Poumai Naga

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Poumai Naga
Glory Day celebration of the Poumai Naga.jpg
Glory Day celebration of the Poumai Naga
Total population
187,180 (2011)
Christianity Animism
Related ethnic groups
Mao Naga

The Poumai Naga is a community predominantly inhabiting the Senapati District of Manipur, though there are villages that fall in the Nagaland state, situated in the northeastern part of India. Poumai is one of the Naga tribes. Poumai Nagas are spread out over 100 villages that have been broadly divided into three blocks: Paomata, Lepaona and Chilivai. The people are known for bravery, fidelity and wisdom. The language spoken by the Poumai is called Poula. The Poumai in general follow Christianity.

Tribe recognition[edit]

Poumai Naga, as a separate tribe, was recognised by the Government of India on 31 May 2002.


According to the latest census report of 2011, the population of Poumai is about 187,180 in Manipur and 10,000 in Phek district, Nagaland. The Poumai Nagas have many festivals, dances, songs and performing arts. The most popular dances are Asah-do (prosperity dance), Rieh-do (war dance), Tahta-do (ploughing demo dance), Mate-do (seed sowing dance), and Chachu-do (harvest dance).

The Poumai were recognised as one of the distinct Naga tribes in India by the Government of India in 2003. According to the Ministry of Law and Justice, New Delhi, Paomata, Lepaona and Chilivai, taken together are recognised as the Poumai Naga tribe. The following act of Parliament (The Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act 2002) received the assent of the President on 7 January 2003. The Schedule Tribes Orders were amended in the manner and to the extent specified in the Second Schedule in Part X of the Act - Manipur - Poumai Naga, Tarao, Kharam and "Any Kuki tribes".) Prior to the recognition of the Poumai as a separate tribe it was under one roof with the Mao known as the "Mao Tribe".


The stick took root and sprouted into a Wild Pear Tree and was called "Khyataobii" at Makhel

According to the Poumai folklore (with regard to the story of migration), the roots of the tribe originated when one of their forefathers thrust his walking stick on the ground at the meeting place {before their departure from Makhel (Mekhro)}. In the course of time, it is believed that this stick took root and sprouted into a large tree (wild pear) and was called "Khyataobii". The people of Khyako, called "Tenyimia" by the people of Nagaland, hold this tree in reverence till today and in the event of any branches breaking, they observe genna with all solemnity (no one is allowed to work on that day). In the wake of this migration, the Makhel community today is scattered over different geographical areas. Some have settled in different part of Manipur while others have settled in Nagaland and elsewhere.

Oral historical accounts reveal that the first Poumai settler in Makhel was Khyapou Dukhuo and Supou Paoyuo, the settler at Saranamai. The Lepaona group settled down at Koide under the chieftainship of Napou-Rakhuo. The Proupuozei group (Proumai) migrated from Makhel and settled at Phaofii (West of the Khyouchi-Liila range) for a short period and resettled at Phaofii (Kodom). One can gather from these accounts that every village has a founder or a pioneer. One significant point about Koide village is that it has a "Holy Well" known as Shodzikhao on the eastern side of the village. It is said that the water of this Well is used for the sanctification of birth rituals, important gennas and marriage ceremonies. The Well, which remains perennial throughout the year, exists even today.

With generations, the Poumais spread out to different regions. The Maram and Thangal tribes migrated towards the southwest and the Paomata, Lepaona and Chilivai moved towards the eastern side and settled down at Sütü, now known as "Saranamei". From here, one group moved farther east and settled down at Nafü, also now known as Koide.

Locations of villages and social background[edit]

Poumai villages are strategically perched on hill tops or ridges for security reasons as tribal warfare was very frequent in those days. Stockades and fortified trenches were constructed around the villages to defend and thwart surprise attacks by enemies. However, tribal warfare was suppressed with the power of the British. Traces of such constructions can still be seen today.

Generally,due to head-hunting practice, Poumai traditional villages are strategically located on the hills. Houses are usually built in rows facing each other. Each house with a garden in the backyard, grows vegetables, fruits, sugarcane, bamboos, etc. Boys and girls sleep in groups in a house called Khoukivei or Reipeiki. The houses are decorated with buffalo skulls and man-on-the-planks sculptures.

Powers and functions of the chieftain (Mave-o)[edit]

Every Poumai village is independent. The village is nominally ruled by the Mave-o (Chieftain) and he may best be described as "nominal head" of a small state. He is the custodian of customs and traditions. Though every decision is proclaimed by him yet he does not act like king or dictator. All the decisions are taken through open discussion with clan representatives in his house, hence clan elders are highly respected in the village. His power and function is based on simple principle "if the chieftain is poor the villagers as well as the village prosper".

Whenever a rich man in the village throws a feast, a limb of the slaughtered animal and two tins of paddy are given to the Chieftain as a gesture of respect and gratitude. On such a day, the rich man is allowed to wear the prestigious shawl Hahsha called Yeshosha (a white shawl with big stitches in the middle). A stone would be erected to commemorate the occasion. The Chieftain also announces and initiates the time for cultivation.

Family life[edit]

The Poumai Naga family life is patriarchal in nature. The father is the head of the family and he not only represents the family in all matters but is also the bread earner of the family. The mother's duty is to raise the children properly and to look after household chores such as cooking, washing, and collecting firewood. The children look after their parents' daily chores so that a sense of responsibility can be developed which will come in handy in their lives later on. In fact, from morning till dusk the children are surrounded by educational activities.

Musical instruments[edit]

The Poumais have only a few musical instruments:

  • Hraoloubüii/Gaigou: a single stringed Banjo made of a dried bottle-like gourd shell
  • Chü: indigenous flute made of bamboo
  • Makai: buffalo horn
  • Ahbe: a wind musical instrument
  • Machha: a wind musical instrument
  • Ahtsii: a wind musical instrument

The Hraoloubüii/Gaigou, Ahbe, Machha and Makai are usually played by man. Traditional folk songs are sung with or without the accompaniment of instruments.


At the turn of the century, with modernity yet to make its entry, men's dress was very simple. It consisted of a kilt and a cloth. Most of the time they remained half-naked except on grand occasions. During festivals, they wore Roh-lai (diadem), Vee-hoxzü (a colourful bird's feather), Phao-hah, paongi (ivory bangles), etc. Women wore Lakiteisha (a black shawl with red and green stripes), Poüpumü (a white-skirt with black and green stripes), Bao-sa (bangles), Baoda (a brass bangle), and Toutah or Tou (necklaces). The grills could also be woven from the barks of nettle.

Food and drinks[edit]

Wild boar and deer killed during a hunt

To the Poumais, food means cooked rice. They eat three heavy meals a day. As well as rearing domestic animals for food, they also hunt wild animals and birds. Rice beer, called Pou-yu in Poumai, is a very popular drink among the Poumais. They have been skilled in brewing it from time immemorial. Most of the elders, both men and women, chew tobacco. Some of them also use hooks or hubble.[citation needed]


Amongst the tribesman of Poumai, the inhabitants of Onaema(Oinam Hill) make the earthen pots and utensils called Pouli. Some of the utensil items made by them are the tooly (rice pot), vuly (curry pot), naikhaoti (curry bowl), khouli (pitcher), duki oar) and ngaki, (a big jar for fermenting rice beer).


Important rivers like Vourei ( Barak), Ngarei ( Laini) and Phaomai Sorei (Iril) originate from hill range and provides water to all the regions of Poumai.


Week Days

Rahtho Sunday
Tapayu Monday
Philikhayu Tuesday
Vekouyu Wednesday
Thaosoyu Thursday
Kidzüyu Friday
Hahpayu Saturday
Donükhou January
Thounükhou February
Meihakhou March
Roupakhou April
Dukhou May
Nakhou June
Yükhou July
Kaokhou August
Laikhou September
Ngekhou October
Chadukhou November
Dorupakhou December

External links[edit]