TODAY -

Heraka religion of Zeliangrongs
- Part 1 -

Budha Kamei *

Scene from 'The Zeliangrongs'
A Scene from 'The Zeliangrongs' :: Provided by Director - Ronel Haobam



"Loss of religion is loss of culture; Loss of culture is loss of identity" – Rani Gaidinliu

The present article attempts to look into the Heraka religion of Zeliangrongs of North East. Heraka literally means pure and not impure; (Hera means smaller deities; Ka means fence, or give up, to obstruct, to avoid). So all prohibitions and sacrifices associated with the smaller gods must be fenced out, avoided and only Tingwang must be worshipped. This is the meaning of Heraka. Here, the purity indicates no blood sacrifices and adoption of a single God or worship of Tingwang.

In fact, Heraka is not a departure from the traditional Zeliangrongs but a rational improvement on it. (N.C. Zeliang 1980:9) Those who can obey the authentic principle of Heraka religion will be blessed good fortune in their life and the immortal soul of good doer will go to Heaven/God's kingdom is the main philosophy of Heraka religion. They use an earring as a symbol of Heraka believer.

The Zeliangrong people believe in the existence of one Supreme God called Tingkao Ragwang/Tingwang, who is the creator of the sun, moon, stars, earth, water, air, men, animals and all living things. (Ramkhui Newme 1991:4) Tingwang literally means the Heavenly God or God of the sky or Lord of the Universe. He is eternal, no beginning and no end, source of life, giver of the soul and the ultimate goal of the human soul. He is the architect of men's destiny, holy, source of holiness, source of knowledge and wisdom. He is not created. He creates out of nothing by His will. He just exists. He is benevolent, dispenser of welfare and prosperity to men. He is really omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Thus, Heraka people believe in Him only.

The traditional religion of Zeliangrong is polytheism, a religion which worships multiple gods in different categories though it gives great emphasis to the worship of Tingwang. It was Haipou Jadonnang, the prophet of the 20th century who first introduced reformation in their traditional religion. As a part of purification of his religion, he abolished irrational taboos (Nuhmei) and gennas(Neihmei). He worshipped Tingwang through prayer. He said "Worshiping consisted of facing east, putting the hands together and saying, Tingwang, Do what is good for us." He composed religious hymns to be sung in worship of Tingwang. He constructed temple known as Kao Kai for the purpose of worship of Tingwang.

He also introduced idol worship on the way of Hindu idolatry but he did not worship Hindu deities. Some scholars observe that the new religion of Jadonnang is a synthesis of Christian Monotheism and Hindu temple idolatry culture. (Kamei 2009:31-32)

Whatever he introduced reformation in the traditional religion was the revelations of God. He rediscovered the ancient Bhubon cave of God Bisnu and worshipped Him and Tingwang there. It was during his last pilgrimage at Bhubon cave in the year 1931, Tingwang through God Bisnu/Munseniu/Bonchaniu revealed a new cult to Haipou Jadonnang and Rani Gaidinliu. Because of his untimely death, the new cult was organized by Rani Gaidinliu and it came to be known as Heraka.

Regarding the teachings of Rani Gaidinliu, Pautanzan Newme says:

The first phase of teaching: Rani Gaidinliu told her followers to offer sacrifices to one God, Tingwang. In this phase blood sacrifice was allowed.

The second phase of teaching: Rani Gaidinliu advised them while performing puja to cut with a dao if it was a big animal, and to use a piece of stick with smaller animals like fowl while holding the legs and let blood shed. At this stage, the sacrificial ceremony was a little bit diminished than the first phase. This was introduced after fifteen years.

The third phase of teaching: This was introduced after a further ten years. She did instruct her followers that one should perform puja with the animal tied its mouth stuffed with a rag and killed. But a chicken must be killed with the hand, by twisting the neck, without oozing any blood. In this phase, the sacrifice of animals is further diminished.

The fourth phase of teaching: After another five years the fourth phase was introduced.

On the 11th January, 1990, at Kapelo village of North Cachar Hills, Rani Gaidinliu vigorously declared and confessed before the general public that we have fully done the requirement of sacrificial oblation in puja. Now, influential sacrifices of animals in any puja are to be totally abolished. And we are free to perform puja with a clean mind and body at any specific time and day. Rani Gaidinliu proclaimed to the people: While performing puja with a clean mind and body, recite the Holy psalms and sing the prayer songs; you would be blessed for sound health and to live a very happy life free from evils forces. And if anything wrong with you, you may throw it upon me – I can affirmably bear such things for your sake. (2002:4)

Thus, abolishing of sacrifice brings about a strong sense of purity. This gives way to the new – simply singing the psalms and praying with an empty hand.

The traditional Zeliangrongs performed many rituals connected with the agricultural cycle comprising a series of animal sacrifices and non-working days (Neihmei). The sacrifices were made not only to pacify the various deities and ensure a good crop. However, the rituals are also needed Neihmei, a restriction on movement of people outside the demarcated geographical area like the family house, the entire village. Such restrictions seriously limited the mobility of villagers. When education was introduced in Zeliangrong inhabited area such restrictions did become a problem, as schools were located outside the village boundaries.

The movement of Gaidinliu did respond to this problem by abolishing the tradition of animal sacrifices and with it the restrictions on physical movement. This was one of the important factors that people did convert to Heraka. As Heraka, they could move out of the village, get education and find jobs. They also related the ensuing economic success to the blessing of Tingwang. The relation between sacrifices and economic realities is quite common in the early phases of conversions to Christianity as well.

Here, we can mention the Pau Cin Hau movement in the Chin Hills (Mizoram and Myanmar) that took a similar approach. In the early 1900s, due to economic hardships it adopted a new God who demanded no sacrifices. Pau Cin Hau first meets this God in a dream who does tell him that He is the one who made heaven and earth, men and animals, the sun, the moon and the stars and who has power to cure all sickness. He does recount why he believed in this God: 'I had faith in Him and in a moment was cured from my illness of fifteen years.

During those years for the cure of that illness I had paid the sum of Rs. 400 in making sacrifices of various kinds of animals to the nats. The cure of God was complete and cost nothing.' (Census of India 1933: 217-218) The abandonment of sacrifices due to its costliness and incompetent response of the nats became the initial force of this movement in the Chin Hills.

Pau Cin Hau does further reiterate the success of the movement: 'One whole some effect of my teaching is that where formerly many who had nothing went into debt to obtain sacrificial offerings and so could neither afford to buy food or pay their taxes, my followers being free from such expenses are in much better circumstances.' (Census of India 1933: 217-218)

Bhubon cave is one of the holy places of Heraka and Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak people. It is located in the eastern side of Moti Nagar Bazaar in Cachar District of Assam. This cave was first discovered by Gairemnang, semi folk hero but it was unknown to the people. It was rediscovered by Haipou Jadonnang. For the Heraka, Bhubon cave represents the point of reformation began there as in this cave the blessing of Tingwang was bestowed upon Hapou Jadonnang and Rani Gaidinliu to introduce a new cult in the Zeliangrong society. Because of this fact, it becomes a pilgrimage site for the Heraka people in the month of February every year.

Kalumki means house of worship; (Kalum means worship and Ki means house). The Kalumki is separate from the rest of the village in the way it is conceived, as physically treated and respected. Every Heraka village must have one Kalumki and it is the most sacred ground for the Heraka. It is usually built on the highest point of a village. It is done in the same model of the first temple built by Haipou Jadonnang and Rani Gaidinliu. Every Kalumki must have a place of sunrise prayer outside facing to the east.

East is vital for two factors: it signifies the direction of Bhubon cave, as well as that of the sunrise, which is great importance during Jalua, full moon ritual. Evan Pritchard writes, "East indicates to life and west to death." (1977:148). The sunrise prayer place must be elevated and is reached by the three steps symbolizing life (Keringbe) –death (Kechaibe) –life (Keringbe). There is a veranda before entering the Kalumki. The main entrance is called Muidi; once inside there is another side entrance called Muicheiki, small door on the right, as it is strictly forbidden to place it on the left. If using the Muicheiki, one must re-enter using the same door.

To be continued..


* Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on June 26, 2014.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Gaan-Ngai @Iboyaima Shanglen #3:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Manipur Assembly Election (2007-2022) #1
  • World Meetei Council website launched
  • Homecoming of missing Arunachal youth
  • Winter vegetable that will give you glow
  • State hapless in preventing Omicron
  • The wait for the list continues
  • Republic Day @Kangla #1 :: Gallery
  • No matter what :: Poem
  • Fear of the virus
  • The Peace Forest Initiative
  • The vehicle for NEP 2020
  • Contribution of Leimayol Arts Centre
  • COVID-19 Status 25 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Lotus plant: A multipurpose plant species
  • Primary School renovated at Joupi
  • Republic Day recollections
  • Huge skills gap making new jobs go abegging
  • National Voters' Day
  • Lining up for BJP ahead of polls
  • Lainingthou Sanamahi Complex #2:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • BAMCHAS biennial conference 2022
  • COVID Vaccine Booster: To give or not
  • Before I sleep... III
  • Indian Army as a career option
  • 20-yr MoU to set up Mini-Grid in Nagaland
  • Season of promises!
  • Election curbs; relief for commoners
  • First manifesto, then candidates list
  • Imoinu @Yumnam Leikai :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Our Ailing Planet: My locality as a facet
  • Stop Oil Palm Plantation in Manipur
  • General election in hard times :: Poem
  • Being free from freedom
  • Roaring 40 in first list of Cong
  • Significance of Gaan-Ngai festival #2
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Wake Up My People Wake up :: Poem
  • A tribute to Athokpam Indrakumar Singh
  • Stunted fingerling- Replacement of fish seed
  • Training Program at Dimapur
  • Gaan-Ngai @Kakhulong :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Classical Language Vs ST for Meetei
  • The Great Green Walls, conserving nature
  • Webinar: The Birds and Bees Talk
  • Covid Booster Campaign at Tamenglong
  • IVF Centre in Guwahati
  • Easing curbs as cases spiral
  • Third wave is on!
  • Ecotourism Complexes @ Ramrei :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 20 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • No excuse not to end acute pandemic stage
  • Palm-oil in Manipur: Bad to worse
  • For sons and daughters :: Poem
  • Effective methods for facial hair removal
  • Subdued dissent over Sunday as poll day
  • Embracing the party hoppers
  • Gaan-Ngai @Iboyaima Shanglen #2:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 19 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Cultural Activists of Manipur honoured
  • Male infertility: What are the options ?
  • Is celebrating New Year Day really worth it
  • Third wave: State on record breaking spree
  • Compulsion of power politics
  • Imoinu Thouniba @Singjamei :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • O Jonga! O Jonga :: Poem
  • Grey market for election tickets
  • Some common weeds of Manipur #2
  • Lilong Haoreibi College awarded 'B' grade
  • State used as transport route of drugs
  • Possible post poll scenario
  • Significance of Gaan-Ngai festival #1
  • COVID-19 Status 17 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Lunghar path in springshed conservation
  • Lament of love :: Poem
  • Career options in Lift Technology
  • Brief tale of one year COVID vaccination
  • Bickering among allies in coalition politics
  • Low vaccination coverage
  • NH-2 : Remember Khongnem Thana
  • COVID-19 Status 16 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • O Kolhen! O Kolhen :: Poem
  • Program on POCSO Act at Thoubal
  • The Killing Fields (2013-22) :: News Timeline
  • A spate of 'defections' in UP elections...
  • High performing individuals work alone
  • Onus on ECI to avert crisis situation
  • Keeping people informed is key
  • Gaan-Ngai @Iboyaima Shanglen #1:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • The church is & must remain apolitical
  • Tamenglong Battalion celebrated Army Day
  • How prosperous NE India became backward
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni @ Koubru #1:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 14 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Read all about Gaan Ngai
  • Justice, Peace and Change :: Poem
  • Mass Surya Namaskar at Tamenglong
  • Padmanabha Swamy Temple
  • Overcoming vaccine hesitancy
  • Nothing grand about 'Grand Old Party'
  • Lainingthou Sanamahi Complex #1:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 13 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • A Hymn for Goddess Emoinu
  • Some common weeds of Manipur #1
  • How to keep your hair healthy this winter
  • Third wave: Litmus test for NE states
  • High TPR, low vaccination
  • Maharaja Gambhir Singh
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Rani Gaidinliu Open Air Lounge inaugurated
  • NAAC peer team visit for assessment
  • National Youth Day
  • Conservation Agriculture: intensified farming
  • Negligence galore as Covid cases rise
  • Back to the spike in three figures
  • How AFSPA undermines 'Act East' Policy
  • COVID-19 Status 11 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • P Achevei : Mega Mister North East 2021
  • Stop Violence related to Election
  • Civil / Project Engineer @ R-Square
  • Business Development @ R-Square
  • Customer Representative @ Property Geo
  • No matter what :: Poem
  • Stealthy extension of AFSPA
  • Confiscating 'suspected heroin'
  • 188 Death Anniv: Maharaj Gambhir:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) 20th Call
  • Kalum Kai (House of worship) #2
  • Account Assistant @ Amber & Arthur, Imphal
  • Business Dev @ Amber & Arthur, Imphal
  • The 5G Race :: Samarjit Kambam
  • Manipur elections not for the faint-hearted
  • Guns & violence in run up to polls
  • Climate Change in Ukhrul in last 50 years
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Are we able to break chain of transmission
  • 100 new Sainik School- opportunities for girl
  • Joyjeet Waikhom / Ksh Maradona: Mr India
  • Money flying in or out ?
  • Will partial lockdown help curb transmission
  • Voting during Covid pandemic
  • Food items @ Singjamei, Pishum :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Curfew : Measures to combat COVID
  • IMFP - Indian Made Foreign People
  • Happy 2022 to you !
  • Manipur Press Foundation Day :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Politician must practice, preach on COVID
  • Makeup routine during pandemic
  • Third wave threat no more a mirage
  • Queuing up for BJP
  • Thangal Lambi & Ima Keithel :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 06 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Before I sleep... II
  • Election Brawl :: Poem
  • Impact of Covid on Employer Branding
  • Chasing peace in Manipur
  • COVID-19 Status 05 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Kalum Kai (House of worship) #1
  • The art of New Year's resolution
  • Cong struggling to keep its house in order
  • Manipur's place in the eyes of Delhi
  • Makru bridge, Oinamlong Waterfall : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 04 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Depression : A New Time Bomb
  • School & Student Championship Quiz
  • Concern over child labour
  • ECI on sluggish vaccination rate in state
  • Vaccination rate in hill districts
  • Fusion of contemporary dance & theatre
  • COVID-19 Status 03 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • COVID-19 Crackdown on violators
  • AMAND, Pune released 2022 calendar
  • Rising poverty in Manipur
  • Sunset, the most memorable!
  • Election time season of plentiful promises
  • Interesting role of NPP, NPF
  • Pineapple @ Ngariyan Hills #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 02 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • kLlQtre :: Seireng
  • National Day for our feathered friend
  • Value of purposeful life
  • Homemade face packs for winter beauty
  • Dreadful start to New Year as cases spike
  • Manipur steps into Year 2022
  • Tarpon Katpa @ Loktak #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 01 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • OneHealth: towards pandemic preparedness?
  • Before I sleep...
  • Meitei ST demand & the opposition
  • Bye Bye 2021 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 31 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2021 #6: Gallery
  • Manipur : National Futsal C'ship 2021
  • 'Unlocking Locks Under Lockdowns' released
  • Baby corn cultivation for livelihood
  • Extension of AFSPA to Nagaland
  • Hoping for a better New Year 2022
  • Appeal of AMCO to Chief Minister
  • NK Sanajaoba- Star in Dark Sky of Manipur
  • Danube Kangjam : Miss North East 2021
  • Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958
  • January Calendar for Year 2022 : Tools
  • Carol on Christmas :: Poem
  • Formation of 13 Farmer Producer Orgns
  • Indian Army Inquiry Team visits site in Oting
  • Review home isolation rule or punish violator
  • Lining up for saffron party
  • Red Ribbon Manipur Idol, 2021 #2: Gallery
  • Job-Fair 2021 @ Imphal : Gallery
  • Christmas Eve @ Imphal : Gallery
  • Christmas Eve @ Churachandpur : Gallery
  • Red Ribbon Manipur Idol, 2021 #1: Gallery
  • Heisnam Savitri (Legendary actress) #2
  • Painting: Tribal Freedom Fighter #1: Gallery
  • New Barak Bridge @Jiri highway : Gallery
  • Heisnam Savitri (Legendary actress) #1
  • RK Meghen tribute @ Nupi Lal : Gallery
  • Protest: massacre of Naga Brethen: Gallery