Kom people (Manipur)

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Kom people
Total population
c. 2001 14,602[1]
Regions with significant populations
Northeast India
Kom language
Christianity  · Traditional religion
Related ethnic groups
Chin  · Kuki  · Mizo • Meitei

The Kom are one of the Tibeto-Burman speaking tribes mainly found in Manipur, North-East India.[2] They are scattered over all the districts of Manipur. They are a sub-tribe of Komrem/Komhrem. Even though they are referred as "Kom", among them they refer to themselves as Kakom. Koms are found in the Northeastern states of Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and Tripura. The majority of the Kom population reside in Manipur. They are found in all the districts of Manipur and concentrated mainly in the districts of Churachandpur, Bishenpur and Senapati.

Their origin is unclear as they were nomadic people till they entered Manipur. They entered Manipur through Tripura. Their clan names come into existence only when they came out of a cave.[citation needed] The location of the cave is believed to be somewhere in the borders of China. Shongthu, Saiche, Misai and Mirem were the names of the leaders who came out of the cave. The names of these leaders became the Clan names of the Kom people. Even though Telien and Mhangte did not take part in the cave incident, they later came to be established as clan names. These people are referred as Kom by the British Raj. The present Kom people are just a small percentage of the descendants of Shongthu, Saiche, Misai, Mirem, Telien and Mhangte. According to 2001 Census of India, the population of Kom is 14,602.[3] The present clan names and their original clan name are as follows:

Original Name Present Name
Shōngthu Karōng
Saiche Serto
Misai Leivon
Mirem Lupheng
Telien Telien
Hmangte Hmangte

Even though the clan names have changed through generations, the elders of each of the main original clans are still among the Kom people. The majority of this community are Christian. Their stories-folklore and legends- are passed down through generations by oral/verbal forms or word of mouth.[citation needed]

Before they came out of the Cave[edit]

The Koms believe that they journeyed from Middle East, near Reed Sea or Sea of Reeds near Red Sea (in Kom: Tuita-at meaning Cut by Water) and finally settled in Manipur, India. Even before that, they believe that, there was once an island in which there was a Kingdom known as Manmasi Kingdom. The King was known as Manmasi and the people were called Sons of Manmasi. During those times they worshiped three gods namely, Rampu, Okpa and Sentai. A day came when there was a misunderstanding between the Birds and the Reptiles and they declared war on each other. The battle between the animals was so violent that the three gods began to fear that it might spread beyond the Kingdom of Manmasi. So they combined their powers and lifted the island up into the sky. In the process, all living things died. There was a particular tree in which a potion of "Life and Heal" was present. The tree is called Bongpuijamtrai. Even that huge tree fell and the potion was spilled and then vaporized. All the living things that felt the vapor came to life again. All the Sons of Manmasi who came back to life lived on the hovering island for generations. when finally, there came a time when the oxygen was no more in the atmosphere. The plants began to die. And so it happened that one family known as Purhing-Pudam made a flying object called Rot-Rakong and came down to earth once again. They landed in the middle east Asia in the kingdom of the great Lion Wizard. They somehow killed him and took his lands. When they reached earth they sang songs of the hovering island. The hovering island is none other than our Moon. In Kom, it is known as "THLA" meaning farewell. The moon song is given below:

In Kom In English
Thla aw dilong dilong,

Antram par par no ning
Theimi don don no ning
Kukalukpa thlavar lai a mancha kur kur.

Oh shining Moon

Mustard flower will no longer bloom
Wild berries will no longer have new buds
When you shine, pungent smell will fill the atmosphere.

Coming through the Cave[edit]

Shongthu was hunting with his dog and the dog was barking into one particular hole, which was big enough for one to enter. So Shongthu entered and found that it led to the other side. A huge tiger was guarding the exit. Shongthu returned to his village, telling the villagers about it. All of them decided to leave their present village and venture out. He led the people and Saiche was among them. Shongthu wore a shawl which had a similar pattern to that of the tiger's stripes. He went near to the tiger. The tiger was sitting there waiting to kill anything coming out of the cave. Shongthu shouted to the tiger saying "Tiger, we are brothers, see, I have stripes like yours and the people coming with me are my brothers, so do not kill us." He added "If I kill you or any species of your family then let me have great loss in my family and if you kill me or my family then let your teeth fall out." During the conversation, Saiche shot an arrow at the tiger and the tiger died. The descendants of Shongthu keep the vow, especially Karoungs keep it to this day with some exceptions after Christianity. The Karoungs believe the vow was indeed very powerful and so they do not kill or eat any member of the Cat Family. They also believe that the Cat family too still observe this.

Hair Styles (Traditional)[edit]