The Kukis in North Cachar Hills

Published on December 19, 2005

The Kukis: The Kuki is a generic term for a number of mixed groups of people. Kuki is indigenous to North Cachar (NC) Hills and their other ancestral lands. Ancestral Kuki lands, presently in India and Burma need to be accorded statehood in each of the respective countries. This only legitimate given Kuki’s unique history of independence prior to the advent of British colonialism.

It was only following the ‘Kuki Rising, 1917-1919’ (First Kuki War of Independence 1917-1919) that Kuki finally came under British rule. Prior to 1919, Kuki was a sovereign nation. Kuki was never under any country, be it India or Burma; they never paid any tax to any other countries. On the contrary, wherever Kuki chiefs reigned, they received tax and tributes from various other ethnic groups.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India lists 37 numbers of tribes in the Kuki group of people in Assam. They are….

1. Baite or Biete  2. Changsan, 3. Chongloi,  4. Doungel 5. Gamlhou 6. Gangte 7. Guite 8. Hangsing 9. Haokip or Haupit. 10. Haolai 11. Hengna 12.  Hangsing 13. Hrangkhawl or  Rongkhol 14. Jongbe 15. Khawchung 16. Khwathlang 17. Khelma 18. Kholhou 19. Kipgen 20. Kuki 21. Lienthang 22.Lhangunm 23. Lhoujem 24. Lhouvum 25. Lupheng 26. Mangjol 27. Misao 28. Riang 29. Sairhem 30. Selnam 31. Singson 32. Sitlhou 33. Sukte 34. Thado 35. Thangew 36. Uibuh 37. Vaiphei


Being of mongoloid stock the Kukis are strongly built in features and are stout. They are patriarchal in social organization and the sons inherit the property. Marriages among the Kukis are monogamous and cross-cousin marriage is preferred.


The Kukis prefer to live on the hill tops and their villages are cluster of houses closely constructed to protect from alien raiders. The village headman wields considerable power in their day-to-day life affairs. The headman is assisted by some wise man called Siemang and Pachong & all house-hold heads of the village congregate to discuss & resolve matters relating to the village & the community.


Though Christianity has brought considerable changes in their socio-economic life, yet the Kukis still adhere to much of their old customs, laws and habits which their illustrious forefathers adopted from time immemorial.


The Kukis grow dwarf cotton and spun yarns for their own use. They use vegetable dyes in a myriad of hues and weave dreamlike designs mostly geometric in nature. The men folk prefer colorful Sangkhol, a jacket & a pheichawm(short lungi or dhoti) and wrap a chaddar which is sometimes embroidered like a snake skin.


They also wear head dresses viz., tuhpah, delkop. The women adorn themselves with a nih-san (red slip) underneath a pon’ve(a wrap around) which was worn from above the chest. The ornaments included bilba (earings), hah-le-chao (bracelets & bangles), khi (necklace) & occasionally bilkam (a type of ring shaped earring to stretch the ear lobe. They split their tresses into two and wrap them over their heads into fine knots.


Both men and women enjoy smoking from their intricately crafted pipes named differently. Those made from stones and brass-metal is Sumeng golong, only made from brass-metal is Sumthin golong and those craved out of wood with a brass spout is called Gojung golong.


After the harvest is over, the Kukis observe the Chavang kut festival at the country-yard of the village headman. They perform traditional dances like Jangtalam, Molkanglam etc. to the tune of their traditional musical instruments – Khuong, Dahbo, Pheipit, Gosem, Dah-pi, Dah-cha, Pengkul, theile, theiphit,selki etc. Other festivals are Mim Kut, Sa-ai, Chang-Ai, Hun, and Chawn le Han etc.


The participating families wear their traditional dresses Sangkhol, Khamtang, Ponmongvom, saipikhup and the malefolk adorn with Sangkhol, Delkop etc. The harvest season is always a time for festivities, dancing and singing. The Kukis express the farmer’s happiness in Jangtalam by body breaks and rhythmic steps. And when the days of hard toil in their jhum fields are over, the Kukis rejoice while dancing Molkanglam. Sagolpheikhai/Sagolkengkhai is a dance to express victory in war or in successful group hunting.


Source: N.I.C., North Cachar Hills District Unit  website, (retrieved on December 19, 2005)

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