Halloween party ideas 2015

[Inpui Exclusive]

By Prof Lal Dena*


The objective of this paper is to analyze the pattern of leadership in Hmar society of Manipur in its historical perspective. The pattern of leadership in Hmar society can be discussed in the context of the different stages and periods of evolution of that society beginning with the food gathering through (a) a stage when they evolved a certain primitive technology of production and began settling down in Manipur, (b) a stage when the people came under colonial rule by 1891, and (c) the post colonial stage. The leadership with which the paper is concerned may be classified into three of its different manifestations: traditional, religious and political.

The traditional leaders include the chief (Lal), the councilors (Siehmang-Upas), the priests (Thiempu) and the Youth Commanders (Val-Upas). They are called so because their social foundation is custom bound and are , in fact, the spokesman of customary and traditional laws. The sphere in which they operate is limited to what may be called chiefdom or village-based society. This kind of leadership still functions at some levels side by side with the religious and political leaders, though the latter are more predominant in the day-to-day village body politics of present-day Hmar society.

The church leaders include the church elders, teachers, with church organization; administration, preaching and mission-oriented education. The political leaders include the leaders of political parties which are based on ethnic lines. Both the church leaders and the political leaders constitute an important segment of those who have received education provided by the colonial missions and directly or indirectly formed a link between traditional leaders and the colonial rulers by acting as translators or interpreters during the colonial period. In the post-colonial period they acted, however, as mediators, bureaucrats or administrators. Having thus identified the leaders, the paper will attempt to explain the emergence of these leaders and the dialectical relationship between them within the matrix of a changing Hmar society.

Traditional Hmar Political System: Its basic features

Pudaite (1963 : 23) has pointed out that a democratic government, with leaders appointed by the people, existed among the Hmars even in Sinlung which is said to be the original home of the Hmars. He, however, has not specified the manner in which the leaders were appointed. J.W., Edgar (Mackenzie, 1884 : 437) while maintaining that the Hmars were a democratic community has concluded that there were very doubtful traces of having been once organized under chiefs. The oral tradition and also folklore clearly suggest that the Hmars were once organized under king (Reng) and the first known king was Chonhmang who finally migrated to Tripura which the Hmars called ‘Rengpui-Ram’ (Rengpui=Maharajah; Ram=land or country). Hranglien Songate (1977 : 25-27) has argued that Chonhmang became a Hindu convert and his successors continued to collect revenue and tributes from his six territorial chiefs, namely, Tusing Faihriem of north-east division, Lawipa Hrangchal of Champhai (in Mizoram), Sortuirakam Neilal Thiek of South, Fiengpuilal Biete of north (Saitual area in Mizoram), Demrawkim Hrangkhalh of north-west and Tanhrill Saivate of West. Edgar’s observation seems to substantiate Songate’s contention; “The Rajah of Tipperah indeed claimed supremacy over all the villages west of Tipai, but practically his authority was never acknowledged east of the Chatterchoora Range, upto which he used to exact a partial and, probably, fitful obedience. Neither Cachar nor Manipur had the slightest authority in the hills south of Tipaimukh, and it is evident from all the early Cachar traditions that they did not claim any.” This paper, howevern does not intend to push the question further. Three basic features, however, need to be considered in this connection: First, there never was a king who unified the Hmars after the death of Chnhmang. Political unity, if at all there was, did not lie in an overall centralized authority which was absent in the traditional Hmar society. The only unifying factors were similarity of customs, language and culture. Secondly, each chief was autonomous and independent of any outside control whatsoever. Thirdly, there was hierachical power structure within each chiefdom. At the top was the chief, then the priests, the councilors, the youth commanders, the blacksmith, the village crier or messenger and commoners in that order.

Emergence of Traditional Leaders

There are a complexities of social, economic, political and historical situations in which a leader emerges and operates. The emergence of a leader, his actions or behaviour and the position he holds in a society, whether ‘primitive’ or ‘civilized’ must have been conditioned by the manner in which that society meets and satisfies its material needs and engages itself in productive activity.

[Editor’s Note: Prof L Dena is a well know historian and he has written many books on the history of Manipur]

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