By The Kukiforum
The Gangtes are one of the tribes of the Kuki nation. They have their ethnonym derived from a place known as Ganggam. The word Gangte simply means person from Ganggam. But the exact location of this place is not ascertained; the name of the site being mentioned during the customary sacrifice known as Vawkpithah.
This customary sacrifice is held by the Gangte families, compulsorily at least once in three years. It consists of the priest reciting the chronological order of ancestral inhabitations unto dates in the name of the head of the family. This recitation is known as Khawchuk and includes all the places from the earliest time to dates except the place they settled less than one year.
They believe the emergence of the ancestors from the subterranean origin through a cave, also known as Khul as evidenced in their Lawnla dance. It is mentioned in Khawchuk that the Gangtes stated their settlement at Leokong that might be a corruption of name for Lepcha and then at Thangdung, a corrupted word for Thailand.
From there they came to Burma and settled in the Chin Hills in Burma and then to the Lushai Hills (now in Mizoram) and moved to Manipur. Today, the Gangtes predominantly settle in the following villages: Longpi, Teikhang, Leikot, Phailen, Phaijang, Pangen, Santing, Phaikholum, Chengkonpang, Khanpi, Trigmun, Vantungbung, Bunglon, Khousabung, etc.
They are broadly divided into 3 (three) phengs:
b) Teklah, subdivided into two vehs and
c) Thangjom with nine vehs.
These Phengs are exogenous social units. Amongst them, a marriage with mothers’ brother’s (maternal uncle’s) daughter is prescribed where as father’s sister’s (paternal aunt’s) daughter is forbidden to be the connubial mate. The people, in the past, wear cotton produced from tension looms. But at present, they commonly use wools.
Their traditional cloths include Puondum, a shawl put on by men of all ranks. Thangsuohpuon, a personifying shawl, indicates its wrapper as a higher status achiever and performer of Chawng rite and Puonlaisan is used both by men and women.
Today, they are predominantly Christians but still remember their animistic ways. They worshipped streams, big mountains, a snake with red colored neck (Gulnakso) and deities as Chongpokpa/Chongpoknu. It is said that when Gangtes became careless and neglectful in their worship of the Gulnakso, the latter threatened to follow them wherever they might choose to move.
The worship of the Sun earned the wrath of the snake, and as a result, the Gangtes faced many misfortunes. The following are the most disastrous incidents which resulted in their large scale deaths after their intelligence and senses were distorted by the irked snake:
1. While they were living at Saitol village, a wild rouge elephant happened to invade their settlements. In normal circumstances, they would have chased it with proper weapons, but under the mental influence of the snake they attacked the elephant with knotted cloth, and even though they eventually brought down the elephant, it is said that the whole length of the settlement was littered with scores of trampled victims.
2. When the chief’s wife injured herself with an axe, the whole community was driven into a mad rage of stamping the sharp edge of the axe in an attempt to blunt it. This incident resulted in countless casualties.
3. They once felled a thirty arm-length pine tree, which was required intact to serve as the main beam for the chief’s house they were constructing. In order to prevent the tree from breaking they were made to line up along the line of fall and making the tree fall upon their shoulders. This was another high casualty incident.
4. During their war with the Suhte and Poi tribes, they were mesmerized in large numbers into diving off a high cliff in an attempt to swim the thick mist below.
The traditional festivals of Gangtes are as below:
i) Chapchal Kut: It is observed in the month of March-April for seven days, between cutting down of a tree and filling in the Jhum is completed. All enjoy Sports, dance and songs by the youngsters.
ii) Gahmasa Kut: This festival is observed after Chapchal Kut. It is observed for only one day to celebrate the first harvest from the field. Killing of mithun for a community feast and is followed by singing and dancing.
iii) Mim Kut: This festival is observed by youngsters making merriment, blowing bamboo trumpets followed by killing of mithun for the feast. It is usually observed in the early part of the October.
iv) Chavang Kut: This Kut is generally observed in the month of October and November lasting for seven days. Killing of animals such as mithuns, cattles, goats and sheep characterized the occasion followed by merry making, sport, etc.
v) Thatlak: This ritual is observed in October. One rooster is killed without breaking any bone. Placed on a plantain leaf, it is kept on a rack as an offering to the god known as Phisang. To its both sides, a branch is posted to which wing of the rooster is attached. On the next day the shaman observes the future omen of the community.
The Gangtes are one of the most committed Kuki torch bearers. Demkhoseh, who was a Gangte, contributed a great leadership for the cause of the Kuki nation during his lifetime. Another Gangte leader, Haokholal Thangjom designed and introduced the Kuki National Assembly Flag.