1. Origin of the people
There is a myth that the Mizos have originated as one of the ten lost tribes of Israel. The Rev. Liangkhaia who wrote the first History of the Mizos, suggested that ‘the Mizos are the descendants of Japheth, one of the three Sons of Noah’. Although this belief is difficult to substansons of Noah’. Although this belief is difficult to substantiate, there is at least a possibility of its likelihood. Some people believed that the Mizo had migrated from China during the reign of Chien Lung (the Mizos called Chhinlung), and it was believed that a part of the lost ten tribes of and it was believed that a part of the lost ten tribes of Israel found themselves in China. A Catholic missionary, R.J. De Jaegher wrote that the Israelis who went to China eventually worshipped Chinese gods and became part of Chinese culture. Whether or not there is any real truth in such myths, it seems at least to be a fact that the Mizo people employ a cloth design in a garment used to cover babies, that is identical to the design in the cloth used to cover 2 Moses when his mother hid him in a river.
The possible Hebraic connection apart, the Mizos are racially said to be of Mongoloid origin. There are a part of the great waves of the Mongoloid race which fanned out of the east and the south of Asia in the past. Further evidence is strong enough that the Mizo people migrated from Yunnan province through the Shan state in Burma. From that Shan state they came further west, crossing the Irrawady river in Burma and leaving some Mizo families known as the Lusi in Burma, now re-named as Myanmar.
In Burmese language lu means ‘tribe’ se means ‘ten’. There were ten such tribes in Burma and one of these tribes moved further west. This was the Lushai, initially Lusei tribe. But now the general population of the Lushai Hills is known among themselves by the generic name of Mizo and their language Lushai or Duhlian as Mizo-tawng (Mizo language). And the generic terra Mizo means ‘highlanders’ or ‘people of the hill’, which comprises of several clans or sub-tribes, such as Lusei, Ralte, Hraar, Khlangte, Khawlh ring, Pachuau, Pawi and others. The electoral rolls will give an inquisitive reader the best information.
2. Language of the people
The Mizos are an important hill tribe of the subcontinent. Linguistically, the Mizo speak a Mizo dialect belong ing to the Tibeto-Burman family of languages. The Mizo dialect itself is closer to languages of the Burmese and Tibet than that of Chinese. The Mizo language has little or no 5 association with the Aryan languages of India proper. Although there are some minor dialects like, Hmar, Lakher, Pawi, Ralte and others, the Duhlian or Mizo-tawng is the approved official language, the lingua franca of the land. Pioneer missionary James Herbert Lorrain, in his introduction to his Dictionary of the Lushai Language wrote, ‘their speech belongs to the Assam-Burma branch of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages’. The following table, then, illustrates the family tree of Sino-Tibetan family of languages:
3. The Land
Mizoram is the abode of the Mizos. Formerly it was known as the Lushai Hills district of ssam. This land is located in the southern corner of a North East India. It is bounded on the east by the Chin Hills of Burma, on the south by the Arakan Hills tracts of Burma; on the west by the Chittagong hill tracts of Bangladesh and Tripura state of India; and on the nortli by the Cachar district of Assam and the Manipur state. It lies just within the tropics between Latitude 22°19′ and 2M°19′ north and Longitude 92°16′ and 93°26′ east.
Mizoram has an area of 21,067 Sq.Km. The area was hitherto considered to be inaccessible and impenetrable. The jungles were luxuriant; all types of trees grew in plenty. Parallel mountain ranges run from north to south with narrow and deep river valleys between them. It has natural beauty and endless variety of landscape and is rich in fauna and flora. The country music loving Mizos sing of the flora and fauna of this land, of its animals and birds, of its hills and valleys. Mizo nature poets, therefore, go on singing by glorifying the beauty of these beauties.
4. Social life of the people
The Mizos have a distinct community; and their smallest social unit was the village. The village is usually set on the crest of the hill with the chief’s house at the best location, normally at the centre of the village and the Zawlbuk, bachelors’ dormitory prominently located near the chief’s residence. In a way the focal place of the village was the Zawlbuk, where all young people of the village converged and slept at night. Zawlbuk was the training centre and indeed, the cradle wherein the Mizo youth was drilled and shaped into a responsible member of the society. One researcher has done a research on the role of zawlbuk and wrote the following conclusion:
The Zawlbuk was indeed a superb institution of the Mizo society which succeeded in building up their unique style of life. While it prevented crude conformity and anomic ‘laissezfaire’ on the one hand, it implanted in them a deep love of freedom and a real respect for their community based social organisation on the other.
The Mizo society has no class distinction and no discrimination on the ground of sex. The village exists like a big family and the chief as the father and ruler. Birth of a child, marriage in the village, death of a person or a community feast of any kind arranged by a member of the village and those of yearly festivals were important occasions in which the whole village was involved. When someone died, all the able-bodied young men would go out and dig grave for the disposal of the dead while other members of the community offer condolences to the bereaved family. And this practice includes staying in such houses for a few nights, so that the remaining members of the bereaved family do not feel lonesome and also to lend their helping hands whenever the necessity arise.
In this section, I should not forget to mention the most beautiful ethical code and good form of our society known as tlawmngaihna. The word tlawmngaihna is an untranslatable term, meaning – to be hospitable, kind, unselfish, courageous, industrious and helpful to others in any manner. So, tlawmngaihna to a Mizo stands for that compelling moral force which finds expressions in self-sacrifice for the service of others. It is the core of their philosophy of life. In war or peace, in dealing with individuals or in day-to-day public life, it was this spirit of tlawmngaihna which guided their thoughts and actions. N.E. Parry said, “It is really a very good moral code enforced solely by public opinion…. Tlawmngaihna, therefore, deserves every encouragement, as it were allowed to fall into desuetude [sic] it would be most detrimental to the whole of the tribe.
In a Mizo society some practical principles of selfhelp and cooperation for the fulfilment of social obligation and responsibilities have been accepted since time immemorial. Construction and repair of village path or intervillage route, of road leading to their jhum cultivation of community halls, of water points and so on were done through voluntary works called hnatlang. Under this hnatlang system the villagers are expected to participate for the welfare of the community; and each family is under obligation to contribute their mite. The same spirit of hnatlang punctuated with tlawmngaihna enjoined the villagers to participate and render all possible helps whenever there is an occasion of death or marriage or any other community special programme in the village.
Closely connected with tlawmngaihna is Mizo hospitality, always shown by most people. Any Mizo would take in a stranger, mikhual (or khualzin/traveller) for a night or two and provide hira all free of charge, not only with super, but also with breakfast next morning and a chawfun, a pocket of boiled-rice for lunch for the journey, especially when modern means of transport was unknown.
The term ‘religion’ may be defined as the human recognition of superhuman controlling power and especially of a personal god or gods entitled to obedience and worship. Religion, in common parlance, is an aspiration, a search to find favour with the supreme in order to receive blessings and to be absolved from the curse of sins. Different approaches are adopted by different religions. The religion of the Mizos had been described as ‘animism’, which lexically means, ‘attribution of soul to inanimate object or natural ‘ phenomena’. The term, however, is now generally used to describe the faith of pre-literate people, depending on memory and oral traditions rather than on sacred literature. It involves the belief in all kinds of spirit with a High God, including belief in some form of life after death. The Mizos, in their animistic beliefs and practices, seemed to have depended on their own genius for the development 10 of their ideas and practices.
One of the pioneer Mizo pastors, Liangkhaia believes that the religion of the Mizos had its origin in the consciousness of their need for deliverance from physical illness and from other misfortunes which they attributed to evil-spirits. The earliest known sacrificial incantation indicates a time when they did not know whom they should invoke in time of need. The charm may be rendered in English as follows: “Oh, hear us and answer us, thou who was worshipped by our ancestors”. And after sometime, they mentioned their old homes and the surrounding areas which lengthened the sacrificial spell or invocation.
At a later period the sacrificial incantation was addressed to Sa and khua. Liangkhaia, again, believes that the two objects of worship were eventually combined and became sakhua, a term which has been used for translating the English word ‘religion*. Sa indicates animal life and he-pig (hog) is sacrificed for this; and khua means ‘nature or weather’, for this domesticated cow-gayal (mithun) is necessary. The combination of the words into sakhua may mean, ‘life principle or basis’ of the Mizos. Sakhua was the family of clan God. Clan, here is used to describe a group of blood related people, speaking the same dialect within a larger tribe, and descended from same ancestors not too far off in history. If a man wishes to embrace sakhua of another clan, he may do so after performing certain ceremony, after this he must cut himself off from all connections with his old clan. Such a man is known as saphun, implanted into the new sakhua. It was the sakhua who built up, protected and oared for the family. Women were considered to have no sakhua of their own. The ancient Mizos believed that women and crabs have no religion. It means a woman simply follows the religion of her husband or her father. It was the sakhua of her parents or husband which was responsible for her welfare and existence. Children took after the Sakhua of their fathers. Social conventions and legal matters were clearly built on patriarchal system.
According to their old religious tenets the Mizos believe in one supreme being called Pathian (sometimes they referred as Pu Vana), who is the overlord of men, and in ramhuai (demon) who inhabit the streams, the hills, the big trees and the big roots. The ramhuai are the evil spirits, who are responsible for all the ills in this world. They have to be propitiated for health, good harvest and general well-being. A traditional physician, who officiated at such sacrifices are called puithiam. He was regarded as the gifted psychologist and could diagnose the symptoms of illness from the pulse on which skill their effectiveness depended. The sacrifice is called inthawina or a ‘ceremonial cure’. Sacrifices to the evil spirits were non-obligatory, only the rich could afford to perform it every time they got ill; the poor, however would do this performance only after long illness.
The real sacrifices and prayers to the clan-god were offered to the benevolent spirits or gods and could be considered as obligatory sacrifices. It was that prayer which really counts in their lives. Some sacrifices were performed at birth, puberty, marriages and at certain intervals for thanksgivings. It was the family priest known as Sadawt who performed it. The Sadawtho (those Sadawts) are respectable citizens in the society and their office was hereditary. Sadawts are always referred as Lai Sadawt, meaning ‘priest of the chief for they are considered as next to chief of the village. The most important sacrifice a traditional Mizo had to perform was the Sakhaw biak, or worship to the clan-god. Castrated pigs were always be kept by families in good number, the bigger the better for the purpose. If one neglects this sacrifice, it is a common belief that sakhua may get into temper in which case he might withdraw his protection. The family would then be more vulnerable to the attacks of evil spirits.
The word ‘culture’ may be defined as ‘humanity’s effort to assert its inner and independent being’. But the most up-to-date definition may be, ‘Our culture is that in terms of which our life is organised’ . The Mizo culture prior to the advent of the British was what some anthropologists would call ‘non-literate culture’ because the people had not developed writing. According to a popular oral tradition, the Mizos claimed that they were once given a written language by God as other races were given and it was in the form of the scroll or a parchment. But they were not keeping it properly and a dog ate it up due to their negligence. They were thus, deprived of a script for a long time. As it was a legend, no one knew about the content of that parchment.
However, the Mizos of the past were endowed with good oral tradition. This oral tradition kept the culture of the people alive. They had rich folktales and poetry, which serves as a written document of the family fortunes and deeds of prowess and some of their practices can be traced accurately from the chants used when a family offered sacrifices. Those folktales were as old as the history of the people itself. It tells the story of their habitation, their wars and their hunting days. Inter-tribal, interclan and inter-village warfare were very common in the lives of the Mizos. Attempts to attack, plunder and take captives was the order of the old days. One popular folktales spoke of war between the people in the south and the people in the north. Several other inter-clan clashes were recorded in their tales and poetry as well.
The Mizos had three annual festival called Kut, marking three different stages of the agricultural process, because Mizos are real agriculturists. The three festivals are – Chapchar kut, Mim kut, and Pawl kut. Chapchar kut always lasted for three days and three nights, during which drinking, feasting and dancing continued. This Chapchar kut or spring festival may be considered as the most important kut and the time for merry-making and enjoyment for adults. Young men and women, holding one another’s shoulder would dance in the village Chief’s courtyard day in and out during the festival to enjoy themselves. This kut is perhaps, the gayest of all the three festivals. Mim kut is celebrated with solemnity, in honour of the dead. In this Mim kut or autumn festival, the first fruit of the crops are offered to the dead. Pawl kut is held after paddy harvest. This festival is enjoyed by childen and women. They prepare their best food and feed one another in a selected yard called lungdawh with great amusement and enthusiasm.
Mizos believe in life after death. The spiritual world is to have two compartments, separated by a river. One compartment is called Pialral or haven, where only those who earned the thangchhuah, the title given to distinguish citizen, during their life-time could go. Life in Pialral is luxurious, plenty to eat and no work to do. The other place is called Mitthi khua, meaning ‘village of the dead’. All the dead, whose door to Pialral is closed go to Mitthi-khua, where life is dull and colourless, a shadowy existence as in the Hebrew ‘sheol’.
Aspirant for the honour of thangchhuah title must give to the public a series of special feasts, seven or eight times. They involved considerable expense and it might take almost one’s life-time to complete the whole series and not many people could afford to do it. The alternative way of earning the coveted title is to kill the following wild animals: elephant, bear, wild bison, stag, barking deer, and wild boar. After killing each prescribed animal, a sort of thanksgiving ceremony or a^ had to be performed which again, required the killing of certain domestic animals.
Music is an indispensable to the Mizos in their culture as air is to animate beings. Without it life is incomplete. To be precise, music is part of the Mizo life. From time immemorial the Mizos had their own different zai (or tunes). In fact, Mizo zal were as old as the Mizo history itself. Composers had their own style of composition or particular zai which some call them after the name of the poet, like – Laltheri zai, Lianchhiari zai, Saikuti zai, Darmani zai, Awithangpa zal and so on. Besides these, there is another common style known as the lengkhawm zai, which is the traditional way of singing with drum. So, the Mizos can sing with heart and soul even without musical instruments. That music is deeply rooted in the Mizo life is clearly understood from the fact that they may enthusiastically sing throughout the night till dawn. When consoling bereaved family they sing appropriate songs named as khawhar hla, and when attending marriage parvy or any other thanksgiving functions they sing a song of joy. In this way, different songs were sung in the right mood on the right occasion. So, sometimes Mizoram is referred by some poets as ‘land of music’.
The Mizos can boast of several community and folk dances which have been handed down from generation to generation and developed under the influences of the birds, the beasts, the hills and valleys. Dances like cheraw which is sometimes known as bamboo dance; khuallam, literally translated as dance of the guest; chheih-lam, a dance of joy and exhilaration; chai-lam, dance normally performed on festive occasions are really colourful. Rallu-lam, Solakia, Sarlam-kai and Par-lam dances are also quite popular. For all these dances, gongs, cymbals or drums are used effectively.
The Mizo society is a patriarchal system and the youngest son inherits all movable and immovable properties. The elder sons generally moved out of the parents’ house after they get married. The youngest son is expected to stay on and look after the parents during their old age until death. When one dies, he is buried in the common burial field called thlanmual and the relatives erect memorial stones after some years. Relatives and friends gather in the house of bereavement and khawhar hla are sung for about a week or so. The spirit of tlawmngaihna may be best shown in times of bereavement and hardships.
7. Arrival of Christian Missionary
As in the entire north-eastern region literature came to Mizoram with the advent of Christianity after the annexation of the land to the British empire in I89O. C.L. Hminga writes,If the Mizos had not repeatedly troubled the British with their head-hunting expeditions, which culminated in their killing Mr. Winchester and taking away his little daughter, Mary Winchester, to captivity, they would have been left alone as they were., It was to rescue the captive girl and to enter into permanent relationship with the savages (Mizos) that the first major military expedition was launched in I87I by order of Lord Mayo, the then Governor General of India. The result was twenty villages routed out for offering resistance, sixty villages tendered their submission fifteen important Chiefs promised lasting friendship and Mary Winchester restored in good health in January, 1872. The second and larger military expedition, known as ‘Chin-Lushai Expedition’, launched in I889-I89O resulted in the subjugation of most of the country by 1893 which marked the beginning of the British Rule. The Pax Britannica opened the way for Christian pioneer missionaries to enter and begin work in the territory. Mary Winchester said in her letter to Vanchhunga, ‘My father’s blood was the price paid for you Lushai Christians’ .
The first Missionary who set his foot in the land was the Rev. William Williams. Amidst hardships imaginable, he left Sheila, Khasi Hills on February 15, I891, and arrived on March 20, I891, and remained there till April 17. From his own report, he spent most of his short stay in Aizawl among the Mizos, observing their way of life and trying to pick up their language. He distributed Bible pictures and thought the Mizos seemed to know God already when he tried, in his very limited capacity, to tell them about God. He also preached to the Khasi labourers in their language. He was therefore the first to preach to the Mizos about the Christian God. He tried to persuade two or three Mizos to go with him to the Khasi Hills to study. They were all reluctant to accept his offer.
The news of Winchester’s killing reached London. An artist in an illustrated English Magazine graphically depicted the poor frightened child (Mary Winchester) being carried off by night through the thick forest, the blazing torch of her sturdy captors lighting the pathway and casting weird shadows among trees. That picture might have stirred the mind of many a Christian in England. A millionaire, Robert Arthington, heard about the untamed hill men, and his interest in the Lushais (now Mizos) and the adjacent hill tribes was kindled. He therefore organized a missionary organisation of his own called, “The Arthington Aborigines Mission”, with the headquarters at Leeds.
The first two missionaries of the Arthington Mission, Rev. J.H. Lorrain (1871-1940) and Rev. F.W. Savidge (1864-1936) reached Mizoram (Sairang) on the 11th January, 1894. This very date has been accepted as the day of the coming of the Gospel in Mizoram. Both Lorrain and Savidge were members of the Highgate Baptist Church in London. The two friends could find no one to carry their luggage to Aijal, so they made their tent and bed clothes into a bundle and carried it between them. When they arrived on the 13th 23 January, -^ in what is now known as the Dawrpui (or Bara Bazar). The Mizos were caught by surprise as they had never before seen the sahibs carrying their own baggage. Some called them Sap vakvai (wandering sahibs) and others said that they were Sap mi a (mad sahibs). The missionaries obtained permission to put up their tent on the parade ground, after paying a courtesy visit to the British Officer in command. But the Officer said to them, “I can’t do anything more for you. I have orders not to help you”. However, the two dedicated missionaries pitched their tent with great joy, for they were at last in their dreamland for the glory of God.
For Lorrain and Savidge, the first night in Aizawl was a memorable one. About mid-night they were awakened by the noise of footsteps definitely drawing near to their tent. After a tense pause came a whisper. ‘Sirs, sirs’. ‘What is it?’ they asked. ‘Have you a gun?’ asked the voice. Lorrain and Savidge debated in whispers inside the tent. If they said ‘Yes’ it would be a lie for they were unarmed and it was not fair for missionaries to tell a lie. But, if they said ‘No’ they might attacked them. They were in a dilemma. After sometime, they replied truthfully by saying, ‘No, we haven’t got a gun’ and the inquirer went away. On enquiring about it in the next morning they were told, ‘Last night a barking deer came into the village and we came to you because we hadn’t a gun with which to shoot’. Had they told a lie that night they would have lost their credibility when they preach the Gospel. They trusted the Mizos implicitly, and soon won their confidence by simple kindness and by medical services. Because of their loving concern and services, the natives on their part conferred upon them an honourable title Zosap meaning ‘Sahib for Mizos’ or ‘Lushais white men’ whereas other Britishers were known as simply Sahib. This coveted Zosap was given to any Christian missionaries who came later to this land. Later, the elder Sahib F.W. Savidge was known as Sapupa and J.H. Lorrain as Pu Buanga for his fair hair and brown complexion.
The Superintendent of Lushai Hills considered that it was unsafe for the two missionaries to stay a mile away from Fort Aijal. They were given a safe place in Bawlhmun later named as Tea Garden Hill. They began to build a small house of bamboo, roofed with sungrass, but the unsettled nature of the country made it almost impossible to get labour for it. They managed to finish the hut with the help of one native or two. They started learning the Mizo language seriously to communicate to the people effectively. At the beginning, the people thought that they were simple and wandering sahibs and they could not contact them properly. After a time they put their problem to the Superintendent. Then the Superintendent had forbidden free sale of salt in the shops and had entrusted the missionaries to control this precious commodity. Those who helped the missionaries in erecting a hut were given a letter to obtain salt from the shop. Sometimes they gave salt as wages to the helpers. In this way the natives’ impression of the missionaries changed. They were reported to have said, ‘they were not mad sahibs, they obviously own everything in the shops, they must be chiefs’. They, therefore, trusted and obeyed them and cooperated with them in their work.
During their stay in Aizawl (1894-1897), Lorrain and Savidge wrote booklets in Mizo and translated parts of the Bible, using Roman script based on the Hunterian system. It was modified slightly, but in principle it has remained the same and has proved highly successful. The first alphabet they prepared was as follows:
AW A B D E F G H I J (Chei)
K L M N O P R T T (Thraw)
U V Z CH (Chaw)
With the introduction of these letters, the oral tradition was converted into written literature, education began and Christianity set its roots firmly in the soil. Among the first three pupils, Khamliana of the Lungleng village was the first Mizo who could read and write. Therefore, Khamliana was the first educated Mizo and also the first man to write any letter to the missionaries. The other two learners were Suaka, Durtlang Chief and Thangphunga, Chaltlang Chief. Khamliana, the Chief of Lungleng, was the recipient of ‘Kaiser-i-Hind’ medal for Public Service in India on the 2nd June 1923. The success story of Kharaliana was worth mentioning among the Mizos.
Arthington believed that it was high time for the evangelists to preach the Gospel throughout the land so that the people would accept Christ as their Saviour. To hasten the day of the lord was accordingly his object, and the world-wide proclamation of the Gospel was the means to that end. It is thus evident that before Lorrain and Savidge had been in Mizoram for eighteen months Mr. Arthington was already eager that they should move on, and had authorized his agent in India, Mr. St. Dalmas, to hand over the field to the Welsh Mission. They came to know also that the Welsh Presbyterian Mission (then known as Calvinistic Methodist Foreign Mission) had formally adopted the Mizo Hills as part of their Mission field before they themselves entered there. A letter that they wrote in June 1895 to C.L. Stephens, a missionary in the Khasi Hills, shows how attached they had become to their work and how disappointed they would feel if they had to leave the Mizos:
We love the people and country very dearly, and have all along been cherishing the hope that our whole lives would be spent in leading these tribes to Jesus. As you know, we are Baptists and of course your mission would not feel justified in taking us on as regular missionaries, but we have such a longing to remain and work for Christ in Lushai that we would only be too glad if your mission would accept us as evangelists whose work it would be to preach the Gospel, leaving all Church matters to the regular missionaries.
Thus they offered their services to the Welsh Mission who felt however that they could not accept the offer. With the wisdom of hindsight one cannot but feel sad at the refusal.
The Welsh Mission sent their first Missionary to the Mizos, Rev. D.E. Jones (187.0-1947), who arrived in Aizawl on August 31, 1897, and worked till 1926 in Mizoram. Jones had the benefit of studying the language under the guidance of the two pioneering missionaries, and getting to know how they were doing their work. Jones managed to learn ninety new words every day during the four months he stayed with Lorrain and Savidge. After he was left alone, the Khasi Church sent Rai Bhajur Jyrwa to help him and a few other Khasi Christians were of great help to Jones.
Edwin Rowlands (1867-1939) the second missionary of the Welsh Mission arrived in Aizawl on the last day of 1898. He worked there for about ten years and had a potent influence on the growth of the infant church. He had teaching experience in Texas prior to his joining the Welsh Mission. He was first assigned teaching work but he did also a considerable amount of touring within the length and breadth of Mizorara. On his arrival the Mizos started calling D.E. Jones Zosaphluia meaning ‘the old Mizo sahib or missionary’; and they called Edwin Rowlands Zosapthara meaning ‘the new Mizo sahib or missionary’. These two Missionaries had the whole of Mizo-Hills as their field of service till the coming of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1903 to work in the South Mizo Hills. Under this new Mission, the pioneering missionaries Lorrain and Savidge received an invitation, which they gladly accepted to return to their first love Lushais. They arrived in Lungleh on March 13, 1903, and from this day North Lushai Hills and South Lushai Hills became separate Mission fields.
Zosapthara was perhaps one of all the Missionaries, who best grasped the genius of the Mizo character from within. His hymns show that he used words, idioms and phrases with unequalled skill and precision. He was best remembered for his gift of singing and composing of hymns. Gifted in music he translated and composed more than a hundred Christian hymns of which more than eighty hymns are still in the Mizo Hymn Book called Kristian Hla Bu. On August 12, 1907, alone he was believed to have composed seven different hymns. If that were true, he composed at surprising speed. All the seven hymns are in the Mizo hymn book and are in constant use, in fact, they are among his best compositions. Throughout his life, Rowlands proved himself to be a man of rare courage and resource. He had no patience with the unenthusiastic; and his zeal in work involved him in difficulties on more occasion than one. The land and the people suited him well that he developed an affection for them which lasted the rest of his life. He later worked among various other tribes, but he always had one or two Mizo fellow workers along with him, and they often shared his poverty and hardship. In time he married a Mizo girl, named Thangkungi who survived till his death in 1939 at Rangoon, Burma.
8. Impact of Christianity
Perhaps nothing is more strikingly revolutionary in the life of a community than the almost passing away within a century of traditional Lushai polity leading to the emergence of a new dynamic society. Within a few decades from 1894, almost the whole population embraced Christianity. However, for the first converts, the pioneering missionaries had to work very hard for five years. The first was the toughest ones and Khuma and Khara were baptised on the 25th June 1899. They could be considered as the first Biblemen among the Mizos for their zeal of spreading the Gospel. Unfortunately, Khara who later secured a job in the Government, eventually became a backslider and lost his faith. On the other hand, Khuma remained loyal to his Lord till his death in 1917. After Khuma and Khara, more and more Christians were added to the church; and those new Christians took a very active part in evangelistic work. They went from house to house and invited and persuaded their fellow natives to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. They knew very little about Christianity and preached in simple language such as ‘Have you accepted the Gospel?’ and ‘You, believe in Jesus Christ’, but the power of God won the hearts of the hearers. The active participation of the early Christians was one of the reasons for the rapid growth of the church in Mizoram.
Total conversion to Christianity brought to an end the old religious belief and practices as well as superstitions. One former Superintendent of Lushai Hills observes, “It is upon the people of this nature that the virile impact of Christianity has fallen. The effects, good or evil, upon the people present one of the main factors which must influence the present day administrative approach”. It is quite true that the change brought about by Christianity was not confined to the social and religious life, but also affected the administrative approach. The British Government was not interested in incurring much expenditure on the administration of Lushai Hills save for keeping the frontiers quiet. Christian missionaries were given carte blanche to guide and mould the life of the primitive society. For that reason, for half of a century (1894-1947) the Church and not the Government was the focal agency for shaping the Lushai Community as Parry observes, “a more active instrument of change than the Government is the Christian Mission.”
The impact of Christianity on the Mizos has been favourable. Exposure to foreign cultural influence has brought about as Wilson put it, “spiritual break-down of the man whose native values are suddenly assaulted and intellectually undermined before he has a chance of rebuilding his life and personality on another set.” He may not be totally correct in view of the fact that Mizos believed in Pathian. Nevertheless, the new kind of freedom from sin brought about by Christianity and the change over to value orientation through education while enlarging the political, social and economic horizons of the Mizos, has also uprooted their social and cultural moorings. Caught in this cultural trap they harbour a sense of displacement being unable to find a synthesis between a sharp break with tradition and wholesale absorption of the new culture. Modern Mizos remember the missionaries with gratitude for introducing education and opened their eyes to see the world from a higher perspective.
Leaving aside all those problems brought about by changes in Mizoram, what Christianity did to the Mizos is of fundamental importance. Christianity gave them new dimension, their attitude to life and values changed. They found their new identity in Christian ideals. The philosophical basis of their whole being was transformed is something they found difficult to explain except in saying with nostalgia:
‘We live once in the dark and now .
we are living the light.’
9. Written Literature
The first book ever written (now, forget about that parchment, eaten away by a dog) on the Lushai language was one by Thomas Herbert Lewin (1839-1916) Progressive Colloquial Exercises in the Lushai Dialect (1874) 20 years before the arrival of the two pioneering missionaries to Lushai Hills. Ten years later, Brojo Nath Saha published his Grammar of the Lushai Language. Commenting on these pioneering works of the early authors. Lorrain wrote that he and his colleague Savidge found them extremely useful in their early efforts to learn words and phrases, but neither of them pretended to suggest a mode of which could be taught to the Lushais. Lorrain further pointed out.
It therefore fell to our lot to reduce the language to writing in such a way that our system could be readily adopted by the people themselves. For this purpose we chose the simple Roman script, with a phonetic form of spelling based on the well-known Hunterian system, and this, with a few slight amendations adopted since, is still used throughout the tribe with eminently satisfactory result.
Besides these two books, C.A. Soppith compiled Rangkhol-Kuki-Lushai Grammar (I885). All these efforts paved the way to the more systematic and organised efforts of the missionaries.
The two pioneering missionaries, Lorrain and Savidge left us valuable documents. During their first four years stay (I89U-97) in Mizoram, they produced a series of books which were the first in their respective fields. First, they wrote Zirtanbu (Lushai Primer) and then Zawhna leh Chhanna (Question and Answers book) in 1896. These school textbooks were the first works of the missionaries in Lushai Hills.-‘ They put their earnest efforts to the translation of the Bible. They started with the Gospel of St. Luke Luka (21st August, 1895) followed by the Gospel of St. John Johana and the the Acts Tirhkohte Thilti. … The two Gospels (St. Luke & St. John) were published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1898, and the Acts of the Apostles was published in 1899 by the same society. The year 1898 saw the publication of Lorrain’s Grammar and 40 Dictionary of the Lushai Language by the Assam Government.
The first newspaper in Mizo language, Mizo Chanchin Laisuih (The Highlanders’ News) was first published in 1898. Most probably, the first issue came out in the month of July. It featured local news of different villages, Mizo folktales and conveyed the orders of the Government to various chiefs. Though the name of the Editor was not known, he was a Mizo and the newspaper was circulated by the Government in town and villages. However, the trouble some work of running a handwritten carbon copy newspaper could not last long. Its circulation stopped in the last part of 1899.
The first Christian Hymn Book, Kristian Hla Bu appeared in 1899. The size of the book was 4½
x 3½ having 36 pages, printed at Eureka Press, Calcutta. They made 500 copies only. It contains 18 hymns. The Hymn number one, Isua vana a om a, happened to be the first hymn ever composed in the Mizo language which was jointly arranged by Lorrain and Savidge. The tune of this hymn was taken from the English, ‘Come, Ye Sinners’ (Revised Sankey-Sacred Songs and Solos, No. 376). This devotional hymn sketched the life history of Jesus Christ, starting his first coming to earth and concluded by his resurrection. To know the date of composition, Vaileta (one of the first teachers among Mizos) recorded in his diary that when his brother Lalthawraa paid the first visit to the missionaries in February 1896, he had been taught this hymn by the missionaries. From this record it seems that the first hymn was composed during the latter part of l894 or the first part of 1895.
The first (Primary) School with only a thatched roof on was opened at Bawlhmun, now called Macdonald Hill, on the 1st April 1894. Two pupils joined the class for 44 the very first day and later, four energetic Mizo young men were soon trained to teach other people the script. By then the missionaries acquired additional Mizo words. Lorrain clearly recorded that their written vocabulary reach approximately 5,000 words on the 10th April 1897. Prior to this, on the l6th September 1895, Lorrain could managed to preach his first sermon in Lushai, which resulted in the beginning of regular Lushai service from the 2nd October 1895. They also built the first Lushai Church on the 6th or 7th October I896, with an expenditure amounting £1-10-0 only. In that very spot, now stands to Gospel Memorial Stone. The Church building was very close to the School and the residence of the missionaries. Lorrain and Savidge handed over their work to D.E. Jones of the Welsh Mission on 31st December 1897 and the Lushai Hills (Sairang) for furlough in England. Later they worked among the Abor & Miri tribes around Sadiyaia, Upper Assam.
The Welsh Missionaries (namely, Zosaphluia and Zosapthara) had taken up the difficult task of teaching, preaching, translating, composing and compiling books. They found that the publication of Christian literature helped them to convey the message of Christianity to the Mizos. So, with the help of some Khasi Christians who were working in the government offices and the first Mizo literates, the missionaries could produce a number of literature within a short period of time. Among the helpers, the contribution made by the first Mizo literate, Khamliana Sailo is praiseworthy. Besides those publications mentioned earlier, a school textbook called, Zirtirbu Thar (New Primer) was compiled in 1899. It contains moral and religious lessons and some articles on general knowledge.
The Rev. Edwin Rowlands was assigned teaching work along with other engagements. In 1902, he introduced two new textbooks in the local language. They are Thu Ro Bu (New Reader) and Hriselna Bu (Sanitation Primer) for the students. These Primers are better than the earlier ones in language. Other School books written by Rowlands are Chhiarkawpna (Arithmetic, the first for the Mizos), Khawvel thu (Geography), Khawmualpui thu (Continents & Oceans), Hma Bu (First Primer), Grammatical Primer, India ram chanchin (Indian History), Alai Bu (Middle Book), English Primer (in Mizo), English Reader into Mizo (translation book). Rowland’s contributions for the development of education in Mizoram was praiseworthy. He was a dedicated educationist and real missionary. Therefore, Edwin Rowlands’s energy was matched only by his missionary zeal, a zeal which continued to the very end of his career. The desire to evangelist burnt in him as the fire burnt in Jeremiah’s bones. “I do not know of anyone who better deserved to be called a missionary,” Lloyd remarked of him in his book.
The first monthly magazine in Mizo language, Mizo leh Vai Chanchin Lehkhabu was published from November 1902, by J. Shakespear-, the Superintendent of the Lushai Hills in Aizawl. It was printed in Dina Nath Press, Syllet. In the first issue of the Government organ monthly magazine, the following articles were written;
1. Sappui thu (English’s Wisdom) – Tarmita (J. Shakespear )
2. Vuta leh Lalpuithanga indotirna thu (War of Vuta and Lalpuithanga) – Suakhnuna (Phulpui Chief)
3. Sa kah thu (Shooting of Animal) – Suaka (Durtlang Chief)
4. Aizawl Chanchin (History of Aizawl) – Suaka
5. Chatuan Vawksa thu (Roasting of Pork) – Zosaphluia (D.E. Jones)
6. Ram leh hnara dang thute (Story of other Nations) – Zosapthara
7. Nghaisakna (Mutilation) – Zosapthara (E. Rowlands)
8. Hmashang chanchin – Lalhrima (Ancient history) (Sebawng Chief)
It was really interesting to know that three chiefs of Lushai Hills had contributed articles in the first ever magazine m Mizoram.
The translation and publication of three books from the Bible St. Luke, St. John and The Acts were followed by the translation of Matthaia (St. Matthew), Marka (St. Mark) and I Korinth (the first Epistle of Corinthian) in 1905. The Gospel of Matthaia and Marka were published in 1906 and I Korinth and II Korinth in 1907. In the same year Zosapthara translated Kolossa and Philemona and got those published. In 1911, Zosaphluia translated Thupuan (Revelation) after his furlough and with the help of others the translation of the whole New Testament was completed in 1914. It was published in 1916.
Among other books, the Bible Stories Pathian Lehkhabu Chanchin translated by Pastor Challiana and Sapupa was published in 1910. In the same year, Pastor Chuautera translated John Banyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress with the title of Kristiana Vanram Kawng Zawh, This novel was dramatised and acted by Mizo actors in various places.
With rapid progress of education among the Mizos during 1894 and 1910, there was a great imbalance between the demand for reading materials and a shortage of supply. This was so because there was no printing press in Mizoram. However in 1909, a small printing press of manual operation was presented by a gentleman (his name not mentioned) to the Mission in Lunglei, and it was the first printing press ever installed in Mizoram. The installation of this press solved, to some extent, the supply deficiency and it gave a great fillip to the popularisation of education. The second printing press, Aijal Christian Press was installed by Dr. P. Fraser at Aizawl in 1911. Nevertheless, these two small hand driven machines alone were not sufficient to meet the growing demand for the reading materials. Having learnt the necessity of printing press and in appreciation of their selfless services, Maj. G.H. Loch, the Commandant of the Lushai Hills Military Police, donated a treadle machine press to the Welsh Mission in 1915. Therefore, the services of three printing presses quickened the flowering of Mizo literature.
The publication of a monthly church magazine called the Krista Tlangau (Herald of Christ) first saw the light in October, 1911. The title Dr. Fraser gave to this magazine is significant. Every Mizo village had its ‘Tlangau’, the village crier or announcer. He was one of the village officials and whenever a chief wanted to make an announcement or send out a command to the villagers he would despatch the Tlangau to announce it. Everyone knew that the Tlangau did not speak or shout to them in his own name but in that of his chief and then understood it. This new magazine was also meant to have the same result. The 16 pages monthly magazine, printed in the Lushai Christian Press, Aijal was edited by R. Dala. One copy cost one anna. Let us see the content of the first issue:
1. Editorial – R. Dala
2. Hriattlrna (Notice) – Editor
3. Korea – No name
4. Hrilhfiahna (Explanation of Matthew 2:18) – No name
5. Kan tih aiin min rul tam (He gave us more than we did) – Zakunga
6. Tirhko Charaberlena (Apostle Chamberline) – Zakunga
7. A shilling hnuhnung ber chu (His last shilling) – No name
8. Kohran Dan (Church’s law/rules) – R. Dala
9. Tirhko lekha thawn (Apostle’s letter) – Thankunga
10. I Petera 1:24,25 (Explanation) – Thanga
The Krista Tlangau was soon re-christened Kristian Tlangau (Christian Herald) as a monthly Mizo Christian magazine (now 32 pages/1990), produced without a break since 1911. (The Church in Khasi Hills had a regular organ only from 1937 – Ka Pateng Khristan and with increasing circulation upto the present). Though a journal of the Presbyterian Church it maintains its independence and a notable feature of its history is that it has never been subsidized from outside, a record that, very few church magazines anywhere could emulate.
We have been tracing the origin and development of written literature in the Mizo language till the publication of the Thuthlung Thar (New Testament of the Bible). When we read the January issue of Mizo leh Vai Chanchin, 1913, the first recorded account of dramatic stage performance of the Mizos appeared, which will be studied in detail in in the following chapter.
The contribution of the missionaries and the Churches towards the development of Mizo literature cannot be overemphasized. They did not only provide the printed materials but opened their eyes to wider horizon to the world of literature and changed their outlook on life. The codification of Mizo language and publication of Christian literature in that language not only paved the way for the development of Mizo literature but also resulted in the emergence of Mizo language as the only language, the lingua franca as it were, for the entire Mizoram.