|Culture of Mizoram
Mizos are often referred to as the ‘Songbird of the North east’. This reputation is well entrenched as they are considered to be one of the finest choir singers in North east India. Every major Mizo village now has an YMA (Young Mizo Association) centre, dedicated to infuse society with its traditional lifestyle and customs. Some of the most colourful aspects of this revival are witnessed amongst the folk and community dances that have been handed down from one generation to the next. It is reflected in the important harvest festivals that are an intrinsic part of Mizo culture.
Mizo is the official language but English is widely used in Mizoram being important for education, administration, formalities and governance.The Mizo community is an amalgam of several indigenous tribes who have unique identities and distinctive dialects. The Duhlian dialect, also known as the Lusei was the first language of Mizoram and it continues to evolve. The Lusei language is mixed with other dialects like the Mara, Lai and Hmar. Christian missionaries developed the Mizo script. Writing is a combination of the Roman script and Hunterian transliteration methodology with prominent traces of a phonetics based spelling system.
The majority (90.5%) of Mizos are Christian. in various denominations, predominantly Presbyterian and the church forms an important part of Mizo culture. Migrated Hindus form a small minority (3.6%) and there are also around 8.3% Buddhists according to the 2001 census, mostly made up from Chakma settlers of Arakan origin. Muslims make up about 1.1%.
The fabric of social life in the Mizo society has undergone tremendous change over the last few years. Previously the village and the clan formed units of Mizo society. The Mizo code of ethics or dharma focused on “Tlawmngaihna”, an untranslatable term meaning that it was the obligation of all members of society to be hospitable, kind, unselfish, and helpful to others. Tlawmngaihna to a Mizo stands for that compelling moral force which finds expression in self-sacrifice for the service of others. The old belief, Pathian, is still used to mean God. Mizos often gather together to help in disaster management like landslides or famine.
Mizos are a close-knit society with no class distinction and no sexual discrimination. 90% of them are cultivators and the village functions as a large family. Birth, marriage, and death in the village are important occasions and the whole village would typically become involved. In time of death, the whole local community, as well as all family members of the deceased, mourn together, in the residence of the deceased. This particular process of mourning together lasts anywhere from a few weeks to over 3 months.
There are a few community establishments in urban centres that frequently arrange various social events including such varieties as: “Mizoram Supermodel Competition”, the first one organized by the now defunct ‘Frontiers Club’, musical concerts, comedy shows, reality tv shows such as Mizo Idol, discussion groups, “Mr Mizoram” (body building show) and scientific or technological conferences. However, generally speaking the region is lacking in Western-style social meeting establishments. Much of the social life often revolves around church. An active church life is perhaps one of the reasons why Mizos are such a tight-knit community.
Mizo women use hand loom to make clothing and cloth handicrafts.The local products are even fused with other materials to give them a fashionable and stylish designs. Mizos are fond of colourful hand woven wrap-around skirt called puan chei, and a matching beautiful top called Kawr chei. A multi colour Mizo traditional bag called Khiang kawi, which is creatively knitted out of bright colored wools, is a welcome possession. A typical Mizo blanket known as Pawnpui is also used. Basket weaving is also common. Baskets known as Em, are used and Thlangra – a plate for cleaning rice etc. are made from bamboos. In fact,a typical Mizo house is crafted out of bamboos, dry grasses, mud and wood. A traditional Mizo village has been reconstructed at Reiek – a few kilometres away from Aizawl. Though modern houses made with bricks, concrete and tin sheets are now the norm.