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The People

People | Customs


People - Lushai | Pawi & Lakher | Fanai | Ralte | Paite | Rangte | Chakma

People

The inhabitants of  Mizoram are known by the generic name of Mizo, which literally means people (mi) of the hills (zo).  There are a number of separate tribes under the general ethnic broad group of Mizo.

Mizos included the following tribes - Ralte, Paite, Dulien, Poi, Sukte, Pankhup, Jahao, Fanai (Molienpui), Molbem, Taute, Lakher, Dalang, Mar, Khuangli, Falam (Tashous), Leillul and Tangur.

The three main sub groups are Lushais, Pawis and Lakhers.

Lushai

Physical Features | Language

There has been a lot of speculation as to the meaning of the word Lushai.  It was, at one time, interpreted to mean head cutters ( 'Lu' in Lushai language means head and 'shai' means cutter). Some suggest the meaning of Lushai as persons with long heads (Shei meaning long), pertaining to the fact that  Lushais bind their hair in knots at the back of their head.

In the north Lushai Hills, the predominant tribes were the Lushais, Raltes and Pawis. The Raltes belonged to the Kuki tribe and were brought under subjugation by the Lushais, who migrated from the Chin Hills.  They had distinct social customs and marked differences in dialects.  They used to live in a separate portion of the village assigned to them.

Physical features

The Lushais were described as short, sturdy and heavy people of Mongolian type.  Generally the height of men were between 162cm to 170cm and the women's height varied from 140cm to 160cm.  The complexion varied from dark brown to light yellow.

In the Lushai clans both the sexes are slight in build.  The colour of their skin varied from dark yellow, brown, dark olive, copper and yellow olive. Beards and whiskers were almost unknown and a Lushai, when he could grow a moustache, would pull out all the hairs except at two ends.  The hair was worn by both sexes in a knot over the nape of the neck, and carefully parted in the middle. The children's hair were left to grow freely till it was long enough to be tied in a knot.  The young men dressed their hair with much care using pig's fat.  Widows allowed their hair to hang loose.

An average woman bore five to ten children. However, infant morality being high, only two to three children in a family would survive to become adults. Both men and women could walk long distances and they were able to swim.  They also climbed hills with ease which was natural in the hilly terrain of the Lushai hills.

Some mental abnormalities were found in the people of Lushai Hills. There were common cases of transvestites, when some men would dress and live like women.  They were accepted as such in the society. One would also come across cases of lunacy rather frequently. Suicide, particularly amongst old people, was also quite common.

The difference between the clans was mostly evident in the different methods of performing the Sakhua sacrifice to the guardian spirit of the household. Some of the clans were not yet absorbed by the Lushais but  they were much influenced by the Lushais.  These tribes were the Fanai, the Ralte, the Paite and the Rangte.

Language

Although several languages were spoken in the Lushai Hills, the main language was Lushai.  Other languages of the Kuki-Chin groups spoken by the different tribes were Zahao, Lakher, Hmar, Paite, Lai and Ralte.  Many of the smaller tribes used their own language amongst themselves but used Lushai for conversation with persons of other tribes or with outsiders. Lushai language was a spoken language and did not have any written literature.

 

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