Tracing history of Hau/Naga migration
Tangkhul legends and Tenimiyas (Angami, Chakhesang and Mao)

Dr Nelson Vashum *

  Loree Kaju Luita Phanit / Hampai Festival at Nungpi Khullen, Ukhrul in January, 2018
Loree Kaju Luita Phanit / Hampai Festival at Nungpi Khullen, Ukhrul in January, 2018 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

The intention of writing these legends is to make some of the circulating stories/histories more accurate. Most of the legends presented here are in fair concurrence with the historical records left behind by the British administrators (Lt Col W McCulloch, Captain Pemberton, Maj. Gen. Sir James Johnstone, TC Hodson, Sir Edward Gait etc).

According to Tangkhul legends (some references from the social history of Hau Tangkhul by Late Stephen Angkang and Late T Luikham) orally passed down as stories and songs. Tangkhuls have a saying, "Words narrate a story and a song confirms the story".

If that statement is true, Late Stephen Angkang's stories are often confirmed with a song/folk song. Many oral legends are similar though variations here and there occurred. Haumi's were a group of many tribes with varied dialects but bound by similar customs and cultural practices.

The Haumis settled in the dark past at Hwang Ho/Huwangho valley (SouthwestChina) –a vast valley where the sun never sets. Because of repeated floods – Haumi migrated to the West and lived with Phamos (Shaves/Shans) for some years. However, Phamos were not too friendly and hence migrated Southwest and settled in Kinji/Chindwin river valley/Kabaw valley. Haumi settled here for a long time and the footprint left behind to testify to the truth of Haumi's past settlement could be seen in the stone piles at Samsok/Samjok.

In the mid 13th century, Pong's kingdom (from Thailand) overpowered the Ava king and set up kingdom of Thai descent. The Haumis were displaced by this event mostly Westward but many went North and South. Alongside there were many Chins. Haumis settled all along Ayinphai (present Pallel) to Phaisen (present Imphal). According to some historians–Haumi settlement at Phaisen occurred around 1260-1280 AD.

According to Tangkhul legends many Haumis decided to migrate again because of a strange disease (most probably malaria) which killed many every year. A few migrated Southwest to Yilaram (present Churachandpur) and further went Northward to present Tamenglong. The biggest group migrated Northward and settled at Makhel and around.

Further migration to the Northern areas gave rise to Mao, Angami, Chakhesang, Lotha, Sema, Ao, Sangtam, Rengma etc. A group migrated towards the West of Makhel (Northern Tamenglong- Zemai, Puimei, Liangmai etc). Some remained around Makhel- Poumai, Maram, Thangal etc. One group migrated Eastward and came to Khongrei and further dispersed but most settled at Phungcham.

Amongst the Tangkhul/Luhoopa–Yang, Raphei, and a few of Kamo took root from Phungcham. According to Tenimiya legends–Luhoopa (Tangkhuls) and Mayitei were two sons of one Mekhri and they migrated back to the valley.

According to most commonly accepted Tangkhul legends – the Tangkhul Haumis settled along the Northeast of Phaisen (Imphal). Hunphun khulak-pa and his group settled at Khorei (big road) now corrupted into present Khurai. Longpikhulakpa and his group at Seihom-phung (grazing place) corrupted into present Sawombung. There was a big settlement at Oknaopokpi–now corrupted into Yaingangpokpi.

Oknaopokpi is a milestone in the migration of one-half of Tangkhul–mostly Luhoopa. When Luhoopa's group decided to migrate to the hill, the younger brother's clan decided to follow later. Hence, the elder brother's siblings gave the instruction to light-up pinewood on bamboo poles every evening to signal the welfare of the younger clan in the valley.

When elder clan's siblings saw the fire in the valley, it was taken to be signal of welfare. Hence, the Meitheis/Mei uba, TC Hodson's derivative of Meithei is corrupted. Meitheis eat pork and Lai Haraoba was not celebrated without pork. Ceremonial attire of elders especially clan chief/pipa/khulakpa was Ruirum, not luirum/leirum. The place/monument which is called Nagaband which stretches Northwest from Lamlai trijunction to the base of the Pidonuhill. It is not recorded by the Britishers nor in any legend mentioned the writer knows but it could be of some significance.

The presence of the Haumi at Phaisen (Imphal) at one point of time especially around Kangla is testified by (according to late Stephen Angkang's – Tangkhul Hau):

i) Two stones were erected–one is visible at the present gate of I MR and the other at the museum gate. The stones were picked up from Ningthi river and brought to Imphal and erected with a curse–if human uproot, let his life be cut short and if by animal, the hair fall and bones be broken.

ii) Today you called Khwairamband bazar, for the Haumis it was Kharam Pan meaning settlement of Kharam tribe (Late T Luikham)

According to Tangkhul and Tenimiya legend, there were other tribes living with Haumi in the valley namely–Moirang, Khuman, Angom and Luwang. There were constant fight amongst the tribes/kingdoms for supremacy. However, a sibling of Meithei–Meidingu Pamheiba became prominent and set up his kingdom in 1714 and called it for the first time Kangleipak. He made all the subjects of Kangleipak to be known as Meitheis.

He took the name Gharib Nawaz which means patron of the poor. According to Sir Edward Gait, Pamheiba was people's Raja. He was the most able king and could even subjugate the king of Burma. The relationship between Haumi especially Tangkhuls were at its best during the time of Maharaja Pamheiba. However, the king was assassinated through the scheme of his son Ughat Sha/Kakilal Thaba in 1747. Thereafter Raja Pamheiba was never succeeded by a strong king.

Towards the end of Pamheiba's rule, Hinduism was brought to the kingdom of Manipur by Shantidas Adhikari/Shantidas Goswami which brought the most catastrophic change in the social fabric of Meitheis and at the same time the relationship between the Haumis and Meitheis was never cordial or civil. Meitheis adopted strange naming such as Devi, Kumar, Singh and Tammi assumed 'ashengbas' and Haumi 'amangba'.

To the Haumis Shantidas was never a preacher of peace but division, hatred and war. Every social intercourse was only to deepen the hurts on the Haumis. Whenever Haumi came to the valley for langphei zatba, they were put up in shangkoigishang. The visit to the Meitheis was never pleasant. The Meiteis/Meitheis maintained ever since the adoption of Hinduism–a posture of the ruler, holier than thou etc. The present crisis between Meitei and Kuki conflicts is a part of the spillover.

The British historians fairly unanimously opined that Ningthoujas are descendants of the Nagas. The palace was called Yimchao/Shimchou. Coronation Hall at Kangla was nothing but replica of Naga khulakpa's house and it was called–shang/sang punsiba. The coronation ceremonial dresses of the Raja and Rani were both in Naga dresses. The Raja was guarded by soldiers dressed like Naga warriors.

This was practised till the late 19th century. Another strange testimony was the revelation of Maharaja Gambhir Singh (Chinglen Nongdren Khomba s/o Chingkhang Khomba) that he was a scion of Naga in 1833 at Kohima. Some historians speculate that the motive behind identifying with Naga root must have been done out of insecurity after Yandaboo Treaty done on 24th February, 1826 and to have vast base of support from the Nagas.

TC Hodson wrote about Tableng villages–Wakching and Wangching speaking those days in late 19th century dialect of Southern Tangkhul, Kasom/Nambashi which are very similar again to that of Maringlon. Now in the 20th century they were assimilated into Meitheis society and they speak Meitheilon. In the process of migration–social absorption/assimilation from the smaller to bigger is a known thing–best known to Anthropologists.

Manipur Baptist Convention (MBC) evangelical works started in Wangching with full earnestness because of the past connection and the people themselves were more accommodative to the Haumi. Good to conclude with one interesting and a real story at that.

In the late 19th century, one young man went as a labourer (langpheizatba) from a Tangkhul village to Imphal. The man's demeanour was good and hardworking and won the love of a family. He was treated well and persuaded to continue to live with that particular family. The relationship climaxed at getting a Meithei bride for the Tangkhul/Haumi. The families of the Meithei and the Tangkhul/Hau maintained cordiality.

A grandson of the Haumi was a good politician and served as a Cabinet Minister in the 90s and I, the writer, was a witness of the lovely stories connected to this particular family in the nineties. The siblings of this Haumi turned Meitheis by the 4th generation, the number was more than 68. Since these siblings are happily assimilated, I wish herewith to give my respect by not revealing the identities.

Let it remain a pleasant secret – till in the future someone amongst the siblings do research and write like the African, from Kenya who wrote a famous book called the "Root" tracing back to the 9th generation who were transported to America as slaves. That's how some people prove that blood is thicker than water. The background of a slave – transported to a foreign land was nothing to be ashamed of. It was incidentally a footprint of life by providence.

To conclude - the migration story of the Haumis/Nagas are very visible even after years of wear and tear. I was told there are many places where stone piles and Naga wallings in Churachandpur areas. There is one village called Longpi in Tamenglong area and there is another Longpi village (amongst the biggest) in Tangkhul area. There is Oinam village to the Northeast of Senapati district Hq. There is Oinam clan and Leikai at Imphal.

There is Shangjam clan at Talui, Ukhrul district and there is Thangjam yumnak amongst Meitei. There is one Lamlang village belonging to Chothe in Chandel and there is another Lamlang village of Tangkhul. The Haumis consist of many tribes and the dialects varied seemingly intelligible to each other but customs and cultural practices are very strikingly similar.

In the midst of dialectical differences–geographically far apart but some are strikingly similar. Sangtam and Tangkhul dialects are very similar. So also Ao but less. In 1966, a group of Naga Army went to East Pakistan and one Tangkhul elder found Maring Naga in Chittagong hills.

Out of curiosity, he visited a few villages and prominently one clan called Makunga similar to that of Manipur Maring was found. These are all clear evidences of migratory tracts of Haumi following dispersion from Kinji/Chindwin valley in mid 13th century.

* Dr Nelson Vashum wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is MD DGO Director, CHSRC Hamleikhong East, Hungpung,
and can be reached at vashumnelson(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 13 2023 .

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