The origin of Kuki is shrouded with myths and mythologies. One such myth includes the traditional account handed down from centuries. According to it, the Kukis came out of the bowels of the earth or a cave called Chinlung or Shionlung or Khul, the location of which was believed to be somewhere in China, whereas others claimed it to be in Tibet. (Ginzatuang, 1973:5) Mc. Culloch (1857:55). The Kukis are also known as Khongsai in Manipur, and that they bring their progenitors from the bowels of the earth, and they relate the manner of their reaching its surface. The story goes like this: A king’s brother was hunting hedgehogs. In the meantime, the dog in pursuit entered the cavern. The master who was waiting for its return remained at the mouth of the cave. After a lapse of time, the dog not having returned, its master determined to go in and see what had become of it. He did not find the dog, but as he followed its tracts, he suddenly found the surface of the earth. The scene presented to his view both pleased and astonished him. Returning to his brother he related his adventures and asked him to annex the new country to his territory, which the king did.
A story that speaks about the amalgamation of tribes with different tongues, goes like this: one day the three grandsons of the chief, who were playing together in their house, were told by their father to catch a rat. When they were busy in catching rat they suddenly got struck with a confusion of tongue: they were unable to achieve their object. The eldest son spoke Lamyang, the second the Thado, the Third, some say the Vaiphei and some the Manipore language. Thus, they broke into distinct tribes.
Shaw’s (1929: 24) description about the origin of Kuki’s is recorded from his collected verbal information. The story concerned with the origin of the Kuki’s states that they used to live under the earth, or rather inside it. The story goes like this: Noimangpa was the chief of subterranean region. Chongthu, a relative of Noimangpa, while hunting porcupine in the jungle with his dog, discovered a large hole. He perceived through this that the upper crust of the earth was un-inhabited and there was a great darkness. This darkness, which lasted for seven days and nights, is called “Thimzin” by the Thadou’s. Chongthu, rejoiced at this discovery, gave up his hunt and went back to his house. He conjured up ideas of forming his own village on the earth. Meanwhile, Noimangpa the chief of the underworld was performing the ‘chon’ festival, in which everyone including chongja, elder brother of Chongthu, Noimangpa’s son Chonkim participated. During this feast Chongthu started waving his sharp sword so vigorously that he injured some of the folks present, at which all were annoyed. This action of Chongthu was premeditated as he thought that by doing so he would be expelled from the underworld and thus can find an excuse for going out to the upper world and forming a village of his own. When Noimangpa came to know this he said: Chongthu can better live in heaven, meaning that he better be killed. Chongthu hearing of Noimangpa’s wrath, prepared to migrate to the uninhabited earth he saw and which is spoken of as ‘khul’ by the Thadous. So, Chongja and Chongthu killed many pigs, fowls etc. and feasted in preparation for their departure.
There are many more stories about this incident. The story further relates that Chongja’s party delayed in moving, but Chongthu’s party moved on followed by Chongthu himself. On reaching ‘Khul’, the leaders found that a great snake called Gulheipi was in possession of it and when they attempted to pass over it, the snake killed them with its tail. Chongthu, on reaching the spot, was not thwarted in his ambition. He tightened his cloth around him and placed a ‘phoipi’, a thick cotton cloth, over his head and attacked the great snake and sliced it into seven pieces. At the same time, Lhaw, a lion also attempted to block the way of Chongthu’s egress. The lion withdrew and Chongthu’s party moved up to the ‘Khul’. They founded that it was covered with stone and one man from Chongthu’s party, named Vangalpa, lifted it up. Hence only seven persons were able to get out and then the stone dropped and all further attempts to raise it ended in a fiasco. The seven persons who thus emerged were Chongthu, Vangalpa, the stone lifter, Khupngam, said to be the progenitors of Manipuri, the Naga, the foreigner and the Burmese.
However, they are not definite about the last three, although they are quite emphatic about the numbers being seven. The genealogical tree from Chongthu to Thadou consists of mythical persons and therefore the festivities entailing repetition of the genealogical tree of the Thadou became necessary claiming that the Thempu starts from Thadou and not from Chongthu. Further, from Chongthu to Thadou there were no differences in languages. Animals , spirits as well as mythical ancestors lived in peaceful co-existence. ‘Khul’, the hole in the earth is said to be at the source of the ‘Gun’ river which seems to be identical with the Imphal river in the Manipur state. Etymologically, the word ‘gun’ in Thadou means the Imphal River and hence in all the stories and legends of the Thadou, the name ‘gun’ is of great fame (Shaw, 1929: 24-26). Hutton (1929:14) said: the story of Thimjin with slight variation is found in Shakespeare’s Lushai-Kuki clans,
Chapter V, Mills’- The Ao Nagas, p314, the Lotha Nagas, pp 176, 193. Molola, in Man in India, 11,100 has similar story of the Chang Nagas, and versions are found among the Hos and Santhalas of Bengal, the Shans, and the Ami of Formasa, while similar stories pervade the Indian Archipelago generally in Frazer’s Folk-lore in the Old Testament, 1, iv, which said that the Thadou version of Thimjin story is “ he knew of was that”….The great darkness was preceded by fire and accompanied by flood, and it was this flood which drove the ancestors of the Thado proper to take refuge in the hills, where they found Lethang, whom they forbore to kill as he knew the gods of the country accordingly, it was Lenthang who caused a white cock detainer of the sun to come and look, whereby the sun escaped and came out again restoring like to the darkened world. The story is obviously suggestive of a separate racial origin for the Thadou proper, the Changsan and allied clans, presumably were in occupation when the Thadou arrived in the hills. Hutton further contended that such cultural version of the Kuki affinity was found among the Sema tribe in Naga Hills, who speak a Naga language which is something of a ‘Pidgin type’, lacking the inclusive and exclusive duals and plural and similar subtleties of most Naga languages. It was a political system turning on an automatic secular chief, with followers who were guards, serfs or similarly bound retainers, known as ‘Mughemi’ (literally, orphans). It has other cultural items strongly suggestive of Kuki affinities and has lost the institution of the bachelor house. It lacks in for the most part the sentiment which binds most Naga villagers so strongly to some particular site, or at least to stones, earth or water brought from that site.
There are several linguistic classifications by different linguists. The following are some of the classifications showing the branch of the Tibeto-Burman languages in common and Kuki-chin in particular.
Grierson (1904) in contrast, proposed four main groups: Northern Chin, Central Chin, Southern Chin and Old Kuki, as shown in figure:
The Kuki-Chin language family (Grierson.1904)
Kuki-Chin-Naga of north-eastern group (Bradley 1997)
Bradley (1997:29-30) gives a more detailed picture of Chin languages at a lower level as shown:
The Old Kuki varieties are mainly spoken in India. Lushei (Ngente) is the archaic name of Mizo, and the speakers live both in Myanmar and India. Grierson’s (1904) classification of Chin languages.
Peiros (1998:180) Kuki-Chin languages may fall into two sub groups. Luhupa (including Tangkhur and other languages) and Chin, which includes at least four sub branches: southern, Lakher, old Kuki and Lusheis as shown in figure.
Peterson (2000) proposes that there are two main Chin groups: Central and peripheral. The Central group includes the traditional central Chin, and probably old Kuki, but possibly not Mara as shown in figure.
A language status of Thadou in India
Population: 125,100 in India. Total Population of all countries: 151,300.
The number of Thadou speakers according to the census of 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991& 2001 of Manipur is as follows:
But “Languages of India 1991 Census has given the number as 107,992. Region Assam; Manipur, Chandel District; Nagaland, Kohima District; Mizoram, northeast; Tripura. Also spoken in Myanmar.
Alternate names: Thadou, Thado-Ubiphei, Thado-Pao, Kuki, Kuki-Thado, Thaadou Kuki
Dialects: Baite, Changsen, Jangshen, Kaokeep, Khongzai, Kipgen, Langiung, Sairang, Thangngen, Hawkip, Shithlou, Singson (Shingsol). Related to Kamhau, Ralte, Paite, Zo.
Classification Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto-Burman, Kuki-Chin-Naga, Kuki-Chin, Northern Other language use: Speakers also use Meitei or Nepali.
Language development Literacy rate in second language: 24% (1971). Literacy is low among older people and in villages. Taught in schools in Manipur. Magazines. Radio programs. Dictionary. Grammar. Bible: 1971–1994. Comments: A Scheduled Tribe in India. Some of those listed, as dialects are separate languages.
Also spoken in: Myanmar
Language name: Thado
Population: 26,200 in Myanmar (1983).
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