TODAY -

Haipou Jadonang : His Religious reform movement
- Part 2 -

Dr Budha Kamei *



Jadonang was quite aware of the conservative, orthodox and superstitious beliefs and practices of the Zeliangrong people. 'God, the supreme existence, is one who is the creator of this Universe and controller of goodness and success and who lives in heaven'. This is the notion prevalent among people. 'Death is not an end of life just a change of way of life'. (Fustel De Coulanges1874: The Ancient City: A study on the Religion, laws, and institutions of Greece and Rome, New York, p.15)

And after death, human soul moves to the land of death where he will lead another life with his ancestors. The Universal God, pantheon gods, presiding deities of the villages and ancestors of the family or lineage are worshipped by them. They also worship the natural objects, the wind, the fire, the earth and spirits residing in mountain, fields, river and gorges are propitiated not to disturb them.

They had become superstitious to such an extent that the worship of Tingkao Ragwang was submerged in the performance of countless sacrifices from smallest to biggest animals to the spirits for any kind of ailments. They observe the gennas and taboos locally called Nuhmei and Neimei which had replaced the religious prayer. Their religion had become a mere observance of sacrifices and gennas. Inter village feuds were very strong and very common.

'Conversion is a change (either an event or process) from one view or way of life to another, from a set of belief or opinion to another'. By 1929-30, the Zeliangrong people were facing problem of religious crisis as a result of the spread of Christianity which began to attack the traditional religious beliefs and practices of the people. More and more people began to embrace Christianity and to effect more conversion the Christian missionaries introduced a number of welfare programmes. (F.S Downs 1971: The Mighty works of God, Gauhati, p.177) The new converts began to condemn the forefather's beliefs, rites and rituals, ceremonies, feasts, festivals something connected with evil spirits. (Yunuo 1982:30-35) This was one kind of local response to the external influence.

In the process of proselytisation, the traditional religion was loosing its foothold day by day, and this was a serious issue for the people who wanted to preserve and promote the traditional belief and practices of the people. Jadonang realised that if the traditional religion was to be revived, the morass of superstitions and irrational taboos that afflicted the religion be removed and new ideas and forms should be injected to suit the changing time and space.

In spite of such religious practices, God had communicated with the Zeliangrong people through the dreams of Mhus. Unlike the simple medicine man, Mhu was not taught by anybody but chosen by some deities or Tingkao Ragwang himself. Among such Mhus Jadonang was one of them who happened to be an extraordinary holy young man chosen by Tingkao Ragwang to reform the superstitions and genna-ridden religion of his people. Jadonang was directed by God in his dreams to carry out His directives.

As a successful healer and dream interpreter, he could treat and cure the leper, malaria fever and even the removal of the after birth of a child delivery of a woman and asking for a birth of a son. Individual treatment to the affairs of the villages he dealt with. He had predicted that the villages would prosper in riches and money if they sacrificed mithuns to God. A large number of villages approached to him for the same purpose and he did it. Kambiron soon became a place of pilgrimage for those in need and the centre of attraction was young Jadonang. (Parratt 1995; Gangmumei Kamei 2004:148-149)

After his journey to Bhuvon cave, the erection of Rah Kai, House of God by Jadonang was a landmark in the religious history of Zeliangrong people. It became a place of worship and religious discourse. He constructed two different temples at Kambiron. Such houses for religious purposes were not a feature of Zeliangrong culture except abodes or places of deities. There was a notable cause behind the construction of temple by Jadonang and that was, he wanted to proceed towards Social Organization through 'awakening of belief' among the people and to a great extent he was successful.(Thunbui Zeliang 2005:9)




A large number of people came to the Rah Kai of Jadonang and worshipped Tingkao Ragwang through prayer-hymns, songs and dance. Jadonang said "Worshipping consists of facing east, putting the hands together and saying Tingkao Ragwang, 'Do what is good for us". Jadonang constructed his temple facing to the east. East is vital for two factors: it signifies the direction of Bhubon cave, as well as that of the sunrise. According to E.E Evans-Pritchard, "The west is the side of death, the east the side of life". (Evan-Pritchard 1977: Neur Religion, London, p. 153)

There were two places of purification in each temple, one for male and other for female and the devotees had to purify themselves by taking bath in these places before entering into the temple. Entering into the temple without being purified both physically and mentally was strictly prohibited. (Gangmumei Kamei 2009:32-33; Yunuo 1982:54) In view of Frank Byron Jevons, water purification is a means of gaining for the worshipper the protection of water deity against the consequences of pollution. (Frank Byron Jevons 1988: The History of Religion, Delhi, 83)

The ancient Hebrew proverb 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness' may be cited here. He also did compose new prayer-hymns, songs and dances to be sung and performed during the worship of Tingkao Ragwang. (R. Mahadevan 1974-75: Zeliangrong Nagas Uprising of 1930-32: a brief bulletin of History Division, Centre of post Graduate Studies, J.N.U, Imphal, p. 47)

All the hymns, devotional songs and dances are still sung and performed by the followers of TRC and Heraka. Rani Gaidinlu also with the initiation of her Guru built a Rah Kai in her village, Nungkao. The first temple was built in 1929 and the second one was six months before his arrest in the year 1931.

In his second temple, images of God Bisnu and His wife wearing typical Rongmei dress were installed on the way of Hindu idolatry worship which indicates further development in the religious ideas of Jadonang. But he did not worship Hindu deities.

Jadonang advocated adoption of Tingkao Ragwang as the only God (monotheistic cult), encouraging the abandonment of the minor, local gods. (Longkumar 2008:61;N. Joykumar Singh 1992: Social Movements in Manipur, Mittal publications, N. Delhi, p.57). Western scholars observe that the new religion of Jadonang is a synthesis of Christian Monotheism and Hindu idolatry and temple culture. (Stephen Fuchs 1965: The Rebellious Prophets, Bombay, p.151) But whatever he introduced reformation in the traditional religion was the revelations of God.

Following the footstep of Haipou Jadonang, the people of Heraka and Tingkao Ragwang ChapRiak have constructed Kalum Kai, house of worship for the worship of Tingkao Ragwang. The devotees of TRC and Heraka come and worship Tingkao Ragwag, the Almighty God at the Kalum Kai every full moon day and every Sunday regularly through prayer, devotional song, offering of holy wine and traditional dance etc for wellbeing and prosperity.

So far thirteen number of Kalum Kai of TRC including eleven in Manipur and two in Assam are constructed in the same fashion of Haipou Jadonang. Tingkao Ragwang ChapRiak and Heraka, the two cults of Zeliangrong are the products of Haipou Jadonang and Haipei Rani Gaidinliu. Heraka is a monotheistic cult, only the worship of Tingkao Ragwang abandoning the lesser god and deities whereas Tingkao Ragwang ChapRiak is basically based on polytheism; worship of many gods of different categories though it gives emphasis to the worship of Tingkao Ragwang.

After having achieved the status of a successful man, a prophet in the society, Jadonang as a part of purification of his religion had removed the superstitious practices like birth of a child, a piglet, puppy or hatching of chicken, a kite or crow sitting over the roof, a dog climbing the low roofs, burning of house, earthquake, a still birth, death by drowning, hanging etc in the name of Tingkao Ragwang with an iron hoe (a symbol of sanctity of God) in his hand as no longer taboo. (Lal Dena 2008: British Policy Towards Manipur, Imphal, p.101).

In addition he categorised some gennas namely; gennas for good paddy and crops, gennas for safety from rats and rodents, pests and birds, animals and beasts and gennas for rich harvest etc to be observed by the people for prosperity. Neimei (genna) is a spiritual form of worship of Tingkao Ragwang by abstaining physical work for a certain period of time or whole day.

Abolition of superstitious practices and liberalisation of elaborate and expensive rites and rituals such as bride price and feasts had completely reduced the economic burden on the common people. (Tamphasana Rajkumari 1998: Zeliangrong Naga Movement 1927-1980: A Study in Some Aspects of Ethnic Process in North East India, Phd thesis, p. 83) It was during his last pilgrimage at Bhubon cave in the year 1931, Tingkao Ragwang through God Bisnu revealed a new cult to Haipou Jadonang and Rani Gaidinlu. It was organised by Rani Gaidinlu because of premature death of Haipou Jadonnang on 29th August 1931 and the new cult came to be known as Heraka. (Yunuo 1982:49, 72)

If really we do have pride for the life and sacrifice of Haipou Jadonang and we want to pay our homage to him, it should not be only by chanting songs on his memory but we should adopt his teachings in our life. It will be the highest respect which we can pay as homage for his holy deeds.

Concluded .....


* Dr Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express.
This article was webcasted on May 18, 2011.



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