Folklore of Hao communities
- Part 1 -

Yarngam Lunglo *

 Leirum and other item used in a Luhongba ( Marriage ceremony for Meiteis) :: 10th July 2019
Leirum and other item used in a Luhongba as seen on 10th July 2019 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

I am a lover of old and new stories. During my fertile period sometime in the year, 1970 an old man, aged around 80 told me a folklore of Hao. Before he narrated the story, he did say that he had also been told about it by another old man like him in his boyhood.

He was from Ukhrul Winow Bazar and his name was Ngashangshi, a retired teacher. He told me that it was a story of a time, long long ago and he was the first person from whom I ever heard about a folklore of the Hao.

He began by telling us the story from where we came to this place. Everyone of us listened attentively and carefully. Our ancestors migrated from China in search of a safer place for settlement. In those days war was very common among themselves (tribes) and the stronger groups exploited the weaker ones in any form as they wish.

He said that our group happened to be weaker ones and so the stronger groups forced us to work for them by keeping in a big area surrounded by a concrete wall. It was like living in a big cave. All men worked under the supervision of them. This was their prison.

At the entrance of the first prison gate, there was a room in which man eaters, the ferocious tigers, were kept to prevent prisoners from escaping. At the time of entering they put up two temporary walls on both sides so as to allow the prisoners a safe passage to enter without harm. The inner gate was closed when all the prisoners had entered. Later on the temporary walls were pulled out from the first room in which the Tiger stayed so as to allow the tiger to roam freely in the room again. This made escaping impossible for the prisoners.

The soldiers did not guard the prison during night hours for the presence of more than three to four tigers was enough to scare anyone thinking of escaping. This was the treatment meted out to our people by stronger tribes in China in those days.

This must be the reasons, why our ancestors said that they came from a cave as the prison looked like a big cave. One day, two young men tried to escape but were killed by the tigers during the process. In this way they lost their lives in the jaws of the man eaters. On the following day, the Chinese soldiers came to know about the incident of how the Tigers did not spare the two young men. Those soldiers teased the prisoners, " Try again if you want to suffer the same fate as they. "

After some days, a wise leader suggested an idea to escape the dungeon by any means. His suggestion was that everyone must shout HAU-HAU loudly in unison so that the tigers might get frightened by using this scary tactics. As per the suggestion of the wise leader, they broke the inner gate during nightfall, shouting HAU-HAU loudly. Hearing such a loud explosive noise the tigers could not withstand the sound and ran to the extreme corner of the room to hide.

The wise leader's suggestion was a success and this was how our people escaped from the bondage of the Chinese soldiers. Our people were fully aware of the fact that one day or the other day the stronger group might come to their places and carry out the same torture to them. In view of these impending danger they decided to migrate to another place for their settlement. In the process of migration many lost their lives because of hunger and illness. Their main routes were rivers and streams in the jungles. Their main weapons were knives, arrows and spears.

For months and years they kept on travelling down south and at last they arrived at Shamshok in Burma. They stayed there for years and they ate up all sorts of vegetables and if lucky ate some meats. On the way they faced a lot of troubles but happiness filled their hearts at the thought of escaping from the clutches of the Chinese. Some preferred to settle in Burma, whereas majority of them were willing to move towards the South west. There are still Naga Hao brothers living in Burma.

The others that left Burma reached Ningthi river in Ukhrul district and later came to the valley side where most of the places were submerged under water except a few places. Though fishes were found abundantly for food, they couldn't live there for long due to the presence of many mosquitoes. A large chunk of people died due to mosquito bites. As this was the condition, they decided to move in other direction for settlement.

Same as in the case of Burma, some people decided to stay back in the valley areas. However two-third of the population set off from the valley areas for a better place and at last reached Makhel at Moa in Senapati district, Manipur. They stayed there for some years but due to a rapid increase in population many groups move out from the area: some in the north, some in the west, some in the east and some stayed there as before. This was how the Naga occupied the whole hill areas of Nagaland and Manipur.

The group that move in the east were the Tangkhuls and they settled at a place called Kongtei in Poumei areas at Senapati district. They stayed there for one or two decades. Some stayed there whereas other moved out in the east and found a suitable place called Pungcham. This is the oldest village in the Tangkhuls. Again this group also went in different directions group by group in search of their permanent settlement. At present the Tangkhuls have around 227 villages in all.

The second phase of migration from the valley brothers, who had been left behind during the first phase, started migrating due to the same conditions of mosquitoes problem. They tried to follow the footsteps of the first phase groups but due to long passage of time they could not trace the right direction, so they took the East and settle a bit far away from the valley areas. The old man said that these second phase of people were closely related to the Meteis and the Tangkuls brotherhood.

He stated "Let me tell you how they were closely related to one another". He said that these second phase group while staying some 15 kilometres away from the valley, one day one's brother pig was found missing and he was very worried thinking that it might had been eaten by the tigers. But surprisingly, one morning he saw the pig coming home in hunger groaning for food.

At once he could guess that his pig had given birth somewhere and in order to trace out the place, while feeding the pig he threw a lot of husk on its body so as to find out where the pig had gone. The man followed the pig as soon as it started moving. As the pig moved the husk thrown on its body fell bit by bit to the ground. They went on and on till it reached down the valley where he saw a big nest for the piglets. He look around the valley and found that most part of the valley areas had dried up. He was enchanted to live there. So he took a firm prudent decision to settle there with his family and along with his brother and sister families.

Then he returned home with the good news that the pig had given birth down at the valley area. He convinced some of his close brother and sister families that it would be a much better place to settle there. He approached the leaders of the village with due respect for permission that he and some of his brother and sister families might be allowed to go back to the valley where his pig had given birth to many piglets.

On this request, the village elders laughed at and scolded him, saying whether he could conquer the invisible enemies, the mosquitoes that killed a huge number of population. Be wise and just follow your elder brothers advice without any further question because we had tasted what was what and found unfavourable to settle there.

A little while, he and along with his cousins came and begged for the same to the village elders. In the second approached those village elders unwillingly gave the permission knowing the seriousness of their plea by saying that if you want to die like our brothers it is up to you.

But in reality we didn't want to part with you, because we love you and wanted to live forever with you. Hearing this, the younger brother embraced one of the eldest village elders and begged for blessing. The elder brother pronounced the blessing, "May the God of heaven and earth bless you and take care of our brothers and sisters." Since then one group of the Tangkhul brothers have been living in the valley area.

This is the only story being told to us about how Tangkhuls and Meiteis separated from each other a long, long time ago. The place where the pig gave birth was call Oknaopokpi in olden days according to the Tangkhul folklore. Now the place is known as Yainganpokpi instead of Oknaopokpi.

In this connection when asked, the Meitei elders agreed to the Tangkhul folklores. But they have changed the name of the place in this way that spreading turmeric's powder (Yaingang) round the piglet's nest would protect it from evil. Therefore, they coined the name Yaingangpokpi instead of Oknaopokpi, I feel that twisting the name is an act of distortion to history.

The old man said the rest of the story in connection with Meitei and Tangkhul be narrated tomorrow. We thanked him and wished him goodnight. While going home each one of us said that this old man had a good amount of memory power to remember all those stories that he had heard from his Great, Great Grandfathers.

On the following day we went to his place for the remaining story to be heard. It was apparent that he felt very happy seeing us visiting him because it is quite natural that nobody intend to sit together with the old man for a long time. So elderly people spend most of the time alone without companion. That must be the reason why he felt so happy sitting and chatting around him and thus passing a day without loneliness.

With a firm and a big smile on his face, he welcomed us and started narrating the folklore of Meitei and Tangkhul. He said occasionally the elder brothers would pay a visit when invited by the younger brothers especially on the occasion of marriage ceremony. Being far away from one another, walking on foot all the way from the hill to valley was a tiresome journey to attend any such function.

So the elder brothers' group said to the younger brothers' group that they would not be in a position to attend always whenever invited due to long distance. Therefore, one of the elder brothers took out a shawl from his bag and blessed upon it to be prosperous and bring forth many children in their lives. After having blessed it, he gave it to his younger brothers' group and said that in his behalf you give it to any newly married couples as a gift so that they might live long and have a prosperous life.

The shawl referred to here is the Luirum shawl. This Luirum shawl belong to both Tangkhul and Meitei. Henceforth, at every marriage ceremony, the younger brothers' group present Luirum shawls to the newly wedded couples.

It became a compulsory item at the time of marriage ceremony without which it is considered incomplete. This tradition has been still in practice. This is one of the proven facts that Meiteis and Tangkhuls are brothers from time immemorial.

To enable the readers to understand the two languages, I place Meitei-lon in the first place, Tangkhul in the second place and English in the third as follows:

Sl. No. Meiteilon Tangkhullon Englishlon
4.Aremba AremmaUseless/Unnecessary
15.ChangyengpaChangkhayengTesting Ability
18.Chara CharaOne Piece meal
26.ChamanaChanaTea Leaf
28.ChetnaChetlak einaFirmly
37.IzamzambaIzamzamdaIn Simple Manner
41.IrombaIrombaCurry Made of Chilli
46.KongkaraoKongkaraoLong pant/Half pant
47.KauKaluCome up
50.KoktangKui tangBald Headed
54.KarongKharongtheiBell of Cow/Buffalo
62.KhangKhangFrying Pan
65.KhapeiKapeiLong Spoon
66.KabaKakangBurned Rice
70.KokpaKakokFade Away
72.KoibaKakoiGo Around
86.KhorumKhorumWooden Sandal
92.HaorakphamHaokaphokStarting point
94.HanbaKahanRetreat/Pay back
98.HaithokheichinHaishokheichangMoving left to
100.HeinabaHeikhanaAccustom/Use to

To be continued.....

* Yarngam Lunglo wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 11, 2019.

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