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E-Pao! Manipur - Historical and cultural background of the Mizos - 3

Historical and cultural background of the Mizos
- Part 3 -

By: Priyadarshni M Gangte *



Burma Phase :

They are grouped as Tibeto-Burman Family[23]. Chins are akin to Kukis and in Myanmar ‘Kukis’ are known as Chins. They came to Burma in the second half of the 9th century A.D. But Luce[24] puts in between the 4th and the middle of the 8th century A.D.

According to Lehman, Luce derived the 4th century from the fact that the Chins by this time had already used the word ‘tangka’ (coinage) which is believed to be the name of a Gupta coin of India. It is firmly believed that the coin was brought to the East by Samudra Gupta (C.320-380 AD) in the middle of the fourth century A.D.[25].

The 8th century A.D. is, however, derived from the fact that the ancient land route used by the Caravans and traders from China to India was not mentioned in literature. This convinced Luce to believe that the route was presumably closed after AD 300 until AD 750 and as such no major westward movement was noticed, otherwise it would have been recorded in the annals or literature26. He, therefore, strongly believed and concluded that most of the hill people arrived in Myanmar between the two dates.

Harvey[27] has, however, believed that many of the immigrants must have settled in Burma before Christian era. It may, therefore, be concluded that the Mizo people occupied the present Chin Hills before the end of the 8th century A.D. From the account given above, it may be conjectured that the Mizos came to Myanmar along with the people who are akin to them.

The North-East Phase:

The North-East India has been the seat of multi ethnic abode since time immemorial and is therefore known for its diverse ethnic mosaic from the waves of immigrant racial elements[28]. Kiratas, Cina and other primitive tribes were earlier inhabitants[29].

Kiratas means wild non-Aryan tribes connected with Cinas and the Chinese, said Chatterjee[30], and people living in the cave of the mountain according to MacDonald and Keith[31], are the Mongoloid origin who migrated from South-east Asia and Burma according Sanskrit term[32].

The epics and the Puranas refer the ‘Cinas’ as Kuki-Chins or Lushai[33]. The Geography of Ptolemy, a work of about A.D. 150 deals with the geography and peoples of other parts of Assam. But many of the words and places mentioned are difficult to identify.

The word Kirrhadae, for example, is identified as Kiratas. In the same way another work of the Greeks – The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea34 which mentions about Assam in different descriptions also refers a number of tribes as Kirrhadae[35].

In this connection, the work of Gerini, Researches on Ptolemy’s Geography, is commendable. He rightly identifies Ptolemy’s Alosong with Shillong and Tiladai with the Kuki-Chin[36]. Tiladai was located to the north of the Moirandos near the Garo Hills and Sylhet[37].

In the Mahabharatta, the Puranas and Tantras the ancient Assam is referred to as Pragjoytisha and Kamarupa respectively. The Mahabharatta mentions one Bhagadatta as one of the four sons of Naraka. He was a powerful ruler who ruled in the west.

The Sabha Parvan, from Hindu literature, relates the war between Bhagadatta and Arjun. In the war, the latter defeated the former after eight days of war[38]. It also mentions that Bhagadatta had a host of Kirats and Chins and other numerous warriors who dwelt on the sea cost[39].

The Hindu literature like the two epics and so many others makes references to the Kiratas[40]. About the proper home land of the Kiratas, the Vishnu Purana says that the Kiratas are in the east of India[41].

Therefore, Chatterjee concludes, “the Kiratas were known to the Hindu world as a group of peoples whose original home was in the Himalayan slopes and in the mountains of the East...”[42].

History of the arrival in India (North-East India) of the various Mongoloid groups speaking dialects of the Sino-Tibetan family is not known but their presence in India was noted by the tenth century B.C. when the Veda books were compiled[43]. The result of their participation in the history and culture of India in the areas where they had established themselves, has been their assimilation and absorption with the other peoples.

The migrations of the Mongoloid tribes to Assam took place through the North-Eastern and Southern routes of Assam from Burma. They entered Assam through the courses of the river Brahmaputra, Chindwin, Irrawaddy, Salween, Mekong and Menam. Some of them also entered Assam through mountain passes of Assam and Burma through the north-east and south-east[44].

When they arrived in Assam the Mon-Khmer tribes had already occupied some hilly regions but they had been driven out later by the newly arrived tribes into different directions[45]. Therefore, some occupied the foot hills of the Himalayas from Sadiya to the Punjab in the West, and the rest occupied the hills of Assam such as the Garo Hills, Naga Hills, Lushai Hills, Khasi Hills and so on.

It was only after their distribution and occupation of particular areas that they came to be known as Nagas, Bodos, Kukis, Khasis and so on and the areas of their occupation were known by their tribal names. The Sesatae of the Periplus and the Besadae of Ptolemy were also the same hill people of Assam allied to the Garos, Nagas and the Lushai-Kukis or the Mishmis[46].

The Lushai Hills Phase:

Like the previous movements, the migration of the Mizos (Lushai Kukis) from Myanmar or the North-East took place in three phases and as such, the people were for the sake of convenience identified under the three names as ‘Old-Kuki’, ‘New-Kuki’ and the ‘Lushai’.

The ‘Old Kuki’ or Hrangkhawl, Biate, Langrawng, Pangkhua and Mug (Mawk) was the first batch in migration. They were followed by the so-called ‘New-Kuki’ and then the ‘Lushai’ followed them as the third batch in migrations.

It is not precisely known, like the previous movements of the people as to when did they come to Lushai Hills but what is known definitely is that the first two batches had been pushed, causing them to go as far as what is now known as Tripura State of India and the present day Bangladesh.

A good number of Mizos (Kukis) are still living in Bangladesh. But history of their migration indicates that the first two immigrants, or at least some of them migrated back to Hiramba and made their settlements at the hills now known as North-Cachar Hills District of Assam.

Soppitt brings the date of their migration to the middle of the sixteenth century A.D.. But this conclusion may be disputed on account of the fact that mention is made in the annals of Tripura under the Raja Chachag or Roy Chachag who is said to have flourished about 1512 A.D. Chachag or Roy Chachag was the military commander of Dhanya Manikya who ascended the throne of Tripura in 1490 A.D.

In 1513 A.D. the Raja issued a coin in his name and in the coin it is written as “Conqueror of Chittagong”. During his reign a quarrel arose between him and the Mizos (Kukis) over the possession of a white elephant. The Mizos occupied the deep forest lying to the East of Tripura and the West of Lushai Hills[51].

The Rajamala, the Chronicle of the Tripura Rajas, also mentions the Kukis. The Chronicle speaks about the services rendered by the Kukis to the Tripura kings. The Chronicle also narrates how the Raj Kumar fell in love with a Kuki woman.

There is also evidence to indicate that the Mizos had already arrived in Tripura late in the twelfth century A.D. As had been said herein above, in the history of Tripura mention is made that once Raja Dharmadhar of Kailagadh invited Nidhipati, a Kanauj Brahmin to his court and granted him an estate, known in history as Brahmottar land.

The inscription in the copper plate marking the event bears the name of Kuki-land. The land bounded in the east of Longoi (Langkaih) river and the date is mentioned as 1195 A.D. The theory is that the Kukis, who are known in Tripura as Halam, sneaked into Tripura due to ethnic pressures, possibly perhaps, long before the coming of Palian and Zadeng ruling clans of Zahmuaka who had been pushed down by the Sailo Chiefs of the same ancestor.

They entered Tripura not from Lower Burma, but from Upper Burma passing through the area known as Lushai Hills. We cannot place them far behind the Kukis of the first batch said Sangkima. Hence, they are said to have arrived in the land in the period between fourteenth and fifteenth centuries A.D.

The last batch of migration, which were identified as ‘Lushai’, like the first two groups, consisted of many clans. The most pro-minent among them was the Lusei tribe of the Sailo clan. They were the direct descendants of Thangura who is believed to have existed in 1580 A.D.

As noted before, Palian and Zadeng groups came before the Sailos and they are said to have come in 1610 A.D. The Sailo clan are believed to have migrated to Mizoram beginning from the second half of the seventeenth century and might have continued till the beginning of the nineteenth century, Sangkima further said.

McCall has asserted that Lallula occupied Mizoram around 1810 A.D. Whatever the case may be, from the dates given above, a genealogy of the Sailo Chiefs and others and their respective periods, may be worked out. Though this may seem to be a difficult task, an attempt has to be made to string together the story of ancient ruling clans of the Mizos.

The Manipur Phase:

As for the Kukis of Manipur, Johnstone convincingly contended that the Kukis were inhabitants of Manipur since time immemorial and commented with appreciation that his predecessor, McCulloch, was cool and considerate that having confirmed that the new wave of Kuki immigrants who came to Manipur in 1843-1845 in great numbers were mainly with the main intention to secure land for cultivation that prompted him to place them at various strategic places all over the Hill areas of Manipur to meet the quest of Kukis for land which had no intention whatsoever with conquest of land.

This became a very convenient policy framework to create ‘Buffer Group’ out of the Kukis as ‘human shield’ to protect the Raja of Manipur and the British from their enemies. The Government of India in Bengal appreciated highly and created Kuki ‘levies’ at various strategic places.

Johnstone further praised him stating that McCulloch extended financial assistance to the Kukis from his private pocket money that won the confidence of the Kukis and their allegiance, placing themselves available by his side in any manner their services were required.

These complementary notings were fully corroborated from McCulloch’s[59] own accounts of the Kukis in Manipur.

Related Articles:



to be continued ..


* Priyadarshni M Gangte wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on November 11 , 2007 .


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