Halam tribe

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The Halam people are a Kuki tribe native to the state of Tripura in India. The name Halam is coined by the Tipra Raja. They are also known as Mizo, while some people called them Ranglong.[1] They are further divided into 15 sub-clans.


The Halam people are one of the Sinlung people, who are said to have lived in Tripura before the Tipra came to that land. Those of the Kuki who submitted to the authority of the Tipra Raja came to be known as Halam.[2] Folklore have the Halam people come from Khurpuitabum,[3] somewhere in Manipur.[1][4][5] Molsom, Sakachep, Kaipeng and Bawngcher are the first group to enter Tripura, they are in record during the reign of Raja Omar Manikya, 1584–1586 A.D.[6] Other sub-groups have immigrated from Cachar district of Assam, Mizoram and Chittagong Hill Tracts. It is evident from their folktales and folksongs that Halam people once passed through Mizoram on their way to reach Tripura.


In 1951, the Indian census showed 1,644 Halam living in Tripura. In 1961 the figure was 16,298. It rose slightly to 19,076 in 1971.[7] Some clans speak the Halam language.


  1. Kaipeng
  2. Bawngcher
  3. Dap
  4. Sakachep
  5. Ranglong
  6. Darlong
  7. Hrangkhol
  8. Bawng
  9. Kawlawi
  10. Kawrbawng
  11. Langrawng
  12. Molsom
  13. Rupini
  14. Saihmar
  15. Chorei
  16. Thiek

Origin of the Halam[edit]

Paucity of the written documents on the background of the Halam makes it difficult to trace evidence to show where the Halam in Tripura came from, how they came and when they settled in Tripura. The Halam, like many other tribes of the Kuki-Chin groups, believed that man originated from certain Cave, called "KHURPUITABUM,” which literally means a 'Big Cave.' This is found in almost all the folktales of the Kuki-Chin and other 'Zo' tribes. They called it 'Sinlung/Chhinlung.' But the ways of interpretations are not the same. One interpretation is that, as the descendant of the King of China, they call themselves as 'Sinlungsuak' meaning, originated from China. Another interpretation is that, the 'Great Wall of China' was named as 'Khurpuitabum.' So, came out of that wall, they narrate themselves as coming out from a 'Big Cave.' Great Wall of China was built in 23 BC. It is 20–30 ft. in height and 15–20 ft. in width. Yet, another interpretation tells that, there was a time, when their forefather does not have cloth to wear and house or shelter to live in. They usually took shelter in a cave and under some big rock. From this standpoint, they regard themselves as coming out from a 'Big Cave,’ called Khurpuitabum. Which interpretations will be the most acceptable, is yet to be understood through research. However, one can assume that human being is special creation of God. So it is hard to believe that, the Halams in Tripura originated from a 'Big Cave.' Historians like Mr. Darliensung (author of 'The Hmar'-1987), Mr. V.L. Siama (author of 'Mizo History'-1953), Rev. Liangkhaia (author of 'Mizo Chanchin'), S.B.K. Debbarma (author of 'The Tribes of Tripura'-1986), Lt. Col. J. Shakespear (author of 'The Lushai-Kuki Clans'-1912), Hranglien Songate (author of 'Hmar Chanchin') etc., believed that, Mongolian Race originated from the valley of the confluence of the river Yangtze and Huangho in China. Due to the continuous attacked by the Chinese from Yunan Province, they scattered from that valley. Some groups took western direction and entered Burma through Tibet. Thus, it is believed that, Halam was also included among those who entered Burma; as Halam is one of the Mongoloid Stock. From Burma, they took their journey towards the western direction and entered Tripura from different corners. The present dialect of the Halam is also included within the Sino-Tibetan language groups of Tibeto-Burman Family. The Village Administrative System: Like other tribal people of Tripura, the Halam also have their own system of village administration and judicature. This institution became almost inactive with the changes in societies. One Chief is selected from amongst all the Halam, to rule the society, so that every member of the Clans may live equally. This Chief is called Halamasa. The Halamasa is the highest post in the system of administration and in the hierarchy of authority. There is another post termed as Sardar Kalim whose position is just below the Halamasa. The entire settlement of the Halam is divided into three zones – Khopui, Khozobak and Sagornal. From these three zones three officials, one from each zone is selected who serve under the Sardar Kalim. These officials are termed as Kalim. Again under these Kalim, there are three officials who are to assist him. They are termed as Kabur, Muktiar and Tangulian. Khopui is the biggest administrative set up with the biggest population. Khozobak is the second biggest administrative set up and Sagornal is the smallest of them. Selection of Halamasa: Halamasa is worshipped in each village. During the ceremony all the boys and the girls from five years of age to full grown youth, have to show respect by pranam to the Halamasa. Normally, he who paid uninterrupted respect and allegiance for longer period would get the nomination. After the death of the Halamasa, the Sardar Kalim would assumed the charge temporarily and make arrangement for the selection of the next Halamasa by an announcement. Duties and jurisdiction of the village Court: The cases of all kinds of crime were disposed of in the courts of the village officials. The ‘Chubai Darbar’ used to be held in the house of the Kalim, where the plaintiff could place his case by placing a jar of wine. The Tangulian then, on the order of the Kalim, used to summon the accused and announced the date of hearing. On the specified date the Kabur, used to take the seat of the judge while the Muktiar worked as a lawyer. The Kalim used to bear the expenses of the Court, if the hearing continued for a longtime or days together. The Kalim pronounced sentences, hearing the both accuser and the accused and verifying their statements by witnesses of both the sides. The verdict of the Kalim could be challenged. In that case, the Kalim used to summon them and then a special Durbar termed as ‘Arok Durbar’ was held again. The appellant had to pay Rs.7.00 as the fees of the Arok Durbar. If the appellant could not be satisfied with the verdict of the Arok Durbar, he is allowed to appeal to the court of Khopui, Khozobak and Sagornal which ever exist in his zone. Or the appellant, being not satisfied with the decision of the zonal court, was allowed to seek justice in the court of Halamasa. The verdict of the Halamasa was final and obligatory. Nature of Punishment: It is already narrated that the village courts used to dispose of all the cases. Hence, cases of thief, robbery, rape, divorce etc. were dealt with by these courts. If a case of thief is proof the accused is to return the stolen good along with a fine of Rs.30/-. The similar punishment was inflicted for robbery and lifting of goods from passerby. In case of causing physical injury, the accused was not only fined but also made to pay the cost of medicines and arranged some special religious ceremony. Illegitimate social intercourse was not encouraged. The accused was fine Rs.7/- for his evil conduct. But the case of rape was dealt with severely. The accused was fined Rs.35/-. This punishment was inviolable if pronounced from the court of the Halamasa. In case of defying person, severe physical torture, social boycott and even deportation was not uncommon. Same is the case with women. In short, no one could live in the society defying the village court. Income of the village official: Village officials were the ordinary people of a particular village. They had their own jhum cultivation like other people of the village. Naturally, they were to cultivate their field for their livelihood. But as they were always engaged with the work of the village people, the villagers gave their labour in the field of these officials. Ultimately it becomes right of these officials. In the ‘Chubai Durbar’ a fine of Rs.30/- was realised from an accused, out of which Rs.25/- was paid to accuser and the rest Rs.5/- was deducted by the Kalim who usually spent the amount in the village festival. If a fine of Rs.30/- was realised in the court of Khopui the amount was divided in such a following manner that the amount of Rs.15/- was paid to the accuser and the remaining Rs.15/- was confiscated to the Halamasa. The Halamasa used to allot Rs.7/- to Khopui and Rs.5/- was sent to the Kalim of the village of the accuser for offerings in the religious ceremony. The method of distribution of the money realised from the fine hints that the officials were not greedy. Thus, the Halam have a separate system of administration within them. They tried all kinds of cases from a minor case to a murder case. All the subjects pay allegiance to the rules and regulation of Halamasa. All the amount of fees and fines fixed by the authority are paid by the people without any objection. They show respect to the Halamasa and regard him as the highest authority holder. All decisions taken by a Halamasa and his subordinates are regarded as final and legitimate. However, this system of administration among the Halam could not be continued for long. The institution is now in a descending order, especially after the introduction of the Panchayat Raj among the Halams. It is a matter of great concern, for the researchers, as to how and why this lofty institution became inactive. In the present work, it is not possible to go deep into the matters, as it is out of the research objectives.

Effect of Panchayat Raj in the Authority and leadership Structures of the Halams[edit]

Introduction of Panchayat Raj in the Halam village, along with other hill villages of the state, has opened up a new channel which facilitated the involvement of the Halam in the main stream of the state’s administration. Though there was a Territorial Council in the state prior to the introduction of the Panchayat Raj, yet that institution did not have much effect on the village administration or community level authority of the tribal. It is however, admitted that some new traits were introduced in the political behaviour of the members of the tribal community, especially when the system of election was introduced. Since that time, traits like secret ballot voting, canvassing, and participation of all adult males in the process of selection have been brought into use. Besides, since that time, the Halam females along with the males of the other tribal communities, for the first time, started participating in authority selection. But all those new things were confined only to their behavioural pattern and made no impact on the functioning of their self-government. It was the Panchayat Raj, which made interference in the functioning of the village administration of the Halam. However, it cannot be said, that the two authority (Halamasa and Panchayati Raj) structures are contradictorily related with each other. Rather, the relation between the traditional self-government and modern village panchayat is more or less, one of co-operation. Both authorities have their influence over the people and have jurisdiction of work. The problems related to sex, violence, marriage, divorce, adultery, dispute, problems related to religious activities etc. are tried by the local self-government. Whereas the problems concerning lands, health and sanitation, education, communication and other modern means of development are dealt by the village panchayat. In short, it can be said that the traditional self-government of the Halam community has declined. But in many aspects, they still have the powers and solve many cases related to customary laws. In fact, the Halam peoples seldom approach the police and file an FIR (First Information Report), to solve their problems related with Custom and Traditions. They rather approach the officials of the Halamasa and those officials easily solved the problems.

Change in Religious Practices: Influence of Hinduism and Christianity[edit]

It is not known how and when exactly the Halam came under the influence of Hinduism. Although the people claim themselves to be Hindu, there are a good number of animistic traits found in their religious activities that appears to be contradictory to Hinduism. This is more evident when it is compared especially with the neighbouring Bengali Hindus. Married women among the Halam, for instance, do not use vermilion bangles and iron bracelets which are commonly used as a sign of a married woman especially among the neighbouring Bengali Hindu woman. In fact, there is no symbolic dress or ornament which can differentiate a married Halam from an unmarried one. A few of them follow vaisnavism and worship Lord Krishna and Radha. But, most of them take non- vegetarian food like pork, fish, dry fish etc. which the neighbouring Bengali vaishnabs regard as taboos. They worship some of the Hindu goddess of Lakhmi, instead of making an idol of the goddess; they make the image of Lakhmi with rice and egg. They keep some rice in an earthen pot and place an egg longitudinally on the rice. They then place the earthen pot containing rice and egg under a bamboo. Lakhmi is worship by them generally on a full moon day by sacrificing a hen and offering local rice beer and egg. It may be worth mentioning here, that the activities like sacrificing of animals, use of alcoholic liquor, egg etc. are the animistic trait in their worship of Lakhmi. Thus, the Halam have been following a number of traditional religious rites along with some Hindu religious activities. Conversion to Christianity started among the Halam from the middle part of this century. Though it is not the area of concern in this study, to record the actual numbers of Christian, yet it may be mention that there is a high percentage of Christianity among the Halam. About 80% of the Halam follow Christianity. The spread of Christianity among the Halam has not created any sense of isolation so far as other cultural activities (except religious activities) are concerned. The Christian Halam attended the socio-cultural activities, ceremonies etc. of their Hindu neighbours. They obey, participate in and depend on the traditional village administration as do their Hindu neighbours.

Economic Life of the Halam[edit]

The economic life of the Halam is mainly based on food gathering and food production along with some other activities. As a food gathering they collect edible leaves, roots, stems and tubers from the jungles. They catch fish from the nearby rivulets grow food grains by jhum cultivation, which is also the main occupation and nearly 80% of them still based it as a means of livelihood. Now a day, they have begun to cultivate the plane lands and become familiar with horticulture. They also keep goats, cows, pigs etc. Regarding other activities, they are accustomed to crafts works. At present they take service and engaged themselves in the business also. A majority of the families are under below poverty line set by the Indian government. A few of them have started to be employed in government service in different department. They are also aware of agriculture and horticulture. They have planted banana, jackfruit, betel nut, papaya and others. The problem is that, they have no proper training on those cultivations because of illiteracy and less linkages with government. Besides, they are poor and marginal farmers and hence have not enough fund to start with bigger plan and project. Whatever productions made by the farmer could not be consume by the local market and the prices sometimes goes down considerably. This in turn makes the farmers discouraged for further cultivations. The government has no proper plan of marketing of those productions nor set a proper factory.


In educational aspect, the Halam peoples are still lacking behind. But with the introduction of English Medium School by different Christian Congregation, the Halam peoples have benefitted and in fact many have educated themselves through those institutions. There are several government schools in and around the Halam inhabited areas, but they are not functioning well. Up to date, the Halam peoples have no any single Medical Doctor and no any Engineering pass out. Few of them were graduated in general stream. It is also painful to highlight that, 30% of every children in a village have no access to education till now. Some intelligent students, who are able to take professional course, have to finally abandoned their studies because of lack of financial sources and many good students have in fact drop their career. The overall literacy percentage among the Halam is around 65%. Comparatively speaking, male percentage is higher than its counterpart female.


The Halam peoples have no script of their own and borrowed the roman script for any documentation and writings. There is no written record of their past histories, folktales and other documents related with their cultures and tradition. They impart among themselves through verbal communication and in this way many valuable cultural life of the peoples are forgotten by the young generations. It is very needful that the Halam peoples have proper documentation of their cultures and tradition.

Social life[edit]

The peoples of Halam are lover of fun and jokes. They have continuous gathering among themselves in the name of different ceremonies. For any gathering or ceremonies, all the peoples are invited and any Halam fellow can join the gathering. The total population of Halam is around 200,000.

Geographical location[edit]

They are mainly concentrated in the hilly terrain of Tripura and low land of Assam border under Dharmanager Sub-Division (N) Tripura, Karimganj and Dima Hasao district of Assam. Quite a number of them are also concentrated in Cachar and Hailakandi district of Assam, Mamit district of Mizoram and Khelma Sub-division; Peren district of Nagaland. Most of the villages are located near the National Highway 44, i.e. in between 1 to 5 km, running from Assam to Agartala, the capital of Tripura. Whereas, those living in Assam and Peren district of Nagaland border are very remote that they have to walk many kilometres away to reach the local market, which were mainly connected by katcha road.


There is a reason why the Tripura Raja differentiate Halam from Kuki, Halam people do not have king or chief nor their own god to worship. So, the Raja appointed Sordar to rule Halam people, and an idol for each clan to worship. E.g. Mualţhuam sub-clan are given an idol made from Gooseberry tree, they called Zobawmthang.[8] Bawngcher sub-clan are given Thirlum Thirphrai. Thirlum is an iron ball smaller than the size of cricket ball, Thirphrai is an iron plate, a size of thumb. Both have no inscriptions on them.[9]


Unlike other Kuki clans, majority followed their traditional religion. According to 1961 census, Hindu numbers 16,044 while Christian are only 253.


The first person baptised was Haia Sungchongram Hrangkhawl, in 1942. In 1987, the total number of Christians among Halam was 373. Now however majority of them like Ranglong, Molsom, Kaipeng, Hrangkhawl and other have Christian majority.[10]


  1. ^ a b Varman, S.B.K.: The Tribes of Tripura – A dissertarion. Gov't Press. Agartala. Directorate of Research. 1986. 2nd Edition. p. 25.
  2. ^ Tripura state website cultures section
  3. ^ Also written as Khurpuitabong or Khorpintabhim
  4. ^ Sailiana Sailo: The Bongchers. Agartala. Bharat Offset.1992. p. 2.
  5. ^ Tripura District Gazetteers. Agartala. 1975. p. 150.
  6. ^ Gowswami, Dr. D.N.: The Bongs of Tripura. Agartala. 1995. p. 26.
  7. ^ Gan-Chaudhuri, Jagadis. Tripura: The Land and its People. (Delhi: Leeladevi Publications, 1980) p. 10
  8. ^ Lalthangliana, B.: History and Culture of Mizo in India, Burma & Bangladesh. 2001. Aizawl. RTM Press. p. 85.
  9. ^ Sailiana Sailo: The Bongchers. p. 27.
  10. ^ Hnehliana, Rev.: Tripura Baptist Christian Union. 1988. p. 75-76.