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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Domestic Animals

Rearing domestic animals was one of the most important sources of economy even though no professional farming was noticed. Animals like fowl, dog, goat, pig, cow, mithun and buffalo are common domestic animals. A family would rear at least one or two of these animals even if one could not rear all of them (Laitanga 1982:44). The purpose of rearing animals was not for consumption as such but mainly for sacrificial purposes in times of illness and for killing in times of feast, festivals, and funerals. “Fowls and pigs are the victims for most of the personal and household sacrifices, while pigs and mithun figure generally as communal offerings” (Stevenson 1970:50). Wealth was measured on the number of mithuns one could rear. Mithun was used for Tonh feast, funeral feast, as bride price and so on. “The mithun plays an important part in sacrifices, feasts, and in the price paid for a wife” (Carey and Tuck 1976:180). Though animals were not meant for selling and making money as we understand now, they were economically useful for exchange with food grain and other animals according to the market system of the day.  Domestic animals like pig and mithun were kept beneath the house as house was built some 10-15 ft high above the ground on a sloping hill whereas fowl and dog were kept in the verandah.
Ownership of property can be classified into two categories such as “communal” and “private ownership.” Stevenson classified them into autocratic and democratic property (Stevenson 1970:78).  The land could be acquired by conquest. Therefore the “Chief is Lord of the Soil.” On this basis, the chief collected tax or tithe in the form of grain from his subjects (Stevenson 1970:81).  The land belongs to the chief.
Another principle was that public welfare took precedence over private rights. “This is the sanction for exercise by the headman of his right of redistribution of land, and it comes into operation when he is required to find land for newly married couples, for immigrants to his village, or for people who have shouldered a debt for the benefit of the community” (Stevenson 1970: 87). In a village, land was for cultivation and each household had the right to cultivate it. Land belonged to a community of a village and a portion of land cultivated for a period of time belonged to an individual who cultivated it. Ownership was temporary and lasted as long as one cultivated it. He had no right to sell or transfer to other person. The village authority under the headman had the authority how to manage the land. In some places a plot of land was exchanged with other property and belonged to individual family. At the time of British occupation private ownership of land for cultivation existed among the Zomi people called “Logam” (land of cultivation). Each family in a village had his “Logam” and cultivated it every year.  Yet, still he had to pay the tribute to the chief.  Therefore ownership of land was complex until government took over ownership of the land. This is immoveable property.
Moveable property included gong, pot, gun, necklace and animals. A big pot of silver called “Belsan” and big “gong” and cymbals were private property. Woman wore different kinds of necklaces as private property. Necklace became valued property since Chou Dynasty which every woman wore as many as one could afford (Hau Za Cin ltr.02/05/07). The most valuable necklaces included “Khipi” (long necklace), “Khinaal” (smooth necklace), “Khivom” (black necklace) and so on. “Every female child and woman throughout the hills wears her necklaces. These may be five or fifty in number, according to her ability to purchase them” (Carey and Tuck 1976:173). Necklace was not only an ornament for woman it was a valued property of a family and the more necklaces the wealthier you are. The most prized ornament of the Zomi was “the necklaces of cornelian” … always readily exchangeable for any other valuable such as cattle, guns, and slaves” (Carey and Tuck 1976:173). For the Mizos and Hakas earring was valued property whereas necklace was valued property for the Zomis. Slaves were counted as property of the owner, used for purchasing valuable objects and given to married daughters.  Stevenson listed the most valuable assets such as mithun, gong, and gun. In case of theft of these items resulted in confiscation of property and banishment with a fine up to two mithuns (Stevenson 1970:165). The seriousness of the punishment is indicative of the value of the assets.
As no buying and selling system existed, the chiefs and headmen exploited the people under their jurisdiction by taxing grains and food staff. Not only in food grains but also domestic and wild animals were taxed on the basis that they grazed on the grass belonging to the chief. There was plenty of room for nepotism and favoritism in granting a plot of land for cultivation. “It can be said with justification that the autocratic group tenure… gives too much freedom to the headman to abuse his powers by nepotism and favoritism in the granting of plots” (Stevenson 1970:99). As acquisition of land was by conquest there was no attempt to acquire land by individuals for private property. The most important assets were gun, gong, silver pot, necklace, slaves and mithun. These items are regarded as imperishable called “go” and highly prized and valued.
Inheritance systems differ from one clan to another. Some clans practice inheritance of eldest son and other clans the youngest. The most common practice is inheritance by the eldest son. All property including house, animals, utensils, grains, land if any, goes to the first born son as a successor of the father. In case of many sons in the family, distribution of property is carried out among the brothers; the first gets the largest and the youngest the least (Nok Swan Lian 1984:59). No sister is ever given a property as inheritor. The customary law of Kam Hau stated the duties and responsibilities of the inheritor which can be summarized as under:
a)     Pay the bride price of his brothers on marriage.
b)     Pay the debt of his brothers incurred before separation as a family.
c)     Administer as to when and how other brothers would acquire a house.
d)     Support the parents in old age and care those who are unmarried.
e)     Brothers can not claim if any, acquired or obtained a property or money as theirs before they are separated from parents because he is cared and brought up by parents (Nok Swan Lian 1984: 58-60).
In case a husband has many sons from one or more wives caused by death or divorce, the eldest son of the first wife (Zipi) becomes the inheritor and other sons has no right to claim.  In case a husband has no male issue and die, inheritance goes to his eldest brother (Stevenson 1970:171).
The significance of inheritance system remains in the fact that the heir continues the genealogical line. He inherits the lineage system from his father. Therefore chieftainship became a hereditary system among the Zomis.
Inheritance system is also meant for security. It is the responsibility of the heir to take care of parents in old age, provide house, food and give funeral at death. At old age parents have mental, psychological and emotional security when there is someone to care for them. “Son is important because it is through them that the family line is continued. Children will take care of you in old age” (Delaney 2004:106). In turn parents “served as admirable child-sitters, entertaining the children by telling stories and passing on the lore of the society” (Daniel Shaw 1996: 48). It is also the responsibility of the heir to take care of any brother or sister who by some reason faces inability to work and support himself or herself. Therefore inheritance carries both opportunity and responsibility in the society.
Dress is a matter of progress according to development. At the time of British occupation Zomis had been half naked. It is not possible to tell what kind of dress or body wear they had before they were exposed to the world. It is worth mentioning about hair dressing before going to clothing.
Carey and Tuck described the Zomis according to the style of hair divided into “two distinct fashions: the top-knot on the top of the head and the chignon on the nape of the neck.  The Siyins, Soktes, Thados, Yos, and Whenohs are the chignon-wearers, and the Tashons, Yahows, Hakas, and independent southerners are the top-knot men” (Carey and Tuck 1976:168). The later group (Zomis) practiced the hair style of top-knot right at the back called “Samtum” for men. Women have their hair coil style called “Samphek.”  “Women do their hair in two different ways,” unmarried adopting different style to the married women. The unmarried women have “three coils: one coil consisting of the back hair is plaited or rolled in a coil and falls down behind, tightly bound at the end with a cord or roll rag; the hair on either temple and on the corresponding half of the crown is rolled into two coils, which fall respectively in front of either ear, and ends are bound with a coil of rag to keep from becoming unrolled” (Carey and Tuck 1976:170). This is called “Sam thumphek” meaning coil haired in three rolls. Married women do their “hair in two plaits only, the hair being parted in the middle and that on the right side is plaited into a coil and falls over the right ear and similarly the other coil falls on the left side” (Carey and Tuck 1976: 170). This is called “Sam nihphek” meaning twisted hair in two rolls. Both men and women “used pig’s fat freely” for oiling hair (Carey and Tuck 1976:169). “In spite of the care and attention paid to the hair, it is never free from … lice and women picking lice out of each other’s hair and killing them… between the teeth was a loathsome practice” (Carey and Tuck 1976:169). In leisure time women picked lice from each other’s hair as enjoyment.
With regard to the proper dress discussion for men and women need separate dealing. Men had a mantle and a loincloth. A mantle is rolled round the waist or in a coil round the shoulder. It was used for the purposes of keeping the body warm not as required to cover the nakedness (Carey and Tuck 1976:170). The mantle is weaved by women with loin loom from local cotton. By this time they already knew the techniques of weaving called “loin loom” and made mantle and loincloth for themselves. They also adopted a cotton coat which fell nearly to the knee. It is shaped on the general lines of a frock coat; a sleeveless coat of the same pattern is also worn (Carey and Tuck 1976:171). This cotton coat is called “Angki” with sleeves covering almost the knee.
Children and maiden used a “cotton strip for a waistband, to which fastened innumerable strings a foot in length; the waistband is wrapped twice round the body and therefore there is a double row of strings, which screen the body and which, being knotted and sometimes beaded at the ends, swing and rattle at every movement of the limbs” (Carey and Tuck 1976:172). This is called “Mawngkhak” meaning hanging strings. Women weaved their skirts and petticoats for themselves from local cotton. The cotton cloth of women “commences at the point of hips and ends half way to the knee and serves its purpose of hiding actual nakedness” (Carey and Tuck 1976:172). This is called “Niiksiing” meaning “short skirt.”  It is a mixture of black, white, red, yellow and blue colors which look very colorful.  “Young and old go nude above the waist, both in and out of the house” (Carey and Tuck 1976:172).  The first missionaries Rev. A. Carson and Dr. E.H. East on their first visit to Saizang village described their experience with regard to dress in 1906. “The young women are scantily dressed here. Their skirts are twelve inches wide, made of braided grass fringes covering their loins. It is uncommon up here to see both men and women walking about and attending to their affairs wholly uncovered. It seems strange to us, but since it is their custom, it is natural to them; they are not ostracized from society or in the least worried about it” (E.H. East 1983: 78).  Shoes, Sandals, shocks were not in consideration to dress. They go bare foot to field or hunting in the forest. Girls have bangles, ankle bangle and necklace. The ankle bangle has a number of small silver bells attached to it which make sounds like ringing bells at every movement. This is called “Khebulh” meaning ankle bell. Women do not wear brass rings as that of Kukis and Nagas (Carey and Tuck 1976:172). Improvement in dress occurred only after British occupation especially after WWI. Former leader of Zomi Baptist Convention Rev. Gin Khan Khual says that since WWI Zomis began to use short pant and when more and more people joint the army improvement in dress developed among the Zomis (Gin Khan Khual 1998:57). Women learnt how to use long skirt after Burma independence in 1948. Today, traditional clothes include Puanlaisan (red shawl), Angki (long shirt), Tangciing (red shawl) for men; Zoniik (Zoskirt), Puanbansan (red sleeve), Puandum (black shawl), Khephiu (porcupine color) for women. These traditional dresses are used on special days like “Zomi National Day,” “Khuado Pawi” “Independence Day,” and other festivals. They are hardly used for daily dress in order to preserve its significance and importance. They are not used for dress in the church because traditional items are thought to be unsuitable for use in the church.
The popular belief still maintains that tradition and Christianity are different and oppose to one another.  If one comes to the church in traditional dress, he/she would be regarded as indecent and unmannered. Western culture including dress has been conceived as Christian culture and traditional practice including dress has been conceived as unchristian (Gin Khan Khual 1998:57).  Paul’s theological approach to other culture “To the Jews I became as a Jew that I might win the Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law” is not yet applicable to the Zomis till today (1Cor.9:20).
Diagram IV. Modernized Dress

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