lead a very simple and happy life. They are fiercely independent. The most permeating factor in the Mizo
society was the rule of the chiefs.
Mizo chief was the guardian angel of the society. A son of a chief, after
marriage would get from his father a new rite to set up his own village and some
families would be allotted by his father to go to the new village under the new
chief. There after, he ruled as an independent chief. The youngest
son inherited his father's village. The chief was a despot, but he had to
rule according to custom; otherwise the subjects would leave the arbitrary
chief and move over to other chief. The society was egalitarian and the
chief was one amongst his fellow villagers.
The presents given to the chief were often treated as common property and all
villagers could take some share out of it. But at the same time the chief
was the owner of the village and the surrounding land. He could ask his
people to furnish him with everything that he required. Every man was
bound to labour for the chief three days in a year. Each house in the
village contributed its share of any expense incurred in feeding or entertaining
the chief's guests.
The villagers would voluntarily offer their services to build the house of the
chief. They would also help in his cultivation. The power of the
chief would have to be so exercised as to keep intact the village without
attrition. Anyone finding the rule of the chief oppressive, despite the
risk of having his paddy confiscated could migrate to a rival chief who would
very much welcome such additions to his strength.
The chiefs were assisted, aided and advised by a group of elders (Upas). They would discuss all matters concerning the villages and adjudicate all
disputes. Three or four upas would sit with the chief to hear and decide
cases. In all such cases, customary procedures would be strictly
followed. Punishments were also according to age old customs. As remuneration for their efforts in trying cases the upas received fees, called
Salam. Usually, the party who lost the case would pay the Salam.
Before money economy was introduced most of the punishment was in terms of fine
paid in kind like giving a mithun, a pig or a fowl. Gradually, with money
flowing into Mizo economy, cash alternative came into being. The ceiling
of fine was put at forty rupees which was a very considerable sum during those
days. The rate of Salam was fine rupees. The fine would be paid as
compensation to the aggrieved party. The Salam would be spent by the chief
and his upas on feast. The offenders would pay fine within the period
fixed by the chief. In case of default, proportionate property of the
person would be confiscated to meet the demand. In case of habitual
defaulters, the chief would turn him out of the village.
There were traditional village officials apart from the upas as part of the
chief's administration. They were appointed by the chief's for specific
functions. Every village had a village crier, called tlanger, who would go
round the village in the evening and proclaim the chief's orders. As
remuneration for his work, the tlamgau would get basket of paddy from
each household. Each village had a blacksmith, called thirdeng, who make
agricultural implements and weapons for the villagers. He would get one
basket of paddy from each of the families. In addition, he would get a
fixed share consisting of the spine and three ribs of every animal shot or
trapped by any villager. To perform village ceremonials there would be a
village priest, the puithiam. He conducted all sacrifices to propitiate the
spirits. For his services he would get paddy from the villagers.
Then there were the ramhuals who advised the chief where Jhum for the year
should be done. As remuneration, the ramhuals, would get, after the chief,
the first choice of their jhum plot in the site selected. For their
preference in selecting their own plots they paid higher tax (fathang) to the
chief. There were other appointed persons to help the chief in his
personal matters. The Zalen would assist the chief when the Chief's
household ran short of paddy and help him in other similar difficulties.
For his services to the chief he was exempted from payment of fathang.
There were two other officials to assist the chief in his own personal
matters. The sadwat was the private priest of the chief to conduct his
sacrifices and ceremonials. He would be assisted by the tlahpawi, who was
usually a friend of the chief.