Home » Legend of Kuki, Meiteis and Nagas common origin from one ancestor found in folktales

Legend of Kuki, Meiteis and Nagas common origin from one ancestor found in folktales

by IT Desk
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By: Phanjoubam Chingkhei 
More than hundred years ago, when Manipur was a simpler place, life was different. The people were bound by their traditional laws and customs and all they sought in life was to have a peaceful life for oneself. Under such environment, the cheerful people after a hard day labour at his field of toiling the soil, fishing the great water bodies of the land and hunting in the deep forests, sat down in the evening, smoked their hookahs and charmed their younger ones with tales about the legends of the brother hood among Naga, Kukis and the Meiteis.
Many of such tales were recorded by British officials who were then serving the state. The tales included both the similar origin of the three ethnic groups, their ultimate separation from one another.
One Khongjai Kuki legend recalls, in the old days “our forefathers told us, that men formerly lived in the bowels of the earth (cave). The Khongjais and the Meiteis were brothers. One day, they quarrelled about a cloth and their mother took out a knife and cut it but their mother helped the younger Meiteis and hence Meiteis wore more clothes than the Khongjais later known as Kukis.”
Recorded by TC Hudson, the Kuki legend also says Meiteis cut Heimang trees while Kukis cut plaintain trees. Finding the footprints fresh, many people followed the brother who cut the Heimang trees while the one who cut the plantain looked very old and few people followed him who became Khongjai.
Be that it may, what the modern Meitei younger generation needs to learn is despite all the name callings and insults towards their brethren Kukis, at the end of the day, Kukis are ones who will always be their immediate neighbour.
A Mao Naga legend tells an interesting story, “once upon a time there was a jumping match across a river among the three sons of a same ancestor. The eldest, clearly the strongest, jumped the river and landed on the top most part of the hills. The second, nearly as good, cleared the river but his foot slipped and he landed on the slopes of the hills.  The youngest however tumbled and fell on the river. The eldest became the Nagas, the second became the Kukis and the youngest the Meiteis.
The story also explains why Nagas are settled mostly on the higher elevations of hill tops while Kukis are settled in the middle section of the hills and why the Meiteis who tumbled and fell on the water, has an extra fondness of bathing.
W Shaw records a Kuki story which narrates the origin of the Meiteis. Once a girl fell in love with a great snake near her village. Although to others it appears a snake, to the girl, it appeared a handsome young man. Soon, the girl begot a child and all others laughed at the child for being fatherless. The child grew up into a fine young man. His mother told her not to mind the laughing but to go make friends with the snake the father. The man caught the snake by his head and the snake told him wonderful things that were to happen. The boy then went to search for a new site to settle and found Langthabal where he performed a puja. The result was not satisfactory and so he went to the middle part of the valley and the results for the puja he performed was excellent. He established a village and from this village, the Manipuris originated. For long, he lived like the Nagas and the Kukis but one day a religious man came from the South and impressed by his preachings, he changed his life and took up his present religion.
Thadou, as per Shaw, also informs the reason why the Meiteis call them Khongjais is because the first village the Meiteis came in contact with them is the Khongjai of the Lunghum clan.
In all the stories, the Meities are portrayed as the youngest of the three brothers.
Similar identical stories are found in many hill tribes. Maring legends has it they left the valley because of the heat and mosquitoes which made life impossible.
The Thadous also has a legend why Meiteis possess a written script while others don’t.
Experience despite its horror has shown that clashes results in nothing but hardship for all. Prostitution and orphans will rise manifold and men will never find peace. Isn’t it better for all to instead focus on what makes a good neighbor and work on their personal development and settle any issues decently and amicably and not to over react at a slight misunderstanding.
A Tangkhul legend too explains a curious custom when in the past, tribes were allowed to loot the women vendors in the market on the day of Hao Chongba. Hudson says, the Tangkhul legend speaks of two brothers who migrated and lived after founding Hundung village. One of them tracked his way to the valley. For sometime, the younger brother kept friendly relations and sent his brother in the hills products of the valley and the hill brother sent him product of the hills. But then, the younger brother became fat and proud and forgot to send his due of products. Accordingly, the hill brother came down to take what he has been in the habit of receiving.
Such legends of common origin from one ancestors abounds in plenty among all the hill tribes in the past. However with the advancement of education and lifestyle, the modern generation seems to forget the one ness that bound them together. The oneness which enabled them to face Burmese invasion. In fact, Shakespeare says Maharaj Chandrikriti made the war like Kukis settle on the eastern hills to act as barrier against the aggressive Burmans. Similar, was the case in setting up of Kuki villages on the Northern exposed frontiers for checking Angami raids as Angami often avoids Kuki villages.
“What the poet and the story teller relates may be fiction but what he mentions is apt from history” and reflects a time when the three lived as one family, which is a much needed necessity in the current state of Manipur.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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