The Mishing or Misíng also called Miri, are an ethnic group inhabiting the districts of Dhemaji, North Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat and Golaghat of the Assam state in India. The total population is more than 8,50,000 in Assam but there are also more than 50,000 Mishing people, divided among three districts: East Siang district, Lower Dibang Valley, and Lohit districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Few of them have settled themselves permanently in National capital Delhi and few hundreds in Mumbai which is the financial capital of India. They are the largest tribal group in North-East India, second being to the Bodos in Assam. They were earlier called Miris in historical days. and the Constitution of India still refers to them as Miris.
They belong to greater Tani people community which comprises many tribes in Arunachal Pradesh in India and Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in China. All Tani tribes share linguistic, cultural and ritual similarities. All Misings trace back their root to Abutani or Abo Tani (The first man on earth) like any other Tani tribes.
The Misings are East Asian, or more specifically, a Southeast Asian sub-race of the Mongoloid race, similar to the mixture of the Mongoloid sub-races inside political China as people from Southern China may look more like the South East Asian brown-skinned Mongoloids and more towards the Northern China more fair skinned Mongoloids dwell. It's not known exactly where they migrated from, but it is popularly believed that they were dwellers of the hills of present day Arunachal Pradesh. This explains the cultural and linguistic similarities they have with many Tani tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. Other Tani tribes are Adi, Apatani, Nyishi), Padam, Minyong etc. somewhere around the 13th century, they started migrating towards the plains of Assam, most probably in search of fertile land.
Legends says that they came into contact with more civilised communities living in plains of Assam as early as in 16th century. Because of this, they lost their violent tribal nature and many embraced Vaishnavite religion. This exodus continued for at least two or three centuries.
There is no written history of Misings about their migration from hills to the plains of Assam. Though they belong to Tani group of tribes and they used to be hill dwellers, they started living on the banks of rivers in plains of Assam. The reason for this change of habitat is not known, but there are theories. One theory says that Misings presently living in plains of Assam were not a one single tribe, but evolved into one when many tribes from various Tani tribes in Arunachal Pradesh migrated to the plains of Assam in search of fertile land as well as in search of civilisational progress. Over a period of time, they became known as Miris as they acted as middle men between tribes of hills of Arunachal Pradesh and people of the plains of Assam like Ahoms, Kacharis etc. Miri means middle men in old Assamese language. This explains the presence of many Mising clans with different Mising dialects as well as different levels of development.
The Misings of Arunachal Pradesh
The Mising of Arunachal Pradesh were the warrior that fought many battle in Arunachal Pradesh. There was constant battle fought among various tani group for land and property. Some of Mising people descended down to plains in Assam in order to make a peaceful settlement.Moreover the river Brahmaputra being a source of various flora and fauna attracted them, for their livelihood. But Mising of Arunachal Pradesh could resist all the attacks and could Maintain their territory. This Mising's of Arunachal Pradesh, Who could Protect their land against other Tani group's are Known as Dakdung meaning "Standing Powerful in their land". While the Mising Afraid of other Tani Group Migrated to Assamese Ahom Kingdom, So they are Known as Daktok Meaning " The Run Away From The land". While the Mising of Assam mixed with the Ahom Kingdom and adopted assamese culture like celebrating Bihu festival and served as soldier in ahom king's army. But the Mising of Arunachal carried on their ancient tradition and culture.
The Assamese Mising forgot their ancestral customs. So Many Mising Personalities of Arunachal pradesh like Late Oiram Bori and Lahore singh Pao started a cultural revolution. Congress Pegu of oyan village was also the main contributor in developing Mishing Culture. Ali-Aye-Leegang was first celebrated in oyan village of Arunachal Pradesh. The LohLe was composed by Late Oiram Bori. The Mising Dress code was designed By Late Lahor Singh Pao of Oyan Village. While Congress Pegu Traveled across many villages of Assam to teach them Mising Dance and Drama.
Many People Consider Assam Mising's as run away slaves of Adi's. But there is no such historical evidence to it.
According to Census of India conducted in 2001, the population of Mising in Assam is counted to 5,87,310; of which 2,99,790 male and 2,87,520 female.
|Regions with significant populations|
|India (Arunachal Pradesh)||50,000|
The Mising population residing in Arunachal Pradesh is estimated to be more than 50,000. Literacy rates of Mising tribe is quite high. It is more than 78% among males and 59% among women averaging to be 68.8%, which is higher than that of Assam as well as India.
Mising constitute sizeable number of officers of Assam government with ratio much higher than their population. There are now many Mising successful businessmen among Misings. Traditionally, Mising businessmen were into construction line by Assam Government departments like PWD, Irrigation, E&D, NEC(North Eastern Council) etc. But recently, there are many Mising businessman who are into auto mobiles, IT industry too.
Misings have got the highest number of doctors in Assam compared to the other tribes in Assam.
11==Social Structure== The Misings believe Abotani as their ancestor is supposed to be a son of mother Sun and father Moon of the Heavenly abode. They Mising people inhabiting by the Plains believe Gumin as one of the earliest ancestors,the forefather of a lineal family of Abotani.The sons of Gumin are grouped in clans (opin), the names of which are represented by the existing surnames in the society. They are all blood related brothers with a social restriction of matrimonial relationship among them.
In some localitie, a few non-Mising speaking groups like Bihiya, Samurguria etc. are predominant. These groups write some of their surnames as Saikia, Baruah, Medhi, Kachari, Patgiri Changmai etc. and soon forget their Gu:min and Opin Identity. Moreover, the usage of the term Moyéngia, Oyéngia and Sayengia etc. carry no meaning in determining an opín because families of different Opin are found in the said group. In the same way, the division into Borgam and Dohgam, which was an administrative system introduced during Ahom Kingdom, is non-existent in the society today. As such the multifarious form of division, have no bearing at all in identification of Guhmeen ad Opeen Concept since time immemorial in maintaining their fabric of socio-cultural system.
The Opin(Clans) of Gumin are all blood related brothers known as Urom bibosunam Beerrang originating from a common ancestor father and there is no restriction in offering prayers in the Rituals in common platform generations together.There is an another form of brotherhood existing in the society which has been traditionally accepted as affiliated brother or Tomeen sunam Beerrang from different opeen. In both types of Brotherhood marriage among themselves is forbidden in the society.
The community has various Clans as::
There are further Classification as Dagdung,Dagtok,Padam,Pagro,Oyan [more classification to be added][This field is to be elaborated]
TheOpin Urom Bibosunam Bírrang are related respectively as brothers with the Tomísunam Bírrangas Mentioned below:
Example: The Opin mentioned above *1.Kuli,Kutum,Kumbang,Koman of Opin Urom Bibosunam Bírrang have affiliated brotherhood with ⇔ *1.Doley, Padi, Ratan,Regon, Like wise for the other in the listing.
Opin Urom Bibosunam Bírrang(Main Clan Brotherhood)
↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓ Tomeen sunam beerrang(Affiliated brotherhood)
- 1.Doley, Padi, Ratan,Regon, Dao.
- 2.Lagasung,Patir,Paid,Médok,Taid Sungkrang,Kardong,Jimé.
- 5.Taye, Dole:
- 8.Pérme, Dole:,
- 9.Morang, Pangging,Dáng
It is believed that this practice among the Mising people have been the backbone of maintaining genetic purity among the Clan members, also it has helped them from inbreeding disorders in their kin. It has also provided a bond of brotherhood among the now diverse Mising community. The community has sign of any genetical disorder among its people.
The Misings are a patrilineal and patrolocal society and so, as per customary law, only the male children are entitled to inherit the property of a family. However, daughters can inherit the clothes and jewellery of their mothers.
Marriages amongst the Misings take place in four ways: (i) formal marriages through negotiation, (ii) marriage by elopement, (iii) marriage through a very simple ceremony, and (iv) marriage by force. The last one, in which a man makes a woman his wife against her will by whisking her away from some place and starting to live together, is no longer in practice. Extreme poverty or inconvenience force families to arrange a marriage of the third kind, in which a few elders, invited to the house of the groom, bless the would-be couple over a few bowls of rice beer – and the wedding is over. The most common form of marriage in rural areas even today is the one by elopement. When a boy is in love with a girl and intends to marry her, but cannot afford the cost of a formal marriage, or expects some opposition to the marriage from some quarter, or would like to start a conjugal life without delay, he chooses elopement with the girl as the best option. More often than not, marriages by elopement are followed by due social recognition through simple formalities. Formal marriages are arranged through two or three stages of negotiation, but although arranged by parents or guardians, the marriage of a boy and a girl totally unknown to each other, would be very rare. Formal marriages amongst them appear to have been influenced to a great extent by the practice of such marriages amongst their neighbours in the valley. It is now common for the educated and the well-to-do parents to perform the marriages of their children in the formal way. Polygamy is permissible as per customary law, but it is not looked upon as an act of honour any more. Polyandry is unknown altogether. Widows or widowers can remarry. Customary law allows divorces, but they are not very common. It is also customary for a groom’s parents or guardians to pay bride price – mostly nominal – to the parents or guardians of the bride. Clan endogamy is taboo
Dwelling, Village Chief, Council
A traditional Mising house is stilted. It has a thatched top and is patterned simply like the letter ‘ I ’. It is built usually with wooden posts, beams, truss and supporting forks, but bamboo is used extensively for flooring and roofing. The more the number of nuclear families living in the same house, the longer the ‘ I ’ would be. The granary is built a little close to the house and a cowshed too would not be far away. Mishing villages are generally large in size, consisting of around fifty-to-sixty households on an average.
The traditional chief of a Mising village was called a Ga:m. He presided at the sittings of the village Kebang (the village council), which deliberated upon different matters concerning the wellbeing of the village community as well as complaints of individual members or groups in the community. The Kebang was the legal, judicial and executive authority of the community, although the final say on all matters, barring the ones relating to their faith, was that of the Ga:m. Cases of social and criminal offences were heard by the Kebang, and persons found guilty were penalized. The Ga:m has been replaced with a Gaonburha (an Assamese word meaning ‘head of a village’), a petty village level agent of the government, since the days of the British, and the Kebang with Me:l (an Assamese word, meaning ‘an assembly of people for hearing a case). Kebang now denotes an association
Culture and Festivals
Mising people celebrate various festivals, though, the two chief traditional festivals of the Mishings are the Ali-Aye-Ligang and the Po:rag, both connected with their agricultural cycle.
Ali Aye Ligang
The words Ali Aye Ligang means Ali= roots and shoots, Aye=Fruit, Ligang= beginning. Thus the words means the beginning of sowing of seeds. Ali-Aye-Ligang, is celebrated in the first Wednesday of Fagun month(Assamese Calendar), this date falls in the February month of English calendar. The Festival marks the beginning of the sowing season. The people of this community are mainly agrarian, so the festival of Ali Aye Ligang marks the beginning of a new agricultural calendar for them.
Ali-aye Ligang, a five-day festival. The celebrations start on a Wednesday, which is considered an auspicious day by the Misings, with the heads of families sowing ceremonially rice paddy seeds in a corner of their respective rice fields in the morning hours and praying for a good crop during the year as well as for general plenty and wellbeing. Young men and women celebrate the occasion by singing and dancing at night in the courtyard of every household in the village to the accompaniment of drums, cymbals and a gong. The gong is not used on any festive occasion other than the Ali-Aye Leegang. Similarly, the drums have specific beats for this festival. The troupe accepts from each household offers of rice beer, fowls, and/or cash. After the singing and dancing in this way is over, the youths hold a feast on the third day. The fourth is a day of taboos: activities like cutting trees, using agricultural implements in any way, using fire in agricultural fields, eating eggs, fruit (especially sour ones), frying items of food etc. must not be done on this day. The taboos are over on the fifth day, and the festival concludes with eating and drinking in the evening. A kind of sticky rice, packed in leaves of wild cardamom and boiled, is a special item of food on such festive occasions.
It is the post-harvest festival of the Misings. Harvesting of paddy rice in autumn is very common now amongst the Misings and so a Po:rag is usually observed now sometime in early winter or early spring. But there was a time when a harvest in summer too was very common amongst them and so Po:rag was celebrated earlier in the months of August or September also. It is a very expensive three-day festival (reduced to two days or even one these days, depending on the extent of preparation on the part of the organizers in terms of items of food and drinks) and so held once in two-to-three years or so. Entertainment during the celebrations is open to everyone, young and old, of the village, and invitations are also extended formally to many guests, including some people of neighbouring villages, to join the celebrations. More significantly, it is customary on this occasion to invite the women who hail from the village but have been married to men of other villages and places, far and near. This makes Po:rag a grand festival of reunion. Moreover, apart from the husbands of the women so invited, a group of young men and women, who can sing and dance, is expected to accompany each of them. No formal singing, dancing and drumming contests are organized, but the congregation of many singers, dancers and drummers from different villages, in addition to the ones in the village, turns the festival into some kind of a friendly music and dance tournament, as it were. This has an amplifying effect on the air of joy that the festival exudes. The sole responsibility for organizing the festival is vested in a body of young men and women, called Meembiur-yahmey (literally, ‘young women-young men’). The organization is run with a good degree of discipline, following the provisions of an unwritten but well-respected code of conduct. Erring individuals are given hearings and penalized, if found guilty.
Another occasion, called Dobur, is an animistic rite performed occasionally by the village community by sacrificing a sow and some hens for different purposes, such as to avert a likely crop failure and ensure general well being of the community, or to avert the evil effects of a wrongdoing on the part of a member of the community, etc. The form of observance of Dobur varies according to the purpose. In the most common form, the younger male members of a village beat the walls of every house in the village from one end to the other with big sticks to drive away the ghosts and goblins hiding in nook and corner and perform the sacrificial rite at some distance away from the village, and hold a feast there. Anyone passing unwittingly through the venue of the rite has to stop in the place till evening or pay a fine.
In addition to the three traditional festivals, the Misings adopted in the valley the three Assamese seasonal festivals viz. the Bohag Bihu, the spring festival of gaiety and mirth, observed in mid-April, The Magh Bihu, the post-harvest festival, marked by plenty of feasting, observed in mid-January, and the Kati Bihu, which is bereft of any merry-making or feasting pleasures, observed in mid-October. Particularly, the Bohag Bihu, with all its gaiety, involving singing and dancing for several days in gay abandon, and the Magh Bihu have been observed by the Misings almost like native festivals. Some of the features of Bihu dances in recent times, boys and girls dancing together, for instance, may have been borrowed from the Misings.
Agriculture is the lifeblood of the economy of the Mishings. They grow different varieties of rice paddy, some of which they sow in spring for harvesting in summer, some others being transplanted during the rainy season and harvested in autumn. They also grow mustard, pulses, maize, vegetables, tobacco, bamboo, areca, etc., chiefly for their own use, with the exception of mustard, which brings them some cash. Generally speaking, they are poor horticulturists. The women contribute to the income of the family by rearing pigs, fowls and, occasionally, goats. They are buyers, not makers, of metallic utensils and jewellery. They are also not known for carpentry. However, they make almost all the tools required for their day-to-day life, such as baskets, carry bags, trays, boxes, fish traps of various kinds, hencoops, etc., using bamboo and cane as material. The wooden items they make include their boat-shaped mortar and the pestle, and, of course, canoes, so indispensable for riparian people living in flood-prone areas. Today a small percentage of their population have different categories of jobs, especially in the public sector, small trading, etc. as sources of income
Religion and Rituals
The traditional religious beliefs and practices amongst the Misings are animistic in nature. In the Brahmaputra valley, the Misings have undergone a process of acculturation: the culture and civilization of their Assamese speaking Hindu neighbors have influenced their native culture extensively over the past centuries.
They believe in different supernatural beings haunting the earth, usually unseen. These supernatural beings fall into four categories, viz. uyu or ui (usually malevolent spirits inhabiting the waters, the woods, the skies, etc. capable of causing great harm including physical devastation), urom po-sum (hovering spirits of the dead, who may cause illness or other adverse conditions), guhmeen-sohing (benevolent ancestral spirits), and épom-yapom (spirits inhabiting tall, big trees, who are generally not very harmful, but who may abduct human beings occasionally, cause some physical or mental impairment and release them later). Barring the epom-yapom, all the supernatural beings need to be propitiated with sacrificial offerings (usually domestic fowl), both periodically and on specific occasions of illness, disaster, etc. Even the benevolent guardian spirits are propitiated from time to time for the all-round wellbeing of a household. Nature worship as such is not a common practice amongst Misings. But the god of thunder is propitiated from time to time, and although not worshipped or propitiated, the Sun (who they call Ané Do:nyi ‘Mother Sun’) and the Moon (who they call Abu Po:lo ‘Father Moon’) are invoked on all auspicious occasions. The leader of their animistic faith is called a mibu (also called mirí earlier), their priest or medicine man, who is supposed to be born with special powers of communion with supernatural beings. While mibus are on their way out amongst the Misings owing to the introduction of modern education and healthcare amongst them, propitiation of supernatural beings continue to mark their religious life (see Mibu a:bang below for more on Mibus)
In addition, they have embraced in the valley some kind of a monotheistic Hinduism as passed on to them by one of the sects of the Vaishnavism of Sankardeva (1449-1568 A.D.), the saint-poet of Assam. As faiths, the two forms, animism and Vaishnavism, are poles apart, but they have coexisted in the Mising society without any conflict whatsoever, primarily because of the fact that the form of Vaishnavism, as they have been practising it, has not interfered with their traditional customs (drinking rice beer and eating pork, or using them on socio-religious occasions, for instance). Their religious life in the valley has thus assumed a fully syncretistic character, as it were, and it has given them a Hindu identity.
But now most Misings follow Hinduism along with their age old religious rituals, and there are a few Christians who follow the Catholic or Baptist faith. It has also been verified that some have converted to Islam.
Weaving and Textile
The traditional craft of weaving is a very bright aspect of Mising culture. It is an exclusive preserve of the Mising woman, who starts her training in the craft even before she reaches her teens. For the male, she weaves cotton jackets, light cotton towels, endi shawls, thick loin cloths, and, occasionally, even shirtings. For women she weaves a variety of clothes, such as ege ‘the lower garment of Mising women’, rihbi (a sheet with narrow stripes, wrapped to cover the lower garment and the blouse), gaséng (used for the same purpose as that of a rihbi, but having, unlike a rihbi, broad stripes of contrastive colours), gero (a sheet, usually off-white, wrapped round the waist to cover the lower part of the body, or round the chest to cover the body down to the knees or so), seleng gasor (a light cotton sheet, worn occasionally instead of a rihbi or a gaseng), riya (a long, comparatively narrow, sheet, wrapped, a bit tightly, round the chest), segrég (a loose piece of cloth, wrapped round the waist by married women to cover the ege down to the knees), a po:tub (a scarf used to protect the head from the sun, dirt, etc.), and níseg ( a piece of cloth to carry a baby with). Before yarn, produced by modern textile factories, was available in the market, Misings used to grow cotton and obtain cotton yarn by spinning. The use of endi yarn, obtained from worms fed on leaves of castor-oil plants, was probably common amongst them. However, they learnt the use of muga (silk obtained from silkworms fed on a kind of tall tree, called som in Assamese) and of paat (silk obtained from silkworms fed mulberry leaves) from their neighbours in the valley. Even now Mising women weave cloths, using muga and paat silk, very sparingly. Thus weaving cotton clothes is the principal domain of the Mising weaver. She has good traditional knowledge of natural dyes.
A special mention has to be made here of the Mising textile piece, called gadu. It is the traditional Mising blanket, fluffy on one side, and it is woven on a traditional loin loom. The warp consists of cotton spun into thick and strong yarn, and the weft of cotton, turned into soft yarn and cut into small pieces for insertion, piece by piece, to form the fluff. It is obvious that weaving a gadu is a very laborious affair like weaving expensive carpets, requiring the weaver to spend a lot of time on her loin loom, and, as the younger women in a family would, generally, not have enough time for such a work, it is the ageing ones staying at home that do it. There has been a drastic decline of the gadu craft during the years after independence because of the availability of inexpensive blankets in the market.
Language and Literature
Mising Agom Kébang is the Mising supreme body about Mising language. It has been working relentlessly towards development of Mising language. Mising has been introduced in primary level education in Assam. Misings have written dictionary as well as well developed grammar. Mising language belong to Indo-Tibetan group of languages. It has very close similarities with other Tani languages in Arunachal Pradesh.
Few important milestones of Mising language:
1. First Mising grammar was written in 1849 by Rev. Robinson in 'Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal' (Vol, 18, part 1, page 224).
2. After that British Political officer, Joseph Francis Needham, based in Sadiya published another Mising grammaer 'Outline grammar of the Shaiyang Miri Language as spoken by the Miris of that clan residing the neighbourhood of Sadiya', 1886.
3. First Mising books were published by Reverend JamesHerbert Lorrain in 1902 with name Isorke Doyinge (Story of God) and Jisuke Doyinge ( Story of Jesus) in 1902.
4. First Mising dictionary was published in 1910, from Shillong by Reverend James Herbert Lorrain.
5. After that, Rev. L.W.B. Jackman published "Keyum kero Kitab (1914)", "Rom Kiding kela Korintian Doying (1916) and "Mathike Annam Baibal" (1917).
The Mising language was converted to written form with written grammar in 1849. Recently, since 1980, lot of books, magazines, news papers have been published in Mising language. For example Mising Gompir Kumsung,a dictionary of Mishing by Tabu Taid.
- J. S. Bhandari Kinship, Affinity, and Domestic Group: a study among the Mishing 1992 "This is a comprehensive ethnography account of the Mishing, the first largest tribe of Assam, inhabiting the Brahamputra Valley."
- Census of India - Socio-cultural aspects, Table ST-14 (compact disc), Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, 2001
- Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 1876 Page 13 "Mr. Brown, and another in the Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society ; the Abor, of whose language we have a vocabulary prepared by Captain Smith ; the Dofiia, of which we have a grammar by Robinson : the Miri, of whose language we have a grammar prepared by Mr. Robinson (this tribe "
- Source : Mishing Blogs
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mishing people.|
- Mising Agom Kébang
- Societial adaptation to environmental changes: natural resources management and shifting definitions of territory among the Mising tribe in the Brahmaputra River floodplain (Assam, NE India), by Emilie Cremin, PhD in Geography, University Paris 8 (France).