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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Concept of “Misi Khua”

The term “Misi Khua” means a place where the souls of death reside. It is also called “village of death” (Wati Longchar 1991:95).  Lian Sakhong says “all the activities and performance of a person in life time is a preparation for life after death” (Lian Sakhong 2000:134).  When I was a small boy one baby of non-Christian died. On his funeral a cooked egg was place in his palm to take it with him. The baby being innocent would be led by the rolling of the egg to the place of the death. The myth called “Khup Cing leh Ngam Bawm” (The story of Khup Cing and Ngam Bawm) is about two young lovers. The girl died and the boy was led to the village of death by her mediator where they met again
(Kamkhenthang 1984:34). Tradition maintains that the abode of dead is situated somewhere beyond Gun (Chindwin river) where a person lives having the same form of body as the living but of a different nature (G.K.Nang 1990:35). Death people were believed to have crossed Gun (river) dividing the world of the living and the death. The Chindwin river is used symbolizing the boundary dividing the two worlds. As river Jordan has been used symbolizing the boundary between the death and the living so also the Zomis use Chindwin river symbolizing the boundary between the living and the death in Christian songs (Tedim Hymn Book No.448).
A dead person required everything as needed in life time. Therefore at the time of burial all necessary weapons, implements, pottery, clothes etc were buried along with the dead body (Wati Longchar 1991:95). Implements like sword, spear, cigarette box with lighter, and the best clothes were buried with the death body. Gun and spear in his hand, “powder-flasked and haversack slung over the shoulder is placed as if about to start on a raid” (Carey and Tuck 1976:192).  Some of the customs like “Hunting,” “Kawsah,” “Sa-aih” and “Gal-aih” need discussion in this connection.
“Hunting.”  Hunting was not only a game for the Zomis but it had a religious significance in life after death. It was believed that on the way to the next world a person met “Sahnu” (gatekeeper) who asked if he had killed wild animal in life. If a person had not killed any wild animal he was forced to eat a red worm as punishment (Laitanga 1982:112).  If a person killed animals like Tiger, Bear, Bore, Deer, etc. the “Sahnu” would give him an easy passage and the animals killed will served him in life after death. Therefore they vied for killing wild animals in hunting. It was also “believed that the spirits of the animals killed during one’s lifetime accompanied the hunter into the next world” (Lian Sakhong 2000:138).
“Kawsah” came from two words “kua” (hole) and “sat” (prepare or making the way clear). It means when a person die, to prepare his way to the next world, a number of animals were killed to go with him. “Kawsah” literally referred to animals killed on funeral day. Animals like buffalo, mithun, cow, pig, dog were killed and feast was served for three, five or seven days as funeral ceremony. Funeral never took place on an even day but on odd day. Funeral itself will be discussed later. The deceased family killed as many as one could afford and relatives made contribution to it. The contribution received was repaid when the same dead occurred to the family. Mourners ate, drank, and sang songs of mourning. It was believed that animals killed on funeral would give him a safe passage from the “Sahnu.” As a symbol a small part of the heart, the lung, the liver of the animals was buried along with the corpse. And the animals killed on funeral would serve him in life after death. “The life of a man after death is viewed as the continued existence of man in the other world” (Sing Khaw Khai 1984:138).
“Sa-aih” leh “gal-aih” was a celebration of man or animal killed in honor of the hunter. Elephant, tiger and bison were regarded as ferocious animal that only a hero hunter could kill. In this case, the hunter must celebrate his hunting skill by killing mithun, cow or pig. For example, if a man kills a tiger, he will celebrate by killing a pig or a cow and provide a feast for the villagers. The villagers will join the celebration by bringing a pot of “zu.” The celebration usually lasts a day in drinking, singing and dancing. Failing which a tiger would take revenge on the hunter and kill him. In such a case a tiger was believed to take upper hand and would not serve him in life after death. “For many hunters the highest honor was to kill tiger and bison, which were rare, dangerous and difficult for ordinary hunters’ (Lian Sakhong 2000:139). It was also true in case of killing an enemy. A killer must give a celebration of his success which was called “gal-aih” (celebrating an enemy). If celebrated the spirit of the slain enemy “will go ahead of the slayer announcing the arrival of this great personage in “misi khua” (F.K. Lehman 1963:183).  The celebration was performed in the boastful and self-assertive manner. All male and female present “danced in the front yard. The men carry spears which they thrust up and down, but old men move about within the circle of dancers singing the boastful song of hunters and warriors” (Lehman 1963:184). In case of killing by an enemy, relatives must take revenge of the killing or becomes a slave of the enemy. Therefore revenge was a great challenge for the Zomi in order that one did not become a slave of an enemy. It is explain in a song.
a)     A si batphu ka zon ni’n e
Sa kamkei bang hang ing e.
b)     Zang lei a taa, sumlu mai pa,
Tang in siam bang met ing e.
Translation (mine):
a)     The day I take revenge for a killing
I acted just like a young tiger.
b)   A bare headed living in a valley
I, a hero chopped him just like a tree. (Thang Siangh email 02/12/07)
A person could make celebration of huge amount of grains gathered in a particular year by which he attained the same equal status in lifetime and life after death. If a man could not kill a tiger or bison or big animal he could celebrate the animal killed by others. In such a case the performer attained the same social and religious status in life and life after death (Gin En Cin 1998:259). This poem confirms that belief.
a)     A kap a thang tazawm aw,
A ai a thang tazawm aw.
b)  A kap in zu leh sa lawh e,
A ai lawi bang thang nah e.
Translation (mine):
a)     Is a hunter more famous
Is a celebrant more famous?
b)     A hunter is awarded with meat and drink,
A celebrant becomes famous like a king buffalo.
The life of a Zomi was a life of competition for social and religious status not only in lifetime but also in life after death. Primitive belief influenced so much on the daily life of the people. Religious belief motivated them for luxurious celebrations, hunting for animals and human beings. These primitive games and luxurious killing of animals on funeral day were meant to promote status in this life as well as in the next world “Misi khua.” “Whether a man has been honest or dishonest in his world is of no consequence in the next existence; but if he has killed many people in this world, he has many slaves to serve him in his future existence; if he has killed many wild animals, then he will start well-supplied with food, for all that he kills on earth are his in the future existence” (Carey and Tuck 1976: 196). The Zomis had no difficulty in understanding the idea of life after death and the concept of heaven as presented by Jesus Christ (John 14:2-3). Therefore it is almost impossible to make clear distinction between religion, celebration and funeral ceremony as we proceed.

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