The Thadous


by Paominlien Kipgen

The Thadous are found in Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram in India, and in Chin state and Sagaing Division in Burma/Myanmar. In Manipur, they are mostly found in South-Western Hills and Sadar Hills, Churachandpur district, Ukhrul district, Jiribam and Chandel district.

From time immemorial, the Thadous have a culture of their own and distinct language, literature, dress, social life, and self-government. Livelihood, Defense, Marriage, Divorce, Naming a child, Kut Festivals, Saguol Kengkhai, Vaphol lam, Lakoi lam, Khongbai lam, Lamkuol, Saipikhup, suh folk dances, Jhuming, Domestic animals, Religion, Hunting etc.

Thadous have a language distinct from other tribal languages; the Government of India has recognized the Thadou as a tribe and as a language cum culture and customs. This is recognized by the President Notification under Article No. 342 of the Indian Constitution vide the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, List Order Notification No. SRO. 2477-A. Ministry of Law & Home Affairs, Govt. of India dated 29th October, 1956 at New Delhi in respect of the State of Manipur.

While the kings ruled in Manipur, the Thadous served as the Manipur Army and helped in the maintenance of Law & Order. So that, the Meiteis composed the Folk Song, “MANIPUR SANA LEIBAK, CHINGNA KOINA PANSABA, HAONA KOINA PAN NGAKPA” was to the Thadous only.

Social Structure:
McCulloch clearly pinpointed as to how exactly Thadou social structure functions when he stated that the Thadous “…pay much attention to their genealogy and profess to know the names of their Chiefs in succession…”. Here lies the secret of Raymond Firth’s definition of ‘Social Structure and Function’

In this connection we may draw our attention to the effect that though there is no such rigid system as is found in castes hierarchical order in the Hindu Varna, the stereotype structure of Thadou social system is based on the order of precedence of lineal descents, numbers thereof being dependent on the widespread of their sub-lineal branches which make the Thadous and their collateral clans enable to claim their pedigree right from the legendary ancestor called CHONGTHU (some spelled as SHONGTHU) to Thadou. The Genealogical Tree from Chongthu to Thadou as the social structural base found in the journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal: N.S. XXIV: is reproduced here in below:

Genealogical Tree from Chongthu to Thadou:
CHONGTHU – begets Sattong; Chongja is the Younger brother of Chongthu;
SATTONG – begets Thangpi; Sattong married Sheichin, a woman from Vanlal Village, believed to be located in celestial abode. Sattong has two younger brothers but are unknown;
THANGPI – begets Shingmeng and Hangmeng; the Koms, Kilongs, Vaiphei, Chirus, and other Old Kuki clans. Hangmeng as their progenitor;
SHINGMENG – begets Titou, Touhin and Touthang,
a) Titou is the Progenitor of Doungels whose seniority is said not being accepted by the Thados of other clans now as the lineage has become extinct in the true line and is now represented by the descendent of a slave. This contention is not accepted by Dr. J.H. Hutton and is refuted as given separately here in below details.
b) Touthang is the progenitor of Lamhao Kukis.
TOUHIN – begets Ni-nel;
NI-NEL – begets Lhoulhuh;
LHOULHUH – begets Sehtha;
SEHTHA – begets Thadou, Chongloi and Hangshing;
THADOU – begets Thalhun;
THALHUN – begets Elmun (by first wife), Kipgen and Haokip (by second wife).
The followings are the recognized Thadou tribe covered under the Amended Vide Govt. of India Ministry of Law Notification Order No. SRO-24777-A, Dated 29th October, 1956, New Delhi.
1. Guite 2. Doungel 3. Sitlhou 4. Singsit
5. Kipgen 6. Haokip 7. Chongloi 8. Hangshing
9. Touthang 10. Lotjem 11. Haolai 12. Tuboi
13. Sa’um 14. Khuolhou 15. Lupho 16. Lupheng
17. Misao 18. Mate 19. Baite 20. Lhungdim
21. Ngailut 22. Kiloung 23. Insun 24. Jongbe
25. Lunkim 26. Lienthang 27. Thangngew 28. Changsan
29. Lhang’um 30. Khuongthang
In Defense of Chengjapao: Hutton, J.H. (1928), in his review of the above contention in regard to the non-acceptance of Doungel’s lineage whose House was allegedly extinct, endorsed to the truth of structural order of the Genealogical Tree as given above, i.e. from Chongthu to Thadou, but was very skeptical to the alleged extinction of direct male line of Doungel clan.

Fifty Five years later, when McCulloch established the genealogical tree of Thadou in 1857, Shakespeare, Lt. Col., J., (1912 : 187-88: The Lushai Kuki Clans, Part-II) stated that:
“After many enquiries I am quite of the same opinion and have found pedigrees collected from various sources differed by slightly from that recorded by colonel McCulloch”

And further stated that:
“The four main families of Thadou are the Doungel, Shitloh, Haukip and Kipgen. The Doungel are descended from Thadou’s elder brother and therefore are considered as rather superior to the rest of the families”.
Shakespeare was also emphatic to say that the name Thado was “…derived by the people themselves from “that” ‘to kill’ and “doh” ‘to war’ and that the term,

“New Kuki, which, appears so often in the records, Cachar and Sylhet, in the middle of last century (19th century), and which has been adopted by Dr. Grierson in the ‘Linguistic Survey of India’ may be taken as synonymous with Thado”.

Genealogical tree of the Thadou as constructed by McCulloch in 1857 having been proved as the correct version was by Dr. Grierson, C.A, K.C.I.E, Ph.D, D. Litt., LL.D, ICS (Rtd.), in his book on “Linguistic Survey of India” (Vol.III: Tibetan –Burman family, Part III: p. 351, 361 & 383) in 1904 after fifty seven years of publication of McCulloch’s work. Grierson is an eminent scholar and renown authority on language in both the academic and administrative worlds. He contended to say that:
“… It has become customary to use the term New Kuki to denote the Thados and their off-shoots…, that Thado is the name of their original progenitor…. That in Manipur they are called KHONGZAIs and that they used this name themselves in conversation with Manipuris. Whom they called Mei-Lei (Meilhei)” and maintained that based on the findings of McCulloch, many other
“…sub-tribes trace their origin back to Thado and his brothers…”, and concluded to say that:

“…the Principal clans are the Shithlo (Sitlhou), Shingsol (Singson), Chongloi, Hangseen (Hangshing), Keepgen (Kipgen) and Haukip (Haokip), from which have sprung several sub-clans of smaller importance…”.

A). Thado-pao: Grieson, as expert and authority on Language, included THADOU in the Tibeto-Burman Group of Linguistic Family (1904: p383: Linguistic Survey of India, Vol.III, Tibeto-Burman Family P: Part.III) saying that:

“All these tribes, with the exception of Baite, speak the same language, and the dialectical differences are on slight. The language itself is according to Stewart, Lieut. R,(1857: A slight Notice of the Grammar of Thado, published in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal Vol. XXIV: 187-88) and Damant, G.H.(Notes on Manipuri Grammar and North Cachar Hills, published in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal Vol.XXIV: 173 ) called THADOU-PAO, Thado language”.

Likewise, Hudson,T.C., in his book on Thado Grammar, Shillong (1906; pl7) and Soppitt, C.A. in his book on Grammar of the Rangkhol Language (1887 : p37), Shillong, expressed that the language spoken by descendants and their cognates of Thadou is called THADO-PAO. After a lapse of a good many years, Shakespeare, J.,Lt. Col. (1912:pl 78-79 Lushai Kuki clans ) said that:
“….. it is spoken by all the descendants of Thadou and by the non-Thadou clans absorbed in them” and that ‘Thadou–Pao’ is the ‘Lingua-franca’ among themselves. In this regard, it may be relevant if letter No.KPM/37/198 dated the 11th January, 1919 from Mr.J.C. Higgins, Political Agent, Manipur, addressed to Dy. Inspector General of Military police, Anglo-kuki war, 1917-19, in connection with the language to be used officially most understandable by the people in the areas between the Somra and Thongdut State of Burma, is brought to our attention. Higgins said,

“Thadou Kuki is the language of the kuki tribes in general, and is intelligible to all the kukis in the Somra areas and Thongdut State. I only know of one text book, a Thado Grammar, with Thadou-English and English–Thado vocabularies attached, by Mr.T.C.,Hudson. This is obtainable at the Assam Secretariat and at Thacker Spink’s priced re.1/-. It is in Roman character”.

He further opined that “The learning of the Tangkhul dialect spoken in the Somra will present very considerable difficulty, as it is an entirely unknown language….. The dialects throughout the Tangkhul country vary to a surprising extent even from village to village. The Tangkhul dialects are not on the list of languages for which a reward is offered by the Assam Government, as no officer has ever learnt them. They are quite distinct from both Manipuri and Thadou.

“Manipuri and Thadou contain certain roots in common, but are quite distinct languages and knowledge of one does not enable a person to make himself understood by persons speaking the other. The Assam Government grants a separate reward to officers passing in both. But Thadou kuki is closely allied to Lushai and a reward cannot be obtained in both these languages, it is also allied to the Northern Chin dialects”

B). Thadou Population: Grierson also founded that the Thadou Population was fairly large enough that tempted him to say “…the Thadou clan is a very large one” and accounted their number as follows (1904):
1. In Manipur 20,000
2. In Naga Hills 5,500
3. In Cachar Plain 5,400
4. In Sylhet 534
Total = 31,434
The above estimate omits the members of the clans in North-Cachar Hills and in the unadministered tract between the Naga Hills and Manipur on the west and the Upper Chindwin district of Burma in the east. The whole clan traces its genealogy to mythical hero who is believed to have dwelt below the surface of the earth and emerged there from to the surface of the earth through a cave known ‘Khul’, or ‘Khur’, equivalence of which among the Lushais and those living in the Lushai Hills (now called Mizoram) was called ‘Chhinlung’.

There emerges from the preceding paragraphs clearly that:
1. The term Thadou is the name of eponymous ancestor of descendents of thadou who claimed to be descended from legendary progenitor called Chongthu;
2. The controversies that almost wrecked the foundation of relationship between cousins among Thadous stemmed from strict enforcement of stringent principle of social structure based on respect and annual tribute paid to the senior lineal descent belonging to a single genealogical tree which must on no account be blemished resulting from questions such as non-issue of male child known as INGAM, continuity of Generation of male line must perpetuate through procrastination by solemn marriage in conformity with customary law which does not recognize illegitimate off-spring out of extra-marital relationship, adoption, incestuous relationship within exogamous groups of people, etc., etc.;

3. Thadous spread all over the hills surrounding the Valley of Manipur as could be evidenced from the writings of Makenze, A., in 1779, the renowned scholar and bureaucrat and as also by Sir Nicholar BEatson Bell, the former Chief Commisioner of Assam, said that the Anglo-Kuki War, 1917-19 was confined entirely to the Thadous….”

4. Combining together all the findings of authorities on the Thadous beginning from McCulloch in 1857 down to Sir Nicholas Beatson Bell in 1945, the following categories of people are found to be Thadou. They are:

a). Descendents of Shingmeng, the son of Thangpi, begetting Titou, Touhin, and Touthang, in the direct male descents from legendary ancestor, Chongthu, consisting of broadly (1)Doungel (including lhotjim, Gwite, thuomlhun and Haolai), whom Hutton had declared as head of the Thadous, (2) Sitlhou, (3)Singson, (4)Kipgen, (5)Haokip, (6)Chongloi, (7) Hangsing, and (8) Touthang (Lhamhao);

b). Descendants of Hangmeng, the younger brother of Shingmeng, in the second direct male lineal descents from legendary ancestor, Chongthu, consisting of (1) Kom, (2) Kilong, (3) Chiru, (4) Chothe, (5) Purum , (6) Koireng, (7) Koirao, (8) Misao, (9) Lupheng, (10) Lupho, (11) Ngoilu (Ngailut), (12) Tuiboi, and all other old Kuki groups not mentioned herein; AND

c). Descendants of ancient races who are not of Chongthu pedigree but claiming to have lived over the earth, enduring the trauma of torturous and quelling Thimzin episode before Chongthu and his party emerged from the bowels of earth (khul or Khur) who have for all intents and purposes have absorbed and could as well be under the honourific ‘burman title’, called Thadou, meant for persons of fame and repute. They consist of (1) Lhangum, (2) Thangngeo,(3) Lunkim, (4) Changsan, (5) Lenthang. They claim that they have not belonged to the descendants of Chongthu and have not been bound by the system of payment of ‘Sating’ to any of the above groups of clans at (a) and (b) above.

Lastly but not the least, the term ‘Khongsai’ was found first to have been used by the Haokip Thadou ‘for Thado’. They also speak of themselves as ‘Thado’ and though this term, ‘Khongsai’, may be taken to cover all other clans, not actually claiming ‘Thado’ as an ancestor, ‘Khongsai’ originally and precisely is used to denote ‘Thado’ “…who are the cream of ‘Khongsai’ per excellence, the male descendants of Thado..” according to Hutton, Dr.J. H.: 1928

Having said and done without any prejudice to anyone, the findings and contentions on the subject matter are open for pragmatic and objective academic exercises for benefits of young intellectuals, administrators, anthropologists, sociologists and policy decision makers. However, the bottom line is that the thadous are also one of the numerous Kuki families.
1) Jimmy Jamkhomang Thadou ( A brief ancient history of the Thadou inhabitants in Manipur Hills)
2) T.S. Gangte (Structure of the Thadou society)


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