MIZORAM One of the "Seven Sisters," Mizoram is one of seven small tribal states in the Northeast region of India. The picturesque capital of some 350,000 people, Aizawl, at 3,715 feet (1,132 m) above sea level, is built on tiers on the steep hillside. The twenty or so major hills of the state have an average altitude of some 2,600 feet (792 m). In the south is Mizoram's second-largest town, Lungleh, with about 140,000 people, and nearby is the "Phawngpui," the Blue Mountain, from which there is a breathtaking view of the Bay of Bengal. The heavy rains of the monsoon from May to September define the life of the state, allowing the cultivation of rice, which Mizos eat at least three times a day and with which they make the rice beer, zu, that plays an important role in their numerous dance festivals. The cheraw, or bamboo dance, the most popular and the most colorful Mizo dance, is performed using long pairs of horizontal staves that are tapped open and together in rhythmic beat as the dancers step in and out. It is a dance similar to those of parts of Southeast Asia. The khuallam, or dance for the guests, is performed by guests wearing the traditional Mizo cloth of black, red, green, and blue stripes wrapped around the shoulders.
The population of Mizoram, of over a dozen tribes, was by 2004 about 9 million people, most of whom are Christians. The state has the highest literacy rate in India, an average of about 90 percent for men and 86 percent for women. The Mizos, first known as Kukis, were part of the great wave of Mongolians who settled in Western Burma before moving on to northeastern India. The Lushais came later, and the area became known as the Lushai Hills. A tribal chief ruled the village. The Mizo code of ethics revolves around tlawmngaihna, hospitality and kindness and self-sacrifice for others, which young men learn while they live in a bachelor dormitory, or zawlbuk. In theory, the youngest son inherits all property, but in practice the inheritance is shared among all the sons. A bride price is paid by the groom, but the money is shared by the parents, elder sister, and paternal aunt in the bride's family, as a spirit of family and community well-being pervades Mizo society. Everyone who receives any bride price money is also responsible for the care of the bride. The care of widows and orphans is also a collective family responsibility.
In 1895 the British declared Mizo Hills as part of British India, and the Mizo Common People's Union, later known as the Mizo Union, was formed on 9 April 1946 to represent Mizo interests. The United Mizo Freedom Party demanded that the Lushai Hills join Burma on independence, but under the Indian Constitution the Lushai Hills Autonomous District Council came into being in 1952. In 1955 the Eastern India Union was formed of tribals in eastern India, the same year the Mizo Cultural Society was formed, with noted Mizo leader Pu Laldenga as its secretary. In 1959 the "Mautam famine" devastated the Mizo hills, and the Mizo Cultural Society became first the Mautam Front and then, in 1960, the Mizo National Famine Front, and finally, in 1961, the Mizo National Front. It initiated the widespread violence of the Mizo Insurgency of February 1966 and was outlawed the following year, but Laldenga and Prime Minsiter Rajiv Gandhi agreed on 20 February 1987 that Mizoram would become the twenty-third state of the Indian Union.
Roger D. Long
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