Mizoram: (2001 provisional pop. 891,058), c.8,000 sq mi (20,720 sq km), NE India, in the Mizo Hills, bordered on the east and south by Myanmar, on the west by Bangladesh and Tripura, on the northeast by Manipur, and on the north by Assam. The capital is Aizawl. The Mizos, the main ethnic group, are closely related to the Chins of Myanmar. More than 80% of the population is Christian. Mizoram is governed by a chief minister and a cabinet responsible to a unicameral elected legislature and by a governor appointed by the president of India.
Once part of Assam state, Mizoram became a union territory in 1972 and a state in 1986. Secessionist factions have been active in Mizoram; before the creation of Bangladesh, India accused Pakistan of aiding secessionist movements in the area. The Mizo rebellion was officially ended by negotiated settlement in 1985. Smaller ethnic groups have complained of domination by the Mizos, which has fueled armed anti-Mizo movements in the state.
Located at 23°′N 92°00′E / 23.36, 92 is one of the Seven Sister States in northeastern India on the border with Myanmar. Its population at the 2001 census stood at 888,573. Mizoram boasts a literacy rate of 88.8% — the second highest among all the states of India, after Kerala.
Mizoram is a mountainous region which became the 23rd state of the Indian Union in February, 1987. It was one of the districts of Assam until January 21, 1972 when it became a Union Territory. Sandwiched between Myanmar in the east and south and Bangladesh in the west, Mizoram occupies an area of great strategic importance in the northeastern corner of India. The boundaries with Myanmar and Bangladesh total 722 kilometers.
Mizoram has the most variegated hilly terrain in the eastern part of India. The hills are steep (avg. height 1000 metres) and separated by rivers which flow either to the north or south creating deep gorges between the hill ranges. The highest peak in Mizoram is the Blue Mountain (Phawngpui) with a height of 2210 metres.
Mizoram has a mild climate: it is generally cool in summer and not very cold in winter. During winter, the temperature varies from 11°C to 21°C and in summer it varies between 20°C to 29°C. The entire area is under the regular influence of monsoons. It rains heavily from May to September and the average rainfall is 254 cm, per annum. The average annual rainfall in Aizawl and Lunglei are 208 centimeters and 350 centimeters, respectively. Winter in Mizoram is normally rain-free. Mizoram is rich in flora and fauna and many kinds of tropical trees and plants thrive in the area.
The origin of the Mizos, like those of many other tribes in the northeastern India is shrouded in mystery. The generally accepted view is that they were part of a great wave of migration from China and later moved out to India to their present habitat. It is possible that the Mizos came from Sinlung or Chhinlungsan located on the banks of the Yalung River in China. They first settled in the Shan State and moved on to Kabaw Valley.
The earliest Mizos who migrated to India were known as Kukis, the second batch of immigrants were called New Kukis. The Lushais were the last of the Mizo tribes to migrate to India. The Mizo history in the 18th and 19th century is marked by many instances of tribal raids and retaliatory amount of autonomy was accepted by the government and enshrined in the Six Schedule of the Indian constitution. The Luchai Hills Autonomous District Council came into being in 1952 followed by the formation of these bodies led to the abolition of chieftainship in the Mizo society. The autonomy however met the aspirations of the Mizos only partially. Representatives of the District Council and the Mizo Union pleaded with the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) in 1954 for integrated the Mizo-dominated areas of Tripura and Manipur with their District Council in Assam. The tribal leaders in the northeast were laboriously unhappy with the SRC recommendations. They met in Aizawl in 1955 and formed a new political party, Eastern India Union (EITU) and raised their demand for a separate state comprising of all the hill districts of Assam. The Mizo Union split and the breakaway faction joined the EITU. By this time, the UMFO also joined the EITU and then understanding of the Hill problems by the Chuliha Ministry, the demand for a separate Hill state by EITU was kept in abeyance.
In 1959, the Mizo Hills was devastated by a great famine known in Mizo history as 'Mautam Famine'. The cause of the famine was attributed to flowering of bamboos which resulted in a boom of the rat population. After eating bamboos seeds, the rats turned towards crops and infested the huts and houses and became a plague to the villages. The havoc created by the rats was terrible and very little of the grain was harvested. For sustenance, many Mizos had to collect roots and leaves from the jungles. Others searched for edible roots and leaves in the jungles. Still others moved to far away places, and a considerable number died of starvation. In this hour of darkness, many welfare organizations tried their best to help starving villagers. Earlier in 1955, the Mizo Cultural Society was formed with Pu Laldenga as its secretary. In March 1960, the name of the Mizo Cultural Society was changed to 'Mautam Front'. During the famine of 1959-1960, this society took the lead in demanding relief and managed to attract the attention of all sections of the people. In September 1960, the Society adopted the name of Mizo National Famine Front (MNFF). The MNFF gained considerable popularity as a large number of Mizo Youth assisted in transporting rice and other essential commodities to interior villages.
Birth of Mizoram state:
Rajiv Gandhi's election to power following his mother's death signaled the beginning of a new era in Indian politics. Laldenga met the prime minister on 15th February, 1985. Some contentious issues which could not be resolved during previous talks were referred to him for his advice. With Pakistan having lost control of Bangladesh and no support from Pakistan, the Mizo National Front(MNF) used the opportunity that had now presented itself. New Delhi felt that the Mizo problem had been dragging on for a long time, while the Mizo National Front was convinced that bidding farewell to arms to live as respectable Indian citizens was the only way of achieving peace and development. Statehood was a prerequisite to the implementation of the accord signed between the Mizo National Front and the Union Government on 30th June,1986. The document was signed by Pu Laldenga on behalf of the Mizo National Front, and the Union Home Secretary R.D. Pradhan on behalf of the government. Lalkhama, Chief Secretary of Mizoram, also signed the agreement. The formalization of the state of Mizoram took place on 20 February 1987. Chief Secretary Lalkhama read out the proclamation of statehood at a public meeting organised at Aizawl's parade ground. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi flew in to Aizawl to inaugurate the new state. Hiteshwar Saikia was appointed as Governor of Mizoram.
Mizoram is a land of rolling hills, rivers and lakes. As many as 21 major hills ranges or peaks of different heights run through the length and breadth of the state, with plains scattered here and there. The average height of the hills to the west of the state are about 1,000 metres. These gradually rise up to 1,300 metres to the east. Some areas, however, have higher ranges which go up to a height of over 2,000 metres. The Blue Mountain, situated in the southeastern part of the state, is the highest peak in Mizoram.
The biggest river in Mizoram is River Kaladan also known as Chhimtuipui Lui in local Mizo language. It originates from Chin State in Myanmar and passes through Saiha and Lawngtlai districts in Southern tip of Mizoram and goes back to Myanmar Rakhine state, finally it enters Bay of Bengal at [Akyab], a very popular port in [Sittwe], [Myanmar]. Indian government has invested millions of rupees to set up inland water ways along this river to trade with Myanmar. The project name is known as Kaladan Multipurpose project.
Although many more rivers and streamlets drain the hill ranges, the most important and useful rivers are the Tlawng (also known as Dhaleswari or Katakhal), Tut (Gutur), Tuirial (Sonai) and Tuivawl which flow through the northern territory and eventually join the Barak River in Cachar District. The Koldoyne (Chhimtuipui) which originates in Myanmar, is an important river in the south of Mizoram. It has four tributaries and the river is in patches. The western part is drained by Karnaphuli (Khawthlang tuipui) and its tributaries. A number of important towns, including Chittagong in Bangladesh, are situated at the mouth of the river. Before Independence, access to other parts of the country was only possible through the river routes via Cachar in the north, and via Chittagong in the south. Entry through the latter was cut off when the subcontinent was partitioned and ceded to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1947.
Lot of Lakes are scattered all over the state, but the most important among these are Palak, Tamdil, Rungdil, and Rengdil. The Palak lake is situated in Chhimtuipui District which is part of southern Mizoram and covers an area of 30 hectares. It is believed that the lake was created as a result of an earthquake or a flood. The local people believe that a village which was submerged still remains intact deep under the waters. The Tamdil lake is a natural lake situated 110/85 km from Aizawl. Legend has it that a huge mustard plant once stood in this place. When the plant was cut down, jets of water sprayed from the plant and created a pool of water, thus the lake was named 'Tamdil which means of 'Lake of Mustard Plant'. Today the lake is an important tourist attraction and a holiday resort.
However, the most significant lake in Mizo history Rih Dil is ironically located in Myanmar, a few kilometres from the India-Myanmar border. It was believed that the departed souls pass through this lake before making their way to "Pialral" or heaven.
The great majority of Mizoram's population is comprised of several ethnic tribes who are either culturally or linguistically linked. These myriad ethnic groups are collectively known as the Lushais/Lusais (People who play with heads) /Luseis (Long-Headed people) or otherwise called Mizos (Mi= People, Zo= Hill) both of which are umbrella terms. These days, there is an escalating awareness of the importance of unity among all the Mizo tribes living in different parts of the northeastern states of India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Mizos are divided into numerous tribes, the largest of which is possibly the Lushais, which comprises almost two-thirds of the state's population. Other Mizo tribes include Hmar, Mara, Paite, Pawi, Ralte. The Riang, a subtribe of Tripuri and the Chakma of Arakanese origin, are a non-Mizo tribe living in Mizoram.
30% of Mizoram is covered with wild bamboo forests, many of which are largely unexploited. In spite of that, Mizoram harvests 40% of India's 80 million-ton annual bamboo crop. The current state administration wishes to increase revenue streams from bamboo and aside from uses as a substitute for timber, there is research underway to utilize bamboo more widely such as using bamboo chippings for paper mills, bamboo charcoal for fuel, and a type of "bamboo vinegar" which was introduced by Japanese Scientist Mr. Hitoshi Yokota, and used as a fertilizer.
Mizo women typically use a handloom to make clothing and other handicrafts, such as a type of bag called Pawnpui and blankets. The Mizo rarely did much craft work until the British first came to Mizoram in 1889 when a demand for their crafts was created with this exposure to foreign markets. Currently, the production of hand looms is also being increased, as the market has been widening within and outside Mizoram.
The socio-economic life of the rural people depends on their local vegetation from where they derive all their material requirements – timber, food, fuel wood, medicinal plants etc. About 95% of the interior population depends on herbal medicine and nearly 98% of raw materials are harvested from the wild plant resources without replenishing the growing stocks. The villages' herbal preparations include uprooting of the plants, which is detrimental to both the plants themselves and the growing area. As a result of this practice, many commonly used and effective medicinal plants have become rare and endangered species. Some are on the verge of extinction unless conservation measures are taken up for revival
Art and culture
Mizo traditional tunes are very soft and gentle, with locals claiming that they can be sung the whole night without the slightest fatigue. Even without musical instruments, the Mizo can enthusiastically sing together by clapping hands or any materials which can produce complimentary sound. All these informal instruments are called Chhepchher. The Mizo in the early period were very close to nature and that music was the tune of their life. Even today, the Mizos use a drum known locally as "khuang", made from wood and animal hide, to accompany their singing in churh services as well as cultural festivities. western influence is evident from the contemporary music scene though, with experiments in genres such as rock, pop and hip-hop, to name a few
Modern Mizos are fast giving up their old customs and adopting the new ways of life which are greatly influenced by western cultures. Music is a passion for the Mizos, and the youth especially have become quite enamored of western music.
The Mim Kut festival is usually celebrated during the months of August and September, after the harvest of maize. Mim Kut is celebrated with great fanfare by drinking rice-beer, singing, dancing, and feasting. Samples of the year's havests are consecrated to the departed souls of the community. Mizos practise "slash and burn" (Juhm) cultivation. They clear areas the jungle, burn the stumps and leaves of the downed trees, and then cultivate the land. All their other activities revolve around the Jhum operation and their festivals are all connected with such agricultural operation.
Chapchar Kut is another festival celebrated during March after completion of their most arduous task of Jhum operation i.e., jungle-clearing (clearng of remainings of burnt area). This is a spring festival celebrated with great fervour and gaiety.
Pawl Kut is a festival celebrated in December to commemorate the end of harvest season. It is perhaps the greatest Mizo festival.
The most colourful and distinctive dance of the Mizo is called Cheraw. Long bamboo staves are a feature of this dance and it is known to many as the Bamboo Dance. Originally, the dance was performed to wish a safe passage and victorious entry into the abode of the dead (Pialral) for the soul of a mother who had died in childbirth. To dance Cheraw takes great skill and alertness.
Khuallam was originally a dance performed by honoured invitees while entering into the arena where a community feast was held. To attain a position of distinction, a Mizo had to go through a series of ceremonies where friends from nearby villages were invited and Khuallam was the dance for the visitors or guests. Khuallam is performed by a group of dancers, the more the merrier, in colourful profiles to the tune of gongs and drums.
Chheih Lam is the dance done over a round of rice-beer in the cool of the evening. The lyrics in triplets are usually spontaneous compositions, recounting their heroic deeds and escapades and also praising the honoured guests present in their midst.
The fabric of soial life in the Mizo society has undergone tremendous change over the last few years. Before the British arrived in these hills, for all practical purposes, the village and the clan formed units of Mizo society. The Mizo code of ethics or dharma focused on "Tlawmngaihna", an untranslatable term meaning that it was the obligation of all members of society to be hospitable, kind, unselfish, and helpful to others. Tlawmngaihna to a Mizo stands for that compelling moral force which finds expression in self-sacrifice for the service of others. The old belief, Pathian, is still used to mean God. Many Mizos have embraced their new-found faith of Christianity .Their sense of values have also undergone a drastic change and are largely being guided (directly and indirectly) by the Christian church organisations.
Mizos are a close-knit society with no class distinction and no sexual discrimination. 90% of them are cultivators and the village functions as a large family. Birth, marriage, and death in the village are important occasions in which the whole village is involved.