Loktak Lake: 48 km from Imphal lies the largest freshwater lake in northeastern India, the Loktak Lake, which is also called the only Floating Lake in the world due to the floating Phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matters at various stages of decomposition). Phumdis are floating islands of heterogeneous masses of vegetation, soil and organic matter in different stages of decay. They cover a substantial part of the lake area and are found in different shapes and sizes. The largest single mass of phumdi is in the southeastern part of the lake, covering an area of 40 km2 (15.4 sq mi). This mass constitutes the world’s largest floating park, named Keibul Lamjao National Park; the park was formed to preserve the endangered Eld’s Deer subspecies called Sangai in the Manipuri language, found only in this area.
Phumdis are used by the local people for constructing their huts for fishing and other livelihood enterprise. A tourist lodge has been built on one of the phumdis in the Sandra Island. Reduction in the spread of phumdis to maintain the ecosystem of the lake and its utilization to derive economic value has been studied. Though it is said that phumdi vegetation originated centuries ago, the Manipur Gazetteer recorded, in 1886, that the wetland with floating islands was used by the inhabitants for fishing. Before the Itahi barrage was constructed in 1986, 207 khangpok (a hut or shed) were reported on the phumdis. After the dam was completed, in 1999, the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) reported 800 such huts. Many of the huts are reported to have been converted into permanent dwellings and about 4000 people live in these floating huts pursuing their living by fishing. Athapums are artificial circular phumdis, built by the villagers as enclosures for culture fishing; aquaculture has caused proliferation of the phumdis in the lake.
This enchanting panoramic view is located near Moirang in Manipur state. Etymology of Loktak is “Lok = stream and tak = the end”. The Keibul Lamjao National Park, which is the last natural refuge of the endangered “Manipur brow-antlered deer” locally known as the Sangai, which is one of the three sub species of the Eld’s Deer, covering an area of 40 km2 (15.4 sq mi), is situated in the southeastern region of this lake and is the largest of all the phumdis in the lake.
This lake plays an important role in the economy of Manipur. It serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply. The lake is also a source of livelihood for the rural fisherman who lives in the surrounding areas and on phumdis, also known as “phumshongs”. Human activity has led to severe pressure on the lake ecosystem. 55 rural and urban hamlets around the lake have a population of about 100,000 people.
The Loktak Lake and its precincts have faced serious problems due to loss of vegetal cover in the catchment area and construction of Ithai barrage at the outlet of the lake for multipurpose development of water resources. Deforestation and shifting cultivation in the catchment areas have accelerated the process of soil erosion resulting in the lake’s shrinkage due to siltation. The annual silt flow into the lake is estimated to be 336,325 tons. The thickness of phumdis has dicreased in the Keibul Lamjao National Park thereby threatening the survival of Sangai deer and interference in the migration of fishes from Chindwin–Irrawady River system of Myanmar resulting in changes in the species composition.
Hence, it is not enough to admire this heaven on earth. Through this let us all come and work for the renewal of this beautiful resource that we already possess.
Culturally, the Tangkhuls share close affinities with other Naga tribes. The Tangkhuls are fond of singing, dancing and festivities. For every season, there is a festival that lasts almost a week. Luira phanit is a major one among many. The Tangkhuls’ artistic creativity is manifested in their handicrafts and wood carvings.
The life and art of the Tangkhul are attractive and captivating. Their different costumes and wears, utensils, architecture, monumental erections and memorial set-ups depict their dexterity in art, which also speak of their sense of beauty and finesse. Though there are common costumes and wears, both for male and female, there are also some costumes and wear exclusively meant for male and female. Some of the traditional clothes and wears:
Haora (Man’s mostly), Malao, Phangyai, Chonkhom (Women’s mostly), Laokha, Kahang Kashan, Tangkang (for man and woman), Kahang Malao, Seichang Kashan, Luirim (man’s mostly), Thangkang, Thangkang Kashan, Raivat Kachon (Common), Khuilang Kashan, Khuilang Kachon (woman’s mostly), Kongrah Kashan, Phingui Kchon (common), Shanphaila, Phaphir (common), Kuiying Muka (upper cover), Phorei Kachon (man’s mostly), Zingtai Kashan, Luingamla Kashan.
Although the Tangkhul Naga tribe speaks more than a hundred dialects, the lingua franca is the Hunphun (Ukhrul) dialect. The Tangkhul dialect is a dialect continuum in which speakers from neighboring villages may be able to understand each other, but a dialect farther north or south of a speaker’s own will be less easily understood, if at all.
The Tangkhul dialect as spoken by the people of Hunphun (the traditional name of Ukhrul) became the most common dialect among the Tangkhuls because the British set up their administration in Ukhrul. The American Baptist missionary Rev. William Pettigrew translated the Bible into the Hunphun dialect, akin to Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German, which unified and standardised the varying German dialects.
Weaving is a part in woman’s life in the Eastern region in general and Tangkhuls in particular. Weaving is closely associated with the self and soul. Despite tedious hours she spends with the back strap loin loom which take time and concentrated she considers it as her prized possession. Dress and ornaments of the Tangkhul Nagas is fantastic and fabulous. The people are artistic and imaginative, different designs and style have been made with bright colours.Usually the Tangkhul shawls are of black and red stripes. The village headman has a distinctively large and costly shawl. Common people too have a special for festivals and special occasions. The Tangkhul Necklace (Kongsang has 10-18) strings of cowries beads and precious stones with different colors and is usually very costly and essential for weddings. The expensive dresses and ornaments are usually worn by rich bride in her wedding. The Tangkhul war dress consist of spear, head gears, bangles, breast plate, armlets, stocking made of bamboo, war tail, horns, shield, bows and arrows and a Dao. Dresses of Tangkhuls are Haorah, Leirum, Thanggang, Chonkhom, Khuilang, Raivat Kachon, Kahang Malao, Phangyai, Yangrey Kashan, Chonkhom Kashan, Kahang Kashan and others.
The ancestors were agriculturists and the year cycle festivals are associated with the year-round seasonal agricultural activities. All these festivals associated with sacred religious rituals and there were strict codes of conduct for all these feasts. The major year cycle festivals are:
Luira: The seed sowing festival which falls around the month s of January to March. This feast is celebrated with great fervor at Longpi and Hungpung (Hundung). Longpi, befitting their generosity, entertain their guests with lavish eats and drinks, whilst in Hundung one can see the maiden virgin dance performance.
Yarra: This is ante-cultivation festival and it falls around the months of April and May. Thought it celebrated by all, it is a youth festival.
Mangkhap: This is a post-trans-plantation festival. This festival falls around the month of July. During this festival the people pray for luxurious growth the crops after thanksgiving prayer for the timely rain.
Dharreo: This is a pre-harvest festival. Dharreo means the plucking of the new crop. On this day the first crops, fishes, live-stocks and other items are brought out for sale in the village market. It is fete day for the village. This day specially observed in Hungpung (Hundung) village.
Chumpha: This is a festival of thanksgiving for rich harvest, now gathered in the granary. The mother performs special offerings to the God of harvest and the keeper of the granary. While the mother performs her rituals all males are not allowed to enter the house, hence they outside the house for the night but with lavish supplies of eats and drinks. Because of the nature of its celebration, it is sometimes known as the Feast of the mother or the Feast of the granary. It falls around the months November and December.
Longra Khamang: This festival is not general in nature but the family which had a rich harvest celebrates this festival inviting the group of the son’s or daughter’s party who had worked in groups rotation-wise. This is a festival for giving special treatments to the sons and daughters.
Thisham: This is a festival in commemoration of the dead. It is on this occasion that the dance of the Dead is performed. This is the final rite performed by the family for the dead. It falls around the month of January.
Apart from these 6 (six) major festivals, there some event-occasioned festivals like; Kashong Kahao Zakhalat, a sacred ritual for dispelling pests and germs; Maa Khungkashat, acknowledgement of the rich crop. Ears of corn are plucked and placed at a post set apart for this sacred ritual in the house; Mawonzai, a feast to invoke the graceful blessings of God to human labour; Khana Kasa, a purification and naming feast; Ming Kaphok, this is a title endowment feast; Chumsin Sa Kashai, this is the ordaining feast of the daughter-in-low to priestess-hood, thereby endowing her with all the rights and duties of a family mother. Prior to this, she is no allowed to enter into the granary; Shimsak Kasa, this is the royal or noble house construction feast; Maran-sak & Tarung Khangkasang, stone or tree trunks erection feast to display the wealth and power of the noble.
Till about the middle of the 20th century the business transactions of the people were almost nil albeit occasional market days on festival days, but that too was on barter system and within the limit of the village only. We can, therefore, say that there was no commendable trade and commerce. Some stray animal, salt, handloom materials, pottery products, wood and bamboo craft works, balcksmithy, etc. were there, even as we still them today. But till then, the people could maintain and afford to meet their requirements for their day to day subsistence’s and livelihood. This way, one can conclude that they were self-reliant and self-sufficient. But with the advent of modern civilization, they were suddenly exposed to capitalistic trend of fierce market competitions and urbanization. Their limited sources of income and resources could not meet both ends and sooner they were reduced to a people living below poverty line. Even to this day, they have yet to pick-up with the trends of modern economy. The main sources of income of the people can be broadly divided into 5 (five) divisions: Agriculture, Industries, Forest Wealth, Riverine wealth and animal husbandry (primitive method).
The Tangkhul are basically agriculturists, but they do run small scale industries in the village level. Industry consist of weaving, pottery, blacksmithy, salt manufactories, wood and stone works, leather works, carving, wine brewing, basket making and other handicrafts. The Tangkhuls employ three methods of paddy cultivation namely; jhumming, terracing and wet cultivation. Rice is the main food. Other crops and vegetables are chilli, cotton, tobacco, corn, oranges, lemons, plums, brinjals and other fruits. Hunting, fishing, trapping birds are also practiced.
Tangkhul Nagas constitute the major bulk of the population. Others are some small percentage of Kukis, Nepalese and other Non-tribals. The Tangkhuls are fair in complexion and more akin to the Mongolians in facial appearance and stature. The population of the district is 1,09,275 (1991 Census) with a population density of 24 per sq. km. the male to female ratio is 1000:878 with a decennial growth rate of 32 %. The total population of the district constitutes 6.02 % of the total population of the state, spread over about 230 villages. Literacy percentage is 62.54 (1996).
The Tangkhul Religion, known to some as ‘Hao Religion,’ is a monotheistic religion with a little blend of animism and they worship with reverential owe The ‘KAZING NGALEI KASA AKHAVA’ – The God, creator of Heaven and Earth. To this God, they have different titles of addressed like ‘VARIVARA’ ‘KAZINGWUNG’ NGALEIWUNG’ ‘LUIPHILAVA- KASHONGWUNG’ ‘ONGSORWO’ ETC. CORRESPONDING TO THE THEME AND OBJECT/PLACE OF ACTIVITIES. The reason why the people could not address the God directly is that the ‘HE’ was so great that it was incomprehensible to the mind of the ancestors. Hence, they are monotheists with a slight mingling of pantheism. This religious background makes them receptive to Christian Faith, and hence it’s ready acceptance.
This district is the birthplace of Christianity and Western education in Manipur State, brought as early as 1896 by a Baptist Missionary called Rev. Pettigrew. The district, now, has one college after his name, the William Pettigrew College at Somsai, Ukhrul. Now, almost 99 % of the populations have embraced Christianity. The main Christian sects are: American Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church, Seventh Day Adventist Church, and Church of Christ etc. There are also some small groups of Hindus, Muslims, and others from among those who come from outside.
Kinship plays a very important role among the Tangkhul Nagas. They are patrilineal by descent and patrilocal by residence. Descent is traced through the father’s line. They have very close ties among kin groups. Nuclear family is the most common type of family found, though there are a few joint and extended family. The Tangkhuls practice mostly tribe endogamy and clan exogamy. Mother’s brother’s daughter cross cousin marriages system is found among the Thangkhuls and is a favored formed of marriage by tradition but is practiced by few now.
In marriage, a girl is free to choose her life partner and rarely in any pressure brought upon her in this matter. In marriage, and also in divorce, a woman was not bound by any constraint of social inferiority. She was free to make her decisions. In fact, for marriage, there was a latent form of bride price which had to be paid in consideration for marriage. There was however, one practice which gives some indication of an adverse status of women. On the death of her husband, his younger brother had the right to marry the widow of his brother.
The house structure is more or less similar for all the villages, but the carvings on the posts and blinks vary from village to village and area to area. To display the splendor and wealth of the rich and noble families, tree trunks – TARUNG are erected in front of the house. Some even erect Monumental/Memorial stones in the courtyards or at some prominent sites in the village area. Construction of all these entails strict ritualistic procedures and norms.
Rice is the main food. Other crops and vegetables are chilli, cotton, tobacco, corn, oranges, lemons, plums, brinjals and other fruits. Hunting, fishing, trapping birds are also practiced.
The evidence of the origin of the Tangkhul Nagas was given byT.C.Hodson who recorded that Hungpung (Hundung) is the center of their dispersion. And he stories declared that they sprang as immigrants from the village of Maikhel Tunggam ( a village which is the traditional home of the common ancestors of Quassi-Angami in Mao group).Another means of proving given by T.C.Hudson was that when the Shan invaded Assam in 1220 A.D.the Nagas were already there to resist their advance.(T.C.Hudson ‘The Naga tribes of Manipur London’1911)Above all, the Nagas generally agreed that they belong to Mongoloid race. Unfortunately, the history of the Tangkhul Nagas was not written in the early days. Still then, history can be read and understood through oral conversation, songs and cultures of the people. Indeed most historical scholars have quoted that the Nagas belong to Mongoloid race that came from the East and this have been agreed by all the Tangkhul Nagas.
Tangkhul Nagas are very ancient people, the most ancient Maharaja (king) of Manipur like Samalung, Morthao, Ayangba and Luitongba are all Tangkhul names. In this case, the people who reigned in the kingdom of Manipur were from the same origin. Thus, the Tangkhul Nagas had their own custom and culture since thousands of years.
The life and art of the Tangkhul are attractive and captivating. Their different costumes and wears, utensils, architecture, monumental erections and memorial set-ups depict their dexterity in art, which also speak of their sense of beauty and finesse. Though there are common costumes and wears, both for male and female, there are also some costumes and wear exclusively meant for male and female.
GAMES & SPORTS
Traditional Games of Tangkhul are Tug of War (Thingneira Khangakhun), “Bean’s Game” (Saotheila), The Wrestling (Khangatuk) competition, etc.
Weaving is a part in woman’s life in the Eastern region in general and Tangkhuls in particular. Weaving is closely associated with the self and soul. Despite tedious hours she spends with the back strap loin loom which take time and concentrated she considers it as her prized possession. Dress and ornaments of the Tangkhul Nagas is fantastic and fabulous. The people are artistic and imaginative, different designs and style have been made with bright colours. Usually the Tangkhul shawls are of black and red stripes. The village headman has a distinctively large and costly shawl. Common people too have a special for festivals and special occasions. The Tangkhul Necklace (Kongsang has 10-18) strings of cowries beads and precious stones with different colors and is usually very costly and essential for weddings. The expensive dresses and ornaments are usually worn by rich bride in her wedding. The Tangkhul war dress consist of spear, head gears, bangles, breast plate, armlets, stocking made of bamboo, war tail, horns, shield, bows and arrows and a Dao. Dresses of Tangkhuls are Haorah, Leirum, Thanggang, Chonkhom, Khuilang, Raivat Kachon, Kahang Malao, Phangyai,Yangrey Kashan, Chonkhom Kashan, Kahang Kashan and others.