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Mishing


A Study on way of life and Culture of Mishing Tribe :

 

Historical Perspective:

The Mishings, formerly known as the Miris, belong to the family of the aboriginal tribes of the north eastern region of India. Originally dwelling in the northern hills, they subsequently came down to the valley in the medieval period by following the river courses. They are now plain tribes of Assam chiefly inhabiting the districts of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Sonitpur.

The Mishings, now forming a considerable part of the tribal population of the north-east, have their distinct social behaviour, living pattern, dwellings, socio-religious functions, agriculture, dresses and language.

The term 'Miri' which was used to name of the Mishings is found the first in the works of Sri Sri Shankardeva, then in the Govt. Documents and writings of the British writers and Parisian histories, and the past Assam histories. During the British rule attempt was made to identify the Mishings and to analyze the etymology of the term 'Miri'. Some Mishing scholars also have undertaken the etymological study of the term and have associated it with religion in its origin. The term has close affinity with the Tibetan language also considering the etymology of the term in religious, cultural, social and historical perspectives. We may 'deduce' that they are the descendents of the Mongoloid origin inhabiting in the North East India, later on coming to the plain of Assam in course of time.

The tribe has a glorious past which was mentioned by the Chinese traveler Huen tsang also. They established a good relation with the Ahoms during the Ahom regime.

Many Mishing people took part in India's Independent movement. Among them martyr Kamala Miri, Betha Ram Pegu, Bimala Kanta Doley, Ghanashyam Doley etc. are worth mentioning.

Physical Structure and Nature:

The physical form of the Mishings resemblances almost with that of other Mongoloid races. An average Mishing is neither very tall, nor very short. His physical structure is well framed and stalwart. He has a big head and hair un leaning, His nose is short, cheek protuberant and the the calf is big. They can be easily identified as Mishings from their physical structure.


Mishings are generally of calm nature. Tolerance is their racial characteristics. Many families live together (Joint family) in the same house.

They like to pass their time in frolic. Both males and females sing and dance together. They are hardworking and self-dependent in agriculture and other fields.

Religion and Folk-belief:

Do-ni-polo, sun and Moon, are the chief god and goddess of worship according to the Mishing religious faith. They call mother Do-ni (Sun) and father Polo (Moon). According to the Mishing religious belief, the gods and goddesses are divided into two groups e.g. benevolent and malevolent. The chief Puruhit of the Mishing religious cult is 'Mibu', being the most revered person in the Mishing society. He can meet the God and goddess, can chant 'Abang Mantres', rhyming songs about the origin of the world including man, all creatures and powers of different nature.

The main worship observed by the Mishings are 'Dobur', 'Taleng ui' and 'urom'. Generally chickens and pigs are offered in Mishing worship. There are many folk beliefs among the Mishings such as existence of soul Yalo, 'Epom' and the like. They believe the present existence and existence after death according to virtue and vice.

However many Mishing had adopted the Vaishnavite faith of Sankardeva, the saint philosopher of 16th century.

 

Village House and Organisations :

Generally the Mishings are live on the bank of river. They live in 'Chang ghar' i.e. house with raised platform. The construction of the Mishing house is featured by pouring rain, river side habitat, flood, earthquake etc. A 'Mil bong' (Male) is entrusted with the right of maintaining and managing the Mishing family. The husband keeps close watch or his wife's acts in matters of rearing and feeding the children. The wife also serves her husband sincerely. In the Mishing family preference goes to son not to daughter. Generally, Mishing villages stand separate from one another by paddy field, jungle, river and rivulet etc.


Village House and Organisations :

Generally the Mishings are live on the bank of river. They live in 'Chang ghar' i.e. house with raised platform. The construction of the Mishing house is featured by pouring rain, river side habitat, flood, earthquake etc.

 

A 'Mil bong' (Male) is entrusted with the right of maintaining and managing the Mishing family. The husband keeps close watch or his wife's acts in matters of rearing and feeding the children. The wife also serves her husband sincerely. In the Mishing family preference goes to son not to daughter. Generally, Mishing villages stand separate from one another by paddy field, jungle, river and rivulet etc.

 

Social Life and Organisation:

In Mishing society marital relation and blood relation play the most significant role. Every family exerts its control over their family members which helps in strengthening social system. Widow can remarry there is no child marriage. One of the main bases of the Mishing social Organization is "gu-min" (Gutra). Marital relation within the persons of the same 'gu-min' is prohibited.

The very arresting feature of the Mishing social system is the co-operative system. 'Rig bo', 'Daglek' are the main co-operative institutions. The Mishing social life is women in democracy, 'Kebang' being the apex administrative unit. The chief of the 'Kebang' is called 'Gam'. The work-load carried by a Mishing woman in her daily routine in general over weights that of a Mishing man. Of course, in the matters of merriment a woman can take equal part with a man.

Marriage System:

The Mishing marriage system is full of its own features and interesting rites and rituals. Boys or girls attaining maturity are considered fit for marriage. Marriage is prohibited within the same 'Gumin', 'Magbo-dugnam' i.e. rendering service in the house of the would be bride by the would be bridegroom by staying there for a week or more is prevalent among the Mishing society. Marriage makes everything festive. Young and old man and woman, boys and girls wear new and beautiful dresses. Songs and dance play a major part in a Mishing Marriage. Divorce is rare in the Mishing society. If divorce is affected, whatever be the reason, the male can marry other woman and the female can also be married to other person, after her return to her parent's home.

Child-birth and Purification:

The Mishings believe that man and other creatures take birth as a result of 'Rune:Pine' (God's) blessings. From the time of conception the Mishing woman take utmost care, follow many do’s and don'ts. When the labour pain begins 'cho-Iak', a cotton rope is hanged from a purlin to help the woman holding the rope. The experienced woman server as doctors or nurses in the Mishing society. As soon as the baby is born a special food item 'jal' cooked with chicken, 'Rukji', ‘Takuk tajig` etc. After birth purified water is made to be sprinkled by the 'Satula' (Priest). Until drinking such purified water, even the father is debarred to go beyond the boundaries of the village, to cross over rivers, to go to forest to go for hunting etc.

Death. Funeral and Obsequies:

The Mishings keep the dying in side the house until his/her death. Water or 'Apong' is poured into the mouth of the dying through a conical leaf-found at the time of death. The dead is wrapped up with a cloth first and then with a mat carried to the graveyard and buried. They have common burrial ground, situated at a distance from the village, called 'Ago-golung'. Until undergoing purification the family members of the deceased observe certain religious practices. They observe 'Usi' or 'Uram-Apin' 'Dodgang' as special purification. They wail in a sad tune at one's death to get solace. This weeping (Kabnam's) beautiful descriptions full of similars are marked with poetry and are essential for the Mising folk literature.

Food and Economic Life:

In the past the Mishings hunted for meat, Edibles were dug out of ground. In the course of time rice together with fish and meat and fruits have became their main food. They depend on forest herbs, vegetables 'namsing' (dried and grinded fish), they rear pig, her, duck, goat etc. and eat their meat. They use ‘Apong’) Kind of drink made of rice) regularly and also use in receiving guests, in observing festivals, worships, obsequies, wedding etc.

 

The population living in villages depends mainly on agriculture. They cultivate mailing paddy, mustard seeds, and black gram pulse. The activities on which the Mishing economy depends are - agriculture animal husbandry, hunting and fishing.

 

Attire, Kneating, weavina and Folk-Art:

 

The Mishing dresses have their own feature. They wear 'Galuk' 'Ege', 'Gachar', and also attires of different colours such as 'lake-Ege', 'Yambo', 'Gero', 'Ribi', 'Gaseng' etc. They wear dresses made of by themselves. Almost all Mishing women are expert weavers. The weave clothes in handloom. Gadu is a rare asset of the Mishings. What marks most is the colour choice, their composition and use of space of the Mishing weavers. Various handicrafts and folk-art-crafts reflect the love for fine art by the Mishings. The symbolic figure of 'Do-ni-Polo' is found on the Mishing clothes and dresses. The Mishing house-building has some certain art features. There is an art in weeping by the Mishings.

 

Folk-Festival. Dance and Musical Instruments:

The main festival of the Mishings is "Ali-ai-ligang", observed in the beginning of their cultivation work in the month of 'Phagun' to worship the mother earth (Sitti-Kede) so that production of crops in plenty. The villagers feel a great pleasure in this festival and wear 'Mibo-galuk', 'Gonro-Ugon', 'Ribi-gaseng', 'Leke-Ege.'Porag' is their another festival generally celebrated after harvesting crops where 'Mibo-Dagnam' is held in the 'Murang' which is the core of the Mishing culture.
The exhibition of the Mishing dance in different festivals and functions is a noteworthy activity. The Mishing dances are performed only in tune of the Musical instrument and some are performed with songs and instruments. 'So-man', 'Gumrag', 'Mibu-dugnam' and 'Ligang-sonam' are some of the typical Mishing dance forms.

 

There are a variety of musical instruments of the Mishings namely 'Dum Dum',’ejuk Tapung’, 'Gunggang', 'Dendun',Le-nang’,Marbang,’Jekring tapung,Tu:tok Tapung etc.

Folk-literature and Language:

The background of the Mishing folk literature is their folk-life. Though the Mishing language is not self-dependant for modem literature at present it is entirely self-dependant in creating fold-literature. The Mishing folk literature is based mainly on their 'Solok' (riddle), 'Luse-Iukor' (proverb) 'Do-ying' (fable), 'Nitom' (various folk songs).
The Mishings have their own language, which, however, does not possess its own scripts. The Mishings belong to the Tibeto-Barman Language speaking group of the great Mongoloid. They now use Roman scripts to cultivate instruction to the students and to produce literature.

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