~ By: Thathang Hangshing
THE ZOUMIS, as a nation in the making, has set forth to celebrate again this year, its very important day in a year, known as the Zoumi Nam Ni or Zoumi National Day. As it has been done usual, the 20th February will bring us to this impending 2010. It will be celebrated with great pomp and delight as is envisaged by the Celebration Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. T. Goukhomang, with the initiative of the Zomi Youth Association (ZYA) with its Headquarter at Lamka. Okram O Ibobi Singh, the Chief Minister of Manipur will grace the main occasion as the Chief Guest.
A document on the Zoumi culture, traditions and practices including the old aged festivals, dances and dresses or cloths of the Zomi tribes is fervently chalked to be brought out on this day. Here are some highlights of a part of the document as written by the Documentation Department. Let us have an eye’s view about them.
DRESSES OF THE ZOMIS
The various tribes of the Zoumis have various puan (clothes) which are of different shades and designs. Many of these clothes are commonly used by men and women in olden days.
The Zoumis till today, preserve and maintain many nampuan of various colours, shapes and designs. They are traditionally used in various occasions and the significances are many. They are the pride and privilege of the Zo people wherever they are. There could hardly be any household where any one of these traditional clothes is totally absent. Some of the most important ‘nampuan’ of the Zoumis are as below-
i. Puandum: The original name of puandum is believed to be ‘Tonnawk’. This Puandum was perceived to be firstly known at a place called Kawl or Kham in Chin land of Burma . There was a village site there, known as Tuangphut where a warring group settled.
Puandum cannot be worn every time as and when one likes. It has to be worn on particular occasions like death ceremonies, festivals and winter. Puandum is in fact, the most important puan of the Zomis, as it serves the purpose of numerious customary or cultural importances like marriage, death, divorce, fine, etc.
ii. Tongnok: According to the Vaiphei version, Tongnok puan is originated by Tongnok Suantak of Falam, or rather probably Mualbem of Chin Hills in Burma . It is said that he designed and worked to finish within a week.
iii. Puanlaisan: Puanlaisan is one of the most important puan of the Zoumis after Puandum. It was generally worn by men in times of Sa-aih, Gaal-aih, festive event and on joyous occasions. It is usually woven in red, pink, yellow, black and white colours and the edges are embellished with a white cloth.
iv. Khephiau: This puan is worn by women on occasions like festival, sorrow and in times of grief and mourning. It is woven with black and white combination in check pattern.
v. Tangching: This is the puan of the brave worn by men of great valour. It is one of the most ostentatious puan of the Zoumis from the earliest time till today. It is embroidered in red, black and white, running one or the other vertically and horizontally cutting across one another, thus forming a grid.
vi. Thangsuah: Thangsuah puan cannot be worn by everyone unless one is of a meritorious person who rose above others and could have accomplished triumphant feasts like Sa aih, Gal aih, Tang aih and Ton.
vii. Khamtang: It is another pride puan of Zoumi men since olden times. A combination of black, pinkish red, white and yellow, Gulpi Zem (upper belly portion of python) is inserted on the bigger white. It is worn on some auspicious occasions like festivals, cultural ceremonies and other important rituals.
viii. Saipikhup: This puan is the delight of Zoumi men through the ages and is still held in high esteem till today. As a whole, Saipikhup is black in colour with design that resembles elephant knee on the border. As a result, it bears the name, ‘Saipikhup,’ meaning elephant’s knee.
ix. Ngoutekhelh: Noutekhelh is a cloth worn by women. It is a combination of white and black and as such, acquired the name, Ngoutekhelh. It is usually worn in times of joyous celebrations, festivals and in some other delightful social gatherings.
x. Puanthupi: It is a gorgeous puan held in high esteem since its origin. A deep red and black broad bands background runs horizontally with pink, green and yellow.
xi. Tualpuan: This is a raw cotton cloth commonly used by men in olden days. Made of locally grown cotton, it is thick and white in colour without any design.
xii. Puanmongvom: This puan is fabricated from puanzapi, and as such, it is a white cotton cloth. However, the perimeters are blackened with a particular herbal colour called ‘mua.’
xiii. Puanpi: This is a locally used mattress which is in vogue till today. Women in the past and present carry with them a puanpi as a significant part of their dowry called vanken in times of marriage.
xiv. Amthar: This is an upper garment of the Aimol men woven by the Aimol women for their men in the family. It is fabricated from the colour pattern of parrot’s feathers.
xv. Laiziak Puan: This is also a traditional garment for Aimol men. It was designed by man and woven by woman.
xvi. Uikechu: The other name of Uikechu is Uikhelim puan: Firstly designed by men, the shawl was practically brought out by women. It is a traditional garment of the Aimol men, with a white, black and blends composition.
xvii. Mukhamja pumya: It is a male traditional shawl firstly designed by male but woven to its shape and form by the female counterpart for their men.
xviii. Niikphei: It is the traditional lower garment worn by the Zoumi women in olden days. This skirt is believed to be firstly brought out from Mualbem in the Chin Hills . It is made of red and black combination.
xix. Dialkhip: Dialkhip is a traditional head turban used by the old Zoumi men to cover their head. It is made of white cotton thread and has no colour or design.
xx. Angki: Angki is a male cloth fabricated from white raw cotton. It has long sleeves but the front is open without any button. It has almost a full length reaching up to one’s knees.
xxi. Dialkaih: Dialkaih was a cotton cloth traditionally used by men to shield their private parts.
Apart from the traditional dresses of the Zoumis which have been in existence since times immemorial, there are the more modern cloths and dresses which are design and brought out in the modern time. These modern cultural dresses also occupies important place and acquire useful position in the day to day Zoumi society.
i. Khangthak Puan: As the name signifies, khangthak puan is a cloth worn by the new generation. Khangthak means new generation and puan means cloth or dress, thus ‘cloth or dress of the new generation.’
ii. B.A Puan: B.A Puandum is the puan of the new generation, adopted by the Siamsinpawlp, a Paite Students’ Organization as its identical symbol in the field of formal education, whether academic or professional. It is a mixture of black, red, blue and green with tangmaimu as the design running in strips in a white background called ‘a laikang.’
iii. Senior Puan: As the name suggests, Senior puan is a modern puan of the Zomis not older than a hundred year. It has a navy blue background with a single line of bold diamonds running across the entire cloth horizontally about nine inches from the lower edge.
iv. Zoumi Nam Puan: This puan is of a recent conception which was firstly introduced in 1998. It could also be called Zoumi Namni Puan as it was for the first time displayed on the Zoumi Nam Ni or Zoumi National Day of the 20th February, 1998 at Lamka Public Ground when the Nam Ni was superbly celebrated.
This National cloth is of red, yellow, green, black and white combination. The colours of the Puan have great significances. Red signifies sacrifices, yellow stands for victory and green for prosperity while black signifies darkness and white is for hope and peace. Black and white is obviously taken from the colours of Vaphual’s (hornbill) feathers.
The Simte version mentions that most of the puan as above have been in existence and used before A.D. 1550 while the Vaiphei version has contended that puandum and some others were the work of Pu Tongnok in around A.D. 1750. Moreover, Man Khaw Ching claimed and took the credit of introducing or exhibiting the present puandum, what is now known as the Paite Puandum. This is to have been believed in just before 1939.