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Monday, May 27, 2002

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In the land of the Mizos

Hina Talwar

Sarvesh and Hina Talwar discover the beauty and culture of Mizoram.

A view of Aizwal

The gem of eastern India, perching on the high hills of north eastern comer, Mizoram is a storehouse of natural beauty with its endless variety of landscape, hills, streams, rich flora and fauna. It also occupies an important strategic position having a long international boundary of 722 km.

Mizoram literary means the land of highlanders or people's land on the mountain slopes. Mizoram's history is about 200 years old. The generally accepted theory is that a part of a great Mongoloid wave of migration from China later moved out to India to their present habitat. It is possible that the Mizos came from Shinhung or Chhinlungsan, located on the banks of the river Yalung in China. They first settled in the Shan State and moved on to Kabaw Valley to Khampat and then to the Chin Hills in the middle of the 16th century.

The Mizos are divided into several tribes — the Luseis, Pawis, Paihtes, Raltes, Pang, Hmars, and Kukis are the most prominent.

The State is covered from north to south by high mountains that are approximately 2,000 metres high. The highest mountain peak of the state is the majestic Blue Mountain that reaches to a height of 2,165 metres. The beauty of the green forests and mountains captured the hearts and minds of the Mongolian gypsies. Since then the hills were known as Lushai hills.

Mizoram's location geographically is magnificent for many reasons. The monsoon winds of Bengal travel over Mizoram during summers. In winter, the winds from China bring in rain. The place is a wonderful mixture of deep wide valleys, and dense forests that abound with trees such as Chir, Sheesham, Sagon, Saal and man. The hills are covered with bamboo and banana trees along with wonderful pine trees. The forests also house some of the rare varieties of orchids that are found only in this region of the country.

Mizoram has many picturesque sites to visit. The museum and mini Zoological Garden at Aizawl, Bung, and Paikhai are worth a visit. We had a lovely time at the Vantawng waterfalls (137 km), which are the highest in the State. The Tamdil natural lake (located 60 km away from Aizawl) and Champai (204 km) are some other picnic sites. The Champai amused us with its beautiful view of the Myanmar hills, and the Tamdil natural lake with its crystal water gave us a serene feeling.

A very astonishing fact of Mizoram is the vital role of bamboo and cane in the day-to-day lives. Most of the houses are made from bamboo. The roof is made of leaves of the `tar' tree. From furniture to any household items everything is carved out of bamboo. We had lunch at one of the local residents house and were astounded on seeing a handmade bamboo basket for storing water!

The Mizo art and craft items are to be treasured. Mizo men and women are born weavers and the intricate designs created by them are a treat to the eyes.

The Mizos are basically non-vegetarians and love to eat meat. The locally made wine is a favourite of all. Their food is not spicy and is cooked in such way that the actual nutritive value of the food is retained.

The Mizos are a close-knit society with no class distinction and no discrimination on grounds of sex. The entire society is knitted together by a peculiar code of ethics `Tlawmngaihna', meaning on the part of everyone to be hospitable kind, unselfish and helpful to others.

Over 45 per cent of the population lives in urban areas and the State has a literacy rate of 88 per cent. Despite strong influences from Western culture, the Mizos are zealously proud of their old customs and lifestyle. The traditional Mizo dress is still worn on special occasions such as weddings, and festivals, especially, the puaan. The festivals celebrated are in one way or the other, associated with agricultural activities that their ancestors recognised. Music and dance run in the blood of Mizos. The bamboo dance or known as the Cheraw dance is very famous. Dressed in the typical Mizo attire, we tried out some steps. This dance is performed during festivals, marriage or on the occasion of a bumper harvest. The women wear a special crown made of bamboo, parrot feathers and other colourful beads etc. There are many other popular dances such as the khuaflam, solkia and chheih iam. Guitar, ting-tong, Bejbung, Ridchem etc are some of the famous musical instruments.

Agriculture is the single most occupation of the people of the State. Main horticulture crops of the State are oranges, lemon, kagzi lime, passion fruits, pineapple and papaya.

`Zu' (tea) is a popular drink among the Mizos. Another part of their lifestyle is smoking. Here at Mizoram, we saw men and women both fond of smoking but their ways being different. The invigorating pure breeze, the calm, and peace surrounded atmosphere makes one want to go back again to his land of friendly people and wonderful sights.

Picture by Sarvesh

Fact file

How to get there

By air: Mizoram's only airport in Aizawl connects the State with Guwahati and Kolkata.

By rail: Mizoram is not connected by rail and the nearest railhead is at Silchar in Assam.

By road: The State is well connected by a good network of roads. The State transport corporation runs regular buses to various places within and outside the state. One can also hire taxis and jeeps.

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