Structure of Chin-Kuki-Mizo’s Social Institutions

Published on January 8, 2006

By Sominthang Doungel

 

The Chin-Kuki-Mizo society, like most tribal societies, is segmentary. It has different clans, which followed different system of dialects, sacrificial rites, priests (thiempu) and chiefs. Their social life during the pre-British was bounded by many fears arising out of their animistic belief. Inter-clan feuds had also been a common feature among them in the early period. As a result many people were made captive who became to be known as ‘SOH’ le ‘Kol’ (slaver).

Family:

Family occupies the most important and prominent place in the history of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo. Their family is a nuclear family which ultimately becomes a joint family. In the Chin-Kuki-Mizo family the father exercise all supreme authority over matters pertaining to the family and the women folk have no significant roles in decision making. Traditionally the wife is a subordinate to the husband in the household management. A wife never called her husband by his name. But when a son or daughter is born she addressed him as the father of the child. On the death of a father the eldest son is all responsible who like the father exercise the same nature of power.

Marriage:

 

The form of marriage in the Chin-Kuki-Mizo right from its inception was a marriage by purchase. The price of a bride varies from clan to clan. However, if both the two parties mutually agreed the price may not be required at all. A bride’s price is determined in terms of ‘Sel’ (Mithun). For instance the price of my wife who is from Khongsai (Lunkim) clan is eight sel (mithun) (though I was not required to pay at all then). There are also some clans who charged up to ten mithuns. The price can also be paid in certain articles or goods which were equivalent to mithun. It is also customary for a man to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter (cousin) which in local term is called ‘Neite’.

 

 

But to-day this practice is hardly seen and parents preferred marriage outside the family. There’s a marriage by arrangement, marriage by mutual love. Inter clan marriage was never allowed in the past. But, in the present day such practices have been observed without any nullification. There is also no restriction with regard to marriage between different linguistic groups of tribe. Usually marriage involves a series of three visits by the groom’s party to the bride’s party at the end of which marriage ceremony is performed. This visits and marriage is possible only if the to be bride’s parents consented. Other than the Church the marriage is not bound by any court or authority to register.

Divorce:

There are certain recognized reasons under which divorce could be claimed such as adultery, issueless, imperforated vagina etc. A mithun is given to the wife if divorce is due to the husband breach of marriage vows. If the divorce is caused by the wife, the bride price is returned to the husband.

Chief:

Every village has its own chief who in theory is despot within his jurisdiction. His words are law in his own village. All disputes and cases have to be decided by him. He is also assisted by his Council of Advisors. He imposed customary punishment to the erring subjects. In the modern administration, justice is carried out by the village authority with chief as the chairman. Dispute which could not be settled by the village authority are usually referred to the area court (Area Kuki Inpi). If the Area Court fails to settle the disputes, it is then referred to Kuki Inpi (apex body) for final settlement.

 

Land and mode of inheritance:

Land can be owned by an individual if it is in the area where the MLR and LR Act 1960 are extended. But in the hill areas where the said Act does not extended it belongs to the chief. Transfer of land in the hill areas is not possible as it entirely belongs to the chief. But land where MLR and LR Act of 1960 were extended can be transfer and inherited by the eldest son if the father died. The mode of inheritance among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo is counted in the male line. It is their custom and tradition that all the parental properties are inherited by the eldest son of the family. In the absence of male heir, the nearest kin inherit the deceased’s properties.

Settlement area (KHO):

In the pre-British period, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo lived in one spot for not more than 7-10 years. Because, they were in search of more productive land and their life was much migratory in nature. For selecting a village site the eldest would first slept one night at the proposed site by taking with them a cock. If the cock did not crow before down the site would be considered not suitable. On abandoning the old village, the old hearth would be doused with water so that none of the misfortunes and curse of the abandoned village should follow them.

Type of houses:

Houses of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo in the early days were not built strong and durable. Bamboo and thatches were usually used for building. Houses were raised 4-5 feet high from the ground. The floor were usually made of splitting bamboos. Except the main doors, they did not have windows or ventilations.

Som Inn (Bachelors Dormitory):

Som inn or the bachelors’ dormitory is one of the institutions of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo which fostered and nurtured the youths into a responsible and matured person in the society. The bachelors choose a leader from amongst them and it was customary for the inmates to obey their chosen leader. The dormitory leader mobilized the youth and rendered free and compulsory services to the society. All the male youths of the village who had attained the age of puberty were made to sleep in the dormitory in the night. The village dormitory served as a sleeping place, recreational centre for unmarried. It was also used for imparting and training the young boys. It also served as an inn for a man from another village.

Musical instruments:

 

It is rather abstruse to ascertain the year as to when the Chin-Kuki-Mizo started using musical instruments, but it has been used by them from time immemorial. They had different kinds of musical instruments. To name a few of their instruments include Khuong or drum, Goshem (bamboo pipe) which is made of dry gourd and dry bamboo pipe, ‘Dahpi’ (big gong) and ‘Dah Cha’ (Small gong), ‘Selki’ (mithun’s horn), ‘Theile’ (Flute) which is made of dry bamboo pipe, Harps, cymbals etc.

Dances:

By nature the Chin-Kuki-Mizo love social bustles, singing, dancing and drinking are ingrediently blended forming a common feature of life. They have various types of dances which have their own uniqueness. The dances are generally performed by both men and women with elegancy and affinity. Their music and songs are classical melancholic and sentimental. Most of the songs are sung with the accompaniment of drums and music.

Games and sports:

The Chin-Kuki-Mizo people are sport loving and competitive minded people. One of their common games is wrestling. This game was occasionally done in the bachelors’ dormitory as a routine exercise. Visitors to a village were usually challenged by the local youth and a fair competition was fought till one become the winner. Weight lifting was another popular game. In the early days in every village of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo, there would be one or two stone used for weight lifting. Young men competed among themselves either in the morning or in the evening. There are different games played by man, women and children.

Economic life:

In the early period, jhuming constituted the main basis of the economy of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo and it still remains. The people could manage themselves with the kind of food they produced from the jhum. They had limited wants and were contented with their economic life. Their staple food was rice. Besides paddy, maize, millet, yams, sweet potatoes etc were also grown. Buying and selling were most counted; business was transacted through barter system. Cottons were grown and yearned into thread. They knew how to dye their clothes by using a species of dwarf indigo grown in their village.

Goats, cows, buffaloes, dogs, pigs, mithuns etc were domesticated by them. Mithun occupied a key role in the social as well as in the economic life of their early life. They kept them for trading and for festival purpose. Rice beer was very common and no ceremony was performed without rice beer. Nevertheless, young men and women hardly drank as drinking in the presence of elders by young men and women were considered unseemly.

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