Thien and its downfall in the traditional Zeliangrong society
- Part 2 -

Dr Budha Kamei *

A Khangchu is also a sanctuary and a criminal, whether of that village or a fugitive from another village cannot be touched while in the Khangchu until the case against him is discussed and settled in the Pei.

J. P. Mills says, even a man "commits murder, the avengers, in the fury of the moment, cannot pursue him into a morung. The men of the Khel to which the morung belongs must protect him at all costs till the case against him has been discussed and calm action decided on. Nor may any crime be committed in a morung. Property can be left lying about in one with absolute safety, for to steal is tabu.

Any stranger, too, entering a morung must be treated politely, and can on no account be refused a night's shelter. High words and abuse are forbidden"(Mills, 1980: 51-52).

The Khangchu is like any other institution, which has its own set of rules, and regulations and no outsiders can interfere in its administration. The one who violates the rules of the Khangchu is liable to punish like other villagers for breaking traditional or customary laws.

Sometimes, as punishment one may be expelled from the dormitory for certain period of time depending on his offences and during which he is not allowed to participate in the socio-cultural activities of the village.

Above the Khangchu there is Ganchang Kaibang, the elder's house. The Ganchang is very important because those who have gone through the experiences of the gradation in the dormitory are promoted to Gaanchang.

The Ganchangs, they are also promoted to the Banja according to seniority of age and now they are the members of Pei, village council and hold offices. They also perform the religious rites and ceremonies of the village.

Since ancient times, the Banjas have been acting as the highest authority in social, cultural, religious, and political affairs of the village. Luchu Like the boys, the girls too have dormitory of their own. Unlike the Khangchu, the category of membership of this dormitory is only the unmarried girls. They have two leaders called Tuna Pi who are the senior most from among the girls.

In addition, two married men from the Khangchu are assigned to look after the affairs of the girls' dormitory. They are locally known as Tunamun Sinmei. The owner of the Luchu and his wife will act as patriarch and matriarch of the Luchu.

In this place, the young girls are given informal education training like art of spinning, weaving, dance, music etc. The girls' dormitory looks after the welfare of the village by contributing voluntary services in the form of collecting firewood and water for the poor and deserted widows during the daytime. They are authorized to use their dormitory only at night time (Ursula Graham, 1986:82).

Above the Luchu, there is an institution called Mathenmei Kaibang (married women's house). This institution is also known as Rakpui Kaibang. After marriage, a woman inevitably becomes the member of Mathenmei Kaibang and the functions of the Mathenmei are limited. But, they perform some social functions during festivals and religious ceremonies.

The senior members of Mathenmei Kaibang are generally promoted to the next social group of the old women i. e. Kengja Kaibang. They are assigned with ritual functions during births, deaths and religious ceremonies of the village. However, the institutions could not survive when the Christianity penetrated in Northeast India in the first half of 20th century and did invade the very core of the Zeliangrong social institutions.

Probably, the early Christian missionaries were confused regarding the religion and cultural values. Therefore, they considered the institution of the Khangchu, which is a cultural centre, as heathen institution and the use of this institution is against the doctrine and rules of the Christianity.

Hence, they uprooted the Khangchu institution with the conversion of the traditional faith into Christianity; for fear that this institution would play against their religion (Nshonga, 2009:83).

The conservative Zeliangrong blamed the Christian missionaries for the impairment of the Khangchu, but the Mission denied the fact that there are many unconverted villages; however those villages also have given up the institution of dormitory.

The Christian missionaries alone were not held responsible for the disintegration of the Khangchu, but the introduction of formal education and its impact led to the fall of Khangchu in the non-Christian villages.

Of the forces, this was the most powerful one because parents were prepared to send their children to school where the children would gain more. They felt they could control their children better at home than what the Khangchu could provide. All these factors lead to the disintegration of Khangchu institution.

J. P. Mills writes, decaying morung means a decaying village and well-used, well-kept morung 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 morung falls into decay (1980: 51-52).

The proper functioning of the Khangchu has gone, but one cannot out rightly conclude that the system has been totally died out from the present Zeliangrong society (1976:46). It still exists, but functions only during festivals. Similarly, other institutions also function during festivals.

Conclusion: After observing the above facts, we can conclude that a Zeliangrong from his or her adolescent stage till the last of his or her life is to be a member of this or that social institution according to his or her age and he or she has to render his or her best services to the society for its well-being.

(Concluded ....)

* Dr Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 13, 2018.

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