TODAY -

Origin, migration and settlement: The Zeliangrong of NE
- Part 4 -

Budha Kamei *

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



The theory of migration of the Zeliangrong people is also supported by their mythological and legendary accounts. According to the legend, Nguiba the chief of the village at Makuilongdi had married twice as his wife was thought to be incapable of bearing a son. His second wife gave birth to a male child called Namgang.

After a few years, however, the first wife also gave birth to a son named Kading. The second wife gave birth to another son called Rembang. Nguiba had three sons and two wives. When Nguiba became old, he could not decide to whom he had to hand over his Chieftainship. So there cropped up crisis in the family on the issue of succession.

The issue was solved by their youngest uncle, Chatiu who lived somewhere in Northern Koubru range. Their uncle was very clever to deal with the matter and according to his judgment; Kading was given the right to inherit the position of his father. Succession by the youngest son was laid down at Makuilongdi. Thus, the question of succession was solved but this had created disunity among the members of the ruling clan.

Being disappointed at the judgment of his uncle and father, Namgang along with his band of followers left Makuilongdi and went to Barak valley and settled at Hereira village, the first village of Zemei. The people who stayed back with Kadi at Makuilongdi came to be known as Liangmei. Rembang and his followers who moved southwards to a barren land were called Rongmei (Kabui). The ancestors of Rongmei moved to the south and settled at the western hills, present Tamenglong District of Manipur. A large section of Rongmeis settled in the valley of Manipur.

Local legend says, the sudden migration of the people from Makuilongdi occurred after a divine warning for violating the law of nature and regular social life of the village. They devoted to the performance of thirty Tarangkai, ceremonial house rituals and celebrations in a single year without any break forgetting their lunar calendar of the agricultural cycle and indulging in enjoyment and merry making.

Suddenly cicada insects flew into the village and in their shrill voice announced to the people that the lunar year had come to an end. The people were shocked and horrified and made quick exodus out of Makuilongdi towards different directions.

There are various factors for the migration of the Zeliangrong people to different places from Makuilongdi. The main causes were over population, economic (non-availability of cultivable lands) and internal differences among the ruling clan. There could not have been a sudden break; but gradual migration of groups from Makuilongdi.

According to the legend, the Zemeis were considered to be the descendants of Namgang, the eldest son of Nguiba, the Liangmeis the descendants of the second son, Kading and Rongmeis (Kabui), the descendents of Rembang. From Hereira village, Namgang moved to Nroikike and then to Nui or Yangkhulen along with his followers.

It is believed that the name Zemei was derived from their settlement at the hill range, which was the frontier of the Zeliangrong habitat, frontier as Ze or Nzie. From this the people were known as Zemei or Nzieme. The Zemei migrated to the Barail range, and did extend their settlement up to the border of Meghalaya and to the West of the Barak and to the hill ranges overlooking the Cachar Valley. By the end of the 13th century, the first wave of migration and the occupation of their habitat was completed.

The Liangmeis remained at the original village, Makuilongdi under the leadership of Kading. The population of the village became smaller, and they came to be known as the Liangmei meaning northerners; (Liang means north and Mei means people). The Liangmeis did migrate to the hills overlooking the Manipur Valley to the northwest. They built villages to the West of the Barak River, the western most village being Namtiram to the South, they did come to Kuilong. According to Jamie Saul, the Liangmei further were driven from their homes in the north east by the Maram and their original home was at a place called Nohemi near the source of the Barak river in the present Mao area.

The Rongmei was the most adventurous and scattered group among the Zeliangrongs. Rongmei means the people of the fallow lands and of the southern region. They moved towards the south and settled down for many generations at the village called Kajinglong. According to Gangmumei Kamei, "Kajinglong was well known for the conflict between men and spirits. Many legends grew up among the Rongmeis about the contest between men and the spirits who disturbed the men. Men ultimately fought out and confiscated the clothes (Ra-Phei) and flower (Ra-Mun) and subjugated them."

From the Kajinglong village, the Rongmei people moved out to different directions and they founded villages to the South of the Irang River. Thus, villages like Rienglong, Changdai, Kaikao, Nungnang, Ganglon Namthan, Khoupum, Montha etc. were founded and they became quite popular and prosperous. Formerly, the Rongmei people occupied sites to the south of their present homeland, Tamenglong, down as far as the Changphai or Champhai region of present Mizoram where they lived with Lushai as neighbours and where remains of ruined villages known as Mirongmun are still found, Mirong or Milong being the Lushai word for the Rongmei. It is said that the legendry folk hero, Gairemnang travelled as far as Tidim in Myanmar where he founded a village called Duidimlong. Even today some of the Rongmeis live in the Mizo capital of Aizwal.

After observing the above facts, it may come to the conclusion that the Zeliangrong people along with other ethnic groups of Tibeto-Burman family from their original home land South West China or North West China migrated to North East through various routes in batches and at different periods. It is probable that they entered into Manipur through Burma. In Manipur, they first settled at Makhel and then, migrated to different directions. Now, the Zeliangrong people are found settling in three states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.

Concluded...


* Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on April 26, 2015.


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