Socio-cultural Ties Among The People Of Hills & Plain In Manipur
- Part 2 -

Dr. Priyadarshni M. Gangte *

habal Chongba at Mera Houchongba festival  on October 29 2012 at Kyamgei Thongju
Thabal Chongba at Mera Houchongba festival on October 29 2012 at Kyamgei Thongju
Pix - Bachu Thokchom

According to Rev. Renghang Chothe, aged 65 years, Pallel, Manipur (interviewed on 17-7-2006) there are no less 30(thirty) percent vocabularies of the Chothe dialect with the Manipuri language which are also similar to the Thadou language. The following words are a few examples :

Manipuri Chothe English
Sangbai Shangpaai Paddy basket
Chairung Chainarung Cheek
Tathak-Yakha Yathak-Yakha Upper and lower jaws
Pomphi Pawnphi (Pawn = cloth; phi = joining laiyen taiba)
Cloth (thick blanket)
Nahong Nao-pawn Baby cloth to carry on shoulders

Under the circumstances, we may examine as to how far as these people related or otherwise in regard to language also.

Some representative vocabularies are shown hereinbelow for the said purpose:

Anatomique vocabularies :

English Meitei Thadou (Kuki) Tangkhul Naga
Head Kok (Lu) Lu Kui
Neck Ngak Ngong Khanao
Shoulder Leng (Lengban) Leng (Lengkou)
Hair Sam Sam Sam
Eye Mit Mit Mik
Saliva Tin Chil
Nose Na-ton Nak-kui Kha-na
Tongue Lei Lei Lei
Tooth Ya Ha Ha
Hand Khut Khut Khut
Knee Khuk-u Khup-bu
Leg Khong Keng (Phei) Phei
Nail Khu-jil Khut-tin
Chin Kha-dang Kha-lhang (Kha-tang)
Face Mai Mai Mai
Thigh Phei-gan Phei-pi Kaphei

Numerals :

English Meitei Thadou (Kuki) Tangkhul Naga
One A-ma Khat A-kha
Two A-ni Ni Kha-ni
Three A-hum Thum Ka-thum
Four Ma-ri Li Ma-ti
Five Ma-nga Nga Pha-nga
Six Ta-ruk Gup (K) or Ruk Tha-ruk
Seven Ta-ret Sagi Si-ni
Eight Ni-pan Get Chi-sat
Nine Ma-pan Koh(k) Chi-ko
Ten Ta-ra som Tha-ra

Miscellaneous :

English Meitei Thadou (Kuki) Tangkhul Naga
Wood Shing Thing Thing
Song I-sei La La
Dead A-si-ba A-Thi Ka-Thi
Alive A-hing-ba A-Hing Ka-Hing
Go Chat-pa A-Che Ka-Chat
Cry Kap-pa A-Kap Ka-Chap
Name Ming Min Ming
Laugh Nok-pa A-Nui Nga-Nu
Shout Lao-ba A-Ao Kha-Vao
Call Kou-ba A-Kou Ka-Ho

( Source : T.S. Gangte. )

These are few of the original vocabularies that stand the winds of change that were experienced in the languages of Meitei, Kuki and Naga. While that of the Kukis and the Nagas remain more or less unchanged, a lot of sanskritization had taken place in the case of Meitei language that had distanced their homogeneity. It is to be seen as to how long the relic remnants of linguistic homogeneity would survive.

(6) Adoration of Sanamahi and Leimaren : As far as the household deities like Sanamahi and Leimaren is concerned the Chothe (Thao Nabadwip Chothe, 48 years, Lamlanghupi, Bishnupur, - interviewed on 22-6-2006) and Amal Sanasam (Ibid) Kabui, Koireng, Kom had practised the worshipping of such deities like the Meiteis did at one point of time i.e. before the advent of Christianity. It will be pertinent to note that the Chothes also followed the same custom giving emphasis to local deity worship. It is one customary law other than they have such several similar customs and tradition with other fellow tribes. It is obligatory for a newly married daughter-in-law as soon as she enters the house of her husband for the first time, to pay homage to Ima Leimaren and then to Sanamahi (Thao Nabadwip Chothe ; Ibid). Adoring of Sanamahi is still retained among the Chothes.

(7) Seven Clanned Societies : The system of clan arrangement among the Chothe (Rev. Renghang: Ibid), and Maring (M. Domic Maring, aged 35 years, Shadang Shenba, BPO Yaipharok, PO Singjamei, Senapati District, Manipur, interviewed on 7-2-2007), Anal, Tangkhul, Kom, Moyon-Monshang, Koireng societies are divided into 7 (seven) clans like the Meiteis (W. Ibohal Singh; The History of Manipur, Imphal, 1986; p.609) and the Kabuis, such as also Mangang, Luwang, Khuman, Angom, Khaba-Nganba, Moirang and Sarang Leishangthem practices of marriage restriction withinthe same clan is also practised among the Chothes. (Anita Chothe, aged 21 years, Lamlanghupi, Bishnupur, interviewed on 3-2-2006) and Kabuis.

(8) Wangbrel Shangnu Tradition : Wangbrel, one of the nine deities who protect the south direction married an Anal lady (Amal Sanasam, op. cit.) named Shangnu of Anal Khullen (Gangmumei Kabui : Anal A Transborder Tribe of Manipur, Mittal Publications, Delhi, 1985; p.59) Wangbrel was the God of Water even today homage is regularly paid at the Shrine, erecting two stones of which the bigger one symbolises Wangbrel while the smaller symbolizing Shangnu. Gangmumei (Ibid) maintained that on the basis of Wangbrel-Shangnu tradition, some claim is made of the village as having a hoary antiquity of 2000 years which appeared a conjectural work. Thus, this legend plays a significant role in the historical development as well as in the socio-cultural ties among the inhabitants of Manipur in particular.

Reasons for drawing such conclusion may be attributed to the following facts
tradition of common origin prevalent among the hill tribes that the Meiteis were their descendants;
as established by Grierson that there exists the linguistic affinity between the Meitei, Naga and Kuki-Chin people;
close connection of some Meitei clans that exists with the hill tribes who were in close proximity of their habitat;
striking similarity of the coronation costumes of the royal couple with that of some Naga tribes;
architecture of the coronation halls of the Kangla with the ritual houses of the Chiefs of the Naga tribes.

Tribal origin of the Meitei clans was strongly opposed by some writers in the 19th and 20th centuries mainly on the ground that there was no legend or tradition among the Meiteis to substantiate their common origin with the tribes. Nevertheless, instances are galore that there are migrations of some individual Meitei heroes or families in the hills who absorbed themselves into the societies of tribes in whichever they might choose to be converted into.

CHIKIM-MEITEI Relationship:

Of all Tibeto-Burman peoples the Meitei of Manipur were the people linguistically closest to the CHIKIM and they settled together as one group in the Chindwin Valley. Historical materials of the Meiteis have shown the presence of CHIKIM people in the Chindwin Valley after the beginning of the Christian era. Lehman in his book The Structure of Chin Society: Urbana, 1963, puts the CHIKIM's occupation of the area well into the middle of the first millennium A.D., in which period the Meiteis conquered the Andro-Sekmai group of people, who were inhabitants of present day Manipur.

Hudson has maintained that the Meiteis were descendents of surrounding hill tribes (T.C. Hudson : Op. cit; p.9). Their traditions have remained similar and even today they retain many customs of the hill people. He wrote, in 1900 that the organization, religion, habits and manners of the Meitei of two hundred years before were the same as the hill people (CHIKIM and Naga) of his own era. It is indeed an important observation and demands critical appreciation.

There are legends and traditions, which tell of early relationships between Meitei, Naga, and CHIKIM the three ethnosis. A Tangkhul (Naga) tradition says that Naga, Meitei and CHIKIM descended from a common ancestor who had three sons. These were the progenitors of the tribes. This tradition puts the CHIKIM as the eldest and the Meitei the youngest. Hudson wrote, "The Tangkul legend is to the effect that one day a sow, heavy with young, wandered from the village of Hundung and was tracked to the valley by the younger of the two brothers who had migrated from the village of Maikei Tungam, where their parents lived, and had founded the village of Hundung.

Oknung, the pig's stone, where the sow was eventually found, is situated on the banks of the Iril River. The sow littered there and the young man stayed to look after her; and as he found the country to his liking, he decided to settle there. For a time he kept up friendly relations with his brother in the hills, who made a practice of sending him every year gifts of produce of the hills and in turn received presents of the manufacture of the plains. The younger brother became well-to-do and proud, and abandoned the custom of sending presents to his brother in the hills, who promptly came down and took what he had been in the habit of getting." (Vumson : Zo History, Aizawl; p.31)

It is also pertinent to mention that the blood brotherhood as claimed by NSCN(IM) top brass may draw our attention to the Ritual History of Manipur ancestor which claimed that Meitei were originated from a common pool of three kin brothers namely
Tangkhul Saram Pakhangba (origin of Ukhrul and Valley tribes);
Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (wherefrom the lineage of present royal family of Manipur descended);
Chothe Thangmai Pakhangba (wherefrom the Kukis were believed to have descended);
(This was as per authenticated document of Dr. P. Khuman Khomba, Advisor of His Highness, Maharajah of Manipur).

Two dissimilar societies emerged from a homogeneous but complex society on account of the British manipulations who emphasised upon dissimilarities instead of similarities in cultural traditions, language and religious rites and rituals. The policy of divisiveness created a psyche for differences amidst the tribal groups. These two groups were further alienated when Hindu Vaishnavism was accepted in Manipur which gradually developed strong grip over the Meitei society under the royal patronage. (Dr. N. Vijayalakshmi Brara : Religious Movements and Cultural Synthesis in Manipur : An observation on Manipuri Hinduism Globalisation and the changing scenario of cultural Interaction; Manipur Experience: A paper presented at the centre for Manipuri Studies, M.U., Imphal on 3-4 March, 2003.)

Subsequently the King declared Hinduism as State religion during the reign of King Charairongba in the 17th Century and converted the Meiteis into a part of the pan-Vaishnava culture. This alienation was further aggravated when the hill people adopted Christianity in the early part of 19th Century. By this time orthodox Hinduism was firmly entrenched in the Meitei society.

With the advent of Christianity the traditional belief system that had provided the hill people with a link, albeit tenuous, with Meitei society ended. The new religion discouraged the hill people from observing their traditional ceremonies and festivals as they were considered by the Christian Missionaries to be 'Paganistic and primitive'. The rich culture and traditions of the hill people became relics of the past. The role of religion in shaping the present and future of the people were denied thereafter, in one way or the other. Though Christianity did not pose any challenge to the dominant Meitei society, the latter refused to acknowledge the new and alien religion. The 'new' ways of life of the Christianized converts among hill people was ignored by the dominant Meitei society, and these societies diverged on different parts ignoring their common traits in their cultural history.

Thus, the two great world religions contributed in no small measures in the causes for 'drifting away' of the two groups of blood-fraternity. Politics, subsequently kept them at 'daggers drawn' against each other despite their inherent 'one-ness', traditionally, culturally and linguistically.

Thus, culture, tradition and custom with the passage of time became part and parcel of the Meitei and other communities' social systems. It is high time to change our minds that we should realize of our being from a common origin. Our Meitei brethren should always continue to have that accommodative thinking, such as, support extended to the appointments of Yangmasho Shaiza, Mohd. Alimuddin and Rishang Keishing; Chief Ministers of Manipur. Well, as that of Rajya Sabha M.P. seat given to Rishang Keishing. Thus we can maintain the Meiteis, the Nagas and the Kukis have a common origin, they have shared the same territory and had evolved political authority, shared perception through give and take of progressive society, their future stand is not isolated but in togetherness.

Concluded ...

* Dr.(Mrs) Priyadarshni M. Gangte wrote this article for The Sangai Express and Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
The write is a Lecturer at Department of History, Damdei Christian College, Manipur.
This article was posted on March 08, 2013

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