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E-Pao :: Manipur :: Ethnic Races :: Aimol

AIMOL

The Aimols, one of the Scheduled tribes of the Indian Union inhabits three (3) districts in Manipur. According to the estimation of the Aimol Tribe Union in 1995, their population was about 3,300 but the 1981 census indicated their population as being1862. They are mainly concentrated in the Chandel district of the state and occupy foothill areas bordering the valley in the southeastern part.

The villages wherein the Aimols are mostly distributed in the state of Manipur are Unapal, Satu, Kumiei, Chingnunghut, Aimol Tampak, Khodamphai, Ngarong Aimol, Chandonpokpi, Soibong (Khudengthabi) at the Chandel District and Kha-Aimol, Luichungbum village at the Churachandpur district.

The distribution pattern will certainly show that the tribe does not occupy a well-defined territory and that they have shifted their settlement sites from place to place in the past. The ethnic affinity of the Aimol has been placed amidst moat of the neighboring tribes of Southern part of Manipur bordering Burma and the Lushai and had classified as one of Kuki-Chin-Mizo (Lushai) group by many writers.

Linguistically too, they are classified amongst the old Kuki branch of Kuki section, Burmic Division of Sino-Tibetan Language. However the Aimols prefer to live independent of any affiliation and prefer to maintain a distinctive identity of their own. Embracing all their villages they formed in 1991, the Aimol Tribe union for promotion of Solidarity and safeguarding of it's identity.

Etymologically the name Aimol corresponds to a past habit of the people and the word is derived from a word, which means 'roots'. 'Ai' is a small ginger like plant, which is found in wild abundance on the spur of hill 'Mol'. This place is said to be somewhere in the present Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram. The oral tradition (unwritten history) traced the Aimol ethno genesis to an uncertain cave at Khweps from which the people had been believed to have emerged from under the Earth.

As they came out of the cave, a tiger blocked their way despite many attempts. Two clever persons PuKorthangpu and Korthangpi weaved a cloth named Laijtang having the same color as the tiger. Taking help of appearance of the woven cloth, PuKorthangpu convinced the tiger that they were of the same kind and proposed friendship.

The Tiger did not eat him. The Tiger was then killed with spear while it was tamed. From there, passing many places of Tripura, they went to Burma where the advancement was checked by Kabaow Shans. Shakespear in Lushai Kuki Clans; 1912, 149, marked the appearance of the Aimol in Manipur in 1723.

Concerning the dress and ornaments, the Aimols mention Shekili, Hulike Chu, Laijiak, Punthal, Shorte, Panchai, Shuihboh, Puante, Puandum as males' while that of the females are Khamtang, Kuwapaam, Shenchil, Aitang, Reinuam, Khongkhihmor and Saipikhup.

The traditional house of the Aimol people reveals much similarity in the general look with those of the Meiteis, Purums etc living in their close proximity. It is a rectangular box type with slanting crest roof. The length-breath ratio is roughly 1:3 or 1:5. The number of compartments would be either 3 or 5 in number.

The houses are basically made of wood, bamboo and mud and roofing material used being thatch. Around the dwelling house, one will notice satellite sheds generally used as granary storehouse, cattle shed, and pig stall. The direction of houses is always towards the east, facing the rising sun. Now, the modern Aimol would prefer using modern factory products as house building materials.

The Aimol families are largely small to medium in size. The families are by composition of nuclear type comprising of parents and children. Men marry commonly in age group of 22-27 while girls mostly marry between 16-21 years of age.

Most of the literate person have studied upto standard X (ten). Their main occupation is agriculture and allied activities including domestication of cattle, pig and fowl. Cultivation of paddy is carried out by both sexes. Weaving and livestock rearing gives a good income to the family.

The Aimols show maximum number of mesocephalic in both sexes, medium nose with upward septum, high bridge of medium texture, dark brown skin. In case of eye fold, the highest percentage is found at internal fold in both sexes.

In these patriarchal and patronymic feature society, monogamy is common form of marriage. However, Matriforal families could also be found. After marriage the young couple live at the residence of the parents of the boy. The tribe is divided into 5 clans which are further sub-divided into sub-clans. The clans are:
1. Chongom (with 3 sub-clans)
2. Laita (3 sub-clans)
3. Lanu (4 sub-clans)
4. Chaithu (no sub-clan) and
5. Chongthu (2 sub-clans).

The Aimol clans possess totems of their own which is associated to their ancestry. They are regarded and prayed as the gods of the clans. For instance, the god of Chongom is called Jakapsharipanineng. It is believed to be a snake like form and dwells in water.

A goat or a hen is sacrificed at the time of worship. The clans are exogamous and so also the sub clans. That is, a person should find his or her spouse in other clans or sub-clans than his or her clan. However, nowadays, intermarriage among sub-clans of a clan is becoming frequent with or even without a fine.

The indigenous mode of political organization of a village centers around the council known as Pasakaret subordinated by another association. Parakaret consists of eight councilors of which the head is Tamsakoi. The subordinate council i.e. Thoukanai also consist of the same number of post. Except the Tamsakoi is the hereditary post.

For other posts, recruitment is on the line of promotion. Tamsakoi remains the exclusive right for the eldest Chongom clan member. Recently, village authorities, after effecting the village authority (in Hill areas) Act 1956, have been empowered to settle minor cases. Trial is conducted after lodging a complaint with a fee.

It was one 'bel' of 'yu' in the past times which has been substituted by a sum of Rupees 1 (one). Punishment is given by the court and may include imposition of fine, confiscation of belongings and ex-communication. For bringing forth justice they employ oath and ordeal.

The Aimols of present generation have adopted Christianity as their religion. It was introduced to them some seventy (70) years ago. Prior to this new religion, they were animistic and believed in many deities and spirits. They believed in the existence of the village deity (Kho-Pathicen) and the house deity (In-Pathian).

They worshipped Sailing and Bonglei, protector of village; Chahou, Pathian of agriculture and paddy; Miso for prosperity and peace. Arkun Pathian ot the goddess of Human fertility is worshipped particularly by pregnant women.

To wand off diseases and for curing illness, Randoi and Song Kot are worshipped with rites. Likewise, success or failure in war and hunting is ascribed to the action of Chuwan Pathian.




Manindra Konsam from Sanathong wrote this article.



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