The Anthropology of Tangkhul Naga community

Executive Summary: The origin of Tangkhul Naga; Tangkhul Naga people originally came from Mongolia via Yunan province of China, migrating to the present Tangkhul naga inhabited areas in around 9th BC to 11th century AD onward. The Tangkhul are the first settler in Tangkhul inhabited areas and Tangkhul become the original owner of their land, who belong to the Mongoloid race that came from the East and this has been agreed by all the Tangkhulnao. They lived their lives very isolated in the hills of Ukhrul until the invasion of the British in the 19th century. With the invasion of the British with Meithei king started the problems for the Tangkhul Naga. In 1832 the British invaded the Naga region, and in 1881 Nagaland was declared a British District curved out from Nagalim, which began the falling of the Naga Kingdom to British hand on late 1980th and later on to Union of India after 1947.

Introduction: Tangkhul is a Naga tribe living in the Indo-Burma border area occupying the Ukhrul District Manipur, India, the Somrah Tangkhul hills (Somrah tract) in Upper Myanmar. Despite this international border, around 16 villages have continued to live in Burma were regard them-selves as “Burmise Tangkhul-Naga”. Unfortunately the history and the origin of the Tangkhul-naga tribe is not written in the early days. Still then, history can be trace and understood through oral history, songs and cultures of the people. Ancient Tangkhuls villages were rules by the king until the arrival of the ideas of western democracy. The western Missionaries arrive in the hills of Manipur after the East India Company signed an agreement with Indian emperor on 1600 AD at Calcutta to ‘civilize the savage by establishing missionary school and spreading Christianity’ marked the beginning of profound changes in their ways of life.

Main content: The Tangkhuls-Naga is one of the major tribe in Naga Community and one of the most advancing tribe among Naga nation. The origin of Tangkhul-Naga traced back to the history of nomadic ages. The Tangkhul-Naga come with other tribes on the hills, came to Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh from China through Myanmar entering their present habitats in successive waves of immigration on 9th to 11th century BC. The Tangkhul-Naga came together with the Maos, Poumeis, Marams and Thangals because all of them have references to their dispersal from Makhel a Mao village in Senapati district. They had also erected megaliths at Makel in memory of their having dispersed from there to various directions. Some Tangkhul scholar claim that by 2nd century A.D. the Tangkhuls were living in Samshok (Thuangdut) in Myanmar. The Tangkhul-Naga began disperse from Samshok after the invasion of Ko-lo-feng and his successor I-mau-shun the king of Nan-chao in the closing part of the 8th century A.D. and beginning of the 9th century A.D. They were further driven towards the north west of Myanmar by the Shan people, and again they dispersed at Khambi to various southeast areas. Mr.T.Luikham of Ukhrul maintained that Nagas came from Mongolia crossing the Himalayas, passing Arunachal and finally settled in (Nagalim). He said folk songs often spoke of the people coming out the caves. . According to W.I. Singh (1986), in his “The History of Manipur”, the Tangkhuls settled in Samshok (Thuangdut) area in Myanmar. They belong to Yakkha tribe in China. The evidence of the origin of the Tangkhul Nagas was given by T.C.Hodson who recorded that Hungpung (Hundung) is the center of their dispersion. Which is contradiction to the evidence I found, the Tangkhuls first come to Phungcham from Makel and Yunan via Tibet and other from China and Burma via Samsok to Khambi. Different views have also been given by various historians and authors. But in fact, no one could trace the unique history of the ‘Naga’ genesis.

The recent study of the origin of Nagas was by a Tangkhul-Naga scholar like R.R. Shimray (1985) supported Marshall’s view of Indo-China southwards movement. Thus he wrote: – “The Nagas and other tribal of North East India followed the Southward movements toward Indo-China. It has been seen that the ancestors of the Nagas had lived at Sea Coast in the remote past”. Whereas I found, that the Tangkhul-Naga history of originating associated of their forefathers with the seashore and caves. Most of the ornaments of the Tangkhul-Naga such as kongsang, huishon, etc. were made of sea shells, cowrie and conch shells a prominent feature of the people who live on the shore. There was a ancient tools and ornament made of stone were found in the “Kangkhui Cave” and the monolith of stone elected in many Villages like in Peh (Paoyi), Chingchiroi, Phungcham, Hungpung, Hunphun and Khambi villages were the evidenced. My hypothesis of origin of the Tangkhul-Naga Tribes is traced back to Mongolia nomadic ages and immigration from there to China in Yunan province and later on to Nagalim. And they dispersed into two separate places; firstly, the Tangkhul-Naga origin in the north, that is south-west China and Tibet, the earliest home of the Tangkhuls was the upper reaches of Huang heo and Yangtze Rivers which lies in the Zinjiang province of China. And then they were migrating from Yunan province in china via Arunuchal, to Makel. Where they were dispersed and reached to Phungcham, Hungdung and Hunphun etc. secondly, the second version of the origin of Tangkhul-Naga who come from Mangolia and China and Burma were reached to Samsok and later dispersed at Khambi. At last, they settle down at southeast villages, and support by folk-tales and folk song. The exodus of the Tangkhuls from China via Myanmar to Nagalim. Whereas, some were travels from China via Tibet and Arunachal to Makhel and finally to Ukhrul. It is indeed a story of heroism of human courage and endurance. The concluding part of my research on the origin of the Tangkhul Naga is based on evidences of ornament, oral history, folk-songs, earlier research work and logical analyzing fact that has diverse among the Tangkhul villages is proved by a number of minor considerations. Some parts of the northeastern part of the Tangkhul villages were coming through samsok, Chinwin River from China via Burma, where as other come through Himalayan ranges and other come from Mongolia through Yunan province in china. The immigration phase can divided as: First phase(c, 10,000 B.C. to 8000 B.C): The first immigration was direct from the Mangolia and china province of Yunan via Tibet. Second phase (2000 B.C to 100 BC: From China Yunan province via Tibet and upper Myanmar samsok. Third phase (8TH BC to 11TH century AD onward): From Makel and Samshok to original Tangkhul inhabited areas in Phungcham and later on to Hunphun, Hungpung etc. Tangkhul villages enjoy “villages’ sovereignty”. In course of time every Tangkhul village became a small republic like the Greek city states. Every village had an unwritten constitution made up of age-old conventions and traditions, but now we have all the Riyan (constitution). there is a wages of war between the villages for protecting their outer sovereignty until the English missionary arrived. The first English missionary Mr. William Pettigrew landed to Unkhul district at Peh (Paoyi) villages, and later migrated to Hunphun. For the first time, 12 believers were baptised on 28th Sept 1901 by him at Ukhrul. The arrival of Missionaries in the hills of Manipur to ‘civilize the savage’ marked the beginning of profound changes in their ways of life. The Tangkhul villages were self sufficient and self governing units ruled by hereditary or elected chief assisted by a Council of Elders. The chief was a judge, administrated and commander rolled into one. However, absence of a national government was disastrous for them in the mediaeval period as the small village states were unable to withstand the onslaught of the organized army or the Meitei king and Britishers. Some villages have some historical connection with Meithei whereas a northwestern Tangkhul village has no historical connection at all. In many villages there have different story of clans history of coming from different direction and finally settle down together by conduction some ritual in the villages. Thereby, I believe the present groups of Tangkhul Nagas come from Mongolia with other tribes on the hills, came to Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh through China and Myanmar entering their present habitats in successive waves of immigration into different direction.

Conclusion: The ancient Tangkhul history is hitherto an unrecorded past. History however became more enlightened by the beginning of the 13th century owing to the cultural, trade and sometimes turbulent relations which had grown up with the people of the valley. Still then, history can be read and understood through oral story, songs, tools, and cultures of the people. Indeed most historical scholars have quoted that the Nagas belong to Mongoloid race who came from the East and this have been agreed by all the Tangkhul Nagas. Thus the Tangkhul Nagas had their own custom and culture since thousands of years.

References: 1. R.R. Shimray (1985): Origin and Culture of Naga, New Delhi 2. Dr. Horam (1975): Naga Polity. Delhi: BR Publishing House. 3. W.I. Singh, (1986): “The History of Manipur” 4. T.C.Hudson, (1911) ‘The Naga tribes of Manipur London’

Thanks and Regards

kharingyo shimrah


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