The Poumai Naga– etymology
The Poumai Naga tribe is a major tribe and one of the oldest among Nagas. The descendants of POU are known as POUMAI. The descendants of POU are MEO, LEO PAO and PROU. According to the Poumai legend, it is believed that the Poumai and Mao ancestor name was ‘SHEPOU’ (POU)’. And the people of Mao and Poumai are known as ‘Shepoumai’. Here ‘MAI’ which means people. The word, ‘Shepoumaramth’ is derived from the word, ‘Shepou’ which means the people of ‘Mao and Poumai’. The word, ‘Maramth’ which means the ‘Maram and Thangal’. The Poumai Naga and Mao are referred to as ‘Shepoumai’ since time immemorial as their progenitor was POU or SHEPOU. The Poumai and Mao are the blood-brother and they are from the same ancestor. It is believed that during the British Anthropological survey in Manipur, the interpreter wrongly informed the British that Poumai and Mao are known as Mao Tribe though it is supposed to be known as ‘Shepoumai’.60 Since then the name of the tribe was recorded as Mao tribe. Infact, the name ‘Mao’ is also a foreign language to the people of ‘Memei’ or ‘Ememei’. There was some misunderstanding between the Poumai Naga and Mao for many years due to this misinformation. However the problem was solved after the POUMAI NAGA tribe was recognized as a separate tribe by the Central Government of India under the Constitution of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled tribe Order (Amendment) Act 2002.
The word Poumai is derived from two syllables “POU” and “MAI”. “POU” was the progenitor of Poumai and “MAI” is the descendants of POU. In other words, POU is the name of the ancestor and his descendants are known as POUMAI. The literal meaning of POUMAI means “People of Pou” According to Vaison Pou there are eight different patriarchal heads namely- Memiiwo, Khrasi, Akrow, Paodu, Dukku, Liidu, Lapaosuru and Prowo. They lived together at Makhel for some period of time before they migrated to the different villages.61 As the legends and folktales were not written in the olden days, there is variation from one person to another person about the patriarchal heads and migration. But it is believed that Lapaosuru, Paoyao (Paodu) and Propoziio were the last Poumai progenitors who took the Poumai enmass from Makhel to their present villages. According to the oral history of Mao tribe, it is believed that a White Cloud (Kahe kakra) enveloped a woman named Dziiliamosiiro, while she was sleeping under the peepal tree and she conceived and bore three sons, namely- Ashupfo Alapha (dark complexion race), Chiituwo (Meitei race) and Khephip (Naga race).
Diagram 3.2 Genealogical Evolution The above genealogical evolution from a woman is only a legend and not very scientific and one finds since the historic times human beings create myths and narrate different stories at different times. However the genealogical evolution from Shipfowo (Pou) to his descendants is convincing and narrated from generation to generation. According the oral tradition of Nagas and based on oral history, genealogical evolution can be traced as-
Diagram 3.3 Oral History-Genealogical Evolutions
The Poumai Naga took the wave of migration from Makhel in two directions-Northeast and South East direction. The descendant of Liio (Lepaona) took the southeast direction and settled at Koide village under the leadership of Chief Rokhuo.
Diagram 3.3 Poumai Paoh (Progenitors of Poumai) Progenitors of Poumai The descendants of Pao (Paomata) took the northeast direction and settled at Saranamai village after the four Chiefs were chosen to head the new settlement. The descendants of Prou (Chiliive) also went in the northeast direction and settled at Prouphii. However some believed that all the Poumai first migrated to Saranamai and then migrated to different circles or areas. The whole Poumai Naga community is divided into three units or circles for administrative convenience as-
- Paomata Circle
- Lepaona Circle
- Chilvai Circle
3.7.1. Paomata Circle The descendants of PAO are called as Paomata. The word PAOMATA is derived from their progenitor name PAO. In Paomata circle, there are two historical ethnic groups known as “Ranapao” and “Raonapao”. Ranapao had four sons and Raonapao hads two sons.
Migration from Makhel The Paomata migrated from Makhel to the north of Makhel under the leadership of Paoyao and settled at SIIFII (Saranamai village). In order to select the residence of the chief, a bell was struck to test the audacity of its sound and a cock was also made to crow. As the bell sound was good and the cock crew in four different spots. Four chiefs were chosen to head the new settlements. The four chiefs houses were built by four “Peorow” who were fortune tellers and lastly the public houses were built.63
Migration from Saranamai village The Paomata first settled at Saranamai (Siifii) after they emigrated from Makhel. The Saranamai settled at the present Saranamai village, while many others moved towards northeast seeking a better place where the present villages are located. Today, the persons in Paomata circle have migrated from six villages from Saranamai. The Saranamai, Maiba, Phuba, and Liyai were the descendants of RANAPAO.In the other two villages of Tungjoy and Tunggam were the descendants of RAONAPAO.64
Ranapao descendants: The descendants of Siipao settled at Saranamai village while the other three descendants migrated to different areas and formed their own settlements. The Khipao (Maibai’s progenitor) went to the south of Saranamai village crossing the Barak River and settled down near the Koide village. The Zhaipao led his descendants to the northeast of Saranamai and settled at present in Liyai village. The present Liyai village is the biggest village amongst the Poumai villages. The Phyapao led the migration in the northeast direction and went beyond Liyai village. It seems they migrated after the Zhaipao since the Zhaipao had already occupied the land, they were pressed further northeast from Liyai village. The descendants of Ranapao took a sacred vow during their dispersal from Saranamai village not to fight each other in Headhunting. They also made a vow to unitedly fight against their enemies. They have a common observation of death rituals when some one dies in their villages.
Raonapao descendants: The present Tunggam and Tungjoy villagers are known to be the descendants of Raonapao. They are the blood brothers as they are from the same ancestors. Tungjoy led the migration from Saranamai in the northeast direction and settled at the present Tungjoy village, while Tunggam took the southwest direction from Saranamai village and settled in Tunggam village. These two villages are located in the northwestern parts of Poumai dominated areas where better road transportation is available at present; it is bordered with Phek district of Nagaland.
3.7.2. Lepaona Circle Liio or Leo was the progenitor of Lepaona. Leo’s descendants are called Lepaona or Leopaonese. The Lepaona, guided by a Tiger and Eagles migrated from Makhel (Naga dispersal site) to Koide village (Lepaona dispersal site). The name LEPAONA is derived from the word PAO-LIIO-NA, which means “grand father Liio’s progenies or descendants”. The literary meaning of LEPAONA means “grandchildren of Leo or descendants of Leo”
Migration from Makhel: In the history of Lepaona, it is mentioned that they migrated in the Southeast direction from Makhel. It is said that on the day of Lepaona people leaving from Makhel to present Lepaona villages, Lapaoshuru (Rou) was late, and a strong and brave man name Khyapou Dukhuo (Dukhuo from Makhel) blocked the way with a sword (kho/Dao). However, a lionhearted man name LAPAOSURU (Rou) screamed at the top of his voice and jumped over Dukhuo and his shield was slightly cut by Khyapou Dukhuo. The Lanamai believed that the shield used by Lapaosuru is still preserved at
the King’s residence at Purul Akutpa. During fieldwork, the researcher met (Hiikhani ) the present King and interviewed him and also took the picture of that shield. (See photo). Thus, the Liipaona (Lepaona) conceded that they emigrated from Makhel and first settled at Koide village under the Chief of ROKHUO.65 Poudufii or Poudeifii is located at Koide village. According to Raini Pao, the literary meaning of POUDUFII means “the discussion place of the Poumai Naga community” All the important meetings and deliberations were held at Poudufii at Koide village. It is mentioned that even the Angami tribe from Nagaland also joined in the meetings and discussions held at Koide village. The Poumai Naga community erected a memory stone at Poudufii. There are five important villages in Lepaona circle namely, Koide, Purul, Thingba Khullen, Thingba Khunou and Oinam village. All the other village in the periphery of the five villages are settled by migrants from those five villages and some from other villages. The Khongdei villagers who were migrants from Koide village (dispersal site of Lepaona) actually belong to Lepaona circle but now administratively they bare in Chiliive circle.
Migration of Lepaona from Koide village: i) Koide and Purul In ancient times, Koide village was an important site or village for Poumai Naga community for discussing important matters. The Koide or Naamai settled at Koide village. But the Hiimai (Purul) migrated from Koide and settled at Purul village around 5 kms to the northeast of Koide village.
Koide and Purul are blood brothers according to legend.The Hiima migrated to the present Purul village due to increase of the population at Koide village. Today, there are three Purul villages namely – Purul Atongba, Purul Akutpa and Rosofii.
ii) Thingba Khullen and Khunou According to legend, Thingba Khullen and Thingba Khunou villagers are blood brothers. They migrated from Koide village and settled at Thingba Khullen (Chaonamai) around seven km to the south of Koide village. The Thingba Khunou (Shomai) first settled at Chaonamai village and then shifted to Shomai village around 5 km from Chaonamai village due to increase of population in the village. The literary meaning of Shomai means, “Shifted people”
iii) Dumai (Khongdei) It is believed that Khongdei migrated from Koide village to the Northeast, around 15km and settled at Khongdei village. Dumai first migrated from Koide and settled at Purul village and that area is still known as “Dunafii” which mean Dumai’s site. According to legend, the site (Purul Akutpa) they first settled was filled with thorny bushes and stones. So they migrated further in search of a better site for settlement. Another legend tells us that Dumai Pao carried a stone from Makehl with an instruction that Dumai Pao should settle in that particular site where the stone falls down. As the stone fell at the present Dumai village, they settled there. There are three Dumai villages at present.
iv) Lahnamai Lahnamai’s (Rou) descendants were known as Lahnamai.They first settled at Upper Koide village and still dilapidated Lanapao (Lana’s mound stones) remained at Koide village. It is alleged that Naamai and Lahnamai squabbled with each other due to the notorious life style of Lapaosuru, so later he and his clan migrated to Rosofii around 5 km from Koide village. Then they migrated to Dunaphii, another area (now occupied by Dunamai) and lived there for some years. In the past this clan was well known for moving from one area to another area. They further shifted to Purul Atongba. During the feast of paddy transplantation, when Lapaosuru went out from his house to get some meat for the feast, some men form Thiwa village lynched him. After Lapaosuru was killed, all his clan migrated to Khamsom village, extreme south of Lepaona area and settled there. Pao Lepei and Hiinii Ngaole Pao came back to Purul Akutpa from Khamsom and settled down permanently. Oinam village is one of the largest villages in Lepaona circle. The Poumai earthen pots are manufactured only in this village since time immermorial. According to Dowang, the Oinam (people of Oinam) led the migration in the southeast direction from Makhel reaching the Barak River, and then proceeded to the south through Nghaphouzhe range and eventually reached Koide and then sojourned at Pouduffi for some time. However they started to move further to the present Oinam village for a permanent settlement. When they reached Oinam, the rooster did crow in the hand of the ancestor. Then the ancestor dug up the earth with a walking stick and found the similar soil found at Makhel for making earthen pots. Since then they settled at the present Oinam village. Today there are other four villages namely, Ngamju, Tingsong, Sorbung and Laila who migrated from Oinam village. In addition, some of the Oinam villagers have also migrated to Ukhrul district and Thangal areas in Senapati district where they merged with the other tribes.
3.7.3 Immigration to Chilivai Circle The people from Chilivai circle also originally emigrated from Makhel. It is believed that they first settled at Saranamai village and then moved to Paomata circle and ultimately settled at Chilivai circle. However based on personal interview and fieldwork, it is found that they had directly migrated from Makhel. An egg was given to their ancestor with instructions not to settle down in at any site until the chicken is hatched. As they reached Prouphii, a chicken was hatched and their ancestor settled there after all the religious rites and rituals were performed. Some of the villages in the Chilivai area are said to be from Paomata Circle and Lepaona circle. It is also believe that Khongdei villagers had migrated from Koide village that belong to Lepaona circle. The Proumai initially inhabited at Khoubu (Phuba Thapham) but later shifted to Chilivai areas. The substantial villages of Proumai are Kodom, Lakhamai, Shirong and Shamai. However, Shamai village was merged with other villages. There are some other villages in Chilivai circle in addition to the four largest villages. All the religious rites and rituals were observed together in those four villages.
3.7.4. Poumai in Phek District, Nagaland Today about 6,500 Poumais live in Phek District of Nagaland.They are commonly called “Razeba”in the Chakhesang tribe. There are four Poumai villages in Phek district they are namely: – Razeba, Zhavame, Zelome and Tsufume.66
Emigration from Paomata to Phek district (Nagaland) The Poumai Villagers in Phek district hail from the Paomata villages. The British geographically demarcated the Poumai villages in Phek district and included them in Nagaland during the British period because they have the same custom, tradition, rites and rituals as the other Poumai Nagas in Manipur. Due to contacts with other tribes in Nagaland, they speak Poula (Poumai dialect) and also the common dialect Tenyidie, Chokri and Khezha of Chakhesang dialect, apart from Nagamese. The Poumai Ma Sou Me (Poumai Naga Union) PMM is the apex body of all the Poumais. The Poumais in Phek district also comes under this PMM where they participate and celebrate together all the Poumais feasts like Thounii, held in 2002. In addition to above the circles and villages, there are 11 other villages, which are located in the periphery of National Highway 39. The Moi clan (Muivah clan) Tangkhul clan hails from Shirong village (Chiliive areas) and they later migrated to Sodom village. The Muivah clan of Tangkhul and Poumai from Sirong still retain contacts each other, They are trying hard to have better relations with each other despite major differences the regarding demarcation of different districts and tribes. To quote Shimray, the MOI clan (now Muivah clan) has clearly traced their origin from Makhel, and gradually to Liyai, Shirong, Khongdei, Lunghar and Somdal village for some periods of time before they moved on to the next.”67 The Ngatang people were also believed to be Poumai by origin and they speak Poula. Ngatang and still inhabit the Poumai dominated areas, but later they merged with the Maram tribe in 1980s.
References Special Note: The references given below are not in order. Sorry for the inconveniences 1. R.R. Shimray (1985), Origin and Culture of Nagas New Delhi, Somsok Publications, p-2 2. J.P. Mills (1922) The Lotha Naga, p-xvi 16. Shakespeare L.W. (1914), History of upper Assam, Upper Burma and North East Frontier, p-197 17. Horam (1975), p-25 18. Personal interview (2003), Saluni P. (Head man Koide village) interviewed on 23 May at Koide village and Vio R. Ex-MLA interviewed on 3rd June at Vakho village. 19. Shimray R.R., p-13 20. Ibid, p-31 21. Vio R. 2003, Personal Interviews on 3 June 2003 at Vakho village.23. Nepuni William (1999), Our language and etymology, in Communiqué, Mao Students, Delhi, p-8 24. Pao Raini, (2002), A socio-cultural profile of the Poumai tribe, Souvenir: The Poumai Thounii Celebration 2002, at Zhaimai-Liyai, p-11 25. James R.K. (1985), The Poumai Naga Tribe of Manipur: A Socio-Cultural Study, M.Phil. Thesis, Manipur University, Unpublished, p-17 26. Personal Interviews 2003, Salunii P. On 23-5-03 at Koide village, and Vio R. on 3-6- 03 at Vakho village. 27. Rhi Zhonyi 2002, Poumai Community in Nagaland, Souvenir: The Poumai Thounii Celebration, on 4-7 Jan.2002 at Zhaimai- Liyai Village. p-23 28. Shimray R.R., p-26 @Dr. Thohe Pou