Haipou Jadonang : His Religious reform movement
- Part 1 -

Dr Budha Kamei *

The Zeliangrong, one of the indigenous communities of Manipur belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family of the Mongolian race. (Grieson 2000: Language of North eastern India, vol. ii, N. Delhi, p.477) Zeliangrong is the synonym of three cognate groupsóZemei, Liangmei and Rongmei. The name Zeliangrong was formed by the combination of the cognate groups; Zemei, Liangmei, and Rongmei. It has been formed by stitching the first three syllables together out of the three sub tribes' names.

The idea of Zeliangrong fraternity was first implanted by Jadonang during the course of his freedom struggle against the British imperialist. It formally came into being with the formation of the Zeliangrong Council on the 15th February 1947 at Keishamthong, Imphal with the objective of bringing unity and for furthering the economic, socio-cultural, educational and political achievements of the tribes. This formation is strictly based on common ethnic, linguistic, social and cultural origin of the cognate groups.

It was formed with the consent of all the leaders and intellectuals of the Zeliangrong. Despite all the efforts to register among the Scheduled Tribes of India since the formation of the Zeliangrong Council, so far they are recognised under the tribe name of 'Kabui' and 'Kacha Naga' which they consider it as wrongly quoted by the Brittish administrator where no word has an exact meaning to their tribe.

The population of this tribe is found mainly in the Tamenglong District of Manipur. According to 2001 Census Report of India, their population in Manipur is returned as 1, 25,587 including 68,987 males and 66,603 females. (Bhatt and Bhargava 2006: Land and People of Indian States and Union Territories, vol. xvii, Delhi, p. 61)

This population is also found scattered in neighbouring districts of Tamenglong District namely, Senapati District, Imphal East District, Imphal West District, Churachandpur District and Thoubal District. Out side the State of Manipur, they are found settling in Nagaland in its Paren District, and Kohima District, and in Assam in its Cachar District and Hailakandi District. The present study is an attempt to throw light on the religious reform movement of Haipou Jadonang.

The first half of the 20th century was a landmark era in the history of Zeliangrongs of Manipur. It was during this period Haipou Jadonang started his religious activities in order to reform and revitalise the religion of his people from the onslaughts of Christianity. He introduced reformation with the revelations of God. Because of his premature death, the reformation was continued and completed by Haipei Rani Gaidinlu.

Tributes being paid to Haipou Jadonang on his death anniv - 2007
Picture Courtesy: TSE

Religion is the system of worship of God by men with a code of spiritual, moral, social behaviour dealing with God, men and society. (Gangmumei Kamei 2005: The Zeliangrong Primordial Religion, Imphal, p. 1) Once upon a time, the western anthropologists led by E.B. Tylor described the Tribal religion as Animism which means belief in spiritual beings, the spirits, ghosts and demons. When this concept is applied, every religion has some beliefs in spiritual beings.

Animism was a primordial stage of every traditional religion. Now, it becomes a mistaken notion because it was quickly outgrown by the religious and spiritual development of the community concerned. Western observers including the anthropologists and sociologists describe that historically evolved religion is not animism. So, the Zeliangrong religion is not animistic cult.

Haipou Jadonang was born in the year 1905 in a peasant family of Kambiron, Southern Zeliangrong country, now in Tamenlong District, Manipur. The exact date and month of his birth was unknown due to non-maintenance of horoscope. He was about 26 year old at the time of his death in 1931, counting being on the basis of the jhum cycle of his village, Kambiron. (Asoso Yonuo 1982: Nagas Struggle Against the British rule Under Jadonang and Rani Gaidinlu 1925-1947, Kohima, p. 39) He was the second son of Thiudai and Chunlungliu.

His other two brothers were Mudunung, the elder and Tiningam, the younger. His father expired when he was only one year old and so he was brought up by his mother. The children were close to the mother and Jadonang was closest. Jadonang had an extraordinary childhood in which his mother came across many miraculous incidents. (Thunbui Zeliang 2005: Haipou Jadonang 1905-1931, Guwahati, Pp.3-6; Adang Zeliang 2006: Jadonang in Heritage Explorer Souvenir, Guwahati, Pp. 48-49).

Kambiron, a middle size Rongmei village having 40 houses was situated on the Cachar road, 12 km away from Nungba. Cachar road was one of the important passages of Manipur to the west. Young Jadonang and his elder brother Mudunang witnessed the movement of soldiers, officials, traders through this road and the forcible collection of house tax, porter system, the Christian preaching about the Gospel of God etc which left a deep impression on the mind of Jadonang. (Makuga 1994: Introduction to the Rongmei Nagas, Imphal, Pp.120-125). Like other villages, the livelihood of Kambiron was Jhum cultivation.

When Jadonang reached the age of 13 to 14 years, there was a crops failure in the village for many years due to attack of rats which is believed to be sent from Bhuvon Hills to eat the bamboo fruits. In this connection, Jadonang urged the elders of Pei, village council to sacrifice a mithun to God which was revealed in his dream. After some hesitation it was decided to perform and this had the effect of ensuring rich harvests in the village. (N.C. Zeliang 1998: The Zeliangrong Heraka Preacher handbook, Nagaland: Zeliangrong Heraka Council, p.7; Gangmumei Kamei 2009: Jadonang: A Mystic Naga Rebel, Imphal, p.21).

Colonial official like J.C. Higgins called him a Maiba meaning a medicine man cum healer in Manipuri dialect. The people of Kambiron had looked to him as Mhu, a spiritual guide and healer and preacher. However, Ursula Graham Bower in her book 'Naga Path' had described Jadonang as 'Seer of Kambiron' in his religious actions. He was not only a medicine man, a dream interpreter, a medium between man and God, performer of sacrifices for the sick and diseases. Hence, the term seems quite suitable one.

He was officially declared as the Mhu-Ren after the observance of a sacrifice locally known as Ralen-Loumei, worship the deities of Zeliangrong pantheon and some local gods. (Gangmumei Kamei 2004: The History of the Zeliangrong Nagas From Makhel to Rani Gaidinlu, Guwahati/Delhi, Pp. 147-149). After this sacrifice he can perform all the rites and ritual of the worship of god and goddesses.

As a young prophet he began dream divinations for his people. He went in dreams to the cave of Bhuvan, the abode of God Bisnu. Jadonang was received with honour and permitted into the sanctuary of the God Bisnu and entered into friendship with God's son, Khangrillung. God Bisnu was looked upon as the God for the welfare and prosperity of men, creatures and the universe as well as the earthly world. God Bisnu is not the Hindu God Vishnu.

Bisnu is the God of the Zeliangrong pantheon and recognized by different names; Munchanu, Bonchanu, Buisnu and Bisnu. This ancient Bhuvon cave was first discovered by Gairemnang, a semi historical, semi mythical culture hero and poet but it was unknown to the people. It was rediscovered by Haipou Jadonnang in 1920. (Gangmumei Kamei 2009) Jadonang and many other pilgrims went to the Holy cave and worshiped God Bisnu and Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God there. The cave is some fifty feet high and with a sloping roof.

It bears a resemblance to the front of Taraangkai, ornamental ritual house of Taraang sacrifice. It became for Jadonang a holy shrine, a place where he offered goat and mithun sacrifices and where, he spoke with God Bisnu. During his frequent visit to the holy cave, he came into contact with the Rongmei settlers in Cachar.

He visited almost all villages in Cachar treating the sick, praying for the dead and interpreting dreams for which he took fees: 4 annas for praying the dead, a bottle of Zu interpreting a dream and 3 annas for the treating of the sick. The money was returnable if the cure was ineffective. He also undertook a journey to the Zeilad Lake, a religious place for prayer and worship of the Zeilad God. At the age of 21, Jadonang constructed a Taraangkai in his village, Kambiron by sacrificing four mithuns to God. (Saroj Nalini Parratt and John Parratt 1995: Kabui Messiah: The Jadonang Movement in Manipur, Internationals Asian Forum, vol. 26 No.3-4, Pp. 285-302)

Bhubon cave is one of the holiest places of the world. Moreover, it is considered to be one of the Godly pilgrimages for all human beings in the belief that occasionally all heads of Gods came together for meeting and the souls of all kings or rulers used to house after death in this cave (Ramkui Zeliang Heraka: The primordial Religion, a worshop paper on philosophy and spiritual of Eternal/Primordial Religions and culture of Jana-jatis of NorthEast India held in Guwahati from 22nd to 24th Oct. 2010).

For the Heraka and Tingkao Ragwang ChapRiak, Bhubon cave represents the point of reformation began there because in this cave the blessing of Tingkao Ragwang was bestowed upon Hapou Jadonnang and Rani Gaidinlu to introduce a new cult in Zeliangrong society (Arkotong Longkumar 2008: Where do I belong: Elvolving Reform and Identity Amongst the Zeme Heraka of North Cachar Hills, Assam, India, Phd thesis, Edinburgh, p. 33). Because of this fact, it becomes a pilgrimage site for the Heraka and TRC followers in the month of February every year.

To be continued .....

* Dr Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express.
This article was webcasted on May 15, 2011.

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