Understanding the Lupho, Lupheng, Misao and Related Clans
By Lhunkholal Lupho
In view of the fact that most of us are not aware of our true genealogical background, and for our local elders who depend on the memory bank of community elders, here is a brief account of the Hangmi pedigree.
The Lupho(Ngoilu), Lupheng(Lhanghal), Misao(Leivon & Neitham) and its related clans belong to the Chin-Kuki-Mizo ethnic group; they share common root, linguistic and cultural affinity with them. The other version revolves within the faith of emergence of their forefathers through a cave, according to which they are known as Khulmi (Khul=cave, mi=man). But they could not recount reminiscences about the exact location of the legendary cave. Yet they identify themselves as having a distinct genealogical line from the party who crossed from the sub-terranian region to the outer world above. They belong to Hangmi pedigree (Hangmi-kuki Life and Lore. P-234, T.S. Goswami-1985), who was born to Vumchom, grandson of Chonkim. Hangmi, or to put it the otherway way, Lupho had a close genelogical tree with Sailo of Mizoram. (Misao Inkon. Pu Shinghil.Pa Minluto. P-6).
Origin: The Lupho(Ngoilu), Lupheng(Lhanghal), Misao(Leivon & Neitham) and related clans believe that they came through khul, which otherwise is recorded as khul, sinlung or chinlung. According to their traditional folk history, their proginator, Hangmi, once lived in a sub-terranian world, and decided to come over to Chungkho. They came across a great snake called Gul-Lheopi that blocked their way. So he along with his band of party, including Chongthu, Zahong and others, prepared an armour consisting of a long cotton shawl called Phoipi and headgear with sharp edge and killed the serpant and crossed over to the chungkho-gam. Since he was a fearless warrior, he was called Hangmi pa.
Settlement: The villages of settlement in random order are Yangngoupoh, Maphou, Changoubung, Tonglhang, Misao-Lhahvom, Thangkanphai, N. Zilphai, Nungka, Govajang, Lungphou, Molkon, Kangpokpi, Nongdam kuki, Molvom in Nagaland, Patlen, Phaijang, Phailen, Siloijang. Simol, Maolhang, Phailengjang, Leithao, M.Kholmol, khomunnom, Vengnom, Twikham, khaosat, N.champhai and Molhoi. They also settle in North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong in Assam state.
Social Structure: There are many sub-clans among Lupho(Ngoilu), Lupheng(Lhanghal), Misao(Leivon & Neitham) clans and senority is identifed by paying sating (meat piece in the back vertebra) to the elder.
Marriage: Like the other Chin-Kuki-Mizo clans, marriage is done within matrilinear cross-cousin i.e. a boy has to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter. This type of marriage is arranged by parents of the boy and the girl. There is often a man who takes a woman as wife due to the premarital pregnancy. Such a marriage is called Jolgai. There is also another type of marriage practiced locally called Kijammang (elopement).
Bride Price: A bride price is one lutom(a fine cloth for the father), one laisui (a traditional cloth for her mother) and eight mithuns, one dah(gong) and khichong(necklace). Fixation of price is done by council of Tu le Be of three members each from the bride and groom side by cutting the feast animal liver equivalent to bride price. Equivalent bride price paid on the day is adjusted with the pieces and the left over is understood to be paid later(credit) by the groom’s party. Dahpi(gong) and khichang(necklace) are announced verbally. This system was rigidly followed in olden days, but is now hardly followed as the bride price is settled by the bride and the groom parents along with the house council. Whether the marriage be of arranged or elopement, usually when the bride price has to be announced, the bride’s parents and the household council hold feast and announce the bride’s price. And the groom’s party is not allowed to hold feast for the announcement.
Birth And Naming Ceremony: When a child birth is announced and brought to the maternal grandparents, the maternal grandparents kill a cock for a male child or a hen for a girl child and present feather and dried ginger to the child for a healthy life. And naming of the first born is done after the maternal grandparents. And naming ceremony is held when naojuneh(serving of rice-beer) is performed. Traditionally, the ceremony is held at the Upa (clan head) house or village.
Death and Burial Ceremony: In olden days, the dead body is cleanse with warm water. After a clean bath, it should be tight to sutkhom (main pillar of the house) with sanglai(frame made of bamboo). The dead is buried in the courtyard. With the Christianization of the Hangmi pedigree, they now bury the dead body in common burial place(cemetery). They describe death into two types – Thise and Thipha (bad death and good death). Thise is unnatural death, and this type of death is buried outside the village. Thipha is natural death, and the dead body is buried inside the courtyard or in the village cemetery.
Economic Activity: Jhum or shifting cultivation is the main agricultural occupation. Rice is the staple food and supplemented by cash crops such as cucumber, pumkin, bean and other jhuming products.
Trade and commerce: They trade mainly with other Chin-Kuki-Mizo clans, Meitei of Manipur valley and also with Burmese of Myanmar. Their main trading items include chillies, pumkin, cucumber, dried fish, meat etc. They also trade in mithun, gong and buffalo.
Village Political organisation: Village administration is done by village chief, whose position is strictly hereditary and enjoy complete and absolute ownership of the village, land and property. The chief is assisted by a village council members, nominated by the village chief himself.
A hierarcy of the village chief council members or government are:
Haosa or Chief,
Semang Pachong or Mantri(nominated council members),
The present day villages in Manipur are governed as per the village Authority Act, 1956. The chiefs still hold powers and privileges as the entire village land still belongs to him. He acts as ex-officio-chairman of the village authority. The secretary and other members of village authority are now elected by the members of the village.
Some selected folklores;
Legend had it that Lhangeineng was the most beautiful and charming lady. The daughter of Lupho, during the great flood (as mentioned in oral tradition) that submerged all land, saved the people. As the flood was rising high, the water echoed the name pho ..pho . . . . .pho….so major families sacrificed their daughters. Mention can be made of Guite and Lienthang families, etc. in fear and later search for what it was and later came to be known that the gods of the sea had been calling upon Lhangeineng. They realised that the gods of sea were calling for a sacrifice of Lupho’s daughter. So all went in search of her and found her hidden by her parents.
Legend had it that her beauty enchanted everything around her . … so on fervent request and prayer of all to save them, Lhangaineng gave herself up to the gods of the sea. After the sacrifice of Lhangeineng, the flood receded. After the flood was over, Lupho and his wife went out in search of their beloved daughter. It was said that the place where Lupho and his mistress’ tears fell became salt-spring and chillies, and Lhangeineng turned into fish. It was said that they all met. It was also said that Hangmi pedigree (more precisely Lupho clan) were forbidden to eat salt, chilly and fish.
Legend also had it that the Hangmi pedigree during their settlement in Phubala at Thangjing hill and adjoining areas of the present day Moirang subdivision of Manipur (India), they were greatly blessed by the Thangjing diety. The deity blessed them with brave and mighty sons and beautiful daughters who were prosperous and strong. Their historic dominance in Thangjing hill was an eye sore to the neighbour, the Moirang people in particular, who were curious of the source of blessing. The Moirang people envied them and waged war against the Hangmi people without warning. During the course of repeated invasions, which lasted several days, the Hangmis were eventually suppressed and their deity was snatched away from them. Like the Luphos, after worshipping the deity, the Moirang people were blessed with beautiful maidens and many young brave boys.
Mention can be made of the legendary beauty of Thoibi until today. In the olden days, the people of Phubala (literally means revenge) and the people of Moirang communicated with a single dialect. Their customs and culture were also the same. The other Chin-Kuki-Mizo people in Moirang at the time are the Chothes. King Chothe Thangvai Pakhangba was also known as Thangvai Pakhangba or Ivang Purik Lai Thingri Nachousa. He ruled Moirang from BC 90 – to AD 30, as recorded in the pre-history of Moirang. According to folklore, they and the Chothes were at constant rivalry. The Chothes were assimilated to the Moirang people, partly prompted by the strenuous relations with them. (Zalengam-the kuki Nation. By P.S. Haokip).
The Hangmi pedigree or as recorded as Milhiem – since he cut the serpent (Gul-lheopi or Gul hiemnu) into three pieces, he was nick-named/ given the title. Milhiems (Mi=Man, Lhiem=cut into pieces) at present day scatter across the states of Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram. They are believed to be mostly concentrated in Manipur (northeast India) and Saigaing division of Myanmar. Due to their weak political, economic and dispersed geographic settlements, many got assimilated and absorbed in other kindred tribes and sub-groups namely; Kom, Maring, Lamkang, Paite, Vaiphei, Khongsai etc. of which some of these groups make it a basis to claim them their own because of the presence of the assimilated members, the claim which has been rejected by Hangmi elders and intellectuals. The future of Hangmi people solely depend on the younger generation who will stand the test of time and evolution. The Hangmis constitute a significant part of the larger Chin-Kuki-Mizo community.
The writer is a student at Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai, Tamil Nadu (India).