This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (April 2015)
Strictly speaking, Lai are the people belonging to the Lai Autonomous District Council of Mizoram, North-East India. From a historical point of view, Lai is a dominant tribe of the so-called Chin-Kuki–Lushai, the community is scattered in different parts of the world, mainly concentrating in Mizoram, Chin Hills of Burma, South Bangladesh (identified as Bawm), Manipur, etc.
The Lai who are living in the Lai Autonomous District of Mizoram are but a segment community of the much larger Lai (Hakha) population of Burma and elsewhere to whom whatever name may be given. Regarding their origin, they share common ancestry with those of any mongoloid race in the Northeast India. Further back, a historic tradition has it that Lai were a people who had once lived in China. They migrated through the Tibetan mountains moving further towards the East to become a major tribal group in the Chin Hills of Burma from where same few came the to present habitat (Mizoram) in the beginning of the 18th century or earlier.
The Lai are also believed to be the main tree of the Qin Dynasty. The Bible which is commonly used in Chin Hills is called the Lai-Hakha Bible. It is also said that the word Shendoo or Shendu, which was frequently used to denote the Lakher (Mara) in the Britisher's record, were said to be the offspring of Lai. F. Chhawnmanga, a retired District Adult Education Officer, under the State Government of Mizoram, who has conducted an extensive personal interview with some chiefs of Lakher, tells. The Lakher chief Mr. Kilkhara of Saiha and Tawngliana of Serkawr Villages were the descendants of Lianchi and Alkheng respectively of Hlawnchhing family of Hakha. They spoke Lai language. However, after coming down to Mizoram, their names were translated into Lakher dialect and Themselves Kikhaw and Thylai. The above arguments seem to be supported by the statement of Vumson, thus: The Lakher (Mara) are the branch of Lai tribe and speak a language closely related to Lai. They are the same people as Shendoo to whom Col. Lewin made constant reference in his various works and are still called Shendoo by the Arakanis. There are many common clan names like Hlawnchhing, Chinzah, Khenglawt, Thianhlun, etc. which are found between the Lai and Maras. This is an incation of the fact that Lai and Mara are one and the same people. Apart from the above-mentioned groups, there are other linguistic groups that were found to have the same culture and customs, speak similar language with the Lai. These groups do qualify for Lai in terms of social, cultural and linguistic. Those groups are Bawm and Tlanglau living in the western part of Mizoram and Bangladesh.
- Lalthangliana, B.: History and Culture of Mizo in India, Burma and Bangladesh, 2001. RTM Press. Aizawl. pp. 101–102.