man and ask her male kinsmen to get him for her. This may involve an arduous chase, especially if the boy is not interested because, perhaps, he still cherishes the freedom of bachelor life, and the matter may not end with his capture and his being brought to her house. In the circumstances, the captured bridegroom will try to escape but generally after a few such attempts, he becomes reconciled to the idea of settling down.

In spite of the comparative freedom enjoyed by young people in Garo society, the standard of morality is generally high and even those who may have been guilty of youthful indiscretions settle down to a stable married life.


According to one such oral tradition, the Garos first came to Meghalaya from Tibet about 400 (BC) years ago under the leadership of Jappa Jalimpa, crossing the Brahmaputra River and tentatively settling in the river valley. It is said that they were later driven up into the hills by other groups in and around the Brahmaputra River. Various records of the tribe by invading Mughal armies and by British observers in what is now Bangladesh wrote of the brutality of the people. The earliest written records about the Garo dates from around 1800. They “…were looked upon as bloodthirsty savages, who inhabited a tract of hills covered with almost impenetrable jungle, the climate of which was considered so deadly as to make it impossible for a white man to live there” (Playfair, 1909: 76-77). The Garo had the reputation of being headhunters.

In December 1872, the British sent out battalions to Garo Hills to establish their control in the region. The attack was conducted from three sides – south, east and west. The Garo warriors confronted them at Rongrenggiri with their spears, swords and shields. The battle that ensured was unmatched, as the Garos did not have guns or mortars like the British Army. Togan Nengminja, a young man was in command of the valiant Garo warriors. He fell fighting with unmatched heroism and courage.

Property & Inheritance

Garo society is matrilineal, and inheritance is through the mother. All children, as soon as they are born, belong to their mother’s ma’chong. The Garo tribe is divided into five exogamous divisions called Chatchis (sometimes rendered as Katchis). Two of these are relatively unimportant in that they include an insubstantial part of the population.

The important ones are the Chatchis named Marak, Momin and Sangma. Of these again, the Marak and the Sangma Chatchis have a wider membership; it has been estimated that more than half of all the Garos belong to one or the other. The earlier practice of Chatchi exogamy is to a large extent still strictly observed. The majority of Garos still hold that a member of a particular chatchi should not marry a member of the same Chatchi. For example, most Sangmas would shrink from marrying olher Sangmas. The practice may be crumbling to some extent in urban society. Marriage within a Chatchi subdivision, or ma’chong as it is called, is on the other hand, scrupulously avoided, such a marriage being tantamount to incest. This, to a Garo, is a serious breach of moral laws which will draw upon the guilty persons divine punishment, like being killed by wild animals or struck by lightning. These ma’chongs are very numerous. For the present, a few may be named as examples under each Chatchi e.g.

Sangma : Agitok, Am’ptomg, Koksi, Manda, Rongmitu, Rongrokgre, Snal, etc.

Marak : Chada, Chainbugong, Ka’ma, Koknal, Raksam, Rangsa, Rechil, Re’ina, etc.

Momin : Cheran, Gabil, Ga’rey, Megimggare, Mrencla, Wa’tre, etc.

Although a modernized Manda Sangma may not shrink from marrying an A’gitok Sangma, he will not think of marrying another Manda Sangma. The several Chatchis are subdivided into a large number of ma ‘chongs. As far as is known, no one has attempted to list the names of all the ma’chongs.

In the matrilineal society of the Garos, property passes from mother to daughter. Although the sons belong to the mother’s ma’chong, they cannot inherit any port ion of the maternal property. Indeed, males cannot in theory hold any property other than that acquired through their own exertions. Even this will pass on to their children through their children’s mother after they marry. Among the Gaors any of the daughters, even the eldest, if there are many, may be chosen as the nokna, or heiress, having proved her fitness to occupy this privileged position by her dutifulness to her parents. In case there are no daughters, the family can adopt any other girl, usually one having the closest blood relationship to the adoptive mother, first preference being given to one of the “non-heir” daughters (a’gate) of the woman’s sisters, who are, of course, among the closest female relations a woman can have.

Inheritance of property among the Garos is generally linked with matrimonial relations, and although men may have no property to pass on, they have an important say in deciding to whom it should pass.

A Garo village ordinarily has its Bachelors’ Dormitory or Nokpante in which the male youth and unmarried men over a certain age live. In the past, these dormitories had a more specific role to play. Besides performing civic tasks, they also served as watch-houses whose inmates were entrusted with the task of guarding the village from unforeseen dangers and of hostilities. Even today, the members of a dormitory are bound together by ties of loyalty. Guided as they are by the tribal code of conduct, a high degree of discipline is noticeable in their way of life and behavior.


The Garos prefer simple food. They generally avoid spiced food, and usually with rice they take boiled meat and vegetables. They boil this curry quite plainly, adding a kind of alkaline kalchi vegetable ‘salt’ to it just as it comes to the boil. It has been suggested that this practice accounts for the comparatively low incidence of gastric ailments in these hills.

In areas where rice is in short supply, or during lean years, millet usually forms part of their staple food. Millet is also greatly used in the preparation of rice-beer which the average Songsarek family uses. The drink has low alcohol content and constitutes the staple beverage of the Garos and most hill tribes of the North-East. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in the use of country spirits which not only lack the nutritive value of rice-beer but also tend to have a demoralizing effect upon those who drink it in great measures. Among the urban population, the attraction of the so-called “Indian Made Foreign Liquor” has also been strong, the person drinking it deriving a misplaced sense of satisfaction since he attaches to it prestige of a sort. The price that society has had to pay in terms of broken homes and alcoholism, especially among the youth, and other deleterious consequences has been seriously felt.

Addiction to gambling is a malady that is not peculiar to any district. State Lotteries and recently, legalized ‘teer’ are among the more common ones. By and large, the majority of Garos, particularly in the rural areas, are comparatively impervious to their attractions as they are satisfied with a simple, uncomplicated way of life. It is among the urban population that this has become a problem.

The attraction of great wealth, not tempered by any intelligent assessment of the probabilities of winning huge prizes, has made many people improvident and in most cases has detracted from their economic well-being.


  • Official Homepage of Meghalaya State of India
  • Gan-Chaudhuri, Jagadis. Tripura: The Land and its People. (Delhi: Leeladevi Publications, 1980) p. 10
  • Academic study about personal names in Garo villages
  • Culture section in the official Garo Hills area


Alcove 7 – Garo Tree-top Hut, Garo Hills

Tree houses, or tree forts, are buildings constructed among the branches, around or next to the trunk of one or more mature trees, and are raised above the ground. Wood is commonly used for structural parts. In Garo Hills these tree-top houses are built on shifting cultivation plots to watch over the cultivated land. They can be termed as ‘watch houses’. Hence, these are not occupied all year round.

Besides in elephant infested region, the Garos construct tree-top houses which are accessible by means of a bamboo ladder. These houses also serve as look-outs during the daytime for crop-watchers. The furniture is of the simplest types, and may be limited to a number of sitting blocks or basketwork seats.

In the Garo Hills of Meghalaya state, in the rural areas, people prefer their old-fashioned hut houses which, besides being comparatively easy and quick to erect, are also cool since the thatch roofing is comparatively non-conducting. The houses are not necessarily built on level ground. They are often long, although the size may depend on the size of the family.

Alcove 8 – Typical Tribal Hut

The Tripuris live on the slopes of hills in a group of five to fifty families. Their houses in these areas are built of bamboo or ua as it is called in Kokborok and raised five to six feet height to save themselves from the dangers of the wild animals. The neat and clean traditional wooden houses of the local inhabitants combined with greenery all around provide excellent opportunities for eco-friendly tourism. During the month of November every year, the unique Orange Festival is celebrated in the Jampui Hill


Culturally, the Tangkhuls share close affinities with other Naga tribes. The Tangkhuls are fond of singing, dancing and festivities. For every season, there is a festival that lasts almost a week. Luira phanit is a major one among many. The Tangkhuls’ artistic creativity is manifested in their handicrafts and wood carvings.


The Tripuri people mainly speak various dialects of Kokborok, the standard dialect of the Debbarma tribe spoken around Agartala and the second official language of Tripura. There are estimated to be 1,000,000 speakers of the various dialects of Kokborok in Tripura, others being in Mizoram & Assam in India and Sylhet and Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh.


The Tripuri (Tipra or Tipperah) people are the original inhabitants of the Kingdom of Tripura in North-East India and Bangladesh. The Tripuri people through the Royal family of the Debbarmas ruled the Kingdom of Tripura for more than 2000 years till the kingdom joined the Indian Union in 1949.

Tripura, completely off the beaten track, is mainly a hilly territory with altitudes varying from 50 to 3080 ft above sea level. Most of the population, however, lives in the plains. Encompassing a sensitive border zone where India meets Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh, the region is remote – only the narrow Siliguri corridor connects it to the rest of India. The second smallest state of India, it is one of the most ancient of the princely states with its capital city in Agartala.

Characterized by moderate temperatures and a highly humid atmosphere, Tripura is a storehouse of tribal crafts and culture as well as music and dancing. Tripura has mainly a Bengali community, in spite of the 19 Scheduled Tribes that form a major chunk of the population. The tribals, with a rich and varied culture, belong mainly to the Reang, Chakma, Halam and Usai communities. The majority of tribals live in elevated houses of bamboo called ‘Tong’.

It is one of the most beautiful places in India where we can see rare combination of natural beauty and man- made wonders, a unique blend of the old order and new, and a fusion of cultures and architectural styles. Many tribes and communities who have made their home in Tripura have lent an incredible mix of culture and customs to this small state.

Traditional Dances

The important dances of the Tripuri’s are:

  • Goria Dance
  • Huk kaimani Dance
  • Lebang bumani Dance
  • Hojagiri Dance
  • Ua Bamboo dance

Goria Dance: The life and culture of Tripuris revolve around Jhum (slash and burn) cultivation. When the sowing of seeds at a plot of land selected for Jhum is over by middle of April, they pray to the God ‘Goria’ for a happy harvest. The celebrations attached to the Goria Puja continue for seven days when they seek to entertain their beloved deity with song and dance.

Lebang Bumani Dance: After the Goria festival is over, the Tripuris have a time to rest awaiting the monsoon. During this period, folks of charming colorful insects called ‘Lebang’ use to visit hill slopes in search of seeds sewn on it. The annual visit of the insects renders the tribal youths to indulge in merry-making. While the men-folk make a peculiar rhythmic sound with the help of two bamboo chips in their hand, the women folk run tottering the hill slopes to catch hold of these insects called Lebang. The rhythm of the sound made by the bamboo chips attracts the insects from their hiding places and the women in-groups catch them. With the change of time jhuming on hill slopes are gradually diminishing. But the cultural life that developed centering round the jhum delved deep into the society. It still exists in the state’s hills and dales as a reminiscence of the life, which the tribal of today cherish in memory, and preserve as treasure. In both the dances Tripuris use the musical instruments like Kham (the Kokborok word for drum) made of bamboo, Sumui (flute), Sarinda, Lebang made of bamboo and bamboo cymbal. Tripuri women generally put on indigenous ornaments like chain made of silver with coin, Bangle made of silver, ear and nose rings made of bronze. They prefer flower as ornaments.


The enthusiastic Tripuri folks celebrate all the main Indian festivals in great festivity, thus making them an integral part of Tripuri culture. They have also added festivals of local origination to the list of popular occasions.The worship of the fourteen deities called Kharchi Puja is feted in July where Tripuris take part in great delight. Offering goats and pigeons at the altar of gods is a common aspect of the festival. Ker and Garia Pujas are traditional tribal festivals. Ker is renowned two weeks after Kharchi Puja, commemorating Ker, the guardian deity of Vastu Devata .The Garia is a public festival. Sacrifice of cocks is a vital trait of the Puja. Another tribal festival, namely, Ganga Puja is the festival of blooming of rice crops and is held in the month of March or April.

Traditional Dress

The novelty of the state’s art & craft comes alive in its handicrafts and handlooms. Handloom products make the vital part of the economy of Tripura. Silk, cane and bamboo works are some of the main industries. Here skilled artisans craft a fascinating variety of handiwork using simple materials, such as, bamboo, cane, palm leaves and ordinary yarn. Some of the popular handicraft items are bamboo screens, lamp stands, baskets, ivory work, tablemats, sitalpati, woodcarving, silver ornaments

Tripura’s gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $2.1 billion in current prices. Agriculture and allied activities is the mainstay of the people of Tripura and provides employment to about 64% of the population. There is a preponderance of food crop cultivation over cash crop cultivation in Tripura. At present about 62% of the net sown area is under food crop cultivation. Paddy is the principal crop, followed by oilseed, pulses, potato, and sugarcane. Tea and rubber are the important cash crops of the State. Tripura has been declared the Second Rubber Capital of India after Kerala by the Indian Rubber Board. Handicraft, particularly hand-woven cotton fabic, wood carvings, and bamboo products, are also important. The per capita income at current prices of the state stands at INRs 10,931 and at constant prices Rs 6,813 in the financial year 2000-2001.

Some quality timber like sal, garjan, teak, and Gamar are found abundantly in the forests of Tripura. Tripura has poor mineral resources, with meagre deposits of kaolin, iron ore, limestone, coal but this state has considerable amount of natural gas reserve. The industrial sector of the state continues to be highly underdeveloped.


The indigenous Tripuri people comprises various hill tribal communities viz., Tipra, Reang, Jamatia, Kaipeng, Noatia, Koloi, Halam, etc. who migrated to this land in successive waves in the ancient past. They grew in isolation and were sometimes subjugated by one another. Each community had its own elementary social and administrative organization starting from the village level and up to the chieftainship of the whole tribe. The tribes enjoy their traditional freedom based on the concept of self-determination. The relation between the king and the subject tribes was as Maharaja (king) of Tripura-Missip or liaison officer Roy of Headman of the tribe – Sardar of chief of the village-the individual.

The Tripuri people have a rich historical, social and cultural heritage which is totally distinct from that of the mainland Indians, their distinctive culture as reflected in their dance, music, festivals, management of community affairs, dress and food habit has a strong base. Kokborok, the linguafranca of the twelve largest linguistic groups of the indigenous Tripuris and other dialects spoken in Tripura are of the Tibeto-Burman group as distinct from those spoken in India. There is no influence whatsoever of from those spoken by other peoples in the North-eastern region. The great music composer father-son duo of S.D. Burman & R.D. Burman belongs to the Tripura royal family.

The main Tripuri tribes are:

  • Debbarma or Tipra , from which the royal family Debbarman ruled the kingdom.
  • Reang or Bru
  • Jamatia
  • Koloi
  • Noatia
  • Murasing
  • Halam
  • Uchoi

The lineage in Tripuri is called Sandai or bosong.

Most of the groups or sub-groups are named after some animal, or bird—this is prevalent among most Tripuris. All the sub-groups of Tripuri lineage are patriarchal. Because the members of a lineage are related, their behaviour pattern is also similar to a certain extent. The adopted son bears the lineage identity of the foster parents. The unmarried daughters belong to the lineage of their fathers or brothers. After marriage the daughter follows her husband’s lineage.


Tripura has its own religious faith, belief and practices. It is one of the sects of Hinduism practiced in India. The religion of Tripuri people is the origin of Hinduism; it is still practiced in its pure form, in the Tantrik way. It has the faith on the supreme Almighty god which is called as Sibrai ir Subrai or Achu Subrai. he is none but the Shiva, or Mahadev. Then there are also Gods for wealth, for success, for well-being, for war and victory, for the ancestor, for the earth Mother, Water, Air, Sky etc. The Tripuris does not belief in the existence of god in inanimate objects which most of Scholars had described to the faiths of Tripuri people. that is why the Tripuri people do not worship the stone, rock, soil, tree, bamboo etc. but they worship the above mentioned gods by making symbol of god called “WATHOP” which is akin little similar to Christian Cross but two vertical pole, as seen in the Tripura Society’s logo.

Some of the Gods that are worshipped by the Tripuri people are similar to those worshipped by the Hindu not by name but by their nature. For example the Mailuma is Goddess of Paddy and prosperity in Tripuri people, where as Laxmi is a similar goddess in the Hindu faith who is worshipped for paddy and prosperity. Similarly Twima is Goddess of Water among Tripuris where as Ganga is Goddess of water in Hinduism. The Hindu methods of philosophical investigation consist of the study of the Vedic evidence, reasoning and experiences. The last one, that is experience is emphasized by much by Hindu philosophers. in that matter any philosophy or way of life is based on one’s own experience. A Tripuri way of life or philosophy is no exception to this. In a Tripuri way of life one may find less emphasis on reasoning and more on experiences. Essentially religion is based largely on intuition and emotion, not always on purely rational attitude of mind or based on the scientific facts. It is often based and inspired by faith and belief rather than argument or reasoning. In the above context Tripuri faiths are akin similar to Hinduism so the scholars termed it a part Hindu. By analyzing the historical and prevailing practices one can come to the conclusion that Tripuri people had not adopted the Hindu god or goddess, on the contrary the Hinduism had adopted and glorified many of the Tripuri God & Goddess. Because when the Indo-Aryan branch of Caucasoid race entered the Indian subcontinent they are supposed to have brought with them the faiths prevailing there which belief in one God only, where as Tripuri people from the beginning had faith in multiple gods and philosophy is based on many gods and goddess.

Marital System

The Tripuri marriage follows some steps and beliefs.

Hamjwk Tubui Kaimani: In this system of marriage the negotiation between two families is made by a marriage broker. He is known as Raibai or Andra in Reang dialect. In finalizing a marriage the parents or the guardians play the sole role. The bride or the groom has no choice. This type of marriage always takes place in the house of the bridegroom.

If the girl is chosen by the parents of the boy, the guardian of the daughter demands dowry of money, ornaments etc. Among the Tripuris the bride does not bring any dowry to her father-in-law’s house. The Tripuri society is free from the dowry system. There is a trend toward expectation of a dowry at present, however.

Koksurma: Koksurma is the preliminary proposal for marriage, coming from either side of the parties. Generally the raibai performs the brokerage in the koksurma. If the proposal is accepted by both parties then they fix a date for a final settlement called Kokswhngmung

Kokswhngmung: Kokswhngmung is the finalization of marriage where both sides of the party commit to get their ward marriage. The guardian of both sides sit side by side in front of two pots of rice beer called bwtwk. A bell-metal plate containing some cotton, durba, copper coin, rice, soil etc. is put in front of them to perform the rituals of Dangdua, performed by each person three times. The would-be bride then comes before the assembled persons and bows before the elders. The dates and times, terms and conditions of the marriage, bearing of expenditure etc. are finalized in this kokswhnglaimung.

Khum Phunukmung: After the finalization of the marriage there are rituals of invitation by offering betel leaf, nut and flower etc. to every family of the village. It is started from the house of the Chokdori, the village head. On the fixed date the bride is brought into the groom’s house and received with much enthusiasm, and dangdua.

Aya and Ayajwk: Aya is the helper and assistant of the groom, in dressing, make up, and procedural follow-up. Similarly Ayajwk is the counter part for the bride. Throughout the marriage ceremony they are to remain nearby the respective person.

Bedi: A bedi is a platform on which the marriage ceremony is performed. It is made of bamboo, cane, wood etc. Over the bedi seven layers of plain pieces of cloth are tied one over the other like a tent. Jari is a pot made of brass, somewhat like a kettle but elongated, that is used in carrying the secret water to be sprinkled over the bride-groom, first by the priest then by the parents and other elders. The morning rituals are performed by Ochai the priest. The ritual is called Lampra uathop. A deity is worshipped along with the Twisangrongma. After the ceremony the new couple bow down before and touch the feet of each senior person in attendance, and the aged person blesses the couple with gifts called Heli. Following this ceremony on the same day a grand marriage feast is served to all. The next day of the marriage is called Dolan when a post marriage ceremony is observed by the close relatives of both parties. The non-vegetarian dish that is served on this occasion is an important part of Tripuri marriage ceremonies.

Maitwrang beraimani: Maitwrang beraimani is the first visit after the marriage to the bride’s parents. It generally occurs after three days of marriage.

Housing Pattern

The Tripuris live on the slopes of hills in a group of five to fifty families. Their houses in these areas are built of bamboo or ua as it is called in Kokborok and raised five to six feet height to save themselves from the dangers of the wild animals. The neat and clean traditional wooden houses of the local inhabitants combined with greenery all around provide excellent opportunities for eco-friendly tourism. During the month of November every year, the unique Orange Festival is celebrated in the Jampui Hills.


The Tripuri people are considered part of the Tibeto-Burmese ethnic group. Originally they migrated from near the upper courses of the Yangtze kiang and the Hwang Ho rivers in Western China. They had left China long before the Sui dynasty came to power. At the time of migration they were animists. So it may be reasonably assumed that they migrated before 65 AD, the year Buddhism was introduced in China. The common reference to these people as “Kiratas” and “Cinas” in the early Sanskrit texts of India unmistakably indicates that they came down to the Assam valley long before the dawn of Christian era. Tripuris entered their present country through its north-eastern corner, settled there and gradually expanded their settlement and suzerainty over the whole of Tripura. They were able to expand their influence as far south as Chittagong, as far west as Comilla and Noakhali (known during the British period as ‘plains Tipperah’) and as far north as Sylhet (all in present Bangladesh). Hardly their forefathers could imagine that their descendants were destined to build a strong monarchy and resist the advance of the Mughals. The ruling dynasty passed through several vicissitudes of history and ruled Tripura for several centuries till up to 14 October 1949, the day Tripura was annexed by India.

The history of Tripura is as old as the history of India. It is not impossible but difficult to ascertain how the name of Tripura kingdom had come into existence. The most plausible is that it was named after the mightiest ruler of Tripura, the son of Daitya, Tripur, the 40th descendant from Yayati, the famous king of Chadra (Lunar) dynasty. In the Mahabharata Trilochana is mentioned as the king of Tripura at the times of kurukshetra war, the same fact is also corroborated in the royal chronicle of Tripura, the Rajmala. Tripur was described as most powerful and unreligious in Shivmahapuran, there fore he was assassinated by Lord Shiva, consequently her widow queen Hiravati was blessed with a most religious and spiritual son named Trilochana, having third eye, who as also known as Subrai raja by the Tripuri people ever since. He is equivalent to Lord Rama of Hindu pantheon and adored by all section of people.

Tripura was originally land of almost exclusively of Tripuri people till the nineteenth century. Up to the middle of 20th century Tripuri people were still a majority in the state, but by the turn of 6th decade of last century the Tripuri people turned out to minority in their own state. And in the beginning of 21st century the Tripuri people became a minority in the land of their fore fathers. It is stated that they now consist of only 31% odd including other indigenous people. Earlier the state was having more of Muslim Bengali people, but it had, since the middle of the century gradually been transformed of having more Hindu Bengali then Muslim because of influx from erstwhile East Pakistan.

The comparative over view of the population ratio of the different ethnic races for the past one century will give a clear understanding of Tripura migration and refugee predicament of present time. In the year 1901 AD, the population percentage of different communities in Tripura were approximately viz. the Tripuri and other indigenous people including the Manipuri was 74.68%, the Muslim Bengali 25.9 %, the Hindu Bengali were just 8.6%. Just after 100 years apart the percentage of different ethnic races as per the census report of 2001 AD stands as follows, approximately the Tripuri and other indigenous people including Manipuri came down to 31.82%, the Muslim Bengali went down to 8%, where as the Hindu Bengali percentage went up to 60%. This is how the population ratio has just been substituted between the Tripuris and Hindu Bengali in the matter of just one century apart.

There have been multiple impacts of demographic changes that took place in Tripura following refugees’ settlement from erstwhile East Pakistan in the after math of India’a independence and partition. Apart from the political, economical, social impacts it has also affected the Cultural and topographical aspect of Tripura. Most of the names of different villages, hamlets, rivers, tributaries, markets, area, hills, hillocks, towns etc had been changed to suit the tongue of refugees, who had since became majority population. This created the impression that Tripura state did not belonged to Native Tripuri people, rather it created the idea that the land had since been occupied by Indo-Arian language speakers, which it was not till mid 20th century in true senses. These are just a tip of ice berg, the list if added it would make almost all the geographical names of Tripura.

Traditional Sports

Like many parts of the world the Tripuri has traditional sports. It is common in almost all the clans of Tripuri. They are called thwngmung in Tripuri. Now a days these traditional sports are being abandoned gradually as Tripuris are attracted to modern games and sports. But some of the sports still played and preferred in rural Tripura.

Examples include:

  • Achugwi Phan Sohlaimung
  • Bumanikotor
  • Dwkhwi Sotonmung
  • Phan Sohlaimung
  • Kaldong or Kadong
  • Longoi Chokmung
  • Muphuk Sagwnang
  • Musta Seklaio
  • Sohlaimmung

Traditional Dress

Tripuris have their own traditional dresses. This dress is similar to rest of the North- East Indian people in terms of the type. But it is totally different from rest of the people in terms of the pattern and design. The dress women for the lower half of the body is called Rignai in Tripuri and for the upper half of the body cloth has two parts Risa and Rikutu.

Risa covers the chest part and the rikutu covers whole of upper half of the body. In the yesteryears these garments were used to be woven by the ladies by home spun thread made from the cotton. But nowadays the threads are bought from the market and the risa is not worn, instead blouse is worn by most of Tripuri women because of convenient. In present day young girls are wearing rignai with tops also.

Rigwnai: Each of the clans of Tripuri has their own rignai pattern and design. The patterns of the rignai are so distinct that the clan of a Tripuri woman can be identified by the pattern of the rignai she wears. Nowadays there is inter-mingling of the ‘rignai’ and different clans are wearing ‘rignai’ of other clans freely and new designs are being woven differently. ‘Rikutu’ is a plain cloth of different colour and shade woven by the Tripuri ladies.

Rigwnai designs: Different types of designs fashion that are woven in the rignai borok by the Tripuri women are as follows:

Anji, Banarosi, Chamthwibar, Jirabi, Khamjang, Khumbar, Kuaiphang, Kuaichu, Kuaichu bokobom, Kuaichu ulta, Malibar, Miyong, Muikhunchok, Monaisora, Muisili, Natupalia, Phantokbar, Sada, Salu, Similik yapai, Takhumtei, Temanlia, Thaimaikrang, Thaiphlokbar, Tokbakbar, Tokha, Toksa, Toiling, Toprengsakhitung, Rignaichamwthwi, Rignai mereng, Metereng trang, Rignai khamchwi, Kwsakwpra, Rignaibru, Rignaikosong, Kwsapra, Songkai, Sorbangi and many more.

It is said that at the time of Subrai Raja, the most famous and legendary King of Tripura, through his 250 wives he had invented two hundred fifty designs of rignai. He married those women whoever invented a new design. But all these design had lost in time and only few are retained till date. The effort to re-discover the lost designs is in process.

Male dresses: Male counterpart used to wear ‘rikutu’ for the loin and ‘kamchwlwi borok’ for the upper part of the body. But in the modern age very few people are wearing this dress except in the rural Tripura and working class. The male have adopted the modern dress of international style.

Women dresses: Tripuri women wear a scarf, called rignai, which reaches down just below the knee. They weave in their loin-loom a small piece of cloth, which they call risa, and they use this small piece of cloth as their breast garment.

Traditional Food

Tripuri cuisines are very delicious dishes and healthy preparation. The people whoever had tasted once to some of the preparation they could not but tested it for life. Most of the Tripuris who had been living in the Agartala since long had discarded their cultures, customs, distanced from the mother tongue, and traditional Tripuri dresses and adopted states present majority culture. But one thing which they had not been able to discard totally is the Tripuri dishes. Still in the kitchen of these town based Tripuris, the Tripuri dishes are cooked regularly. It is because that the Tripuri dishes are very delicious, palate soothing, and healthy way of cooking. Some of the Tripuri dishes have become a regular feature in non-Tripuri family also. One of the most important ingredient of Tripuri cuisine is Berma , it is basically fermented dried puthi fish. The flavour of the Berma is not very pleasant, but when cooked its flavor is mouth watering and appetizer for Tripuri people. Berma is used as spices in most of Tripuri dishes. Large number of Tripuri cuisine are prepared with out oil . In that health point of view it is very good even for those who are restricted to take fatty and oily food. At a time when people are becoming calorie conscious they can switch over to Tripuri way of cooking and live a healthy life. Some of the Tripuri cuisine are listed below: Awandru, Bwtwi, Chakhwi, Chakhwtwi, Chakhwtwi Kwthwng, Thokni Chakhwi, Berma bwtwi, Chatang, Mosodeng, Deng, Gudok, Hang, Ik, Muitru, Hontali, Muhr, Mwkhwi, Napek, Peng, Rabra, Ruk, Ser, Sok, Yohk, Yaksapik .


Alcove 9 – Mizo Village

A Mizo village is usually set on the top of the hill with the village chief`s house at the centre. The villagers live like a big family. The houses built by the Lushai tribe of Mizoram, predominantly uses bamboo and wood in their construction. Most of the houses are built on the slopes and are invariably supported by wooden posts of varied lengths, so that the house is balanced horizontally with the level of the road. Cross beams are fastened against these posts and over the beams long solid bamboos are laid. Bamboo matting is then laid over the bamboo frame, which forms the floor of the house. The walls of the house are also made up of bamboo matting fastened to the outer posts. The roof consists of solid as well as split bamboo frames covered with thick thatch and some other kind of leaves. Cane is generally used for keeping the joints together and in some cases, iron nails are also used. In case where the floor of the house is much above the ground, a ladder made entirely of a piece of log is placed across the intervening space between the floor of the house and the ground. The doors and windows are usually of bamboo matting and these are fastened against the wall. It may be noted that in some cases the floor, doors and windows are made of wooden planks, while in others split bamboos are used instead. The interior of the house is a single rectangular structure. It is partitioned into a number of rooms according to the convenience by screens made of bamboo matting or with a cloth fixed to bamboo or wooden frame. In houses where both married and unmarried persons live together, separate sleeping apartments are made by partition as described above. The hearth is always at one corner of the house usually near the front floor. It is made of clay and stones and is raised about 2-3 ft above the floor supported by raised poles. Above the fire place is hung a bamboo frame which is kept suspended to keep various things used in cooking as dried chillies, dry fish, salt, etc.


The fabric of social life in the Mizo society has undergone tremendous changes over years. Before the British moved into the hills, for all practical purposes the village and the clan formed units of Mizo society. The Mizo code of ethics or Dharma moved around ‘Tlawmngaihna”, an untranslatable term meaning on the part of everyone to be hospitable, kind, unselfish and helpful to others. Tlawmngaihna to Mizo stands for the compelling moral force which finds expression in self-sacrifice for the service of the others. The old belief, Pathian is still use in term God till today. The Mizos have been enchanted to their new-found faith of Christianity with so much dedication and submission that their entire social life and thought-process been transformed and guided by the Christian Church Organisation and their sense of values has also undergone drastic change. The Mizos are a close-knit society with no class distinction and no discrimination on grounds of sex. Ninety percent of them are cultivators and the village exists like a big family. Birth of a child, marriage in the village and death of a person in the village or a community feast arranged by a member of the village are important occasions in which the whole village is involved.


The Mizo language (Mizo: Mizo tawng) is natively spoken by Mizo people in Mizoram.

Mizo is the official language of Mizoram. The Mizo community is an amalgam of several indigenous tribes who had their own unique lifestyle and distinctive dialects. The Duhlian dialect, also known as the Lusei among the locals was the most popular language of Mizoram. Over the years, this local mode of speech and communication has evolved into the northeast Indian state’s lingua franca. However, traditional Lusei language was interspersed with traces of other dialects like the Mara, Lai and Hmar and their collective medley led to the formation of the Mizo language. Subsequently, the Christian missionaries developed the Mizo script. This was a significant milestone that marked the development of a colloquial speech into a formal script. The writing pattern was a combination of the Roman script and Hunterian transliteration methodology with prominent traces of a phonetics based spelling system. The development of the Mizo writing script has prompted the state to demand the official recognition of the language in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution.

Another language that has gained wide acceptability in Mizoram is English, the universal language. English has paramount importance in the sphere of the state’s education, all administrative units and government matters as well as all other formal ceremonies. Chakma is another dominant language in Mizoram, spoken by the Chakmas, the largest minority tribe. The Chakmas have their own script which no other tribe in Mizoram has.


Perching on the high hills of North Eastern corner, Mizoram is a storehouse of natural beauty with its endless variety of landscape, hilly terrains, meandering streams deep gorges, rich wealth of flora and fauna. Flanked by Bangladesh on the west and Myanmar on the east and south, Mizoram occupies an important strategic position having a long international boundary of 722 Kms.

The Land

Mizoram is a mountainous region which became the 23rd State of the Union in February 1987. It was one of the districts of Assam till 1972 when it became Union Territory. Sandwiched between Myanmar in the east and and south and Bangladesh in the west, Mizoram occupies an area of great strategic importance in the north-eastern corner of India. It has a total of 630 miles boundary with Myanmar and Bangladesh. Mizoram has the most variegated hilly terrain in the eastern part of India. The hills are steep and are separated by rivers which flow either to the north or the south creating deep gorges between the hill ranges. The average height of the hills is about 900 metres. The The highest peak in Mizoram is the Phawngpui (Blue Mountain) with a height of 2210 metres. Mizoram has a pleasant climate. It is generally cool in summer and not very cold in winter. During winter, the temperature varies from 11 C to 21 C and in the summer it varies between 20 C to 29 C. The entire area is under the direct influence of the monsoon. It rains heavily from May to September and the average rainfall in Aizawl is 208 cm. Winter in Mizoram is wonderfully blue, and in the enchanting view of wide stretches of a vast lake of cloud. Mizoram has great natural beauty and endless variety of landscape and is very rich in flora and fauna. Almost all kinds of tropical trees and plants thrive in Mizoram. The hills are marvellously green.

Festivals & Dances

Mizos practice what is known as ‘Jhum Cultivation’. They slash down the jungle, burn the trunks and leaves and cultivate the land. All their other activities revolve around the jhum operations and their festivals are all connected with such agriculture operations.

Mim Kut:: which takes place in August-September in the wake of harvesting of the maize crop, is celebrated with great gaiety and merriment expressed through singing, dancing, feasting and drinking of homemade rice beer Zu Dedicated to the memory of their dead relatives, the festival is underlined by a spirit of thanksgiving and remembrance of the year’s first harvest is placed as an offering on a raised platform built to the memory of the dead.

Pawl Kut: is Harvest Festival – celebrated during December to January. Again, a mood of thanksgiving is evident, because the difficult task of titling and harvesting is over. Community feasts are organised and dances are performed. Mothers with their children sit on memorial platform and feed one another. This custom, which is also performed during Chapchar Kut, is known as ‘Chawnghnawt’. Drinking of zu is also part of the festival. The two-day is followed by a day of complete rest when no one goes out to work.

Chapchar Kut: Of all the Kuts of the Mizo, Chapchar Kut has emerged as the most popular and enjoyable, owing perhaps to the humorous stories of its origin and the favourable time when the festival is observed-Spring !

The drum and the gong are two traditional musical instrument of the Mizos. The flute is another, though it is no longer much in use. There was another musical instrument which was made by inserting hollow reeds into gourds. Blowing through one reed produced a tune. That instrument has fallen completely in disuse.

The usual Mizo drum, made of a hollowed tree trunk covered with fine on either side, is ‘about a foot in diameter and two feet in length’. The gongs, which came in various sizes mostly from Myanmar, are expensive brassware. Sometimes three gongs, each having a separate note are beaten simultaneously to produce fine musical tunes.

The gay and cheerful mood of the Mizos expresses itself through their love for music. “Shakespeare, called music ‘the food of love’ and asked for ‘the excess of it’. If music be the food of love/play on, play on/and give me excess of it’ The Mizos would be happy to ‘play on’ and offer the immortal poet ‘the excess of their music.

Mizos are fast giving up their old customs and adopting the new mode of life which is greatly influenced by the western culture. Many of their present customs are mixtures of their old tradition and western pattern of life. Music is a passion for the Mizos and the young boys and girls take to the western music avidly and with commendable skill. The fascinating hills and lakes of Mizo-land literally pulsate and resound with the rhythms of the sonorous songs of the youths and the twang of guitars everywhere. Mizo people have a number of dances which are accompanied with few musical instruments like the gong and drum.

Khuallam: : Khuallam literary means ‘Dance of the Guests’. It is a dance usually performed in the ceremony called ‘Khuangchawi’. In order to claim a distinguished place in the society and to have a place in paradise or Pialral one has to attain the coveted title of ‘Thangchhuah’. There are two ways of attaining this title.

Firstly one could attain the title Thangchhuah by proving one’s mettle in war or in hunting by killing many animals which should include animals like barking,deer, wild boar, bear, wild gayal, viper, hawk etc.Secondly one could also get the title of Thangchhuah by performing feats and dances. Thangchhuah therefore could be attained only by the brave or by the rich. The ceremonies performed in the second method are known as Khuangchawi. Guests invited from the other villages at the Khuangchawi ceremony enter the arena dancing Khuallam. Traditional hand woven Mizo cloth known as Puandum is wrapped over the shoulders and the dance is performed by swaying the cloth. Puandum has the colours black, red, yellow and green stripes. Significantly Puandum is an indispensable item which every girl has to take along with when she gets married. It is used when her husband dies to cover the dead body. As most other folk dances of the Mizos, this dance is accompanied by a set of gongs known as Darbu and no song is sung. It is generally performed in large numbers.

Cheraw: : Cheraw is a very old traditional dance of the Mizos. It is believed that the dance had already existed way back in the 1st Century A.D., while the Mizos were still somewhere in the Yunan Province of China, before their migration into the Chin Hills in the 13th Century A.D., and eventually to the present Mizoram. Some of the tribes living in South East Asia have similar dances in one form or the other with different names. Men sitting face to face on the ground tap long pairs of horizontal and cross bamboo staves open and close in rhythmic beats. Girls in colorful Mizo costumes of ‘Puanchei’, ‘Kawrchei’. Vakiria’ and ‘Thihna’ dance in and out between the beats of bamboo. This dance is now performed in almost all festive occasions. The unique style of the ‘Cheraw’ is a great fascination everywhere it is performed. Gongs and drums are used to accompany the dance. Today modern music also complements the dance.

Sarlamkai/Solakia:: This is an impressive dance originating from the Pawi and Mara communities in the southern part of Mizoram. This dance is known as ‘Sarlamkai’ whereas the Lushais referred to it as ‘Rallu Lam’. In older days when the different tribes were constantly at war with each other, a ceremony to deride the vanquished beheaded skull of the enemy was usually held by the victor. This ceremony is performed to ensure that the vanquished soul remains a slave to the victor even when the latter also dies.

The derision ceremony usually lasts for 5(five) days. The first 2 (two) days is spent in merry-making, singing alongside drinks and a non-vegetarian feast. On the third day a pig is slaughtered and he victor paints his whole body with the animal’s blood, which he only washes off on the evening of the fourth day or on the morning of the fifth day. During this 5 (five) days period, the victor is not to sleep with any women.

If he does so, the vanquished soul is believed to be infuriated and cause upon the victor, a permanent disability in any person who brings about an occasion for such a ceremony is highly regarded and respected by the people, the king as well as his elders. Therefore, every adult strives with all his or her capability to be such a hero. The courage and bravery of such heroes is a great consolation for the people when faced with any external aggression. It is during this ceremony that the ‘Sarlamkai’ dance is performed. As is obvious, it is a warrior dance performed to celebrate a victory in war. Songs are not sung; only gongs or cymbals or drums are used for making beats. In the dance, boys and girls standing in alternate position, dance in circles. They generally wear colourful dresses while the leader is dressed as a warrior.

Chailam:: Chailam is a popular dance performed on the occasion of ‘Chapchar Kut’ one of the most important festivals of the Mizos. In this dance, men and women stand alternatively in circles, with the women holding on to the waist of the man, and the man on the women’s shoulder. In the middle of the circle are the musicians who play the drums and the mithun’s horn.

The musician playing the drum choreographs the entire nuances of the dance while the one with the mithun’s horn chants the lyrics of the ‘chai’ song. For the dance to start, the drummer beats on the drum, and upon the fourth stroke of the drum the chai song is sung with the rhythmic swaying of the dancers to the left and right, in accordance with beats of the drum. Depending on the nuances followed, the chailam’ has four versions, viz ‘Chai Lamthai I, ‘Chai Lamthai II, Chai Lamthai III and ‘Chai Lamthai IV’. Legend has it that once a king and his men went out for hunting. Unfortunately, they failed miserably and had to be contended without a kill. The king, then seeing the utter disappointment of his men, rose to the occasion and consoles them by inviting them for a drink of rice beer at his palace. On being intoxicated by the drinks, the party then culminated by singing and dancing followed by a sumptuous feast. Since then, every year, the community continues to enliven the memory of this occasion be celebrating it with various entertainment programs, thus giving rise to one of the most important festivals of the Mizos, the ‘Chapchar Kut’. In this dance, musical instrument like drum and horns of mithun are used for making beats. The festival continues for a week or more. In olden days, the ‘Chai’ dancers used to drink rice beer continuously during singing and dancing.

Chawnglaizawn: This is a popular fold dance of one of the Mizo communities known as Pawi. This dance is performed in two different occasions.

(i) It is performed by a husband to mourn the death of his wife. The husband would be continuously performing this dance till he gets tired. Friends and relatives would relieve him and dance on his behalf. This signifies that they mourn with the bereaved.

(ii) Chawnglaizawn’ is performed on festivals and also to celebrate trophies brought home by successful hunters.

On such occasions, it is performed in groups of large numbers. Boys and girls standing in rows dance to the beat of drums. Shawls are used to help the movement of the arms, which also adds color to the dance. Only drums are used in this dance.

Chheihlam: Chheihlam’ originated after the year 1900 on the lines of the songs known as ‘Puma Zai’ and the dance known as ‘Tlanglam’. It is a dance that embodies the spirit of joy and exhilaration. It is performed to the accompaniment of a song called ‘Chheih hla’. People squat around in a circle on the floor, sing to the beat of a drum or bamboo tube while a pair of dancers stands in the middle, and recite the song and dance along with the music.

It was a dance performed over a round of rice beer in the cool of the evening. The lyrics are impromptu and spontaneous on the spot compositions recounting their heroic deeds and escapades and they also praise the honoured guests present in their midst. While singing the song accompanied by sound produced by beating of the drum or clapping of hands, an expert dancer performs his dance chanting verses with various movements of the body, with limbs close to the body and crouching low to the ground. As the tempo rose and the excitement increases, people squatting on the floor leave their seats and join him. Guests present are also invited to join the dance. Today ‘Chheihlam’ is performed on any occasion with colourful costumes, normally in the evening when the day’s work is over

Tlanglam: Tlanglam is performed throughout the length and breadth of the State. Using music of Puma Zai, there have been several variations of the dance. This dance is one of the most popular dances these days by our cultural troupes in various places. Both sexes take part in this dance.

Zangtalam: Zangtalam is a popular Paihte dance performed by men and women. While dancing, the dancers sing responsive song. A drummer is a leader and director of the dance. The duration of the dance depends on the drummer.


Bamboo: The Socio-Economic Backbone of Mizoram Mizoram is a mountainous region, which became the 23rd State of the Indian Union in February 1987.It was one of the districts of Assam till 1972 when it became a Union Territory. Sandwiched between Myanmar in the east and south and Bangladesh in the west, Mizoram occupies an area of great strategic importance in the north-eastern corner of India. It has a total of 722 Km. boundary with Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Agriculture: Agriculture is the mainstay of the people of Mizoram. More than 70% of the total population is engaged in Agriculture. The age old practice of Jhum cultivation is carried out annually by a large number of people living in rural areas. The climatic condition in the state with well distributed rainfall of 1900mm to 3000mm spread over eight to ten months in the year and location in tropic and temperate zone with various soil types have contributed to the occurrence of a wide spectrum of rich and varied flora and fauna. These natural features and resources also offer opportunities for growing a variety of horticultural crops.

Food Processing: The agro-climatic conditions of Mizoram is conducive to agricultural and horticultural crops. As such, a strong and effective food processing sector should play a significant supportive role. The total production of fruits, vegetables and spices will be increasing year by year as the number of farmers are weaning away from jhum cultivation and are taking up diversification towards cash-crops.

Mines & Minerals: The present main mineral exploration in Mizoram is only hard rock of tertiary formation, which are mainly utilized as building materials and road construction work. However, several reports (both from Geological Survey of India and State Geology & Mining Wing of Industries Department) revealed that the availability of minor mineral in difference places.

Handloom & Handicraft: There are potentials in developing bamboo crafts and readymade garments made out of specially designed local handloom clothes which can be exported marketing outside India. By providing necessary inputs, credit, design and marketing facilities, the potential of the handloom and handicraft industry can be creatively tapped.

Tourism: With its abundant scenic beauty and a soothing climate, Mizoram has a scope of developing tourist related industries. Specific tourist projects can be developed to put Mizoram on the tourist map of India.

Energy Sector: Despite having a rich potential in hydro, Mizoram is not having its own power generation worth mentioning. At present, there are 22 (twenty two) isolated Diesel Power stations scattered at various places and 9(nine) Mini/Micro Hydel stations in operation. The above total installed capacity of diesel Power Station is 26.14MW and Mini/Micro Hydel Station is 8.25MW. As per 16th Electric Power Survey of India under CEA, Government of India, the restricted peak load demand of the State during the year 2002-2003 is 102 MW. Against this, an effective capacity of about 16MW from Diesel Power Stations and 6MW from Hydel Stations is available from local generation at present.

Medicinal: The socio-economic life of the rural people depends on their embient vegetarian from where they derive all their material requirements – timber, food, fuel wood, medicinal plants etc. About 95% of the interior population depends on herbal medicine and nearly 98% of raw materials are harvested from the wild plant resources without replenishing the growing stocks. The village herbal preparation includes uprooting of the plants which is detrimental to the individuals or sub-populations. And as a result, commonly used and effective herbal plants became rare and endangered species, and some plants are on the verge of extinction unless conservation measures are taken up for revival.


The Mizos are impregnable society with no class difference and no discrimination on the grounds of sex. 90% of the total society are into cultivation and the village seems like a big family. Birth of a child, marriage in the village and death of a person in the village or a community feast organised by a member of the village are prime events in which the whole village takes part.

Clinging to their identity and culture, despite external influences(which threatened Mizo culture during the turbulent period after Indian independence), Mizos have ensured that it continues to thrive with unabated enthusiasm and vigour.

Every major Mizo village now has an YMA (Young Mizo Association) centre, dedicated to infuse society with its traditional lifestyle and customs. Some of the most colourful aspects of this revival are witnessed amongst the folk and community dances that have been handed down from one generation to the next. It is reflected in the important harvest festivals that are an intrinsic part of Mizo culture.

The Mizos, being patriarchal, property is inherited by men rather than women. The family property usually goes to the youngest son although the father may leave shares to other sons, if he desires. If a man has no sons, his property is inherited by the next kin on the male side.

If a man dies leaving a widow and minor children, a male relation (who usually happens to be a brother of the deceased) takes charge of the family and looks after the property until one of the sons comes of age. If no such male relative is around, then the widow acts as a trustee of her husband’s property until such times as his son or sons are old enough to inherit it. However, although the youngest son of the family is the natural or formal heir to his father under the Mizo customary laws, in actuality, the paternal property is generally divided among all sons. The youngest of them gets a preferential treatment in that he would get the first choice of the articles, and he would get two shares of the cash in case of one each for the other brothers. A daughter or a wife can inherit property only if the deceased has no heir on the male side. Women, however, are entitled to their own property.


Mizoram is almost entirely Christian. The church is an intimate and everyday part of Mizo culture and the Sunday School concept is actively followed by all ages. Some 87% of the population (including most ethnic Mizos) is Christian. Other faiths include Hindus who form a small minority in the state, at 3.6% of the population following the religion. More than 70,494 people follow Buddhism in Mizoram according to 2001 census report. Muslims also form a small minority with 1.1% of the population following the faith. People who believe in this faith are from other state but living in Mizoram

Christianity: The major Christian denominations are the Presbyterian. The Mizoram Presbyterian Church was established by a Welsh Missionary named Rev. D.E. Jones. The Mizoram Presbyterian Church is one of the constituted bodies of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of India, which has its headquarters at Shillong in Meghalaya (India).The administrative set up of the Mizoram Presbyterian Church Synod is highly centralized. The Synod, having its headquarters at Aizawl, the Capital of Mizoram State, is the highest decision making body of the church. The financial operation, the personnel matters, the administration, management and the execution of works of the church are directly or indirectly supervised and controlled by the Synod Headquarters.[3], Baptist Church of Mizoram[4], Evangelical Church of Maraland, Salvation Army, Seventh-day Adventist Church[5], Roman Catholic, Lairam Jesus Christ Baptist Church(LIKBK), and the Pentecostals.

Buddhism: More than 70,494 people follow Buddhism in Mizoram according to 2001 census report. Especially, the Chakmas practice Buddhism.

Judaism: In recent decades, a number of people from Mizoram, Assam, and Manipur have returned to Judaism. This group is known collectively as the Bnei Menashe, and include Chin, Kuki, and Mizo. Several hundred have formally converted to Orthodox Judaism and many openly practise an Orthodox type of Judaism. The Bnei Menashe do not see themselves as converts, but believe themselves to be ethnically Jewish, descendants of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel (see Bnei Menashe). The Jewish population of the Bnei Menashe currently is estimated at 9,000 people.

Tribal: The pre-Christian spirituality of the Mizo was Monotheism, the existence of the god named Pathian (or Pu Vana).

The Brus (Riangs or Tuikuk as they are also known) are one of the tribes to be found in Mizoram and some of them are still practicing the traditional animism although the Mizo Christians have, to a great extent, introduced them to Christianity.

Marital System

Although Christianity brought about a near – total transformation in the Mizo lifestyle and outlook some customary laws have stayed on. The efforts of the Missionaries, so it seems, were not directed at changing the basic customs of the Mizo society presumably because they saw nothing much wrong with them. The customs and traditions which they found meaningless and harmful were abolished by persistent preaching. Thus tea replaced ZU as a popular drink among the Mizos. Zawlbuk had been replaced by modern education. Animal sacrifices on ceremonial occasions, which were once an integral part of Mizo religious system, are now considered anathema. But such traditions as the payment of bride price are still continued and encouragement so are some other customs and community traditions.

Bride Price: The Mizos are not alone in putting a price on a bride. This custom is a prevalent in a few other Indian Communities as well. When a Mizo boy approaches his fiancée’s parents for permission to get married, the first thing he has to do is to settle the bride price. If the price among other things, demanded by him, is acceptable to the parents, the boy and the girl are allowed to get married. Thus the settlement of the bride price to be paid by the bridegroom is an essential pre-requisite to a Mizo marriage.

It so generally happens that part of the bride price which may be paid on the eve of the wedding, while the part of bride price called ‘Thutphah’ is held back over the years as a sort of security of paying off the debts fall on the next generation. In case of the death of a husband, his son is obliged to pay the bride price.

The principal bride price is known as Manpui the rate which is (mentioned in terms of mithun or sial) Rs 80/- per unit. Besides, there are subsidiary bride prices like sumhmahruai (rate Rs 20/-) and sumfang (Rate Rs 8/-). These prices are to be paid to the bride’s father or brother. Pusum, the rate of which varies from Rs 4/- to Rs 10/- is payable to the nearest relation on the side of the bride’s mother who most often than not turns out to be the maternal uncle of the bride. An equivalent amount, known as Ni-ar, is paid to the bride’s paternal aunt as well.

The elder sister or sisters of the bride are entitled to Naupuakpuan, which is the price received by them for having given the bride their clothes to wear or taken of the bride in her childhood. In the event of the bride being the eldest daughter take or an only child, this price is received by other female relations. A sum also goes to the Palal who acts as the bride’s foster father and takes on the responsibility of safeguarding her interests throughout her married life. The bride’s maid also gets a price known as thianman. There are some optional payments as well. Taken together, the bride price adds up to a considerable figure which is often impossible for the bridegroom to pay at one time.

However, it would be a mistake to continue bride price with sale or dowry. For all those who gets a share of it comes under a special obligation to look after the welfare and interest of the bride.

Wedding: A Mizo marriage is preceded by courtship and engagement. The boy and girl are allowed to mix freely during the engagement period. But an engagement may be broken off midway through if the couple fails who get on with each other.

As the majority of the Mizos are now Christians, marriages are solemnized in Church. Both bride and the bridegroom wear wedding dresses in the latest Western Style But sometimes the bride is also decked in puanchei, a traditional Mizo costume, and white blouse.

The bride brings along to her husband a traditional rug called Puandum in which his body is to be wrapped during burial. This is an integral part of the Mizo marriage and failure to bring the cloth entails punishment leading to a reduction in the bride price.

There are other types of marriage as well. In the Makpa chhungkhung type of wedding the bridegroom does not pay bride price but goes to his wife’s house to live her. This type of marriage happens in families where there are no male heirs. Consequently, it becomes the duty of the son-in-law to care for his wife’s parents.

Another type of Mizo marriage, as Luhkhung, is performed without a social ceremony. If a girl becomes pregnant, she starts living quietly with the boy responsible for her condition in his house. However, the marriage of a pregnant girl is sometimes performed in the Vestry instead of the main Hall of a Church. Tlandun is yet another kind of marriage in which a couple runs away from home to get married.

Housing Pattern

Major portion of its total population lives in the villages. The villages are in fact considered the lifeline of the state, as they hold the key for the agricultural, economic, cultural or industrial strength of the state.

A Mizo village is usually set on the top of the hill with the village chief`s house at the centre. The villagers live like a big family. The houses built by the Lushai tribe of Mizoram, predominantly uses bamboo and wood in their construction. Most of the houses are built on the slopes and are invariably supported by wooden posts of varied lengths, so that the house is balanced horizontally with the level of the road. Cross beams are fastened against these posts and over the beams long solid bamboos are laid. Bamboo matting is then laid over the bamboo frame, which forms the floor of the house. The walls of the house are also made up of bamboo matting fastened to the outer posts. The roof consists of solid as well as split bamboo frames covered with thick thatch and some other kind of leaves. Cane is generally used for keeping the joints together and in some cases, iron nails are also used. In case where the floor of the house is much above the ground, a ladder made entirely of a piece of log is placed across the intervening space between the floor of the house and the ground. The doors and windows are usually of bamboo matting and these are fastened against the wall. It may be noted that in some cases the floor, doors and windows are made of wooden planks, while in others split bamboos are used instead.

The interior of the house is a single rectangular structure. It is partitioned into a number of rooms according to the convenience by screens made of bamboo matting or with a cloth fixed to bamboo or wooden frame. In houses where both married and unmarried persons live together, separate sleeping apartments are made by partition as described above. The hearth is always at one corner of the house usually near the front floor. It is made of clay and stones and is raised about 2-3 ft above the floor supported by raised poles. Above the fire place is hung a bamboo frame which is kept suspended to keep various things used in cooking as dried chillies, dry fish, salt, etc.


Historical Backdrop: The origin of the Mizos, like those of many other tribes in the North Eastern India is shrouded in mystery. The generally accepted as part of a great Mongoloid wave of migration from China and later moved out to India to their present habitat.

It is possible that the Mizos came from Shinlung or Chhinlungsan located on the banks of the river Yalung in China. They first settled in the Shan State and moved on to Kabaw Valley to Khampat and then to the Chin Hills in the middle of the 16th century.

The earliest Mizos who migrated to India were known as Kukis, the second batches of immigrants were called New Kukis. The Lushais were the last of the Mizo tribes migrate to India. The Mizo history in the 18th and 19th Century is marked by many instances of tribal raids and retaliatory expeditions of security. Mizo Hills were formally declared as part of the British-India by a proclamation in 1895. North and south hills were united into Lushai Hills district in 1898 with Aizawl as its headquarters.

The process of the consolidated of the British administration in tribal dominated area in Assam stated in 1919 when Lushai Hills along with some other hill districts was declared a Backward Tract under government of India Act. The tribal districts of Assam including Lushai Hills were declared Excluded Area in 1935.

It was during the British regime that a political awakening among the Mizos in Lushai Hills started taking shape the first political party, the Mizo Common People’s Union was formed on 9th April 1946. The Party was later renamed as Mizo Union. As the day of Independence drew nearer, the Constituent Assembly of India set up an Advisory Committee to deal with matters relating to the minorities and the tribals. A sub-Committee, under the chairmanship of Gopinath Bordoloi was formed to advise the Constituent Assembly on the tribal affairs in the North East. The Mizo Union submitted a resolution of this Sub-committee demanding inclusion of all Mizo inhabited areas adjacent to Lushai Hills. However, a new party called the United Mizo Freedom (UMFO) came up to demand that Lushai Hills join Burma after Independence.

Following the Bordoloi Sub-Committee’s suggestion, a certain amount of autonomy was accepted by the Government and enshrined in the Six Schedule of the constitution. The Lushai Hills Autonomous District Council came into being in 1952 followed by the formation of these bodies led to the abolition of chieftanship in the Mizo society. The autonomy however met the aspirations of the Mizos only partially. Representatives of the District Council and the Mizo Union pleaded with the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) in 1954 for integrated the Mizo-dominated areas of Tripura and Manipur with their District Council in Assam.

The tribal leaders in the North East were laboriously unhappy with the SRC Recommendations. They met in Aizawl in 1955 and formed a new political party, Eastern India Union (EITU) and raised demand for a separate state comprising of all the hill districts of Assam. The Mizo Union split and the breakaway faction joined the EITU. By this time, the UMFO also joined the EITU and then understanding of the Hill problems by the Chuliha Ministry, the demand for a separate Hill state by EITU was kept in abeyance.

Facts and Legends: But folklore has an interest tale of offer. The Mizos, so goes the legend, emerged from under a large covering rock known as Chhinlung. Two people of the Ralte clan, known for their loquaciousness, started talking noisily while coming out of the region. They made a great noise which leg God, called Pathian by the Mizos, to throw up his hands in disgust and say enough is enough. He felt, too many people had already been allowed to step out and so closed the door with the rock.

History often varies from legends. But the story of the Mizos getting out into open from the nether world through a rock opening is now part of the Mizo fable. Chhinlung however, is taken by some as the Chinese city of Sinlung or Chinlingsang situated close on the Sino-Burmese border. The Mizos have songs and stories about the glory of the ancient Chhinlung civilization handed down from one generation to another powerful people.

It is hard to tell how far the story is true. It is nevertheless possible that the Mizos came from Sinlung or Chinlungsan located on the banks of the river Yalung in China. According to K.S.Latourette, there were political upheavals in China in 210 B.C. when the dynastic rule was abolished and the whole empire was brought under one administrative system. Rebellions broke out and chaos reigned throughout the Chinese State. That the Mizos left China as part of one of those waves of migration. Whatever the case may have been, it seems probable that the Mizos mover from China to Burma and then to India under forces of circumstances. They first settled in the Shan State after having overcome the resistance put up by the indigenous people. Then they changed settlements several times, moving from the Shan State to Kabaw Valley to Khampat to Chin Hills in Burma. They finally began to move across the river Tiau to India in the Middle of the 16th Century.

The Shans had already been firmly settled in their State when Mizos came there from Chhinlung around 5th Century. The Shans did not welcome the new arrivals, but failed to throw the Mizos out. The Mizos had lived happily in the Shan state for about 300 years before they moved on the Kabaw Valley around the 8th Century.

It was in the Kabaw Valley that Mizos got the opportunity to have an unhindered interaction with the local Burmese. The two cultures met and the two tribes influenced each other in the spheres of clothing, customs, music and sports. According to some, the Mizos learnt the art of cultivation from the Burmese at Kabaw. Many of their agricultural implements bore the prefix Kawl which was the name given by the Mizos to the Burmese.

Khampat (now in Myanmar) is known to have been the next Mizo settlement. The area claimed by the Mizos as their earliest town, was encircled by an earthen rampart and divided into several parts. The residence of the ruler stood at the central block call Nan Yar (Palace Site). The construction of the town indicates the Mizos had already acquired considerable architecture skills. They are said to have planted a banyan tree at Nan Yar before they left Khampat as a sign that town was made by them.

The Mizos, in the early 14th century, came to settle at Chin Hills on the Indo-Burmese border. They built villages and called them by their clan names such as Seipui, Saihmun and Bochung. The hill and difficult terrain of Chin Hills stood in the way of the building of another central township like Khampat. The villages were scattered so unsystematically that it was not always possible for the various Mizo clans to keep in touch with one another.

Birth of Mizoram State: Rajiv Gandhi’s assumption of power following his mother’s death signalled the beginning of a new era in Indian politics. Laldenga met the Prime Minister on 15th February 1985. Some contentious issues, which could not be resolved, during previous talks referred to him for his advice.

All trends indicated that neither the Centre nor the MNF would pass up the opportunity that has now presented itself to have a full lenient and flexible. New Delhi felt that Mizo problem had been dragging on for the long a time, while the MNF was convinced that bidding farewell to arms to live as respectable Indian Citizens was the only ways of achieving peace and development.

Statehood was a prerequisite to the implementing of the accord signed between the MNF and the Union Government on 30 June 1986. The document was signed by Laldenga, on the behalf of MNF, and the Union Home Secretary RD Pradhan on behalf of the Government, Lalkhama Chief Secretary of Mizoram, too signed the agreement.

The MNF volunteers came out of their hiding and surrendered arms to makeshift bamboo huts up for the purpose at Parva and Marpara. A total of 614 activists gave themselves up in less than two weeks in July. Large quantities of small and big firearms including LMGs and rifles were received from them.

While the MNF kept its part of the bargain, the Centre initiated efforts to raise the status of Mizoram to a full-fledged State. A constitution Amendment Bill and another to confer statehood on Mizoram was passes in the Lok Sabha on 5 August 1986. The formalization of Mizoram State took place on 20th February, 1987.Chief Secretary Lalkhama read out the proclamation of statehood at a public meeting organised at Aizawl’s Parade Ground. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi flew in to Aizawl to inaugurate the new state. Hiteshwar Saikia was appointed as Governor of Mizoram.


Mizo food is simple, basically made up of lentils, bamboo shoots and fish; pork, chicken and wild game meat and rice are hot favorites. Maize is widely grown and eaten.


Alcove 10 – Bamboo Transportation, Garo Hills

Bamboo is an important resource in our socio-economic and cultural context. It is fast growing, widespread, renewable, versatile and environment-enhancing resource. Apart from its traditional uses, bamboo has various new applications as an alternative to rapidly depleting wood resources and as an option to many expensive construction and furnishing materials.

It is interesting to note that, Meghalaya is richly endowed with the bamboo forests. Its abundance and multiple uses have led bamboo to play a pivotal role in the socio-economic and cultural life of the tribal people of the state. It finds varied uses like construction material, in making of diverse implements for agriculture, fishing and cattle rearing and the simple household items like utensils small furniture etc. Livelihood of significant population in the state is dependent on the handicrafts made of bamboo.

The painting here speaks volume of how this abundant natural resource is being transported from the Hills of Garo land to the people in the plains. This system enables one to transport bamboo through the river way very easily and of course, less expensive. The bamboo industry in the region is not only a resource in itself, but it has well enhanced the economy of the people. Standing tall is a Garo man in his traditional attire. The principal garment of the men is a strip of woven cloth about six inches wide and about six feet long. In the past they wove these clothes, some of which were ornamented with rows of white beads made of conch-shells along the end of the flap. They also used vests of black colour with lining at its ends. The men were a turban on the head

Thus, bamboo stands as an ideal species capable of achieving conservation of soil and moisture, restoration of degraded land, livelihood and economic security because of its manifold uses and industrial applications. Bamboo deserves to be developed as an economic and environment resource. To achieve this, policy initiatives are required in all inter-related fields of plantation, research & extension, technology, industry, trade and financing.

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