Khangchiu/Liuchiu : Traditional institution of the Liangmai
- Part 2 -

Kendy Pamei*

Chagah Festival : Annual festival of Liangmai community celebrated at Taphou Liangmai village, Senapati ::  Oct 30, 2012
Chagah Festival : Annual festival of Liangmai at Taphou Liangmai village, Senapati on Oct 30, 2012 :: Pix - Popcha Yambem

The number of Morungs in a village defer from village to village depending on the number of household of a village, the Chiang Village, Tamei HQ, Manipur is worth mentioning in this case as the village have 4 Morungs namely; Tureng-khangchiu, Touluang-khangchiu, Chawang-khangchiu and Tourun-khangchiu.

In a village where there are more than one Morung, a particular Morung will be appointed usually for a period of one year to assist the village activities and act as the helpers of the 'Akupiu' (Village priest), 'Apai' (Village court, Apai: usually comprised of few Elders) of the village.

The appointed Morung during the year will act as the helpers of the Apai and assist the village in times of festival and ritual acts. They take up their responsibility decently without any complaints, when their service is required by the Village. Such candor attitudes of the Morung are well appreciated by whole villagers. Their good deeds are usually narrated and pass on from generation to generation.

During hunting if a person killed Tiger, Wild Boar, or Python and in case of war, Head of the enemy, the hunts are brought to the Morung, however some opined that such hunts are brought to king's house. It is to be noted that the hunts such as Tigers, Python, wild boar meat are not share among the household, as such meat are considered forbidden / unsafe for the women.

However, when a buffalo, cow, pig etc are offered as offering for the Khangchiu, such meat are divided equally among the families in the villages irrespective of which Morung member they belong. In Liangmai such share are known as kaleky dam or tathom. The widowers are always given the best of the meat. In the event of hunting or war, if their hunts such as Thiuhu (Wild boar), Tasen (Python) or Chakui (Tiger) are killed, the hunts are brought to the village with the group of the young men, the young bachelors will Magu (Magubou: ho-hoing by group of men) while carrying the hunts, the howling will stop once they reached their Morung and the eldest of the Apai or Akupiu will come forward to bless the person who killed their hunts and the pant (Tasih nih: a black cloth with sea-shell woven in three lines, used as wrap around the waist to cover the private part of the men, usually used as pant) will be removed, the significant of such ritual acts is not certain.

In a village where there are two or more morungs competitions between the Morungs are common. Apart from competing in sport events like Tajuang (Long-jump), Taton (High Jump), Kabui mi jubo (A kind of sport where a bull is let free and the boy will chase after the bull to catch) etc, in many occasions the competitions among the Morungs are usually seen in everything they are entrusted, eg repairing of village road, field road, ponds and maintaining them throughout the years, they did in such a way that the village folks will appreciate their well maintain road.

The competition among the morungs motivates the members to excel in their works and their enthused for excellence pushes them to give their best for the society. Such competitions even cajole the indolent ones and thus impart unity also inspiration for each other among the Morung members. [G. Makunga: 1994] "other social services extended by dormitory involve constructing paths, and clean ponds in and around the village".

Liuchiuky :

Like the Khangchiu in the girl dormitory the eldest among them will be unanimously elected as their elder also known as Liupi. She like the Khangpi will teach social ethical principles (Tacheng-charya), arts of weaving and other essential activities so that the girls will be well acquainted in her preparations for good housewife. Their hair are inclusively cut from the girl dormitory, there are also an occasion where the girls are given a 'Riliu nai Jan' (Nickname like Buanjengnai, a name given to my late mother by her Liuchiu) to all the members. The members of the Liuchiu without any prejudice helped the widows or sick families by fetching water, pounding rice etc.

During the festival such as Alem chaga ngee the men are forbidden from eating certain foods from their home, on such occasions the men are believed to be shaping or sharpening their body for the event of war etc. From the day they start to observed such gennas the men will not eat from their house but they will come begging for the brewed wine (local rice brewed wine) from the Liuchiuky and they will consumed from there. Apart from this the girls also look after certain village activities in which men are not permitted.

The notable practice of the Liuchiuky is their bed, it is usually a large single wooden plank curved from the single tree, it is said that around 20 girls can be accommodated in a single bed. The Liupi will sleep in the northern most side of the bed follow by member of the Liuchiu in the order of age; the same pattern is followed in the Khangchiu.

During the time of winter the women will get themselves busy with the weaving, collecting fire woods etc, this is the season when men usually came to the Liuchiu and help the girls in giving the final touch to the woven clothes (Phairi mahiu bo) also during such time it was considered a privileged for the boy to display their expertise by making Muih (spindle), npi, langruike (shuttle), etc.

However, in spite of such a healthy institution, Morung could not survive when the Christianity penetrated in Liangmai society. However, in my lenient viewed the Christian missionaries alone cannot be blame or held responsible for the disintegration of the Morung, the introduction of formal education and its impact may have also led to the falls of Morung even in the non-Christian villages.

With the introduction of the formal education and gaining momentum, the parents were prepared to send their children to school where the children would gain more knowledge. They might have also felt that they could control their children better at home than what the Morung could provide; such factors might have lead to the disintegration of Morung institution.

About the decay of Morung, J. P. Mills writes: "Decaying morungs mean a decaying village and well-used, well-kept morungs a vigorous community. It is in the morung that the old men tell of the great deeds of the past, and the coming generation is taught to carry on the old traditions in future. When the past is no longer gloried in and the future seems dark and uncertain, the morungs fall into decay." (1980).

The declined of the Morung institution in the Liangmai social structure began when the Christian missionaries entered into the Liangmai society. Probably, the early Christian missionaries or the early converts were confused regarding the religion and cultural values. Therefore, they considered the institution of the Morung, which is a cultural centre, as heathen institution and the use of this institution were against the doctrine and rules of the Christianity.

M. Maisuangdibou in his book 'Tribal Theological Hermeneutics' writes "After the introduction of Christianity in the Liangmai Naga society, the importance of this institution was considerably reduced both in letter and spirit". The Morung system undeniably played a vital role in shaping the young generations and prepared themselves as a responsible person in the society. The morung can be seen as a social institution, rather than as a place of worship.

An attempt to reconstruct such valuable social practice in the 21st century will certainly meet with a vehement rebut from the modern society, not because the modern society doesn't want the morung system but the practical application of the system in the modern society is not possible.

However, the Liangmai today needs to retrospect the importance of the Morung institution in the present social build up, such reconstruction of the institutions in our social world view can only bring back the well fabricated social ethic in the present Liangmai, the needs to embed the essence of the Morung in our society is undeniable.


* Kendy Pamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on June 25, 2017.

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