Thursday, January 10, 2008




The origin and Development of Chieftainship in Pre-British period

by H.Vanlalhruaia

The writings of post Indian independence period incorporated Mizo society as a segment of Indian society. 1 However, the cultural process was distinctively diverse from the mainland India. This is mainly due to geographical isolation, which increases lack of communication between North East India and mainland India. To fill up this gap, it is indeed necessary for scholars to bring out some of the distinctive aspect of cultural development in pre-colonial Mizoram with respect to the mainland India. 2 Taking this in mind, the present essay attempts to outline the origin and development of chieftainship in pre-colonial Mizoram, which includes the ruling chiefs of Lusei, Hmar, Lai, Mara, and Paite. The paper was divided into three parts. The first part will analyse the origin of Mizo chiefs in present areas of Myanmar (Burma) and the development of chieftainship in region of present Mizoram. The second part highlights the nature of their administration in pre-colonial Mizoram. The last part looks at the nature of revenue administration among the Mizo ruling chiefs.
(I)
The origin of Mizo chief can be trace back around the 16th century, where the first Lusei chiefs evolve in the areas the areas between Khampat and Seipuikhur (Chin Hill of Burma). 3 The origin and development of Mizos chieftainship has its own indigenous growth since, their culture were more or less outside the influence of outside world. Among the ruling chiefs of Mizos, the Lusei can trace the origin of their chiefs and the system of chieftainship where as the same cannot be attributed to the other clans. It is said that, a man called Zahmuaka who had six sons was persuaded by a group of Hnamte clan to become their leader or chief. 4 He refused at initially, but soon accepted the invitation only after the Hnamte clan offered and willingly agreed to contribute a basket of paddy from each household. That was how the rise of Lusei chieftainship occurred. The six son’s Zadenga, Paliana, Thangluaha, Thangur, Rivunga and Rokhuma soon succeeded to the positions of chiefs in their own villages.68 Among them, the descendent of Thangur, Sailo become most powerful ruling chief in Mizoram.

In the same period, a number of Mizo chiefs like Fanai, Hualngo, Ralte, Ngente, Chuauhang, and the present southern inhabitant chiefs of Mara, Lai (Pawi) chiefs arose to chieftainship in their respective areas from place to place.69 In the middle of 17th century a groups of Mizos started penetrating into the grounds of present Mizoram. Migration usually occurred in groups or clans from different places at different periods. There is uncertainty among the scholars regarding the migrations of Mizos. The Mizos migration was a continuous process starting from early in the 17th century to the first half of the 20th century. Some historians suggest that the period of migration took place between 1700-1780 AD.70 More accurately, B. Lalthangliana put the Lusei clans migration date between 1650-1700.71 Among the Mizos, the Hmar clans firstly migrated towards the present Mizoram.72 Palian, a group of Lusei chiefs also crossed the Chin Hills (Burma) border soon followed by Rivung chiefs, Thangluah chiefs, Zadeng chiefs, Rokhum chiefs and Rokual chiefs.73 Chiefs of Raltes, Hualngos, Paites and Fanais also made their move toward Mizoram.74 Lai and Mara chiefs soon after migrated in to southern Mizoram. These ruling clans established village states at different places in Mizoram. In the earlier period of the Zadeng ruling chiefs who were powerful and dominant in pre-colonial Mizoram, the enormous village of Dungtlang, houses numbering to around 3000 had been established. Palian chief Sibuta is also said to have ruled over different villages numbering to 25, 000 houses.75 In the far southern part, this period also initiated the rise of Mara ruling villages state under the banner of the nine territorial groups of Tlosai, Hawthai, Chapi-Ngiaphia, Vytu, Zyhno, Lochei, Heima, Lialai and Lytu. The village state of the Lais under the chiefs of Chinzah, Zathang, Khenglawt, Thangchhawn, Hnialum, Hlawncheu and Hlawnchung (commonly known as Pawi) emerged in the southern border of Mara territory.76

Inter tribal warfare continued for securing more and more Jhum lands. Among the ruling chiefs of Mizos, Lusei chiefs were dominant and usually got the upper hand from other ruling chiefs. The weaker chiefs usually migrated further towards the western part of present Cachar, Chittangong hill tract and Tripura. In the early period of number of chiefs such as Hmar, Paite and Thlado were further pushed toward the present Cachar and Manipur areas. A number of ruling chiefs like Palian, Rivung, Thangluah further advanced to the present area of Tripura and Chittangong hill tract.

The last part of the 17th century witnessed the rise of the most powerful ruling clans in Mizoram. These were the Sailo chiefs. The Sailo chiefs migrated from Burma to pre-colonial Mizoram. In order to strengthen their power, seven Sailo chiefs by combining their work force initiated the establishment of the largest village with the houses numbering to around 7000.77 However, the people in the village soon dispersed due to shortage of Jhum lands. However, the Sailos soon successfully established seven powerful villages on both the western and the northern parts of Mizoram.78 Steadily, their power increased due to political influences over others. The first victims were Palian chiefs who helped the Zadeng chiefs in their struggle against the western chiefs. Initially, the early powerful Zadeng chiefs were defeated and other ruling chiefs also met the same fate. Most of the common chiefs soon became their subjects. During the first half of the 19th century, to complete the final occupation of pre-colonial Mizoram, the confederacy of western and southern Sailo chiefs was formed to subjugate other powerful ruling clans like, Palians, Thangluahs, and Zadengs.79 None of them could defy the Sailo infiltration and one by one they met their fate. The last independent Zadeng ruler died in 1875 at village of Chengpui near Lunglei.11 In the word of Shakepear, “Their descendent in spite of much assistance failed to regain their position in the world”.80

When the British government came into contact with the Mizo chiefs in the second half of the 19th century, Sailos had become the most powerful among the Mizo chiefs in Mizoram.81 They controlled most part of pre-colonial Mizoram except the southern part of Mara and Lai village state. The success of the Sailos was mainly due to better organization of internal and external administrations. Nevertheless, local wars remained at large in pre-colonial Mizoram. The next task of the Sailos however, was defending territories in the border areas. To increase their privileges and to protect their territory from encroachment of the neigbouring colonial Zamindars, a number of invasions were conducted in the areas of Cachar, Manipur, Tripura and Chittangong Hill tract of Bengal.

The rise and infiltration of the powerful Mizo ruling clan of the Sailos in Mizoram marked the formation and subsequent changes in the composition of the Mizo society.

First, the rise of the Sailos caused dispersal of various groups of Zos such as Thados, Biates, Hmars and Paite all over Cachar, Tripura, and Manipur.82 Secondly, political unification evolved especially in the northern and western parts of pre-colonial Mizoram, although the central administration was not fully developed. The lack of an efficient agrarian economy failed to provide surplus production to stabilize one central administration. There are subsequent changes in the territory of the various ruling chiefs. The Sailo now occupied most part of Mizoram on both north and south. B. Lalthangliana has divided pre-colonial Mizoram area into four zones, occupied by various Mizo ruling chiefs. 8 Out of four, three parts of Mizoram were under the control of Sailo ruling chiefs. Hmar clans and Paite clans also occupied the far North Eastern adjacent to Manipur and Cachar. In upper southeastern pre-colonial Mizoram the territory of Fanai chiefs formed a buffer village state between the territories of the Lusei, Lai and Mara. The far southern part of pre-colonial Mizoram was divided into two-territories, which were occupied by the powerful family of Mara ruling clans and Lai ruling clans. The idea of independence was universal and the hegemony of the Sailos was unheard of them. Thus, the political structure of Mara and Lai was much more complicated than the Lusei ruling Chiefs. Despite this, Hnamchawm or other miscellaneous ruling clans such as Ralte, Hualngo and others who occupied a position of lesser significance were found across the region of pre-colonial Mizoram. These groups were more or less under the subjugation of the major ruling clans such as the Sailos, the Lais, the Maras and the Fanais.


A cultural revival took place during the Sailo period. They absorbed a number of other clans in pre-colonial Mizoram. It is said that various Mizo customaries of oral constitution evolved as a result of the Sailo rule in pre-colonial Mizoram. Linguistically, the modern Mizo dialect (Duhlian dialect) was nurtured as a common language especially in western pre-colonial Mizoram. It also thus evidently helped the growth of the oral traditions. However, Paite, Mara, Hmar and Lai retained their dialect. Increase of their political hegemony also directly introduced the development of social stratification in the pre-colonial Mizo society. The period of the Sailos witnessed the growth of a significant population that led a greater demand of agricultural land. As a result, several tribal wars broke out on the question of ownership of agricultural land. The occasional repression of their cognate powerful tribes from Chin Hills of Burma also affected their economy. A trade affair with Chin Hills of Burma was at a standstill due to the supremacy of their cognate tribes in Chin Hills. The Mizos at those times were always in need of avoiding external danger. Tribute to other stronger chiefs by weaker chiefs also destabilized the economy during the period of the Sailo rule in pre-colonial Mizoram.

The Mizos at that time were in a stage where an increase in the population was evident as such the expansion towards the north and western side took place, this resulted into shortage of cultivable land. The clan wars among Mizo chiefs also led to difficulties of maintaining Jhum lands, which led to a shortage in food supply.97 Tribute to superior chiefs by vanquished chiefs weakened the economic positions of many villages. The strongest chiefs, the more permanent ones usually drove out numbers of Mizo clans outside Mizoram during pre-colonial period. The weaker chiefs mostly rushed southwestward and northward and finally came into contact with colonial powers. Therefore, migration continued due to political instability in pre-colonial Mizoram. It is evident that the Luseis were driven out from Burma to pre-colonial Mizoram by their cognate powerful groups. Successively, the Luseis also drove out the earlier group of Thado to the plains of Cachar area and Manipur.98

This unending struggle of supremacy chiefly exhausted Mizo economy particularly from the second half of the 19th century. Every chief was in need of income to regain his or her position. The only substitute they could get was from the neigbouring people particularly the Bengalis who were the easiest prey. Faced with scarcity, Mizo warriors used to go to the border villages to seek economic gains or food grains.99 Therefore, several invasions were conducted on neighbouring territory mainly due to economic reasons like; procuring guns from neigbouring territory for the protection of their Jhum field from animals and protection from other hostile clans; to get substitute household needs and tools and to get labourers to work on their Jhum field. This is how in the latter period, the colonial government confronted many tribal uprisings in the forms of raids, plundering, captivities and pillage.

II
Since earliest time, group of family in 20-800 houses composed village. Hereditary chiefs administered each village and were independent from external control. The administration of each village was more or less similar to the Greek-city state. However, after the rise of Sailo ruling chiefs, many of the common ruling chiefs were under their influence in which tributes and assistances were expected in times of needs. Local administration of judiciary and executive were in the hand of each village chiefs. One chief could rule over 1 to 10 village including hamlet depending upon the economy, chief personal ability to administer the village. Whenever the population increased, Mizo chief usually share out part of his territory to his legitimate son. This is mainly due to the practiced of Jhumland that cannot encourage large settlement in one place. Shakespear wrote in this context “When the son of a chief reached maturity he was given a certain number of households from his father’s village and was sent forth to a village of his own. Henceforth he ruled as an independent chief, and his success or failure as a ruler depended on his own talents and abilities. He paid no tribute to his father, but was expected to help him especially in times of quarrels with neighbouring chiefs. 9

All administration in the village was in the hand of Chief and his council of elders. The chief appointed a number of village officials. The chief (Lai by Lusei, Bawi by Lai, Abei by Mara) was helped by these various groups of village elders called Upa by Lusei clans or Macha by Mara, Bawi or Tlang by Lai.13 Next to the chief they held the highest position in village state. All officials such as Zalen by Lusei or Kutawl by Pawi, Blacksmith or Thirdeng by Lusei, Seudaipa by Mara, Siksek by Paite and professional priest like Sadawt and Bawlpu by Lusei, Siampu by Paite, Cheusapathaipa by Mara were appointed directly by the chief within his jurisdiction. In case of a Mara village (in the village of Chapi) the chief appointed junior hereditary chiefs to assist him for his administration. The junior hereditary chiefs also got portions of revenue from the villagers.14 However, by and large the existence of junior chiefs was not heard elsewhere in other parts of pre-colonial Mizoram. The main duty of the chief and various village officials was to look after the villagers. The chief and his council of elders discussed all matters that concern the villages. Their main concern was the safety of villagers, each year’s cultivable land and various issues relating to people’s lives within their village. Various disputes among the villagers were settled at the court of the chief and his council. As remuneration for their efforts in trying cases the elders of the council received fees called Salam by Lusei and Vopia by Mara.15

The lowest village official was called village crier or Tlangau by Lusei, Tangau by Paite, Tlaawpa by Mara. His main duty was to proclaim the chief’s order, as to what the villagers need to know or other works was to be done.21 He was also in charge of collecting fine inflicted on the offenders in the chief’s administration. During the colonial rule another extra village official called Khawchhiar by Lusei, Khireipa by Mara or village writer was appointed to assist the chief, who also extracted portion of peasant production.22

The success of each and every chief was very much dependent on his personality and his ability to control the village. A weak chief usually depends on his council of elders, which enhanced the privileges of village elders. It is interesting to note down that, a type of feudal fiefdom, which was prevalent in medieval Europe existed in a section of southern Mara village but this was a rare instance.23 In case of chiefs being weak, the noble clans seized lands for themselves. However, it is reported that none of them succeeded in establishing villages. The owner of a fief collected portion of the peasant’s produce from the villagers for the recognition of cultivating on the chief’s land. And in turn he had to pay revenue to the chief. If he cultivated any land outside his own fief, he paid double revenue. Fiefs were sometimes sold on occasions and were given as part of a marriage price. Parry has given the name of the Mara nobles who held fief under the following:24


Fief Holder
Village
Under the chief of,
Places of Holding
Khihu
Laki
Savy (Savang)
Savy(Savang), Chapi
Mahneu
Chapi
Chapi
Tichang, Raphu
Hneutu
Saiko
Saiko
Kolodyne
Laidang
Savypi(Sabeukhi)

Hloma

Unlike in European fiefdom, there was absence of political right over peasants by fief holders. The only privilege they enjoyed were the right to collect revenue from the peasants only when half of the revenue went to the chief. Parry says “the fief holder desired to establish political rights over the agriculturists”. This system thus caused perpetual friction between the chief and the owners of fiefs. The systems however continued until colonial rulers abolished it in the first half of 20th century.25 Except among the Mara chief, there is no evidence of fiefdom in other parts of Mizoram although a type of vassal or sub-ordinate existed in which bigger chiefs provided protection to the smaller chiefs. The lesser chiefs were under heavy pressure of the bigger chiefs, who extracted tribute from them in kind.26
III

The villagers were bound to pay revenue or tax to their chief, which were usually based on custom prevalent among each clan. Fathang is the only revenue taken from paddy produce by Lusei chiefs. Among Lusei, two to three baskets of paddy were paid directly to the chief. Among Maras the most valuable revenue extracted by the chief was in terms of paddy known as Sabai and Rapaw. Sabai is the revenue payable to the chief in recognition of his chiefship and was usually one to three baskets of paddy.45
Revenue was demanded according to customs of social hierarchical set up of the society. The Lusei chief appointed groups of elders known as Ramhual who were expert in land matters. Appointment was made according to the person’s compliance to contribute the required amount of paddy to the chief. They were given the priority of selecting the best Jhum land before the common man chooses. In the event of getting the first choice of selecting Jhums, they paid heavier Fathang or revenue to the chief than common villagers. The chief then appointed another group of officials called Zalen who also had the right to choose the agricultural land before the common villagers. Zalen were exempted from Fathang or revenue to the chief in consideration of their help extended to the chief when chief ran short of paddy or fell into any kind of difficulty.16 Zalen were usually appointed from the family as a means of economic security for the chiefs. Therefore the chief appointed those who could produce sufficient paddy as Zalen. In Mara villages, there were no officials like Ramhual and Zalen. Rather they had a council of elders called Macha who usually belonged to the noble clan. They helped the chief in times of trouble. In the southern Lai ruling area too Ramhual was unheard of though elders known as Kut awl or Tipuramtla, which was equal in rank with Zalen were appointed by the chief.17 Unlike the Zelen in Lusei, Kut awls were not given any privileges in selecting Jhum land. In case of Paite, the chief appointed two groups of people called Siam hmanglian and Siamhmang neu respectively.18 The other village officials such as professional priest Sadawt and Bawlpu were exempted from paying the revenue due to their services rendered to the villagers. In case of Mara, they had no such village priest except a priest held for life known as tleuliabopa.19

The success of each and every chief was very much dependent on his personality and his ability to control the village. A weak chief usually depends on his council of elders, which enhanced the privileges of village elders. It is interesting to note down that, a type of feudal fiefdom, which was prevalent in medieval Europe existed in a section of Mara village but this was a rare instance.23 In case of chiefs being weak, the noble clans seized lands for themselves. However, it is reported that none of them succeeded in establishing villages. The owner of a fief collected portion of the peasant’s produce from the villagers for the recognition of cultivating on the chief’s land. And in turn he had to pay revenue to the chief. If he cultivated any land outside his own fief, he paid double revenue. Fiefs were sometimes sold on occasions and were given as part of a marriage price. Parry has given the name of the Mara nobles who held fief under the following:24


Fief Holder
Village
Under the chief of,
Places of Holding
Khihu
Laki
Savy (Savang)
Savy(Savang), Chapi
Mahneu
Chapi
Chapi
Tichang, Raphu
Hneutu
Saiko
Saiko
Kolodyne
Laidang
Savypi(Sabeukhi)

Hloma

Unlike in European fiefdom, there was absence of political right over peasants by fief holders. The only privilege they enjoyed were the right to collect revenue from the peasants only when half of the revenue went to the chief. The fief holder desired to establish political rights over the agriculturists. This system thus caused perpetual friction between the chief and the owners of fiefs. The systems however continued until colonial rulers abolished it in the first half of 20th century.25 Except among the Mara chief, there is no evidence of fiefdom in other parts of Mizoram although a type of vassal or sub-ordinate existed in which bigger chiefs provided protection to the smaller chiefs. The lesser chiefs were under heavy pressure of the bigger chiefs, who extracted tribute from them in kind.26

B.C Allen writes, “Land Revenue is not assessed, but the people pay a house tax”.27 Among the Lusei, land revenue was never assessed in pre-colonial period but every household in the village was bound to pay a portion of their produce to the chief. Land revenue was paid in kind, since there is no evidence of money economy in pre-colonial Mizo society. Revenue practiced differed from village to village and clan-to-clan. Land revenue was referred as Fathang or Lal Buhchhun by the Lusei, Bai by the Mara, which literally meant paddy revenue or dues for chief.28 Assessment based on land was unheard of, although customs permitted Mizo chiefs to collect portion of peasant’s produce in recognition of granting agricultural land. There was no uniformity since all villages were independent.


Despite the tribal nature of society, it is interesting to note that the system of assessment evolved among a small section of Mara communities. In a Mara community dues paid to the chief were always measured by the basket of tlabai or bai, the size of which has been permanently fixed in each village by the chief and elders.29 The size of basket however, varied in different villages. Parry says that Mara basket was lined and was about a cubit high and cubit in diameter.30 Parry studied the revenue administration among various clans of Mara though very briefly which varied in each administrative unit. i.e. village. For instance, in villages of Saiko, Saiha and Tisi, the chief collected three bais of paddy respectively, where as four bais from the villages of Kiasi, and in the village of Savang the chief collected two bais.31 Thus, each Mara chief collected two to four bais of paddy. The Mara blacksmith and village priest got half to one bai of paddy or domestic fowl.32 According to Parry, the Mara chiefs were entitled to revenue called rapaw from each villager. The assessment was made directly from the peasants’ produce of paddy as illustrated under:33


Production of Crops
(Per bais or baskets)
Demand of revenue by the Mara chief
(Per bais or baskets)
10
2
20
2
30
4
40
6
50
8
60
10
70
12
80
14
90
16
100
20
As stated earlier, customarily the chief claimed portions of the peasants produce. Among the Lusei clan, the amount of paddy realized from Ramhual at the end of harvest ranges from six baskets to ten baskets. While the revenue extraction from the rest of villagers came to around to two baskets. According to modern standard it is estimated that one basket or phur is roughly equivalent to 20-25 Kg of paddy.34 The size of Lusei basket called Dawrawn was about 30 to 36 inches long with a diameter of about 24 inches. The amount of tax realized was from four to ten baskets of paddy although Fathang differed from village to village and clan to clan.35 Later in the colonial period, the amount of the chief’s revenue collection was fixed at six snowflake kerosene oil tins of paddy.36 Here it is estimated that one kerosene tin of paddy is equivalent to 11 kgs.37 The Ramhual get their choice of agriculture land and had to pay Fathang to the chief in proportion to the amount in which they had chosen their Jhums. In some village, four to ten phur or baskets of paddy were taken. The blacksmith got a basket of paddy or one and a half kerosene tin or Tinkhat leh a chanve from each villager as a salary in return for his services to the villagers.38 In Lusei, Thingdeng or blacksmith was entitled to share a bit of every animal hunted, especially the spine or three ribs.39 The village priest received a basket of paddy from each respective clan in return for the services performed in connection with cultivation. The lowest village official called village crier or Tlangau received a basket of paddy from each household as a reward.40 The rest of the villagers were bound to pay tax to the chief in kind. Among Lusei, two to three baskets of paddy were paid directly to the chief. If two peasants shared the Jhum land, they only paid revenue for one agricultural land. One of them was regarded as the owner of the field and took ten baskets or phur of paddy out of which he paid all taxes and the rest of the crop was divided or equally shared by them.41 Incase of peasants migrating to other villages without the consent of the chief, the chief had the right to confiscate half of the paddy produced by the peasant.42 Customarily, Lusei chiefs had the right to seize all the property of a peasant who disobeyed their orders.43 This system is called Ram, which literally means confiscate.

Fathang is the only revenue taken from paddy produce by Lusei chiefs. Parry says “Fathang is not payable for vegetables and other miscellaneous crops if grown in the same chief’s land as the main rice crop but if a man has Maize plot in another chief’s land he will have to pay Fathang for it to the chief in whose land he has made the subsidiary cultivation”. 44 In some cases, Chapi chief in Mara territory collected one basket of cotton as a tax from the peasant.45 However, such evidence was rarely found. Among Maras the most valuable revenue extracted by the chief was in terms of paddy known as Sabai and Rapaw. Sabai is the revenue payable to the chief in recognition of his chiefship and was usually one to three baskets of paddy.45 Rapaw was the price payable to the chief for the privilege of cutting jhum in his land. Sabai was payable to the chief in whose lands the field was situated. It was mostly paid in paddy if the peasant had any Jhum field. If the crops failed, the revenue was usually paid in term of domestic animals ranging from fowls to pigs.46

Despite the revenue paid directly from the production of land, peasants were bound to pay compulsory tax. Meat tax or (i.e. Sachhiah by Lusei, Sahaw by Mara) was another compulsory tax paid in kind by the peasant. Villagers who killed a wild animal had to give the chief, the left foreleg. Anybody who failed to pay the meat tax was liable to be fined. They had to pay domestic animals such as fowls, pigs and goats up to the value of Mithun.47

In addition to this compulsory tax, villagers paid several taxes or duty to the chief. Some of them are listed under:

The bees, which make their nest in the surroundings of the village were regarded as the property of the chief. Any villagers who collected wild honey including wax from a jungle, within the village chief’s jurisdiction must give the chief a portion of it. This bee tax was called khuaichhiah by Lusei, kheih-o by Mara.

Whenever a salt well was dug up in a village, the chief was entitled a share of a portion of salt. One who collected salt from a salt well or spring within his jurisdiction had to give the chief one-tenth of the quantity collected. 48

Occasionally a community fish catching day was observe. Mizo chiefs took portions of the fish caught by the villagers as tax. The Mara chief usually took the biggest fish caught by the villagers.49

In case of the Mara community, the chief took the young pig as dues. The second newborn pigs were taken.50 Another custom called vaohly, the chief and elder seized the piglet as soon as it was for sacrificial purposes and sometimes as remuneration to a young man who had gone to deliver a message within a village or another village.

In the villages of Savang, the chief could claim a pot of beer from each house in the village.51 In chapi village all guns belonged to the chief. For the hiring of gun the chief took half the neck of the animal shot.52

The Mara chief collected two handfuls of ginger from the peasant. 53 The Mara and Lai Chiefs could ask their villagers to kill domestic animals at any time, if found necessary.54 This custom was called Sathi.55 Among the Luseis, the chief sometimes asked his villagers to contribute paddy or fowl for villagers in misery caused by accidents or diseases. Another similar custom prevalent in the Mara, paddy was levied on every house except the chief.

Among Luseis, Mithun was regarded as a useful domesticated animal in the pre-colonial period. Therefore, if any villager sold it to another village, he had to pay a young pig to the chief as due. This was known as Sechhiah or Mithun Tax. 56 The Mizo chief usually levied tax upon foreign traders trading in his territory.57

Despite all these taxes, peasants were required to pay their respect to their chiefs and follow his instructions. The chief was entitled to free labour from the villages for the construction and repair of his house. Among the Luseis, the villagers had to build the chief’s house for free of cost.58 However, it was not heard of in some places such as the southern part of Rolura’s village. In the northern part, the chief of Lallula’s village extensively practiced the system.59 This system was also widely prevalent among the southern Mara chiefs. While the work was in progress, the chief supplied the workers with beer, and generally gave them a feast when completed.60 Parry wrote, “These services to the chief are rendered cheerfully, and are never questioned, as they are immemorial custom, and due to the chief as the father and protector of the villagers”.61 In the southern part especially in the village of Chapi, the chief was entitled to call upon his villagers to work in his fields. The villagers give one day’s work each year to clear the chief’s Jhum and another day’s work each to weed it.62 If villagers migrate to other village without informing the chief and without paying the various taxes, it was regarded offensive. Hence the chief confiscated the entire paddy.

The features of the above discussion indicate that revenue administration of Mizo was based on customary practices, which were handed down from generation to generation. However, customs did not specify the amount of tax to be collected. Hence, the amount of revenue was arbitrarily based on each administrative unit of the village. Therefore the nature of pre-colonial Mizo agrarian system cannot fit into overall medieval Indian pattern because neither does it represent major features of feudalism nor does it illustrate the characteristic of a free peasant economy. The nature of land rights also does not allow us to accept the Mizo agrarian system as even remotely close to feudalism. When we compare the nature of land rights with the notion of free peasant economy in which a peasant was free in the process of production and in choosing the crops. It clearly establishes the complex relationship of peasants with their chief. For the time being, the surveys reveal that the Mizo agrarian system was in a transition from petty chieftainship system to tributary system. 3











1 The word ‘Mizo’ is a modern term and it does not exist among the Lusei lineage but not with other lineage. It is basically a political identity for the whole lineage group in region of present Mizoram except the Chakma and Riang who are culturally different from the Mizos.

2 The term Mizoram is also a modern term to identify the present geographical areas of Mizoram. It was not known during the pre-colonial period. During the British period, Mizoram was an autonomous Hill District of Assam and was known as Lushai Hills District sub-divided into North Lushai Hills and South Lushai Hills. Lushai Hill District name was changes to Mizo Hills District in 24th April 1954 by an Act No XVIII of 1954 of Parliament. Mizo Hills District became a Union territory in 21st January 1972, when the state of Assam was reorganized under the North Eastern Area Reorganization Act of 1971 and it was named Mizoram, which means the land of Mizos. Then, Mizoram became the 25th State of India in 1987. (20th Feb). Sipra Sen, Tribes of Mizoram; Description, Ethnology and Bibliography (1840-1990), Giant Publishing House, New Delhi, 1992. p. 5. This paper use Mizoram as methodological tools even for pre-colonial period. Because the chiefs which we study in this paper were confined within the present region of Mizoram.


3 C. Lalbiaknema, Kan Chenna Mizoram, Published by The Synod Literature and Publication Board, Aizawl, Mizoram, 1995. p. 48. C. Lalbiaknema, Mizote leh Politics, Aizawl, Mizoram, 1998. p. 15. K.Zawla, Mizo Pi Pute Leh An Thlahte Chanchin, Zomi Book Agency, Aizawl. pp. 179-184.
4 Rev. Liangkhaia, Mizo Chanchin, L.T.L Publications, Aizawl. pp. 64-65.
68 Ibid. pp. 58, 63.
69 Ibid. pp. 58, 59.
70 Ibid. p. 83. K. Zawla, Mizo Pi Pute leh An Thlahte Chanchin, Zomi Book Agency, Aizawl, 1993. pp. 13-14. Dr. Lalthanliana, Mizo Chanchin (Kum 1900 Hma lam), Aizawl, 2000. p. 322.
71 B. Lalthangliana, History and Culture of Mizo in India, Burma & Bangladesh, Aizawl, 2001. p. 215.
72 Lalthanliana, op. cit., p. 323.
73 Ibid.
74 Ibid.
75 Mackenzie. Ibid. op. cit., p. 290. Also see Liangkhaia. op. cit., p. 68. Shakespear, op. cit., p. 4.
76 Thanliana, op. cit., p. 390.
77 Liangkhaia, op. cit., p. 89.
78 Lalthanliana, op. cit., p. 400.
79 Ibid. pp. 401-402. Liangkhaia, op. cit., p. 99.
11 AG McCall, Lushai Chrysalis, FKPLM for TRI, Aizawl, Mizoram, 1977. pp. 35-38.
80 Shakepear, op. cit., p. 4.
81 Ibid. 401.
82 Animesh Ray, Mizoram: Dynamics of Change, National Book Trust of India, New Delhi, 1993. p. 2.
8 B.Lalthangliana, op. cit., p. 280.
97 Mackenzie, op. cit., p. 330. It is said that the war broke out between the Eastern chiefs and Western chiefs during 1876-77 due to claming over of jhum land.
98 Vunmson, op. cit., p. 110.
99 Shakespear, op. cit., p. 188.
9 J.Shakespear, The Lushei Kuki Clan, TRI, Aizawl, Mizoram. 1998. p. 42.
13 Ibid. Pawi Chanchin, TRI, Directorate of Education, Govt. of Mizoram, 1988. p. 83.
14 Parry, 1976, op. cit., p. 252.
15 Ibid. p. 246. S.Mokia and Hrachu, op. cit.
21 Ibid. J.N Dad, A Study Of The Land System of Mizoram, Law Research Institute Eastern Region, Guwahati High Court, Sponsored by North Eastern Council, Shillong, 1990. p. 8.
22 Ibid.
23 N.E Parry, 1976, op. cit., p. 251.
24 Ibid.
25 Ibid.
26 Suhash Chatterjee, The Mizo Chief And Chiefdom, M.D Publication, Delhi, 1995. p. 8.
45 During my field trip, it was very difficult to find out the amount payable to the chiefs in term of Modern calculations since it differs from place to place. However, based on interviews and Parry’s writings, it could be observed that one to three baskets or 10 to 30 kgs of paddy are collected.
16 Parry, 1927, op. cit., p. 6.
17 Pawi Chanchin, op. cit., p. 53.
18 Paite In Mizoram, TRI, Aizawl, Mizoram, 1987. p. 37.
19 Parry, 1976, op. cit., p. 252.
23 N.E Parry, 1976, op. cit., p. 251.
24 Ibid.
25 Ibid.
26 Suhash Chatterjee, The Mizo Chief And Chiefdom, M.D Publication, Delhi, 1995. p. 8.
27 B.C Allen, EA Gait, CGH Allen & HF Howard, Gazetteers of Bengal And North East India, Mittal Publication, 1979. p. 466.
28 S. Mokia and S. Hrachu, op.cit.
29 Mokia and Hrachu, op.cit.,
30 Parry, 1976, op. cit., p. p. 113, 114.
31 Ibid. pp. 253-254.
32 Ibid.
33 Ibid. p. 254.
34 C. Rokhuma, (Personal interview), Mission Vengthlang, Aizawl, Mizoram, on 22nd January 2003.
35 Parry, 1927, op. cit., p. 6.
36 Ibid. p. 7. Six snowflake kerosene oil tins equals to Tin ruk or Phur hnih or two baskets. Here, it is very difficult to get the exact amount interms of modern measurement of weight. C. Rokhuma author and essayist told me that, one Phur or one basket equals to 3 kerosene tins. In case of Mara, 5 kerosine tins equals to Dawh kha, 10 kerosine tin to Kai kha, 50 kerosine to Chheih Kha, 500 tin to Chheih hraw. S. Mokia and S. Hrachu, op.cit. Shakepear in his book ‘The Lusei Kuki clan’ describes, one basket was fixed by the chief for the measurement of tax which was being estimated about 50 lb. J. Shakespear, op. cit., p. 18.
37 S. Sailo, ‘A Sign Of Hope For The Jhummias In Tripura’ (Private Manuscript)
38 Shakepear, op. cit., p. 43.
39 Parry, 1927, op. cit., p. 8.
40 Shakepear, op. cit., p. 43.
41 Parry, 1927, op. cit., p. 7.
42 Ibid.
43 Ibid. p. 2. Ram was abolished during the early period of colonial rule in Mizoram.
44 Ibid. p. 7.
45 Ibid. Mokia and Hrachu, op. cit. Cotton tax is not mentioned in Parry’s study of revenue among the Maras. It could be regarded as a local arrangement as well as less extensive in pre-colonial period.
45 During my field trip, it was very difficult to find out the amount payable to the chiefs in term of Modern calculations since it differs from place to place. However, based on interviews with Mara elders and Parry’s writings, it could be observed that one to three baskets or 10 to 30 kgs of paddy are collected.
46 Parry, 1976, op. cit., pp. 252-253.
47 Mithun, a grass-eating animal is the most important domestic animal. Wealth of a man was judge by the numbers of Mithun he owned. Vumson suggest that Mizo culture was a mithun culture. Hence, many western writers have suggested that Mizo culture was a Mithun culture. Mithun was infact, the Mizo currency. In marriage contract the bride price was counted in terms of Mithuns. Vumson, Zo History, aizawl, Mizoram, 1987. p. 12.
48 Salt was one of the most precious articles in pre-colonial Mizoram due to its uneasy availability in pre-colonial Mizoram. The Mizos very often procured salt from neigbouring plain areas in exchange of elephant tusk, animal skins and other indigenous commodities. In pre-colonial Mizoram, there are few well-known salt well such as Dap salt well (between Phaileng village and Dampui), Hmawngzawl Salt well (Rabung village), Bawng salt well (far south hilly area of Hriangtlang and Siallukawt) and Chite salt well (Rawpui) were among them. The pre-colonial Mizo peasants came from different placed to extract salt from this salt well. C.Rokhuma, ‘Chi-Seh’in Laltluangliana Khiangte, Mizo Thuziak Thlan Chhuahte, L.T.L Publications, Aizawl, 2001. pp. 47-51.
49 S. Mokia and S. Hrachu, op. cit. V. Venkata Roa, H.Thansanga, Niru Hazarika, A Century of Government And Politics in North-East India, Volume III, Mizoram, S. Chand &Company PVT LTD, New Delhi, 1987. p. 67.
50 Ibid. p. 258.
51 Parry, 1976, op. cit., p. 254.
52 Ibid. p. 256.
53 Ibid. p. 254.
54 Pawi Chanchin, op. cit., p. 85.
55 Parry, 1976, op. cit., pp. 257- 258
56 Dr. Vanlalringa Bawitlung, ‘Socio-Economic History of The Mizo With Special Reference to Chiefs’ on Historical Journal Mizoram, Vol. II, Issue II, Published by Mizo History Association, July 2001, p.3. This due indicates that the chief was the ultimate owner of all properties in his village.
57 Chaterjee, op. cit., p. 41.
58 Parry, 1927, op. cit., p. 4.
59 Lalthangliana, op.cit., p. 286.
60 Parry, 1976, op. cit., 251.
61 Ibid. p. 252.
62 Ibid.
3 Under tribute-paying mode of production the society is divided into two main classes: the peasantry, organized in communities, and the ruling class, which monopolizes the functions of the given society’s political organization and exacts a tribute (not in common form) from the rural communities. This mode of production, when it assumes an advanced form almost always tends to become feudal, -that is the ruling class ousts the community from dominium eminence of the soil.” Samir Amin, Unequal Development, Oxford University Press, 1979. p. 15. Also quoted in Ganguly, op. cit., p. 148. Shamir Amin has categorized four pre-capitalist modes of production, namely, (1) The Primitive Communal (2) The Tribute-paying (3) The Slave-owning and (4) The Simple petty-commodity. Amin, op.cit., p.p. 13-14.

2 comments:

chhanism said...

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chhanism said...

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