The Kom are found to inhabit mainly in the Churachandpur and Senapati districts of Manipur. According to 1981 census, the Kom population was 8618. They speak a dialect that has affinities with old Kukis under Tibeto-Burman language.
According to the myth of their origin, their forefathers are believed to have come out through a Cave which led them to the Fort of Manipur from another world. A tiger used to lay in wait to kill them.
Karongpa who came out wearing a stripped cloth made friends with the tiger as his cloth resembled its skin and therefore his descendents were refrained from eating or killing a tiger. Salchapa came out and killed the tiger. Leivonpa cut out the tiger’s tongue and wrapped it up in his waist.
But according to another version, Pu Songthu, the leader of the party killed a great snakeand a tiger for obstructing their way. Then, they were free of danger and rejoiced at the house of Telenpa.
In the subsequent generations they became the head of the various Kom clans namely Karong, Saiche, Leivon, Tellein, Hmangte, Serto and Lupheng,
According to Kom researchers, between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D., they entered Burma and sometime in 200 A.D. they had moved toward Arakan Hills and Bay of Bengal. Then the Kom people entered Tripura and from there they entered Manipur as they were ousted by the Soktes.
Their typical house is thatch roofed one. The art of weaving, believed to have been followed from Chongnu who fell in love with a Python-God, still continues in loin looms.
Before she joined him in the realm of immorality, she copied the markings of her lover’s body in her loom. The ordinary dress of a man is a dhoti fastened round the waist while a man of distinction wears pasppan, the cloth bearing the skin mark of Python-god.
The womenfolk, who are the designated weavers of the tribe, wear Saipikhup, Khamtlang, Ponlak etc. that bear remarkable designs on the borders as bodice or skirt. They also use wrist bands. They wear necklace made of semi-precious stones and cowries. They use weapons such as axe, dao, spear, bow and arrow etc.
The Koms are and were self-sufficient in their economy. Theirs is, on the whole, an agricultural society. They practise both shifting and wet cultivation.
Not only do they cultivate their staple food rice, they also grow potatoes which had been imported by Rev. William Pettigrew, the first missionary who came to Manipur. They also cultivate millet and yam. Domesticated animals include pigs, fowls, goats, cows, buffaloes, mithun etc.
Their society is divided into social groups which are again sub divided into smaller groups. The Clan is the biggest social group and reflects in ascertaining at final relationship.
These clans which are exogamous in nature are Karong, Saicha, Leivon, Tellein, Such, Lupheng and Hmangte. Descent is traced exclusively through the male line. The youngest male issue of the family inherits the property.
In Pro Christian days, marriage of a son was to be arranged by the parents. For a male member, his mother’s brother’s daughter was the mate prescribed by the society. The marrying groom had to serve at his father-in-law’s house for three years.
This custom was known as Numhei-hle. The alternate form of acquiring bride was to pay bride price or mangkat for three times. At times this creates a havoc because of its excessiveness. At present, bride is secured by mutual consent.
Non Christian Koms believe in two deities – Pathen, the supreme one and Lungjei. Pathen is creator of all living being and the Universe in consultation with his brother Lungjei, They also worship Inroi as their household god. They also believe in the existence of soul after death and Heaven and hade are abodes of these souls.
They do observe a number of festivals both social and religion in nature.
|Seling, Belaro, Lukasun Lhungphung, Khongnangkhong||Matai||March|
These festivals are:
Seling – Erection of wood
Belam – Erection of bamboo on the top of which is placed a bird to be targeted for arrow shooting thereby testing valour.
Lukasun – Offering last rite to deceased persons.
Lhungphung – Erection of mega stone.
Khongnanghong – Performance of festival for a big banyan tree in his name so as to retain his name after death.
Cheiraoba – New Years Festival.
Hlodei – Wedding rite.
Lamkut – At dusk, song and dance (Lamkut lam) are held in every house, accompanied by feast to sanctify them and to keep their houses as sacred places through out the current year. Its period continues for one month.
Manindra Konsam from Sanathong wrote this article