Mizoram 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 1973 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 11ºC to 21ºC and in summer it varies between 20ºC to 29ºC. 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 to Khampat and then to the Chin Hills in the middle of the 16th century. 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 migrate to India. The Mizo history in the 18th and 19th century is marked by many instances of tribal raids and retaliatory expeditions. Mizo Hills were formally declared as part of British India by a proclamation in 1895. North and south hills were united into Lushai Hills district in 1898 with Aizawl as its headquarters. The process of the consolidated of the British administration in tribal dominated area in Assam stated in 1919 when Lushai Hills, along with some of the other hill districts, was declared a “Backward Tract” under the 1919 Government of India Act. The tribal districts of Assam including Lushai Hills were declared “Excluded Area” in 1935. It was during the British regime that a political awakening among the Mizos in Lushai Hills started taking shape the first political party, the Mizo Common People’s Union was formed on 9th April, 1946. The Party was later renamed the Mizo Union. As the day of Independence drew nearer, the Constituent Assembly of India set up an advisory committee to deal with matters relating to the minorities and the tribal members. A sub-sommittee, under the chairmanship of Gopinath Bordoloi was formed to advise the Constituent Assembly on the tribal affairs in the North East. The Mizo Union submitted a resolution of this Sub-committee demanding inclusion of all Mizo inhabited areas adjacent to Lushai Hills. However, a new party called the United Mizo Freedom Organization (UMFO) came up to demand that Lushai Hills join Burma after Independence.
Following the Bordoloi sub-committee’s suggestion, a certain amount of autonomy was accepted by the government and enshrined in the Six Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The Lushai Hills Autonomous District Council came into being in 1952 followed by the formation of these bodies led to the abolition of chieftanship 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, 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 boom in 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 organization tried their best to help starving villagers. Earlier in 1955, 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 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.
The Mizo National Famine Front dropped the word ‘famine’ and a new political oraganisation, the Mizo National Front (MNF) was born on 22nd October 1961 under the leadership of Laldenga with the specified goal of achieving sovereign independence of Greater Mizoram. Simultaneous large scale disturbances broke out on 28th February 1966 government installations at Aizawl, Lunglei, Chawngte, Chhimluang and other places.In Aizawl, the Government of India bombed the city of Aizawl with Toofani and Hunter Jet fighters, this was the first time India used its air force to quell a movement of any kind among its citizens. While the MNF took to violence to secure its goal of establishing a sovereign land, other political forces in the hills of Assam were striving for a separate state. The search for a political solution to the problems facing the hill regions in Assam continued. The Mizo National Front was outlawed in 1967. The demand for statehood was gained fresh momentum. A Mizo District Council delegation, which met prime minister Indira Gandhi in May 1971 demanded fullfledged statehood for the Mizos. The union government on its own offered the proposal of turning Mizo Hills into a Union Territory (U.T.) in July 1971. The Mizo leaders were ready to accept the offer on condition that the status of U.T would be upgraded to statehood sooner rather than later. The Union Territory of Mizoram came into being on 21st January, 1972. Mizoram get two seats in Parliament, one each in the Lok Sabha and in the Rajya Sabha.
Birth of Mizoram state
Rajiv Gandhi’s assumption of 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 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 20th 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.
Although many 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.
Lakes are scattered all over the state, but the most important are Palak, Tamdil, Rungdil, and Rengdil. The Palak lake is situated in Chhimtuipui District in southern Mizoram and covers an area of 30 hectares. It is believed the lake was created as a result of an earthquake or a flood. The local people believe a village which was submerged still remains intact deep under the waters. The Tamdil lake is a natural lake situated 110/85 kms 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.
Some 87% of the population (including almost all ethnic Mizos) is Christian. The major Christian denominations are the Presbyterian, Baptist Church of Mizoram, Salvation Army, Seventh-day Adventist, Roman Catholic, and the Pentecostals. The Chakma practice Theravada Buddhism mixed with elements of Hinduism and Animism.
In recent decades a number of Southeast Asian-looking tribespeople from Mizoram, Assam, and Manipur have claimed themselves as Jews. This group is known collectively as the Bnei Menashe, and include Chin, Kuki, and Mizo. Several hundred have formally converted to Orthodox Judaism, many openly practise an Orthodox type of Judaism. The Bnei Menashe do not see themselves as converts, but believe themselves to be ethnically Jewish, descendants of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
With its abundant scenic beauty and a pleasant climate, Mizoram hopes to develop its tourist-related industries. Specific tourist projects can be developed to put Mizoram on the “tourist map” of India.with the development of ot enReiek resort centre and numbers of resort centres in and around Aizawl as well as establishment of tourists huts across the entire state,tourism has been much developed.the ever smiling faces of the mizos is a life time experience and give new meaning to life.
Hand looms & handicrafts
Mizo women typically use a hand loom 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.
Culture and arts
Mizo traditional tunes are very soft and gentle that they can sing the whole night without getting tired. 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.
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 (clearing 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.