E-Pao :: Manipur :: Ethnic Races :: SALHTE (SUKTE)


This Kuki-Chin ethnic race is enlisted as Salhte in the scheduled list. But they are commonly known as Tiddim Chin even though they claim their name to be 'Sukte'. Their geographical Distribution includes 16(sixteen) villages viz, Moreh in Chandel district, New Lamka-G, Simbuk, Tanglon(T), Tonglon (P), Rakwal, Sumcheavum,Tangnuam, Pangzawl, Lanva, Singhat, Suangdai, Behiang, Behiang(T), Suangphuk and Tingkangphai in Churachandpur district.

According to the official record of 1981 census, there were only 5 Salhtes. The president of the Chin Youth Association, New Lamka says that they have strength of about 3,500 individuals.

The Suktes (derived from 'Sokte') believed that their original progenitors commenced life at Chin Nwe and they affirmed that the ethnic name of Sokte bears out this theory. 'Sok' or 'Shok' means 'to go down' or 'below' and 'te' is the plural affix applied to persons and hence the name Sokte implies those who went south or below the parent village to settle.

Besides, Molbem to the south of Chin Nwe was the original capital of the Sokte (Sukte) tribe (B.S.Carey and H.N.Tuck in the Chin Hills vol. I, p 118). Suktes arrived at Manipur in 1906 (according to K. Hatzo, Haosa Tonglon(T) village, C.C.Pur).

The Sukte wear Puondun, Tangching (men's cloth), Puonlaisan (for men); Nikphei (skirt), Zounik(skirt), Khepheu( for women) etc. Their economy mainly depends on agriculture. They live in houses made on raised platform.

Their village level administration is carried on by Housa, a hereditary Post and a council of Upa, which are nominated officials from Beh (leaders) of lineages. There are 36 lineages of the Suktes. Publicity is done by one so-called Tangkou.

In the past days, in every Sukte village there used to be a blacksmith or Sikek as he is called. There is also a village medicant known as Sempu. After the site for jhum cultivation is selected by the authorities, the land allocation is conducted by the council.

The Housa is given a foreleg for each animal killed by members of the village. While reckoning the inheritance of property and succession to rice barn or fields, it is determined by way of primogeniture that means the eldest son is the rightful heir. When a female sibling comes back as divorcee or widow, she has obligation to him and stays in his house.

When a child is one year old, naming ceremony is solemnized. For this the child's mother's brother brings a jar of rice beer. Sempu gives the first extraction of the beer (machin) to the mother. The chicken meat is served and the child is given using the last letter of the grandparents as its initial letter.

Marriage with cousin or in other word, marriage with the maternal uncle's daughter is preferred. For their institution, the parents engage before reaching the marriage partners' puberty and assurance is endowed as Yuthol in the Sukte literature.

When they attain maturity, it is remained and confirmed by another gift or Yu from the boy's side to the girl's residence and it is known as Moupiching. However, the spouse is not allowed to have physical relation and for this the girl sleeps with a girl friend during this period.

After the completion of one month the Sempu takes off the restriction ritualistically. The husband can initiate a Divorce on the ground of barrenness, otherwise; he has to give a mithun to the divorced woman. Dead are kept in jungle or at particular places to decay into skeleton.

Then the bones, except the skull are buried. The dead are given food at regular intervals. These involvements are however predominantly a pre-Christian custom. The pre-Christians Suktes also performed many festivals.

Khobol is the festival of sowing and prayer for rainfall in the month of Dota (April-May). Khodon is observed for 5-7 days in Vulkha (Oct.) and it is the harvesting festival.

The Suktes at Tiddim Chin grew maize and so, it is held in October even though Suktes of Manipur grew rice and it falls before harvesting. Saai is the festival hosted by a good hunter.

The man who has a yield of good crop that year hosts Tangai in the name of his wife. Galai is the confirmatory festival hosted by men to achieve higher status.

In the post-Christian period none of the pre-Christian festivals except for Khobol and Khodou are performed.

Manindra Konsam from Sanathong wrote this article.

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