|Regions with significant populations|
(Manipur · Mizoram · Assam · Meghalaya · Tripura)
|Hmar · Mizo · Hindi · English|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Lushai · Chin · Kuki · Mizo|
Hmar is the name of one of the numerous Chin-Kuki-Mizo tribes of India, spread over a large area in the northeast. The Hmars belong to the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group of tribes, and are recognised as Scheduled Tribe under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India. They are a community of approximately 100,000 in Assam, although there are more in Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura. The Hmars in olden days were known as war people; they beheaded 500 British Soldiers and were known as head hunters. Later the British sent missionaries, thus converting them to Christianity.
Literally, Hmar means North or Northern people, as they are living north to the Lusei people. But this is hotly debated among the community itself. Some scholars are of the opinion that the word originated from the style of tying the hair knot on the head.
Hmars live mostly in the hills of south Manipur, Mizoram, Cachar, Dima Hasao, Meghalaya, Tripura and Chittagong Hill Tracts. Although these areas are within different administrative divisions, they are geographically connected. In Manipur, the Hmars reside in the south, especially in the Churachandpur District and its adjoining areas. These areas, except Tuithaphai, are hilly. Tuiruong (Barak), Tuivai and Tuithapui are some of the important rivers flowing through this area. In Mizoram, the Hmars live mostly in the north, especially in the Aizawl District. In Assam, the Hmars live in the Cachar and North Cachar District. In Meghalaya, the Hmars live in the Jaintia Hills District and Shillong in Khasi Hills District. In Tripura, the Hmars mostly live in and around Darchawi, a village on the Mizoram – Tripura border.
The Hmars trace their origin to Sinlung, the location of which is hotly debated. The term “Hmar” is believed to have originated from the term “Hmerh” meaning “tying of one’s hair in a knot on the nape of one’s head”. According to Hmar tradition, there were once two brothers, namely, Hrumsawm and Tukbemsawm. Hrumsawm, the elder one, used to tie his hair in a knot on his forehead because of a sore on the nape of his neck. After his death, all his descendents followed the same hair style and the Pawis, who live in South Mizoram, are believed to be the progeny of Hrumsawm. The younger brother, Tukbemsawm, however, tied his hair in a knot on the back of his head. The Hmars, who continued Tukbemsawm’s hairstyle, are believed to be the descendants of Tukbemsawm (Songate, 1967).
Several theories have been put forward regarding the origin of the Hmars, but it appears historically evident that the Hmars originally came from Central China. A Hmar historian, H. Songate (1956), proposes that the original home of the Hmars might be the present Tailing or Silung in South East China bordering the Shan state of Myanmar. According to Songate (1956), “The Hmars left Sinlung because of the waves of Chinese immigrants and political pressure drove them away to the south. The exact time of departure from Sinlung and the original route they followed is not known to this day. However, traces have been found in poems and legends that they came to the Himalayas, and the great mountains made it impossible for them to continue their southward journey. So, they turned eastward of India from there.”
The Hmars are part of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups of people found in North East India, Burma and Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The Hmars still treasure and garner their traditional arts, including folk dance, folk songs, handicrafts, etc., representing scenes of adventure, battle, love, victory, and other experiences throughout history.
Sub-tribes or clans
The Hmar tribe comprises numerous sub-tribes or clans (Pahnam in Hmar language). In the past these clans had their own villages and their own dialects. However, today majority of the Hmar population use Hmar language. Some of the major clans are:
- CHAWNGTHU(desecendants of Lersi Saivate):
Rice is the staple food and wheat, maize, millet are the substantial cereals, which can be prepared for consumption in various ways. Large quantities of cooked rice, meat, and vegetables are consumed with various kinds of chutney, ginger, garlic, chilies, and spices. Two heavy meals of almost identical preparation a day is consumed and all else are comestibles of little significance. Since jhum cannot supply all the vegetables and meat, they constantly go to the forest seeking for vegetables, and hunting for deer, fowl, trap small game like squirrels, birds, etc. In preparation, nothing is discarded; chitterlings, such as the brain, hide and innards are all included. The Hmars eat lots of hot chilli (pepper) but with very little spice. Some of the famous dishes are chartang (mixture of meat, vegetable and hot pepper, hmepawk (stew), and changalhme (vegetable or meat cooked with hot pepper and soda made from the ashes)(Pudaite, 1963). Also, the Hmars enjoy sathu (a kind of fermented fats mostly of pork) and prepared in various dishes. The preparation for fermentation is that fat of pork is cut into pieces and cooked well. It is then put into an airtight container (preferably a traditional gourd) for some days until it is fermented. Sathu forms one of the main traditional seasoning agents for curries. Some other seasoning items like "sithu" (made from fermented sesame seeds), "bekanthu" (made from fermented soyabeans), etc. are also commonly eaten. The diet of the Hmar people is very simple. It is a typical tradition of Hmars to make a kind of porridge prepared by mixing boiled rice with almost any kind of meat (however, mostly pork, chicken, beef, some meats of wild animals) and leaves of "sizo" a wild tree with hard and a slightly bitter tasting leaves. Lye(soda) is added to dissolve the leaves thereby producing yellowish green colour. In most of the community feast, the preparation of such porridge (changal hmepawk) is a regular feature. Chutney made of very hot chillies also is very popular among the Hmars. A typical "Hmehro" prepared in such a way that any species of vegetables are dried and preserved for eating during off season also is commonly practiced by the Hmars.
The Hmars have various kinds and forms of dances for various occasions and ceremonies befitting the occasions. Some of these dances have almost been forgotten. The following are some of the prominent dances forms.
This is an ancient victory dance. It is performed in honour of successful warriors and great hunters. The Hranglam songs are believed to be among the oldest songs of the Hmar people. They hearken the past glories as well as the miseries of the people in different stages of their past history.
This dance may also be called the Pipe dance because it is performed to the accompaniment of playing of small bamboo flutes (pipes) of different sizes and length to produce different pitches of sound. The dancers themselves blow the pipes to play certain tunes of music as they dance in circle, the males and females positioned alternately. The leader of the dance conducts the dancing with the beating of a drum which he carried. He can also play the flute while beating the drum and dancing. A gong is also sounded at intervals, and victory songs Hlado are sung by the successful hunters and warriors. This is one of the popular dances performed during any In-ei ceremonies.
This is a colourful dance performed as a gesture of welcome accorded to a distinguished visitor to the village. It is also called Chawn Lam and the rich are often entertained during Inchawng festivals. The dancers dance around in circle, holding on to two corners of Hmar puon cloth and making movement of pulling down the corners to accompany the bending of the legs on the knees.
This is a war dance and is performed during big festivals. Each of the dancers carries a shield in his left hand and a sword in his right. He brandishes the sword and moves the shield swiftly as he dances. Songs of victory are sung and this is mainly the dance of the men folk and warriors.
Lal Lam or Vai Lam
This is a royal dance accorded to the Chief. It resembles the dances of the people of the plains and hence the name Vai Lam. It is performed by two or more dancing girls during the coronation of the village Chief, or high officials like the Kalim in some tribes.
Feitung Tawl Lam
This is a peculiar dance performed during Sa-in-ei as the hunter’s dance. The dance imitates how the hunter has killed the animal with the use of his spear. A spear is held in position of throwing by the dancers, and imitates the hunter as he stalks the prey.
This is a common dance. It is most elaborate and is performed with orchestral music. It is performed to the accompaniment of a set of gongs of different sizes called Dar-bu, Rawsem and Chawngpereng. Theihle is the flute made from Bamboo, Rawsem is a reed instrument made with gourd and bamboo tubes, Chawngpereng is another bamboo pipe instrument. Dar Lam is usually performed during threshing of rice paddy.
This is a dance performed as dancers sow the seeds of rice in the jhums. It is a community activity of sowing rather and cannot be strictly said to be a dance form. However, orchestrated movement and singing with drums to the accompaniment of sowing with hand hoe in the field. And therefore may be said to be a dance form.
Besides there are a number of other forms of dances which are no longer danced and have become obsolete and forgotten. Some dances are performed at random, whereas there are others that needs elaborate preparations. There are many folk songs for every occasion. Besides what has been mentioned there are also folk musical instruments like Bison horns, tingtang, darbenthek, darmang, darkhuong, darlaipawng etc. which are also in use.
In July 1986, after the signing of the Mizo Accord, some Hmar leaders in Mizoram formed Mizoram Hmar Association, later renamed the Hmar People's Convention (HPC). The HPC spearheaded a political movement for self-governance of the Hmars in Mizoram demanding Autonomous District Council (ADC) comprising Hmar-dominated areas in north and northwest of Mizoram for the protection of their identity, culture, tradition, language and natural resources. To quell and suppress the political movement, the Mizoram government deployed the Mizoram Armed Police (MAP) against the HPC activists which forced the HPC to take up an armed struggle by forming an armed wing, the Hmar Volunteer Cell (HVC). The armed confrontation continued until 1992, when HPC representatives and the Government of Mizoram mutually agreed to hold ministerial level talks. After multiple rounds of talks, a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) was signed in Aizawl on July 27, 1994 between the Government of Mizoram and the HPC. Armed cadres of the HPC surrendered along with their weapons in October 1994 and later the Sinlung Hills Development Council (SHDC) was established. Some of the HPC leaders and cadres however rejected Memorandum of Settlement and broke away from the main HPC, and formed the Hmar People's Convention - Democratic (HPC-D), which continued an armed movement for autonomy in the form of Autonomous District Council under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India within Mizoram.
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- VIRTHLI- Ushering Change (News & Info House of the Hmars)
- INPUI.COM – News & Information 'House' of the Hmar Tribe
- Hmarram.com: Hmar Online Museum
- ruonglevaisuo.com: Hmar community blog
- Hmasawnna Thar- A Hmar Daily
- Hmar Arasi – Official website of the Hmar Students' Association, Bangalore Branch
- Hmar Resources Online: The Hmar Repository
- Mumbai Tuisunsuo Weekly News
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Not available online. Available only on CD.
- Impact of Religious Journal on the Hmar Tribe in Manipur