Mizo people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mizo
Mizo hnam
Traditional Cheraw dance with traditional attire
Total population
1,400,000+ (2011–2019)[a][1][2]
Regions with significant populations
 Republic of India
830,846–1,000,902 (2011)[b][3]
 Myanmar400,000[2]
 Bangladesh70,000[4]
 United States50,000[5]
 Singapore20,000[6]
 Australia15,000[7]
 Malaysia6,000[8]
 Israel5,000[9]
Languages
Mizo language
Religion
Majority:
Christianity[10]
Minority:
Judaism, Buddhism, and Mizo religion
Related ethnic groups
Kukish-speaking peoples like Chin people, Kuki people, and Southern Naga people (Zo).
Others like Meitei people, other Naga people, and Jingpo people

The Mizo people, historically recorded as the Lushais, are an ethnic group native to the state of Mizoram in India and neighbouring states of Northeast India. They speak the Tibeto-Burman language of Mizo, the official language and lingua franca of Mizoram. The state is the second most literate state in India, at more than a rate 90%.[11]

The Chin people of Myanmar and the Kuki people of India and Bangladesh are the kindred tribes of Mizos[12] and many of the Mizo migrants in Myanmar have accepted the Chin identity. The Chin, Kuki, Mizo, and southern Naga peoples are collectively known as Zo people (Mizo: Zohnahthlak; lit. "descendants of Zo") which all speak the Kukish languages.[13]

Etymology[edit]

The term Mizo is derived from two Mizo words: Mi () and Zo. Mi () in Mizo means "person" or "civilian". The term Zo has three meanings. According to one view, Zo means 'highland' or perhaps 'remote' (Willem van Schendel's term Zomia).[14] Another meaning is "cool" or "crisp" (i.e., a sense/feeling of cool and refreshing air/environment of higher altitude. "Zo" is never used to denote all cool/cold temperatures; the term for such temperature is "vawt"). And finally, it can also be used to refer the Zo people (Chin-Kuki-Mizo).

Mizo is a broad ethnic classification of subgroups or clans inhabiting Mizoram (in colonial times the Lushai Hills) in India. Members of many subgroups, especially speakers of the Central Kuki-Chin languages have joined and adopted the Mizo category.[15]

Ancestral Origins[edit]

Some Mizos have a belief that their ancestors left a place known as "Chhinlung" to immigrate. Some agree that this location is in southern China,[16] situated near on the banks of Yalong River.[16] The Mizos have songs and tales that have been passed down from one generation to the next by influential people about the splendor of the old Chhinlung civilization.[16] However, it has not be archaeologically approved.

Historical settlements[edit]

According to K. S. Latourette, there were political upheavals in China in 210 B.C. when the dynastic rule was abolished and the whole empire was brought under one administrative system. Rebellions broke out and chaos reigned throughout the Chinese state, and the Mizos left China as part of one of those waves of migration. They arrived in the Shan States for the first time in the fifth century. When Mizos arrived there from Chhinlung, the Shans had already established themselves firmly in their States. The Shans did not accept the Mizos as guests but did not exclude them either. Before relocating to the Kabaw Valley in the 8th century, the Mizos had happily resided in the Shan States for almost 300 years.

It was in the Kabaw Valley that Mizos had cultural influence with the local Burmese. It is conceivable that the Mizos learned the technique of cultivation from the Burmese at Kabaw as many of their agricultural implements bore the prefix Kawl, a name given by the Mizos to the Burmese.[17]

A carved-out stone in the necropolis of Vangchhia

Khampat in the Kabaw Valley (now in Myanmar) is known to have been the next Mizo settlement. The area claimed by the Mizos as their earliest town was encircled by an earthen rampart and divided into several parts. The residence of the ruler stood at the central block called Nan Yar (Palace Site). The construction of the town indicates the Mizos had already acquired considerable architectural skills. They are said to have planted a banyan tree at Nan Yar before they left Khampat as a sign that the town was made by them.[18]

A typical Mizo village during the early 1900s

In the early 14th century, they moved westward to Indo-Burmese border into the Lushai Hills. They built villages and called them by their clan names such as Seipui, Saihmun, Bochung, Biate, Vangchhia, etc. The hills and difficult terrains of Chin Hills forced division into several villages and ethnic diaspora arose.[19]

Language[edit]

The modern Mizo people speak the Mizo language, a member of the Sino-Tibetan languages and one of the official languages of Mizoram, along with English.[20] Like the Chinese language, Mizo is a tonal language, meaning one syllable's meaning changes depending on the tone.[21]

Other regional dialects include Hmar, Biate, etc. The Mizos did not have their own ancient script.

Currently, in Mizoram, the Roman script is used to write the Mizo language using the Hunterian transliteration. Locally, it is commonly known as the "Mizo A AW B", or "Mizo Hawrâwp."[22] The Mizo language can be read by 91.3% of the population of Mizoram, making the state to have the third-highest literacy rates in India.[23]

Culture and society[edit]

The Mizo culture is diverse and rich due to the various tribes and clans. After the 19th century, it has been heavily based on Christianity—the main festival of the Mizos is Christmas, or locally known as Krismas.[24] In addition, the attire for men are influenced by the Western culture; they wear coats.[25] Even though the Mizos still valued their ancient customs and values, much has changed beyond recognition. There has been a recent trend toward going back to the basics.[26]

Art and Craft[edit]

Handloom and handicraft exhibition at Aizawl, Mizoram.

A wide range of art and craft products are sold at Mizoram's markets. The main subset of craftwork is textiles, bamboo, cane, and basketry. Many women engage in weaving and basketry, but because Mizoram is known for its expertise in bamboo cane craftwork, the bamboo cane industry blossoms and prospers.[27] Besides producing bamboo baskets, the Indian economic census covered that Mizo artisans create cane stools, gourd crafts, and pottery across its districts and subdivisions.[28]

Cuisine[edit]

The majority of the non-vegetarian dishes eaten by the Mizos are served on banana leaves and are representative of rich cuisine. When preparing cuisine, mustard oil is utilized along with spices like garlic, ginger, and chilli. They have less spice in their diet than other places. Their staple food is rice, which they pair with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian curries. The scent of the food is provided by the usage of bamboo shoots. Bai (a stew made with a variety of veggies), Vawksa Rep (smoked pork), and Arsa Buhchiar (chicken porridge) are a few examples of classic Mizo dishes.[27]

Dance[edit]

Cheraw dance with traditional Mizo attire

Mizo people are excellent in performing arts. Cheraw dance, also referred to as the bamboo dance, is considered to be the oldest dance of the Mizos, dating back until the 1st century while the Mizos were still in Chhinlung, China before their great migration. The dance is now performed in almost all festivals and occasions.[29] Other dances include Chheih Lam, Khual Lam, and Solakia. Note that Lam in Mizo means "dance."

Musical instruments[edit]

Darkhuang, also known as Zamluang or Jamluang

From time immemorial, the Mizos have been using different musical instruments. They can broadly be divided into three: striking instruments, wind instruments, and stringed instruments.

  • Striking instruments include the Khuang (drum), Dár (gong), Darkhuang/Zamluang (large brass drum), Darbu (three-note gong), Darmang (small gong), Bengbung (xylophone-like instrument), Talhkhuang, and Seki (hollow horns).
  • Wind instruments include the Rawchhem (bagpipe-like instrument), Tumphit, Tawtawrawt (bamboo trumpet), Phenglawng (bamboo flute), Buhchangkuang (Reed or paddy stalk flute), and Hnahtum (leaf).
  • Stringed instruments include the Ṭingṭang (pronounced treeng-trang, guitar), Lemlawi (harp), and Tuium Dar (three strings with unique notes each).

Khuang is the only Mizo traditional musical instrument that is popularly used in the present day. In the olden days, Khuang had no role in religious functions; but today, the use of Khuang is a must in every church service.[30]

Traditional clothing[edit]

Mizo traditional attire showcased in the Mizoram State Museum.

A typical Mizo traditional attire for men comes with a big puan that varies colors, and different style of wearing it. They wear a shorter puan that are above the knees at the bottom. In order to protect themselves from the heat during the summer, they are often seen with clothing around their waists and a type of turban on their heads. In modern days, people prefer t-shirts with traditional patterns.
There are numerous Mizo women's traditional outfits. The most popular one is the Puan, which has three items of clothing—a shirt, a pair of leggings, and a head covering that resembles a dupatta—and is pretty similar to a churidar and a kurta. Even though puan is one of their favorite outfits, they like to wear 'Puanchei' on special occasions and during weddings. It is essentially a two-piece outfit with a top or shirt worn over the long skirt-like lower portion. The stunning blouse is called Kawrchei. It is hand woven from cotton stuff. When dancing, the blouse is frequently paired with puanchei. These have typically vivid colors and chequered patterns.

Tlawmngaihna[edit]

Tlawmngaihna (t͡lɔmŋaɪʔna) is a social code of conduct in Mizo culture that has no direct translation into English. It essentially means to be ethical, gracious, considerate, and helpful to others. A saying in the Mizo culture goes:

Sem sem dam dam,
ei bil thi thi"

which can be interpreted to:

Those who hoard will perish
but who shares will live"

This saying was important during the 1958 famine in the Mizo Hills.[31] Another part of the Mizo's tlawmngaihna is the Nghah Loh Dawr shops. In Mizoram, it is quite typical to see sheds or small shops by the side of the road where vegetables and fruits are stored with signs stating the prices of things, but no merchant in sight. It is trusted that onlookers will pick up what they require and deposit the cash in a box. The customers are urged to assist themselves from the same container if they need to make a change. The shops operate under the tenet of trust.[32]

Religion[edit]

Sakhua[edit]

Pre-colonialist Mizos were animists, i.e. they followed Lushai animism in which the Lushai tribes believed in nature-based spirits and other natural living objects.[33]

Christianity[edit]

Mizo people were influenced by British missionaries in the 19th century, as the British Raj subjugated the chieftainship under its dominance, which they later abolished by Assam-Lushai District (Acquisition of Chief's Rights) Act, 1954[34] The spread of education by Christian missionaries led to a high literacy rate of 91.58% by 2011. Almost all the Mizos also adopted Christianity, and most continue to be so till the present day.[35]

Bnei Menashe[edit]

In the 19th century, European Christian missionary activity in the region led to conversion of some Chin, Kuki, and Mizo peoples. In the mid-to-late 20th century, a rather small number of Mizo and related ethnic peoples in Assam and Mizoram began practicing Judaism, after a community leader had a dream in 1951 that they were descendants of the biblical figure Manasseh, a lost tribe of Israel.[36] They number, at most, several thousand in a population of more than 3.7 million in these states. Genetic studies have shown very low affinity with Middle Eastern peoples (including ethnic Jews),[37][38] and rabbinic authorities in Israel have acknowledged Bnei Menashe people as Jews subsequent to their conversion to Judaism under normative Jewish practices. Several hundred have already emigrated to Israel, where they must undergo complete conversion to be accepted as Jews.

Clans[edit]

There are five major clans or tribes of the Mizo people which are Hmar, Lusei, Ralte, Lai (Pawi), and Mara (Lakher) which are known as the awzia.[16] Some Lais and Maras may not identify as Mizo due to political and linguistical differences.[39]

Hmar[edit]

A Mizo chief from 1909.

Hmar in the Lusei dialect of Mizo means "north," indicating that the Hmars lived at the north of the Luseis. They are descendants of Manmasi, who came out of the Chhinlung cave, known as Sinlung in the Hmar dialect.

The Hmars have royal sub-clans. After reaching present-day Khampat in the Kabaw Valley of Myanmar, they established themselves there, according to L.H. Songate, and started the system of a chieftainship. Three chiefs (Hmar: Reng) were chosen by the Hmar King (Hmar: Renpui) Chawnmanga to lead his realm. Chawnmanga then gave Lersia authority over the kingdom's southern region, Zingthlova over its northern region, and Luopuia over its central region. Then split to thre kingdoms.[40]

King Lersia (c. 920–970 A.D.) was considered one of the greatest Kings of the Mizo people, as he established trade with the Shans and Burmese, with his kingdom spanning 40,000 miles.[41]

Historical cities of Mizoram such as Biate and Vangchhia were historically inhabited by the Hmars.[42]

Lusei[edit]

The Luseis were the first Mizo people that the British encountered and hence the whole Mizos was initially known as the Lushai people.[43] The Luseis are also a relatively new clan as they started entering present-day Lushai Hills at around 1700 A.D.[44]The word Lusei comes from two Lusei Mizo words, Lu meaning "head," and sei meaning "long."

Ralte[edit]

The word Ralte is made up of two words, ral meaning "enemy" and te being a plural marker. Because of their high-pitched voice, the Ralte people are regarded to be the noisiest members of the Mizo people.[45]

The Ralte dialect is endangered and only spoken by 700-900 people.[46]

Lai (Pawi)[edit]

Pawi is a name given by Lusei to those who tie their hair on the top of their foreheads. The Pawi themselves do not call themselves Pawi but Lai.[47] Hakha, or Halkha in the Mizo language, is the capital city of Chin State which is the main settlement of Pawis in Myanmar, where they are known as the Hakha Chin people.

The Hakha Chin people do not identify themself as Mizo and prefer the name Lai or Chin.

In 1953, India adopted a constitution defining itself as a Sovereign Democratic Republic. At that time, the Lai people of the southern part of Mizoram, a segment of the much larger population of Lai/Chin, were granted an Autonomous District Council under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution, to support their identity. Lawngtlai was created as the headquarters of Lai Autonomous District Council.[48]

Mara (Lakher)[edit]

The Maras are called Lakher by the Luseis. They live in the Lushai Hills' southeast section. Although the Maras are said to have originated in the north, it is known that they all traveled from various locations in central Chin State to their current residences, most likely as a result of pressure from the east. It is possible to fairly precisely follow the path of their migration to the current area. Both the Siaha and the Saiko are Tlongsai people, and they claim to have come from a site named Leisai, which is located between Leitak and Zaphai. Their habitation in the Lusei Hills is said to have been established about 200–300 years ago.[49]

Political, linguistic and economic situation[edit]

After Indian independence, the democratic change in the administrative set-up of Mizoram led to an anti-chief movement. The feeling was widespread against the autocratic chiefs and for the Mizo Union. In 1955, at a meeting of representatives of various Mizo villages held in Aizawl, the demand arose for a separate hills state. The local people felt they had been ill-served by the Assam Government during the Mautam famine.

When in 1960 the government introduced Assamese as the official language of the state, there were many protests against the Official Language Act of 1961. This was followed by the March 1966 Mizo National Front uprising,[50] resulting in attacks on the military installations in Aizawl, Lunglei and other towns. The Mizo National Front, formerly known as Mizo National Famine Front, declared independence from India.

The Indian government designated Mizoram as a Union Territory on 21 January 1972. Pu Laldenga, the President of Mizo National Front,[51] signed a Peace accord in 1986 with the Government of India, stating Mizoram was an integral part of India. Pu Laldenga came to the ministry in the Interim government which was formed in coalition with Congress in 1987. The Statehood of Mizoram was proclaimed on 20 February 1987.

Present demand for inclusion in the Eighth Schedule[edit]

With 91.58%[35] literacy, the 2nd highest in Indian states, Mizoram is a leader in the national emphasis on education. Because of this, its people have demanded that Mizo ṭawng be recognized as an official language in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.[52]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ including the Mizo diaspora's respective statistics
  2. ^ Mizo proper: 830,846; Hmar, Lakher, and Pawi combined with Mizo proper: 1,000,902

References[edit]

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