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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Life before British annexation

As they lived in hill region where there was no practically communication there was no contact among them for centuries.  They began to regard as enemies and fought one another for supremacy (Khup Za Go 1996:29). Stevenson records that in AD 1800 the Ngawns
and Khuanglis destroyed Mualbeem and conquered Zahau and Lushai capturing the Lushai Chief Vuta. Wars between Tashon and Siyins resulted in the destruction of Sizang village Lophei. Khan Thuam was re-instated as chief of Mualbem by Zahau at the same time.  In 1856 Zahau and Kam Hau raided into Manipur Hills and annexed the northern territory (Stevenson 1970:12-14). The period from AD 1400-1885 could be termed the year of tribal war by which they were known as “head hunters.” C.Thang Za Tuan the retired Director of Education in Myanmar recorded one of the most popular war songs of the Zomis.
a) Hing ee, hi na pet ing ee, pasal that a kei ka hi, hi na pet ing ee.
b) Hinge e, hi na pet ing ee, nupi that a kei ka hi, hi na pet ing ee.
(Thang Za Tuan 1985:4).
a) Indeed, I am indeed, who killed a man, indeed, I am indeed.
b) Indeed, I am indeed, who killed a woman, indeed, I am indeed.
At Teizang village Kawi Hang from a Zah Lang clan became famous for his prowess and collected tax first among the northern Chins. His valor was preserved by a song he composed.
a) Hong en un, hong en un, Gelkawn nuai hong en un.
b) Gelkawn nuai hong en un, lal lu sia vau paak bang.
Translation (mine):
a) Come on, come on, and look at Gelkawn valley.
b) Look at the Gelkawn valley, full of enemies’ head as flowers. (Thang Za Tuan 1985:37). He was said to have collected dry heads of enemies he killed at the narrow valley Gelkawn near the village.  During this period frequent tribal war took place among the Kam Haus, the Zahaus, the Meiteis of Manipur and the Sailos of Lushai Hills (now Mizoram). Unable to resist the Sukte raid, the Lushais made a treaty with the Suktes by killing and anointing with the blood of a dog at Champhai in 1849. The treaty runs like this, “Until and unless the Chindwin river turned upside down and the feather of wild pigeon grew an arm’s length, there would be no war between the two parties” (Sukte Chronicle Vol.VI :34).  Around 1871 just before British conquest, Vanhnuailiana of Champhai carried out a raid on the Suktes (Kam Haus) in which they lost the war. It was carried out against the treaty signed by the two parties. The Sailos broke the treaty without prior notice. The Sukte chief simply murmured that now the Chindwin river had turned upside down, and the feather of wild pigeon grew an arm’s length (Liangkhaia 2002:113).  The highest competition was to get as many heads as possible and to take as many as slaves possible. Women and children who were captured alive were taken as slaves. Might was power.
The term “head hunting” seams to be a misleading connotation as if the nomadic tribes were crazy for heads. The motive behind it needs to be discussed here. The reason for killing one another were of religious and social motives. A man who killed many enemies became lord in life after death. The enemies became his slaves in the other world. So, they took home the head to prove that they actually killed an enemy. On the social reason, they received social status by killing an enemy and received certain traditional clothe and received a bigger cup of zu (drink) in public celebrations. A woman would refuse to marry if a man had not killed man (F.S. Downs 1983:179). The Mizo writer V. Hawla says, “We the Mizos from our ancestors have been warriors. We waged wars against the people around us and against ourselves. Consequently we have always been alert to the coming of enemies… We’re not satisfied with just killing, but would cut their heads, take them home, and celebrate them with those at home as we do the heads of animals” (V. Hawla  1983:xi). Heads of human being and heads of animals like tiger and elephant had to be given public celebration in honor of the person who killed.

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