Introduction / History
The Thangkhal tribe is one of the 'Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi' sub-family of Tibeto-Burman stock. The word 'Thangkhal' derived from two syllables, 'Thaang' (a hilly region), while 'Khalh' (a dense form of fog). The Thangkhal people have a peculiar type of dialect called 'Thangkhal Haam'. Their dialect is closely related to Paite, Tedim and Zou tribes. Yet, neither of them is inclusive of the other. They were also called 'Zomi'in earlier times.
Where Are they Located?
One of the earliest homes of the Thangkhals is 'Taitam' , which is somewhere in Asia. Literarily, the word 'Taitam' means 'a numerous runners or escaped peoples'. The Thangkhals settled in this village for few decades. After many years, they settled at 'Mul-laam' in the southern hills of Churachandpur in Manipur. The Thangkhals practised a common dialect, culture, custom and tradition from time immemorial. The traditional shawls includes- 'Puanlaisan (Red Woven Shawl)', 'Puandum (a mixed-textured of White, Green and Red Colour Shawl)' which is their typical tribal identities. The Thangkhal's traditional shawls were called 'Guungaal Puan' as they settled near the river Guun. Moreover, the Thangkhal dialects such as Valong, Vevaw, Tazen Aw and Niaknuak were one of the fewer words found in other's dialect. These words have its uniqueness and speciality, so much so that it could easily identified the Thangkhals from the neighbouring communities.
In 1956-57, the Thangkhals sought tribal recognition from the Government. At that time the polpulation was about 8,000-10,000. Failure to be recognized as a tribe has adversely affected Thangkhal society till today. Thus the Thangkhal tribe is on the overge of extinction. Now as per TBC Cenus, the population figure is roughly 2000 (two thousand). Though the Thangkhals fulfill all the necessary criteria for Tribe Recognisation, they could not achieve the status so far. Further, the Thangkhals does not want their dialect, custom, traditions and their culture to vanish. They want to preserve 'Thangkhal Dialect' which is the sole identity of the Thangkhal peoples.
The Thangkhals were mainly present in Churachandpur Distirct in Manipur state. They also live in Lamzang, Phaibem, Lamka, Imphal, Saitual, Lawngtlai, Aizawl (Mizoram), Shillong, Haryana, Delhi, Tamu, Kahgen, Kalemyo and Rangoon (Myanmmar).
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Thangkhals usually celebrated great festivals such as Miim Kut, Taang Kut, Khaal Kut, Sa-Aih, Gaal-Aih and Khuadou Pawi in different occasions with significant meanings. Hunting was the favourite past-time of the Thangkhals in earlier times. 'Head-Hunting' is the considered to be the bravest achievement in life. The local rice-beer, 'Zu-Pi' is the common drinks of the Thangkhals.
The livelihood of Thangkhals mainly depends on agriculture. The literacy percentage is very low among the Thangkhals. Most of the older men and women were totally illiterate. The lifestyle is very basic and unhygienic, too. But, Christiantiy has much transformed the Thangkhal society into this stage. They lived on wooden houses and bamboo house. The only means of earning is cutting woods and collecting firewoods. The people were friendly and hospitable.
What Are Their Beliefs?
In regards to religion, the Thangkhals were 'Animism'. Their traditional religion is 'Law-Ki', in which the 'Priest' performed all the religious rites and rituals. Blood sacrifices of animals and fowls were predominant in the society. According to the Thangkhals, there exists two supreme god, namely, 'Lung-Zai' (= the good god) and 'Zii-Maang'(=the evil). Some other evil spirit includes Dawi, Kaau, Sihkha, Thadam, Khawhaang(Misau), Keuhthang, Tomnu, and Pheisam. They also believed that after death, souls travels towards the destiny land called 'Leeng-Vaan', where there is no pain nor sorrow. In this place, all the souls turn into fleas and flew away forever.
What Are Their Needs?
On March 7, 1929 a man named Thawngluan, a Pastor of Convention Church (Now EBCC) brought the Gospel into the Thangkhal's land at a village called "Khajang". In his initial attempts, he failed many times due to being vehemently opposed by the Thangkhals. This old man, who preached the Gospel is considered as 'Bad Omen' by the Thangkhals. Thus, the Thangkhals tortured the missionary mercilessly. He is not allowed to enter any village of the Thangkhal. Later on, the villagers came to realize his kindness and love. The Village Chief, Pu Ulchin became the first to received Baptism from Thawngluan. In fact, he was the first Christian among the Thangkhals. Gradually, the Thangkhal professed Christianity as their religion. The Christians were called as 'Tapidaw', which means 'Believers" or "Followers of Christ"
Unfortunately, Pu Thawngluan died on July 2, 1983. That was the day the 'Great Tears of Thangkhals', who mourned for their beloved missionary. Thus, the Thangkhals called 'Thawngluan' the 'Thangkhal Missionary' - the undying name that lies in the hearts of the Thangkhal. The Thangkhals from different denominations collectively formed a separate Church, known as 'Thangkhal Christian Association' on April 4, 1981 at M.Tanglian village. In 2004, Thangkhal Christian Association(TCA) affiliated 'IFCA-I'. The first Christian song book 'Pasian it La' was published in 1982.
1) Church Song Book in Thangkhal dialect.
2) Head Quarter Building
3) Central Church
4) Sponsors for theological studies
* To get Tribe Recognisation at the earliest, otherwise the Thangkhals will become extinct.
* To safeguard the Church and its members.
* To pray for the Thangkhal so that they would not be scattered any more.
* To have more missionary fields
Bruce K. Thangkhal