Saturday, September 19, 2020

The People

Common Customs

The Mizos 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.

Village Officials

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.