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Liangmai tribe of Mongoloid race inhabits Nagaland and Manipur states of Northeast India. The area of their domination spreads across Peren district in Nagaland state and Tamenglong, Senapati and Imphal district in Manipur. Dominating town of the Liangmais include Tening town, sub-division of Peren district of Nagaland state, and Tamei town, sub-division of Tamenglong district of Manipur state.
It is a community of about 1 lakh people. Liangmai population in Manipur state is higher than that of Nagaland. No Liangmais in Manipur follow any other religion but Christianity since 2003. There are still non-Christians in Nagaland but very less in number. Liangmais are obsessed to socializing and are not conservative but broadminded. They are known for excellent hospitality in their homes.
With popular football and volleyball come-in, once upon a time common sports including wrestling, taming of wild bull and climbing up bamboo pole are in the verge of complete extinction. The trend of living at high altitude still continues although some have now moved down to the foothills. The Liangmais, even today enjoy the maximum luxury of nature – pollution free air, spring water, organic food and the blue mountain range that don’t seem to end. Love for music came down from generations and it is skeptical that music would be given a fullstop in generations to come. Openness for pop, jazz, country music and rock are followed by gospel music.
Liangmai, as a separate tribe in Manipur state, was recognized by the Government of India on 22 December 2011.
The Liangmai belong to the Mongoloid race. History says that once there was a family of three brothers. With the growth in their age, a time came for them to earn their living separately. The two brothers moved away from the family. They are today known as Zeme and Rongmei. Liangmai, being the eldest stayed back home, tended the family property and preserved the culture of his ancestors which he practices till today.
The Liangmai Naga communicate among themselves in Lianglad. Literally translating, Lianglad means the language of the Liangmais. Legend has it that Lianglad is the ‘language of the gods’. The pagans from Rongmei tribe are known to be still using "lianglad" while performing rituals. Before the advent of Christianity, the people practiced paganism. Thus according to their belief, nature like mountains, caves, rivers, trees, etc. were ruled or governed by gods. And it is these gods that speak Lianglad.
Lianglad spoken in Nagaland and Manipur differ from each other in the accent. Even within Nagaland and Manipur, the accent changes with regions. For example, in Manipur, the northerners have a gentler accent than those of the southerners.
In 2002, Lianglad was listed as one of the endangered dialects. But today, with the increasing number of Liangmai population, its speakers are increasing, and it is one of the most spoken dialect among the dialects of the Nagas. Researchers and scholars have started audio recording of the dialect as parts of their thesis and projects, and at the same time, these recordings will serve a great deal in the preservation of the dialect in the long run. The State Government of Manipur approved the recognition of "Lianglad" on 23 May 2013. Hence LIANGLAD has now been officially recognized and will be used in schools as medium of instruction in schools.
Liangmai is made up of two words LIANG and MAI. MAI means people. Thus, Liangmai means the people of LIANG. Different people have their own version for the meaning of the word LIANG. The most accepted meaning of the word "LIANG" today is "Support" or "grouped as one". Thus, "Liangmai" means the people who have grouped themselves in support of each other to live together as one community or tribe.
The attire is one of the cultural heritages of the Liangmais. Mostly, the traditional attires are hand-woven. Some popular clothes of the community are "ngumthua phai" being the most common among shawls, besides there are other traditional attires like, Maranpan, a shawl for both men and women; Henglan nina, girdle to wrap around the waist for women; Tareh phai, a shawl for men. The Liangmai community has different attires for different occasions. Each piece of cloth has a specific connotation attached to it. For example, there are attires which are meant only for married women or for maidens. Also, there is a particular attire to be worn to funerals, to weddings, to celebrations etc.
The staple food of the Liangmais are rice, fresh meat, green vegetables, etc. etc. Popular traditional food items are jiangdui, a taste maker extracted from the juice of mustard leaves; tasun, potted bamboo shoot; and tasang, processed or fermented soyabean.
Today, the Liangmais engaged themselves in different occupations and professions. Primarily, the majority of the liamgmai men and women are agriculturalists, the mosltly practised jhum or shifting cultivation. Few educated among them work as government servants, social workers, businessman and businesswoman. Rearing or domestication of animals is also a major part of their livelihood.
Chaga-Ngee, the biggest festival of the Liangmai community is celebrated in the month of October. Today, this festival that showcases Liangmai's rich culture and tradition is celebrated on 30 October every year. The venue of Chaga-Ngee is usually held at Tamei and Dimapur town. According to historical accounts, Chaga-Ngee is a celebration for victorious war to honour brave warriors. It is also a festival of purification/sanctification and re-dedication for their next assignments. However, in the modern context, the prime reason of organizing this event is to keep alive the rich culture and tradition of Liangmai. On this day, both old and young Liangmais gather in their traditional attires and sing folk songs, dance folk dances, play traditional games and sports, etc.
Other major festivals
These celebrations are accompanied by singing, dancing, feast and merrymaking.
- Kaimui, a Delhi-based bi-monthly newsletter in Liangmai