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Liangmai tribe of mongoloid race inhabits Nagaland and Manipur states of Northeast India. The area of their domination spreads across Peren district in Nagaland state and Tamenglong, Senapati, Imphal East and Imphal West districts in Manipur. Dominating town of the Liangmais include Tening town, sub-division of Peren district of Nagaland state, and Tamei town, sub-division of Tamenglong district of Manipur state.
It is a community of about one lakh people. Liangmai population in Manipur state is higher than that of Nagaland. No Liangmais in Manipur follow any other religion but Christianity since 2003. Liangmais are obsessed to socializing and are not conservative but broadminded. They are known for excellent hospitality in their homes.
With Football and Volleyball a popular sports nowadays, once upon a time common sports including wrestling, taming of wild bull and climbing up bamboo pole are in the verge of complete extinction. The trend of living at high altitude still continues although some have now moved down to the foothills. The Liangmais, even today enjoy the maximum luxury of nature – pollution free air, spring water, organic food and the blue mountain range that don’t seem to end. Love for music came down from generations and it is skeptical that music would be given a fullstop in generations to come. Openness for pop, jazz, country music and rock are followed by gospel music.
Liangmai, as a separate tribe in Manipur state, was recognized by the Government of India on 22 December 2011.
The Liangmai is one of the tribes of Northeast India, part of the Hamai group in specific and the Nagas in general. Originally, Liangmais are from Mongolian region (Not necessarily from present Mongolia). They began their migration from Mongolia somewhere around 7th century BC, before or during the early construction of Great Wall of China in China-Mongolia borders. However, there was no written source to prove their dispersions, movements, and journey from Mongolia. One has to completely base on oral tradition to re-construct their history. It is believed that there were different waves of migration from Mongolia and spanning hundreds of years. After their dispersions from Mongolia, different groups moved into different directions, settled in one areas or another for long years before their next moved. Some of them reached the South-eastern Asian regions which are near the seas, some into different southern islands, some groups to Burma, Thailand and India. It is also observed that some groups remained in China heartlands. However, there is no straightforward historical information on the dates, places, cultures and other historical aspects that were encountered in their migration processes. The Hamais or the one wave of Nagas journeying through many regions, took hundreds of years and finally reached a place which was named as "Makhel", a historical village in present Senapati District, also considered as one of the abodes of the Nagas. Liangmai like any tribal/indigenous community has rich language and culture. According to Kaikhamang "The Liangmais are the Hamais and Hamais are the Liangmais," because Liangmai dialect was the lingua franca of the Hamais during their historical settlement in Makuilongdi village - which is also known as the "abode" of the Hamai people. Among the past Hamai community, the Liangmais were the leaders - the heir of the Hamai ruler. It is because of this, the Liangmai dialect is known as chara lad (means God's language) among the people of Hamai. There is still a living community among the Hamais that uphold this traditional view by making use of Liangmai language in religious rituals, rites and other religious activities (songs, chanting, poems) even though some of them do not literally know the language. When it comes to tracing the origin of the Liangmai/Hamai, it is always difficult. One has to depend sole on the oral tradition as the only source in examining their history. On the other hand, oral tradition is a living and dynamic source for the Liangmais to trace back their origin, their migration, their present settlement and even their history, socio-polity, economy, religious-culture, tradition and worldview. We will begin with the Liangmais from pre-historical origin to their arrival at Makhel and Makuilongdi.
Pre-Makhel: The history of the origin of the Liangmais before their arrival in Makhel is a mixture of myths, pre-history, stories, and other oral traditions. Apart from the Mongolian origin mentioned above, researcher like Nampibou Marinmai based on folktales, traces back the origin of the Liangmai to a mountain called Thonbutlong, where a river Alou-duiriang-tukhuang circle around the mountain eight times. Some scholars trace back the Liangmais were once from a place known as "Sinluong". There is no prove whether this ‘Sinluong' has any reference to a particular place in China. Even the Hmar-Mizos believe that they were originally from Sinlung which may be one of the present province in China. It is also said that the Liangmai in their migration process crossed duika (which means white water or river). Some assume that it might be Hwang-Ho river or Yang-Sikiang river in China or the Chindwin river or Irrawaddy river both in Myanmar or might be the Brahmaputra in India. In the course of their exodus they also settled in Yunnan province of China probably in Shangri-La area, where the Liangmai and the other Naga communities had a close connection with one communities like the Tibetans, Karens, Kachins, Chins, and others. Shangri-La is located at Yunnan Province in China which is dominated by the Tibetans in the early and medieval period. This place is remembered as the resting place for many communities in their migration history. This is proved by their languages they speak because those groups who settled their in Shangri-La in the process of their journey are considered as the people that spoke the languages that come under Tibeto-Burman linguistic group.
Their folktales also mentioned that they once arrived near a (duiliu) sea/ocean. There is another account which presumes that the Liangmai once reached the Bay of Bengal or the Indian Ocean. This is supported by the ornaments they used such as embellishment made of conchs, shells, beads and other sea-based ornaments. Moreover, it is supported by their familiarity of the story of Marangwangbou story (a similar version of the story of Rama), where he and his friends went to Lanka to fight against Abonbou (Ravana). This confirms that they were once close to the seas. What so ever be, thus, they continued to sojourn from one place to another and finally reached a place came be known as Makhel village a historical landmark that is presently located in Senapati district of Manipur.
At Makhel: Makhel village is a land of many Naga tribes. Many groups of the Nagas came from different directions and reached Makhel village in present Senapati District of Manipur. One of the groups was Tenyimia in which the Liangmais/Hamais were included. They lived at Makhel for a long time. But due to some reasons such as overpopulation, disunity among the people, lack of resources for the mass population, there was dispersion among the different tribes to different directions. According to Sujata Miri, one of the reasons for their dispersion was because of overpopulation. Therefore, the Liangmais/Hamais left Makhel and reached a place called Ramting Kaben (the word "Ramting Kaben" literally means "sky midway". It is said that Ramting Kaben is a cave or space from where the stars can be seen even in the day light. The place was a safe place for the people from the enemies but no suitable for human settlement because the climate was "stifling". Therefore, they moved out of Ramting Kaben and sojourned to Chawang Phungning (king's plot) also known as Gwangphuning (Old village). There at Chawang Phungning they lived for some years and they moved westward and reached Makuilongdi.
Makuilongdi: The Abode of the Hamais Makuilongdi village was a big village it covered some hill tracts probably reaching far distances where strong person on foot would take three days and three nights to pass from North to South and from East to West. In course of time, the village came to have 7777 households. In those days, Nguibou was the king of the whole land. He and his wives had three sons. After him, his son Kadingbou was appointed as his successor to rule over the vast land. Yet the settlement in Makuilongdi however was not lasting due to many factors. It was said that the land was over populated. Secondly, people could not able to return from the fields once they visited their fields and normally it took 10-30 days to return back to the village. It was also mentioned that there was famine in Makuilongdi and people moved out of the village in search of new lands. These elements are quite related to one another as the main factors for the dispersion of the Hamais from Makuilongdi. Kadingbou the successor of his father's throne and his followers stayed behind in Makuilongdi and its surrounding places, and they are known as Liangmai (the Northern settlers). Magangtubou, his step brother and his followers went to Ramzengning (valley) and became the Zeme. His younger brother Renbangbou and his followers preceded South-ward to Kamarongbojam (empty land) and they were known as Rongmei. Another group went to the South-Eastern parts and came to be known as Puimei.
The Liangmai Naga communicate among themselves in Lianglad. Literally translating, Lianglad means the language of the Liangmais.Zeliangrong Legend has it that Lianglad is the ‘language of the gods’.The people called it "charalad" which is made up of two words "chara" means god and "lad" means language. The pagans from Rongmei tribe are known to be still using "lianglad" or "charalad" while performing rituals(Rongmei called it "rah lad" "rah" in Rongmei means god and "lad" language). Before the advent of Christianity, the people practiced paganism. Thus according to their belief, nature like mountains, caves, rivers, trees, etc. were ruled or governed by gods. And it is these gods that speak Lianglad.
Lianglad spoken in Nagaland and Manipur differ from each other in the accent. Even within Nagaland and Manipur, the accent changes with regions. For example, in Manipur, the northerners have a gentler accent than those of the southerners.
In 2002, Lianglad was listed as one of the endangered dialects. But today, with the increasing number of Liangmai population, its speakers are increasing, and it is one of the most spoken dialect among the dialects of the Nagas. Researchers and scholars have started audio recording of the dialect as parts of their thesis and projects, and at the same time, these recordings will serve a great deal in the preservation of the dialect in the long run. The State Government of Manipur approved the recognition of "Lianglad" on 23 May 2013. Hence LIANGLAD has now been officially recognized and will be used in schools as medium of instruction in schools.
Liangmai is made up of two words LIANG and MAI. MAI means people. Thus, Liangmai means the people of LIANG. Different people have their own version for the meaning of the word LIANG. The most accepted meaning of the word "LIANG" today is "Support" or "grouped as one". Thus, "Liangmai" means the people who have grouped themselves in support of each other to live together as one community or tribe.
The attire is one of the cultural heritages of the Liangmais. Mostly, the traditional attires are hand-woven. Some popular clothes of the community are "ngumthua phai" being the most common among shawls, besides there are other traditional attires like, Maranpan, a shawl for both men and women; Henglan nina, girdle to wrap around the waist for women; Tareh phai, a shawl for men. The Liangmai community has different attires for different occasions. Each piece of cloth has a specific connotation attached to it. For example, there are attires which are meant only for married women or for maidens. Also, there is a particular attire to be worn to funerals, to weddings, to celebrations etc.
The staple food of the Liangmais are rice, fresh meat, green vegetables, etc. etc. Popular traditional food items are jiangdui, a taste maker extracted from the juice of mustard leaves; tasun, potted bamboo shoot; and tasang, processed or fermented soyabean.
Today, the Liangmais engaged themselves in different occupations and professions. Primarily, the majority of the liamgmai men and women are agriculturalists, the mosltly practised jhum or shifting cultivation. Few educated among them work as government servants, social workers, businessman and businesswoman. Rearing or domestication of animals is also a major part of their livelihood.
Chaga-Ngee, the biggest festival of the Liangmai community is celebrated in the month of October. Today, this festival that showcases Liangmai's rich culture and tradition is celebrated on 30 October every year. The venue of Chaga-Ngee is usually held at Tamei and Dimapur town. According to historical accounts, Chaga-Ngee is a celebration for victorious war to honour brave warriors. It is also a festival of purification/sanctification and re-dedication for their next assignments. However, in the modern context, the prime reason of organizing this event is to keep alive the rich culture and tradition of Liangmai. On this day, both old and young Liangmais gather in their traditional attires and sing folk songs, dance folk dances, play traditional games and sports, etc.
Other major festivals
These celebrations are accompanied by singing, dancing, feast and merrymaking.
- Kaimui, a Delhi-based bi-monthly newsletter in Liangmai