~By: H. Thangtungnung, Senior Research Fellow, Dept. of History, Manipur University
The Zos are heterogeneous tribes considered to have been emigrated from the Middle East, probably Palestine. They were supposed to enter elsewhere China in the course of their migration and lived there for a thousand years. They were assumed to live there in China when Shi Huang Ti was the Chinese emperor and built the Great Wall of China. Within A.D. 900-1300, they entered Burma and settled side by side with the Burmese in and around Kalinga near Mandalay. They then migrated again towards the west and settled along the Chindwin valley. After sometimes, they crossed the Chindwin River and founded a new site at Jangmual in the Chin Hills of Burma. They were perceived to have entered the Chin Hills around in 1500 A.D. Thence, they came to Mizoram, Manipur, Assam and other parts of India in different waves of migration. The British recorded this mass movement into the Indian side mainly from the beginning of the 19th century.
Until the beginning of the 18th century, the Zos who were still in the Chin Hills were known to have neither any chief nor central authority to rule over or unified them. Each clan was a separate entity governed by customs and traditional practices. The tribal groups were not only at wars with the others like the Burmese, Shans, Pawis, etc but internecine warfare was also common among them. This necessitated them to find a chief for themselves who could rule and protect them. The first chief was Zamuaka, son of Siammang (Chhuahlawma), who was a slave of the Hualnams of Seipui village.
The chiefs gradually usurped more power and authority among his subjects and enlarged their area of influence by way of conquests and marriages. Subsequently, three great and significant chieftaincies came into being with their own domains and sphere of influences.
The Guite Chieftaincy (1820-1929): The origin of this chieftaincy could be traced from the line of Guite and his son Tuahchiang, who came to be known as the Guites. The Guites exerted their supremacy from the time of Mangsum, who began to rule from 1820 in the Chin Hills. But the greatest ruler of this dynasty was Raja Goukhothang. Born at Lamjang in 1821, he assumed real authority only when he was forty years and built his capital at Mualpi in the Chin Hills. Between 1857 and 1871, he was known to have invaded and ravaged the Manipur plains with successes no less than seven times. He was the strongest and most powerful ruler of the Zos during his time and no chief was there to oppose his authority. However, his reign was cut short when he was treacherously captured in 1871 by Major Thangal and died the next year at Imphal where he was interned by the Manipur Maharaja.
Raja Goukhothang was succeeded by his eldest son, Sumkam who continued the unfinished tasks of his father by resisting and defeating the Manipuris. As a ruler, he not only took strong hold of his father’s kingdom, but also extended them. He introduced sound administration and reigned over his subjects ably. For all these, Sumkam was regarded as one of the greatest Guite chiefs.
History recorded that Sumkam not only badly defeated the invading Manipur contingent in March, 1875 but he also descended as far as the Moirang hills towards the end of 1876 and surrounded the village, which the Manipur Raja sued for peace by accepting all his terms. Accordingly, the southern outskirt of Moirang would form the natural boundary between the two territories. Hereafter, there was no record of further aggression or conquest on the part of the Guites inside the Manipur plains.
It is recorded that Raja Goukhothang was the 22nd ruler of the Guite dynasty though some records also mentioned him as the 25th line of his generations. The dynasty gradually declined after Sumkam, yet it could hold on for some sometime. The last ruler of this dynasty was Kamzamang who ruled from around 1905 at a very young age. He made his capital at Hanship within the present Manipur boundary. Educated at Aijal (Aizawl), he was the most intellect and wisest of the Guite chiefs who made his popularity with his wisdom, justice and physical strength among his subjects. His reign was marked by many important events like the visit of BC Gasper, a British Political officer in 1925, Mautam (devastating famine) in 1917, First World War, Great epidemics, etc. With his death in November, 1929, the Guites ceased to play any significant role and disintegrated thereafter.
The Sukte (Kamhau) Chieftaincy (1760-1890): The descendents of Sukte founded a great chieftaincy in the Chin Hills, Burma along side the Guites. They became well known since the time of Khanthuam Sukte who exerted his supremacy through conquest and ravages. A contemporary of the Guites, the Suktes made matrimonial alliances with the former and extended their suzerainty.
The Sukte principality was divided into two hegemonies during the reign of Zapau Sukte, the youngest son of Khanthuam Sukte, who inherited his father. While he retained half of the dominion, another half was under Kamhau Sukte, his elder brother. But the latter soon extended his territories and area of influence with the help of the Pawis and the Guites. Married with a Guite princess, Kamhau took the advantage of his marriage and made several alliances with the former who gave away vast portions of lands to him.
The Suktes reached their zenith of power during the time of kamhau in the mid nineteenth century. Kamhau made Tedim as his seat of power while Zapau Sukte reigned over from Mualbem. Territories under the direct rule or influence of Kamhau came to be known as the Kamhau principality and his subjects were commonly called the Kamhaus while those under Zapau Sukte came to be known as the Suktes. Kamhau Sukte collected eight different kinds of taxes like—
(i) Agriculture tax
(ii) Tax on wild animal shot
(iii) Taxes on trade and commerce
(iv) Land revenue
(v) Taxes from emigrants
(vi) Taxes on settlement of new villages
(vii) Cattle tax
(viii) Taxes from protectorate villages and vanquished tribes.
Kamhau Sukte was a great military genuine who was dreaded for his military expeditions and conquests. With his Pawi mercenaries, he could easily defeat the Thadous, Zous, Lusheis and even the Meiteis. There were various records of his wars with the Burmese, Lusheis and Meiteis and the British acknowledged his invincible power even before their dealing with the tribes.
The strength of Kamhau was well demonstrated in a war with the Meitei Raja who sent against a strong force of about 5000 fighting men in 1857 to invade Tedim from Imphal. Kamhau ably resisted and killed around 2000 men while 287 barriers of guns were lost by the Meiteis. The result was that the Meiteis looked upon Kamhau as invincible and an unconquerable chief.
It was during his reign that arms were greatly used as illustrated by Alexander Mackenzie, a British authority on north eastern frontier tribes. He has informed us that the Suktes during the reign of Kamhau were in large possession of guns and ammunition, as he wrote, “The Lushais hold the Sooties in great dread, and are falling back before them. They are well supplied with fire-arms, supposed to be procured from Burma, whence they also obtain their ammunition.”
Kamhau brought peace and prosperity for his subjects, maintained law and order throughout his territory and rule capably for twenty years. Though he was an expansionist and a conqueror, he was also a benevolent ruler, always caring for the wellbeing of his people.
Kamhau Sukte had six sons, out of which, Khochin Sukte bored no son and his genealogical line disappeared after him. His other sons were Zatual Sukte, Lianthang Sukte, Thuamlian Sukte, Thangkhopau Sukte and Haupum Sukte. Kamhau died in 1868 at Tedim and his youngest son, Khochin Sukte succeeded him. As the latter bored no son, and there was no one competent enough to succeed him, and the Suktes gradually lost their power and influence. This occurred at the time of the British penetrated into the Chin Hills. Thus, the principality began to disintegrate by the end of the nineteenth century.
The Sailo Chieftaincy (c. 1750-1890): The Sailos are originally believed to be the Paites. They traced their lineage from Chhuahlawma, the father of their first chief, Zahmuaka, who was captured by the Hualnams of Seipui village when they raided Tedim, a Paite Village in the Chin Hills around in A.D 1680. Chhuahlawma was brought as a slave at Seipui but married there and bore a son whom he named Zahmuaka, as he was met by hundreds on his first arrival at Seipui (‘Za’ means hundred and ‘Hmuaka’ means a male person who is being met, thus Zahmuaka, means ‘met by hundreds’ of the villagers). Chhuahlawma real name was Siammang, his father was Ralna, son of Bawklua or Sizanga.
Zahmuaka married Lawileri who bore him six sons-- Zadenga, Paliana, Thangluaha, Thangura, Rivunga and Rokhuma. The different clans of the Lusheis (Mizos) today traced their root from the six sons of Zahmuaka.With his sturdy and physically strength which he inherited from his father, Zahmuaka could ably govern his affairs. He was assisted by his sons. Later on, his six sons also became as chiefs of different villages over which Zahmuaka presided. Thangura, the fourth son of Zahmuaka bore two sons- Chawnglula and Thangmanga. Thangmanga had a son named, Sailo, who became the progenitor of the Sailo clan.
By virtue of their intellect, ability to govern and vanquish enemies, the Sailos established themselves firmly in the Lushei Hills. Their suzerainty was recognized by other clans and tribes so much so that they tended to become cruel and arrogant. They established themselves as rulers in the entire Lushei Hills before the advent of the British.
Lallula was the most powerful and famous ruler among the early Sailo chiefs. He ruled at Selesih, the village expanded to accommodate more than three hundred houses within a few years and at one time numbered over 7000 houses. Lallula died around A.D 1803 but before his death, he contributed lots in spreading the Duhlian-Lusei dialect, which in due course became the lingua franca of the Lushei (Mizo) people.
It was Lalsavunga, who consolidated the power of the Sailo as the central power. From Zawngtah village, he moved to Hlimen around 1805 and continued to move northwards, and founded his capital at Aizawl about in A.D 1810.After subduing the Zadeng chiefs, a principal tribe of the North Lushei Hills, Lalsavunga built a new village at Darlawng around 1818 when he was at the height of his power. His eldest son, Vanhnuailiana achieved fame due to the construction of a splendid village, Tualte, with 1700 houses.Even to these days, the Lusheis still mentioned about the time their fore fathers lived at Tualte. Lalphunga, the second son of Lalsavunga, earned fame for resisting the British occupation. Lalsavunga’ third son, Thawmvunga was a legendary figure because of the heroic bravery he displayed in fighting the Pawis to gain the release of his grandfather, Vuta, who was captured by them.
Sailo chief enjoyed the power to extract fines and tributes and had the right to impose even death penalty within his jurisdiction. Still, he was not a despot and to a great extent, he was dependent upon the allegiance of his subjects. In his daily administration, he was assisted by his council of elders called Val upas or Khawnbawl upas. The council advised him in all administrative, judicial and political matters and carried out the day to day affairs and other welfare activities.
However, the rule of the Sailo chiefs was disrupted after the coming of the British in 1890. Their position and power underwent considerable changes under the Colonial rule and finally ceased when chieftainship was abolished in 1954.
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