Dima Hasao District

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The Tribes of Dima Hasao District

The Hmars:             The Hmars migrated from China and settled  first in Burma and scattered around Manipur, Mizoram and Dima Hasao in Assam. They are of Mongoloid stock. Though the tribe is divided into exogamous clans but they do not strictly adhere to exogamy. Monogamy is strictly followed. Arranged cum Love-Marriages are  preferred .

The system of bride price is still prevelant & the youngest daughter usually gets an extra  price called 'Nuzum'. Earlier they practiced animism & their God was “Pathien” & sacrifices were offered for his appeasement.  Now almost the whole of the tribe is converted into Christianity & they have built churches in their villages & religious rites are performed according to the tenets of Christianity.The Hmars built their villages on hill -tops & houses are constructed on wooden planks. Slash & burn system of agricultural practices is still at large amongst the Hmars.

Even after long years of migration from their original abode, the Hmars still adhere to their traditional culture through observing their traditional festivals connecting with agricultural cycle & other community rites & practices. Their cultural traditions are best reflected in their folk songs & dances. Khuong (drum) is the main part of the musical instrument. The other musical instruments are Pheiphit (whistle made of bamboo), Theihlea (bamboo flute), Darkhuong (gong), Darbu (set of small gong), Darmang (flat brass gong), Seki (set of mithun horn), Hna Mut (Leaf instrument), Perkhuong (guitar made of bamboo) etc.

According to the Hmar geneology, the following are the major clans. They are Lawitlang, Zote, Lungtau, Thiek, Khawbung, Pakhuong, Faihriem, Darngawn, Leiri, Ngurte, Khiengte, Pautu and Ngente.

The chief of their village council is called “LAL” .He is selected from amongst the youngest son except Leiri & Faihriem Clans.He is all-powerful and everybody follows his leadership and directive.

The Hmar womenfolk are great weavers in their tiny loin looms. They dye their homespun yarns into different colours and weave exquisite clothes for the family. Man and women wear different kind of clothes. Hmar – am is finely woven cloth for the aristocratic womenfolk, Tawn lo – puon is a breast cloth never to be touched by a man, Tharlaikawn is a body wrapper with coloured strips on the back for the women. Ngo – tlong is a white wrapper for women, Thangsuo – Puon is for the great hunters and heroes who have earned the title ‘Thangsuo” for valour, Rukrak – puon is a long wrapper for village aristocrats, Hmar – puon is a common cloth with black and white strips, Daraki is a dhoti for the malefolk, Paihar is a chaddar for men, Lukawm is a soft cloth for man’s headgear, Puondum is a chaddar for menfolk and Puon – Kernei is the finely woven breast wrapper for the village maidens.

The festival highlighting agricultural practices is Sikpuiruoi and Butukhuonglom. They express their happiness in Dar lam and Parton lam dances by rhythmic beating of the drums. To honour a great hunter they perform Pheiphitlam dance accompanied by melodious tune trilling from their flutes. To perform Fahral Tawk lam, they use bamboo poles like the Mizos (in their famous Cheraw dance).

The Hmars perform a number of dances –the Harvest dance is called Chon lam, the hunting dance is known as Salu lam and a privately organized festival dance is popular as Thangkawngvailak. The dancers, both boys and girls, put on their colourful traditional dresses and the boys wear headgear Tawnlairang made of bird’s feathers or Lukhum made of bamboo, and the colourful shawl called Hmar puon. The girls adorn themselves with ornaments like Kutsabi (ring), Banbun (bangles), Nabe (earings), Thi (Seeded Necklace), Thi val (beaded ornaments), Thi hna (beaded ornaments) etc, and wear exquisitely embroidered Puons, Puonbil and Zakuo.They rejoice in drinking ‘ Zu’ (rice beer) and the oldman and woman smoke in their ‘Tuibur’ pipes at their hearts content.

The Hmars are great hunters and while returning with precious games, they dance ‘Salu lam’ to mark their victory.

The Hmars love dancing so much that the very thought of the dance arena brings out the dancers in them. And they dance ‘Chon lam’ while proceeding to the arena.