Manipur is an extraordinary place, full of charm, beauty and creativity – A “flower on the Lofty Heights” is her another name. It lies in the North-Eastern region of Indian Sub-continent, between 23.5 oN-25.3 oN Latitude and 93.4 oE-95.3 oE Longitudes, bordering Myanmar in the east, Nagaland state in the north, Assam and Mizoram in the west. Encircled by nine hill ranges, Manipur is marked out by a picturesque valley in the midst. The total area of Manipur is 22,327 sq. km. Out of this only 2,238 sq. Km are valley while the remaining areas are covered with hilly tracts.
According to the 1991 census report, the total population of Manipur was 18.26 lakhs but in the 2000 census, it is expected to reach over 22 lakhs (2.2 millions). The people of Manipur are grouped into three main ethnic communities – Meiteis those inhabiting the valley and 29 major tribes in the hills dividing into two main ethno-denominations, namely Nagas and Kuki-Chins. Under the Meiteis, Bamon and Meitei Pangans are also included. All speak Meiteilon or otherwise known as Manipuri to the outsiders. In addition to Meiteis, the valley is also inhabited by Nepalis, Bengalis, Marwaris and other Indian communities. At present several people from the hill have also migrated and settled in the valley. The Naga group consists of Zeliangrong (composed of three related tribes, namely, Rongmei or Kabui, and Liangmei and Zemei or Kacha Nagas), Tangkhul, Mao, Maram, Maring and Tarao. The Chin-Kuki group consists of Gangte, Hmar, Paite, Thadou, Vaiphei, Zou, Aimol, Chiru, Koireng, Kom, Anal, Chothe, Lamgang, Koirao, Thangal, Moyon and Monsang. In recent times, several Chin-Kuki communities have identified themselves as Nagas e.g. Anal, Kom, Thangal, etc. depending on socio-economic and geo-political advantages to the tribes. The term Chin is used for the people in the neighboring Chin state of Myanmar whereas Chins are called Kukis in the Indian side. Other groups like Paite, Zou, Gangte, and Vaiphei identify themselves as Zomi and have distanced themselves from the name, Kuki. Thadous remain the major Kuki population in this Chin-Kuki group while Hmar identify closer to the Mizo or Lushei group.
It should be noted that all the different ethnic groups are of the same Mongoloid group, and have very close similarities in their culture and traditional habits. The legend of all tribes including Meiteis claim that they originated somewhere in the north from a cave. The difference came only in later parts of the history after Meiteis were converted to Vaishnavism and the hill inhabitants became Christians. Traditional Semantic rituals resembled very closely. All communities took Yu or rice bear and were meat consumers. Still the Meitei communities of Chakpa who are classified as Schedule castes in Manipur, make Yu and eat meat. The Meiteis believed in scape-goats to cure illness by freeing a chicken away in the woods just as the Maos and other tribes in the north did. Meitei men wore long hears similar to the Kuki-Chin group in earlier days and still some Meitei Marups. In the Meitei martial arts “Thang-Ta’, the Ta (spear) is primarily a Naga weapon although Meiteis developed and perfected their own war technics and skills in using them. All practices head hunting at one time of their history. At present, the Meiteis perform rituals and ceremonies according to the Hindu customs while the hill tribes perform according to Christian faith. A Bio-Anthropological seroanalysis of the different ethnic groups of Manipur reveals that all communities are closely related to the South-East Asian people even the late comers like Bamons, who intermarried with the Meiteis.
In the last decade, Manipur however has seen a rise in ethnic conflicts. In early 1990s Meitei-Pangan had a major clash for the first time in their history (influenced by Hindu-Muslim analogy in Indian states), then erupted the Naga-Kuki followed by Kuki-Paite conflicts. There is also some volcanic rumbling between Meiteis and Tangkhuls and some Naga tribes on the issue of Manipur territorial integrity. This is a complex political issue. Nevertheless, a brief undertanding of the development of socio-political situations leading to that prevailing in Today’s Manipur may help to bring out a future peaceful co-existence of all ethnic peoples of this beautiful land.
The Meiteis, who are made up of seven tribes or clans from early centuries (even before the Christ era) ruled Manipur continuously under various names since the time of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (33 AD-154 AD). This continued until 1955 AD with Budhachandra Maharaja. The kingdom of Manipur was conquered by the British in 1891 AD at the battle of Khongjom and ruled as a protected Kingdom. Manipur regained its independence along with India in August 1947, but on October 15, 1949, the King signed a Merger agreement with India at Shillong, the legality of which is still in dispute. Before the British came, the people of the valley and the hill interacted among themselves and depended on each other for their needs though at times turbulent and other times peaceful. During the 7 years of the Burmese occupation in Manipur (1819-1925 AD), the Meiteis ran to the Tangkhuls and Kabuis in the hills and many were absorbed within them. Several Kabuis settled in the valley and even accepted Hindu customs along with the Meiteis. But, during the expansion of the British Empire towards the North East frontier from India, the uncharted tribes of the Tuensang hills, which the British also called collectively Nagas, frequently fought with them. The Meitei kings sided with the British instead of helping the native tribes in an exchange for protection against the invading larger Burmese armies. When the Government of India and the Northern Naga tribes reached an agreement to form the Nagaland state in 1963, several tribes, who were under the Meitei King since historical times and within the Manipur territory under the Indian dominion were not included. A strong affinity for Naga identification and a Christian Unity evolved among the different tribes of Manipur and wanted to join Nagaland. However, they are closer to the Meiteis geographically and economically, and most of them are more closely related to Meiteis ethnically. However, the religious alliance and Meitei supremacy was a big factor. After the conversion of Meiteis to Hinduism, the valley people treated the hill tribes as untouchables and called them “Hao” a derogatory meaning “uncivilized”. This led to a creation of a gigantic barrier between the hill and valley people – one accepted Hinduism and the other Christianity. Among the Meiteis themselves, there were Lois or Yaithibis, who were driven out of the Meitei community to far villages as untachables by the Maharaja, for they did not accept Hinduism. Also, the Imphal Meiteis call other Meiteis of villages and towns as “Lawais” or “uncivilized”.
The Chin-Kuki tribes were of comparatively late migrators (as late as the 18th-19th century) to Manipur from the Chin state of Burma compared to other communities in the north and central Manipur. Unable to handle the flux of the large migrants, the Meitei Maharaja with the help of the British assisted the Thadous and other Chin-Kukis settle in different parts of the hills, which were not inhabited at that time, although claimed by local tribes as their territories. The population of Manipur was very sparse in those days. Therefore, Thadous live in many districts of Manipur while Naga tribes have their own territories marked clearly even though inter-tribal territorial disputes existed amongst themselves.
Among the Naga tribes of Manipur, the Tangkhuls were the first to recieve Christianity; therefore, they were more educated and better adapted to the modern and Western cultures than other tribes. Naturally, they became leaders and helped to stablish schools and churches, not only in Manipur hills but also in Kohima, Makokchung, and Dimapur in Nagaland state. Although the various tribes in the north of Imphal Valley are grouped together under a Naga denomination, they have different languages and customs. Therefore, they also had political mistrusts among themselves while they were bound together by a common faith in Christianity. The Tangkhuls dominated in various aspects of the Naga political and social fronts. This led to certain anti-Tangkhul sentiments in Kohima, Dimapur and Makokchung areas in Nagaland, and tried to drive them out of Nagaland state in mid 1990s. In addition, the Angami and Ao tribes always considered the Nagas of Manipur inferior to them in their territories specially in Kohima. This led to a demand for Southern Nagaland by some Manipur tribes. Several Naga NGOs try to bring all tribes under the Naga denomination together. But the Angamies and the Aos of Kohima, Makokchung and other tribes of Tuensang were skeptical about the movement and were afraid that the Tangkhuls of Manipur may dominate the Nagaland (Kohima) politics if they come to their side.
In the meanwhile, due to population pressure and a scarcity of cultivable land in the hills of Manipur – topped with historical rival between the Naga tribes and Kukis on their settlement in Manipur, but not in Nagaland – an ethnic conflict between them erupted. The Thadou Kukis were surrounded in their villages by Naga villages in most districts except in Churachandpur in the South. They migrated in large numbers to Churachandpur, which is dominated by the majority Paite tribe and by a large population of Thadou Kukis as well. This further led to the Paite-Kuki conflict, which was later reconciled under signed accords by both sides. At the same time, several Naga groups demanded that all Naga inhabited areas of Manipur should be integrated to Nagaland, which was not accepted by the Meiteis and other groups. This issue was considered to be a brain-child of the Tangkhuls by the Meiteis – hence a conflict between the Meiteis and the Tangkhuls began to develop leading to Manipur territorial integreity rallies at Imphal. Whatever be the reasons, political motives or correctness to all communities, the peoples of Manipur are of the same origin and their traditions are related to each other regardless of their denominations and should be able to live together harmoniously. The younger generations of Manipur are well educated and aware of keeping faith to each other. They believe in peaceful co-existence for all ethnic groups and an economic development for Manipur and its people.
One needs to examine the different communities of Manipur individually in order to bring out an understanding and to start a meaningful dialogue among themselves. The communities of Manipur in alphabetical order are: Aimol, Anal, Chiru, Chothe, Gangte, Hmar, Koirao, Koireng, Kom, Lamgang, Mao, Maram, Maring, Meitei, Monsang, Moyon, Paite, Tangkhul, Tarao, Thadou, Vaiphei, Zeliangrong (Zemei, Liangmei, Rongmei) and Zou. In addition, Nepali, Bengali, Marwari and other Indian communities have also settled in the valley. All tribes have their own distinct languages but in conversing with others they speak Meiteilon. Rice is the staple food for all ethnic groups of Manipur and meat, fish and seasonal vegetables are favorites. Meiteis prefer fish and elders usually do not take meat.
Aimol: The aimols are a scheduled tribe of Manipur. They settled at Aimol Khullen at Chandel District and at Kha-Aimol near Loktak lake and other places in the Senapati district. According to the 1981 census, they number about 1062 individuals. It is also believed that some migrated in Mizoram and Tripura. The word aimol means “mountain of crabs” (ai=crab; mol=mountain). Thus, their legend believes that they came out of mountain like the mountain crabs. They practice both wet and shifting paddy cultivation in the hill. Some of the crops other than paddy are sesamum, maize, soyabean, pumpkin, gourd, ginger, tomato, chilly and groundnut. They domesticate mithun (water buffalo), pig, ox, chicken, etc. Kakching and Pallel are the two important towns for marketing and trading. Most of the Aimols are now converted to Christianity and identify with the Nagas although they may be related to the Chin-Kuki group. Due to close proximity, they are also directly influenced by the Meiteis.
Anal: The Anals are also a scheduled tribe settled in the Southern Manipur hills at Tengnoupal district. They are known as Pakan among themselves. During migration, they were splitted to Anal, Lamkang, Moyon, and Monsang tribes. Anal is considered to be one of the oldest Chin-Kuki tribes of Manipur and belong to the Tibeto-Burman family of tribes. They now identify themselves as one of the Naga tribes. In 1981, their population was 9,349 living in 45 villages. A pregnant woman in the Anal community do not work hard and the husband is taboo from planting banana or bamboo trees. She may not eat double bananas or any creepy plants that bear fruits. Their cultural life is rich and preserved in traditional folklores and folksongs. The festivals include “Akam” performed to invoke divine blessings. Kamdon dance is performed during the Akam festival both by man and woman.
Chiru: They are concentrated in Senapati, Tamenglong and Bishnupur districts of Manipur. Their manners, customs, and language appear to identify with Kuki origin but their physicque, habits, hairstyle, and bachelors’ quarters are Naga way of life. The word Chiru means the seed of a plant. Women play an important role in agricultural work, collection of firewood, and fetching water for drinking and household uses. They practise both shifting and wet cultivation. Fruits like banana, orange, lemon, and papaya are grown for family consumption and market trading. The main cottage industries are basket and cane works, weaving, carpentary and manufacture of musical instruments. Their numbers are about 3,744 persons (1981 sensus).
Chothe: Historians describe the Chothe as Purums as they settled at a place called Purum in Chandel District. The term Chothe derives from Kachohte meaning to bring or to hold a boy. They settle mostly in 10 villages in Chandel district and their number was approximately 1,607 in 1981. Agriculture is their main occupation, and they grow cash crops which are sold in Pallel, Tengnoupal, Kakching and Imphal. The main festival of the Chothe is Harvesting festival (sasuhang) along with Christmas, New Year, Good Friday, etc. Dance and Music are thier cultual life both in religious and recreational events. Inter-marriage with neighboring Nagas have made good alliances with them and they identify themselves with the Nagas.
Gangte: The Gangtes numbered about 7,891 in 1981. The Paite, Vaiphei and Thadou call them Gangte but Mizos call them Rangte. Their origin is traced in a cave called khul somewhere in the extreme north. They settle mostly in the Southern part of Churachandpur district. Apeasement of the village deity was an annual feature before they converted to Christianity. They share folksongs, folktales and dances with other communities like Paite, Zou, Thadou, Vaiphei and vice versa.
Hmar: According to 1981 census, the Hmars had a population of 29,216 in 35 villages in the southern region of Manipur, at Tipaimukh and Churachandpur. They speak Hmar language and converse well in Meiteilon. They also have populations in Cachar, North Cachar and Aizwal district of Mizoram. They are one of the highly educated Christian communities of Manipur tribes. They enjoy zu, home brewed rice bear, but Christianity has restricted it and replaced with tea in rituals. Earlier Hmars worshiped spirits, the mountains, the rocks and rivers. The first Christian missionary to the Souther Manipur, Watkin Roberts of Wales arrived in 1916 in a Hmar village at Senvon.
Koirao: Koiraos inhabit the mountain ranges in the south of the Mao and Maram but they accept themselves by the name Thangal. They are concentrated in the Sadar hills of Senapati district. Their population was just 919 in 1981 census. It is said that Maharaja Pamheiba of Manipur (Garib niwaz) was a Thangal boy or was brought up within the tribe. They believe that children are a gift of God and the village maibi will pronounce the birth of a child by saying Haiguiye while holding a dagger in her hand. In earlier days, they bartered their agricultural products, baskets and blacksmithy with Meiteis for food, with Tangkhuls for earthern pots and with Kukis for beaded necklaces. Khullakpa is the chief of the village council known as katammi. Favorite festival is Linhut tangnit (Seed sowing festival), along with Christian festivals.
Koireng: The Koirengs believe that they originated from a cave. Pathian is believed to be their supreme God before Christianity. They live in small villlages on the hills to the north of Imphal valley in Senapati district. Imphal, Iril, and Maklang rivers run through thier villages. The status of women is relatively high due to their taking part in economic activities. A woman member is also represented in the village council. They cultivate paddy, maize, sesame, potato, arum and ginger and traded with the Meiteis. Their number is small (918 in 1981 census) and literacy rates are low compared to the surrounding tribes.
Kom: The Koms believe that thier ancestors came out of a hole in the earth or Kom. Their population was 9,830 in 1981 census in 22 villages. Most of the villages are scattered in the Churachandpur, Tengnoupal and Senapati districts. Their language is to an extent recognised by the Aimol, Koireng and Chiru. They also have close relationship with the Hmar. The Koms are easily identified by their way of dressing. They wear a black shawl embroidered in the border. Koms believe in Pathen, the supreme god and goddess, Lengjai. They are omnipresent and believe to live in the heaven. The literacy rate is quite high and they actively perticipate in political activities of the state.
Langang: The Lamgang dialect is quite similar to Anal, Moyon and Monsang of the Kuki-Chin group of languages of the Tibeto-Burman family. They speak Meiteilon while talking to others. They address themselves as Kasen. Hiroi Lamgang was a Meitei name used to address them for they made boat (hi) for the Meitei kings. They settle mostly in the Southern districts of Manipur near Chakpikarong, Kakching Khunou and scatter in 24 villages. They number is about 3,452 according to 1981 census. They still lag behind literacy comared to Moyon, Monsang and other tribes.
Mao: The Maos inhibit the hill ranges to the extreme north of Manipur on Highway 39. The Mao as such is the village or place and the people are Maomei or Imemei. The Angamis of Kohima call them as Shipfumei. The literacy rate among tribes in the Mao area are high. They actively participate in politics at Imphal and several professionals, doctors and engineers come out of this tribe. Their population was 50,715 in 1981 census. Majority are agriculturists and cultivate terraced paddy fields. They rear cows, buffallos, pigs, fowls, etc. At present the regional potato farm is located at Mao and assists the nearby villages in growing more potato through modern technics. Mao is also a commercial center and station for Tourists, buses, and commercial trucks plying through the Imphal-Dimapur road. The Mao areas have better communication and electrity.
Maram: They numbered about 16,544 in 1981 scattered in 22 villages in the Senapati District. They call themselves Maram-mei (people of Maram). The Barak river runs through their territory. They have close similarity with the Maos, Angami and Koireng and use the same designs and color combinations of shawls. The community is exogamous and marriage within the community was not allowed. They intermarry with the Mao, Angami, Zeliangrong, Paomei, Thangal and other Naga groups
Maring: The Marings had a population of 11, 910 (1981 census) in hilly villages in the Tengnoupal subdivision in Chandel bordering Myanmar. It is said that they had close relationship with the Meitei Kings and their name derived from mei (fire) and ring (start or produce). Meitei kings depended on them during wars with neighbors. There are three mains groups of Marings who identify themselves with different colors in their clothings: Black, Red, and Red and Black on the border. The village of Machi is regarded as their original place, which is the center of the Black Marings. Their language is closer to the Kuki-Chin branch of Tibeto-Burman family although they are affiliated to the Nagas. They also have many Meitei words used by them. In one time, Haobam Marak of Imphal was considered to be the settlement of the Marings. The infrastructure in Maring villages are rudimenatry, and are economically weak. However, they are educational enthusists. They participate actively in the State politics. If provided adequate road and communication infrastructure, they will be a very progressive group of tribes.
Meiteis: The Meiteis are distributed throughout the Manipur valley. By rule, any Meitei is not allowed to own land in the hills while the people of the hill can live anywhere in Manipur. The Meiteis make up about 60% of the total population of Manipur. Among the Meitei-fold are included the Bamons (Brahmins), Pangans (muslims), and other schedule caste groups like the Chakpas (previously called lois) and Thoubal Khunous (previously, Yaithibis). While the Bamons and Meiteis are Hindu Vaishnavites, Chakpas and other scheduled Meiteis follow traditional Meitei faith. A large number of Meiteis also follow the traditional Sanamahi religion at present after the revival of the old Sannamahi faith. Even the Bamons and Hindu Meiteis worship Sanamahi inside their houses. The Vaishnavite culture of Meiteis and the Ras Lila Dance is known widely in India and other countries. In addition, Lai Haraoba and Khamba Thoibi Dances are also popular. The modern game of Polo is originated in Manipur and locally known as Sagol Kangjei (horse hockey). Meitei Martial arts – Thang Ta – has recently been recognised as one of the forms of International Maritial arts by the International Martial communities. Since Meiteis are the dominant community, culturally and economically, Meiteilon (Meitei language) has become to be known as Manipuri after the name Manipur was introduced in the elsewhile Kangleipak, Sannaleipak (Land of Sannamahi, not Golden land), Meitrabak, etc. However, Meiteis randomly refer the word Manipuri among themselves. Manipuri should reserved for all things associated with the state of Manipur, not only of the Meitei.
The Meiteis are also primarily agriculturalists. Rice is the staple food. Fish is a favorite meat for Hindu Meiteis. But, the younger generation tastes all kinds of meat available in the market. Fruits such as pineapple, mango, orange, lemon, guava, jackfruit are also cultivated. Produces like peas, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, etc. are abundant. The Meitei women control the markets and trades for traditional clothings and vegetables. Ima Market or Kwairamban Keithel is an exclusively Women’s market of its own kind. The women also take important roles in safeguarding the communities and their children. They were effective in blocking alcohol consumption by men through Meira Paibi Organisations. But, with the society becoming more complex, the traditional role of the women are waning. They have not been able to stop the drug addiction of youths in Manipur. The jobless youth both in the valley and hills are taking up the habit of injecting drugs, heroin, chiefly available through the Myanmar border trafficking. This has caused alarmingly high number HIV-infection cases, already full-blown AIDS related deaths have been reported. Subsequently, it has spread to innocent wives and childrens through marriages. Manipur has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in India. No mentionable industry is found at Imphal, the capital city of Manipur or any other towns.
Monsang: The name Monsang is derived from the name of the village called Mosang by the Meiteis and others whereas they themselves called sirti or southerners. They live mostly in the Chandel District in five villages namely Liwachaning, Heibunglok, Liwa Sarei, Japhou, and Monsang Pantha. They speak a similar language with the Anals. They use Meiteilon while conversing with Tangkhul, Maring, Thadou and other communities. The Monsangs come in regular contact with other communities through economic activities maninly at Pallel, Kakching, and Chandel and Imphal. Monsang parents attach great importance to education. Their population was about 1,139 in 1981 census. In 1920, they joined Christianity.
Moyon: The Moyon themselves are known as Bujuur. Their legend indicates that they originated from a cave located at Sijjur. They live in 14 villages in Chandel district and their name derives from one of the villages called Moyon Khullen. Their name is found in the royal Chronicles as far as 1580 AD such as Mongyamba’s time. The Meitei King defeated the Moyon Chiefs and he was known as Moyon Ngamba or Mongyamba. Their population was 1,642 in 1981 census. Marriage is by negotiation (luhong) or elopement (itaen). Their sowing festival is known as Sachii ichii and harvest festival is Buren Iimpeh. They also believe that they originated from a cave, known as Khur or Khul. The Moyons attach considerable importance to education and every village has at one primary school. They converse and read Meiteilon (Manipuri) very well.
Paite: They live in Churachandpur district in Southern Manipur. Along with Thadou, Vaiphei, Gangte, Hmar and others they were refered to as Chin-Kuki group in the past. At present, they call themselves as Paite and affiliate to Zomi denomination. They also believed in supreme god Pathian and believed to have originated from a cave or Khul. Their population was 30,959 in 1981 sensus spreading over 125 villages. Jhum cultivation is their main occupation on the slopes near the villages. Folksongs and folktales related to everyday life and culture of the poeple are orally passed through generations. They are an educated group of tribes and participate actively in local and state politics.
Tangkhul: They live in the Ukhrul district in the east. According to their legend, two groups led by two brothers went out to seek suitable places for settlement. Naokhoka, the brave elder brother, led his people to south-east while the younger brother found the fertile plains and settled there, which later came to be known as the Manipur Valley. They believe they migrated from Mekhel village in Senapati destrict like other Naga tribes. Another popular legend also relate to their origin and the Meiteis. According to this legend, a sow belonging to two Tangkhul brothers of Hundung village wandered away. The Younger brother found it in a valley near the bank of Iril River and settled there. His brother remained in Hundung and maintained a close relationship. They exchanged gifts and novelties made in their respective areas. However, the younger brother, having accumulated a lot of wealth discontinued the exchange of gifts. The elder felt neglected and insulted. He raided the village in the plains to take by force what he had till now been receiving as presents.
The Tangkhuls numbered 71,203 in 1981 census and formed about 5.01 percent of the total population of Manipur. They live in 8 territorial areas in the Ukhrul district and their sub-tribes and nationalities have distinct languages and dialects. Since the Ukhrul village was chosen by the first Christian Missionary in Manipur in 1896 for conversion, the poeple of Ukhrul town dominates the Tangkhuls and their dialect is a lingua franca among the various Tangkhul tribes. They converse well in Meiteilon with others. They use Roman script for writing. They are the most educated tribe of Manipur. Several Chief Ministers and Ministers in the Assembly of Manipur State had belonged to Tangkhuls. Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officers, Doctors, Engineers, Professors and all works of life are quite developed among the Tangkhuls. They are also leaders in Baptist Church Activities of Manipur. Next to the Meiteis, the Tangkhuls have the highest number of professionals in Manipur. Like most other communities in Manipur, most Tangkhuls are also primarily argriculturists. Rice is the staple food. Other crops and vegetables are cotton, millet, maize, arum, chilli, sesame, ginger, tomato, pumpkin, cucumber, beans, etc. Siroi Kashong famous for Siroi Lily and Kangkhui cave are in the Ukhul district. During the world war II, the Japanese occupied the Tangkhul areas in the invasion of Imphal. At present, a large number Tangkhul have settled at Imphal mostly from the upper class group who work for the Government.
Tarao: They are a minor community in the Chandel district. They speak Taraotrong but speak Meiteilon well with others. The Taraos were also referred to as Kuki in earlier ethnographic studies but now they identify with the Nagas. It is said that Maharaja Chingthang Khomba had an orchard at a place near Pallel and his orange trees were looked after by the Taraos at Komlathabi. They are concentrated at four villages. They are involved in planting fruits like banana, lemon, pineapple, papaya, etc. Their land is considered to be the driest place in Manipur.
Thadou: The Thadou are a schedule tribe of Manipur. They are classifed as an Old Kuki Group by anthropologists. Their communities are dispersed in several districts of Manipur. According to the 1981 census their population was 70,126 and formed about 4.93 percent of the total population of Manipur. The history of this community is found in oral traditions including folklore and folktales. Their origin traces like other tribes of Manipur to a cave at the origin of Gunn river (Imphal river). They can be identified by the traditional design of the shawls, which are marked in black with a few stripes of red. The design is simple and devoid of any geometrical figures. They speak Thadou language and converse in Meiteilon with others. The Thadous are non-vegetarians and fond of drinking zu made from rice or maize. However, Christianity has prevented from taking liquor and gradually replaced with tea. The price of a bride is taken in the form of Mithun, gongs, beads and necklaces, though not practise anymore. Marriage is through negotiation known as Neila. The groom arrives at the brides residence along with his associates, followed by a feast. Basketary, poultry, weaving, and cane work are the traditional crafts of the Thadous. Although agriculture is the main occupation of many Thadous, the younger generation have taken up jobs in professional fields in the Government services, teaching, etc. They participate actively in local and state politics. Several Ministerial positions are held from this tribe in the Manipur State Assembly.
Vaiphei: They live in the Churachandpur district in about 30 villages (population 14,659 in 1981 census). Their dialect is Vaiphei and slightly different from the Gangte, Zou and Paite. Their speech is closer to Gangte but spell similar to Paite. They use Roman characters. The major economic source is the jhum cultivation from paddy and depend on forest products. They live in one of the highest literature and education areas in Manipur.
Zeliangrong: The Zeliangrong is a composite group of three related tribes inhabiting in the Tamenglong district of Western Manipur. The three groups are Rongmei (Kabuis), Liangmei and Zemei (also called Kacha Nagas). Many Kabui villages are also found in the plains of Manipur, Assam and few settlements in Nagaland. According to 1981 census they numbered about 47,266. Their legend also believe that they came out of a cave, which was blocked by a big stone and later removed by a mithun. The “Kabui” word is considered to be a corruption of Apui meaning mother, which they worship as goddess, Leimaren. They speak Meitei language well and had close interactions with the Meiteis of the plains. The Kabui is divided into four exogamous clans: Kammei, Gangmei, Langmei and Ganmei. The main occupation is cultivation and paractise jhum system in the hills and wet cultivation in the plains. Some of their crops are maize, soyabean, pumpkin, gourd, ginger, tomato chilli and groundnut. Carpentary, weaving, basketary are cottage industries. They are considered to be one of the most skill crafts men of Manipur. The plain Kabuis have considerable influence of the Vaishnavite tradition and Meitei culture. Facilities of education, medical care, and employment programs have reach them well and their population consists of scholars, administrators, teachers, doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, etc. They are also actively involved in the political scene in Manipur. After the formation of the Zeliangrong community of the North East India, they constitute a powerful lobbying community. They prefer Zeliangrong than Kabui or Kacha Naga.
The Zemi (Zemei) and Liangmei are separated by rivers and mountain barriers and their dialects are different from one another. Meiteilon is the lingua franca of the people and they use Roman character. According to their believe the supreme god (Charawang) created the universe and gave human beings shelter in the caves. Pokrei (a male) and Dichalu (a female) gave birth to four sons. Their sons and descendents form the Liangmei, Anpuimei, Zemei, Maram, Rongmei, Tangkhul and Meitei. The history of Manipur reveals that the Zeliangrongs had a close relationship with the Meiteis. During the Burmese invasion, the Meiteis of the Imphal valley left their homes and took shelter in Zeliangrong areas. Politically they are active and the “Zeliangrong movement of the 1927-32” led by Jadonang and Rani Gaidinliu is well celebrated among the Zeliangrongs. Road communication to Tamenglong, their headquarter is very poor. The villagers plant potato, giner, pineapple etc. and cane and bamboo works are their main crafts.
Zou: Zous live close to the Paites and have close similarities. They share many oral traditions, folklore, dance and music with Paites. They also claim to have originated from a cave or khul somewhere in the extreme north. Their number is about 11,251 in 1981. The village administration is at the hands of the village chief.
1. People of India, Manipur, editors M. Horam and S.H.M. Rizvi (1998).
2. Cane and Bamboo Crafts of Manipur, by Mutum Bahadur (1994).
3. Queen Empress vs. Tikendrajit Prince of Manipur, by John and Saroj Arambam Parrat (1992).
4. An Approach to the History of Meiteis and Thais, by K.C. Tensuba (1993).
5. Journal of the Geographical Society of Manipur, edited by Dr. A. Lalit Singh (July-Dec. 1997).
6. Manipur Tourism Department Bulletins.
7. Traditional Textiles Of Manipur by Mutua Bahadur (1997)