The Misings are one of the major communities of Assam dwelling mostly on the valley of Brahmaputra and her tributaries contributing the growth and development of composite Assamese culture. The majority of the people are still living in the flood affected and isolated areas with old age traditions and modern civilization has practically left them untouched in many aspects. They have got a MURONG SYSTEM- the backbone of their social institution which is unique by its own nature. The MURONG system has been followed as their tradition from immemorial past and every Mising village should have a MURANG to reflect their social unity and economic strength. Although, the MURONG house is a term used in some tribe to denote youth clubs of unmarried boys and girls (YOUTH DORMITORY), yet it has much more important socio-cultural significance for the Mising people. In the Mising society MURONG is a symbol of village unity, integrity and assimilation. The performance of collective social functions, feast, festivals, training of dancing and singing etc. are some usages of MURONG. It can also be used as a guest house for some honorable guest and as a court of social justice. The origin of the MURONG system can’t be traced but we can say that it is an age old tradition connected with one of their ways of defense from other tribes during life in the hills. The term MURONG has been a matter of debate still now and a slight variation of its pronunciation as ‘MVRONG’, MO: RONG’, MORONG etc. exists among the different sub groups of the Mising people. Now majority of the people prefer the term ‘MURONG;. The ‘MURONG’ house of the Mising society usually constructed in the central or the peripheral part of the village for convenience of communication to the visitors. It is slightly longer that an ordinary Mising ‘CHANG GHAR’ and has no walls. The MURONG presents a very spectacular sight and is the most beautiful and gorgeous building in the village. The front porch of MURONG of a village is visible from a distance. The MURONG has thatched roofs and very high quality posts are used for its superstructure. The decoration and construction is so superb that ones minds is bound to be filled with awe and admiration at such indigenous skills. The beams are made of some quality woods and their surfaced are decorated with pictures of DO: NYI (sun), PO: LO ( Moon), TAKAR (Star), SORMON(Crocodile), SITE (Elephant) etc. those pictures are painted with different appropriate colors and they reflect some of their traditional beliefs as forefathers ‘RU:NC PVNC’. In the quality of woods are specifically tried to use such as ‘TAPVD’, TAKINANG’, TALC, TANGNO etc. with the belief that evil spirits cant take shelters in that MURONG. It is the choice of the good spirits only. There is a big ‘MCRAM’ occasionally two or more in the central part of the house meant for burning firewoods during festive occasions. ‘PCRABS’ are kept hanging over each MCRAM for drying meat and keeping other materials used for cooking. There are two ‘KOBANG’, one at each end of the house. The raised platform of MURONG is made of split bamboo and they are arranged very nicely so that platform can be used for dancing, sleeping etc. during festive occasions. A small sized boat is kept on the southern floor of the MURONG for temporary storage of water for using during PO:RAG festival particularly. During this festivals the usage of PO:DOR is essential which is the biggest TA:SUK kept hanging by ropes at the ‘KOKTAG’ of the platform for filtering PO:RO APONG. There are many small sized TA:SUK and are all made of split bamboos and are conical in shapes. After the completion of constructing MURONG meant for a particular social occasion. The village people assemble and pray their forefather offering APONG, TAKE etc. The MURONG is directly related to the most important social festival of the Mising- PO:RAG. It is a harvest festival and it can’t be performed without a MURONG. ‘MIBU’ the Mising priest, has to conduct this auspicious social occasion in the MURONG. The organizational integrity of this institution is best felt and appreciably executed at the time of annual harvest festival and during some decision making occasions of the village people under ‘DO:LUNG KCBANG (Village Council) and ‘MVMBVR YA:ME (Youth Council). In earlier times, the MURONG had been the best school for the practical life of the Mising youth. The MURONG has a great influence on the life of the Mising people. The disciplinary influence of the society in MURONG is an aspect of its utility. The disputed opinions of the members of the village are settled at MURONG, petty cases of theft, assaults, quarrels, land partition disputes, social crimes arising of out disobedience to customary rules are settled at MURONG. Complaints regarding anything social or religions are brought before the village elders while the assemble in the MURONG. The DO:LUNG KCBANG deliver judgment and punish the offenders. Again co-operate, and the date and time for the proposed work is also decided at MURONG. To speak in short, it is an institution which fostered mutual understanding of individuals as well as social problems. It is also paves the way of social integration of the communities at the village level. The MURONG can also be used sometimes for the training ground for boys and girls in the arts of singing, dancing, spinning and weaving as well. On occasions it can be used to entertain the distinguished visitors and guest. For the youth after the days hard work, they take their evening meal in their respective houses and then gather together in the MURONG. Some will gossip, some will sing while other will play flute of beat the drum. The MURONG house is open to all sections of the Mising society on all occasion including the PO:RAG festivals. But many of these days traditions have gradually been abandoned by the Mising society. Some of the functional aspects of MURONG have been losing importance as the institution itself is partially at adying stage. Only in some interior and big villages the existence of MURONG is felt. Moreover, because of the poor financial position most of the village Mising people cant efforts construction of MURONG and celebration of PO:RAG. Although the Mising people are maintaining many of their traditional socio-cultural traits. Yet modernism has been gradually penetrating into their culture. The concept of MURONG is not an exception, hence many of its important aspects are gradually going to be abandoned. Moreover because of scarcity high quality woods as a result of gradual deforestation, the MURONG posts are in position to be replaced by stone pillars. Under such circumstance, this traditional institution cant but undergoes some changes in its construction design and functional aspects. The Mising people no longer feel the necessity to spend the night at MURONG which is not compatible with the modern system of education. Moreover, still today MURONG stand as Misings Principal traditional socio-cultural institution of great importance.
The literary meaning of ALI AYE LIGANG stand for first sowing of roots and fruits in which ‘ALI’ stands for seeds. ‘AYE’ for Fruits in which ‘LIGANG’ for sowing. Lives started in the Mising people from time immemorial as agriculturist. Roots and fruits were their staple food of livelihood in the hills. Because of influence of Aryan culture in the plains their ways of living have been changing gradually and rice cultivation has become a part of their agricultural production. Whether jhuming or ploughing was employed. ‘AHU’ paddy was their principal product and such the oncoming of the ‘AHU’ and ‘BAU’ season is marked with the celebration of “ALI AYE LIGANG”. It marks the beginning of agricultural cultivation. Prayer, dance and feast are integral parts of festival. In the past, the date of celebration of ‘LIGANG’ was not a fixed one. Variation being depended on the convenience of the locality, their social structure and geographical situation as well. Because of the spread of education and touch with the modern civilization, the feeling of unity has come to the mind of Mising people. In 1956, an unanimous decision to celebrate the LIGANG festival was taken by Mising “NANE KCBANG” (Biggest Socio-Cultural and Economic organization). In the KCBANG the date to celebrate the festival was decided to be on the first Wednesday of the month of phagun. Which is considered an auspicious day. The Mising people believe the day as LAKSHMI day. And on that day the head of the family marks the sowing of seeds in their respective fields. The head man of each family goes to the field with a handful of seeds, a YOKPA, APONG, PURANG, TAKE, PEERO, SI-PAG, SI-PAG ONNO preferably carrying in a VGVN (cone shaped structure made of bamboo etc.). using YOKPA he clean a small patch of the land in the eastern part of the field and is decorated with the PEERO and SI-PAG ONNO in a square of a circular patterns (size about 2feet x 3feet). The APONG, PURANG, TAKE and SI-PAG are placed at appropriate places within the decorated area then the seeds are sown over the area and chant the forefathers ‘SEDI MELO, KARSING-KARTAG, DO:NYI-PO:LO etc. to bear witness the sowing seeds into the womb of mother earth for abundant crops, good harvest etc. After the chanting and the sowing of the seeds, they promise to share the harvest amongst the benefactors and the beggars. In this way- LIGANG starts and headman returns home. This is completed usually in the forenoon. In the daytime, the women get busy preparing APONG and PURANG. Both are essential items of LIGANG. The two varieties of APONG existing in the community are prepared (NOGIN and PO:RO) in sufficient quantities for guest and visitors. PURANG is the special inevitable item of LIGANG. The elders and visitors irrespective of age, sex and social status are served with PURANG, APONG and delicious curry prepared usually with fish. In this way feasting continues throughout the village. In the evening hours the head of the family again pray their forefathers including ‘KOJE YANGO (Goddess of fertility). After the feasting-merry making starts in the form of GUMRAG SO:MAN. GUMRAG SO:MAN is a combination of dance and beating of drums and cymbals. The Mising people believe that Lakshmi will satisfy and bless for good harvest if GUMRAG SO:MAN is performed on the LIGANG day. Hence it is basically an appeasing dance of the Goddess of fertility. People of the village young and old irrespective of sex can take part in the PAKSONG MOMAN (Dance Song). Usually the youth take the lead and dance follows the rhythmical tunes of the drums and cymbals. But the most characteristic feature of the GUMRAG in LIGANG is the wearing of woven dresses of the participating youths reflecting their culture self image and identity. The menfolk wear GONRO UGON, MIBU GALUK and DUMER and the womenfolk wear EGE, RIBI GASENG, GERO SEGREG etc. then the womenfolk with their fine movements enact paddy transplanting and harvesting in dance of the expressive drum beats by the young men. GUMRAG dance is accompanied by appropriate songs also. GUMRAG SO:MAN usually last the whole night. In some village house to house dance is replaced by single GUMRAG SO:MAN collectively by the village people. The villagers observe a period of abstinence from field works ranging fron one to three days and breaks it known a ‘YODLEN KUNAM’ by instituting a brief function calling upon the Forefathers. This marks the ending of ALI AYE LIGANG and the people start devoting their time in the field works of cultivation. The celebration of ALI AYE LIGANG not only reflect the socio-cultural identity of the Mising people, but also has a definite role in the cultural convergence with the greater Assamese society. At present, the educated Mising people living in cities and towns, use to celebrate the festival in town halls, auditoriums etc. inviting GUMRAG parties from different localities. With a great deal of enthusiasm. It signifies their feeling to focus other people enabling to understand the significance and importance of ALI AYE LIGANG.
The following are the recognized system (types) of marriage:
1. DA:RO MIDANG :- this is form of marriage is settled by the parents or guardians according to social system.
2. DUGLA LA:NAM:- this is a form of marriage by elopement at the consent of the bride.
3. KUMNA SOLA LA:NAM:- this is also a types of settled marriage, but the performance is not gorgeously done. It is performed only after receiving consent from both the parents or guardians of the bride and bridegroom.
LAWS OF MARRIAGE
Marriage by negotiation is the prevailing practice although marriage by capture is also present. But such a marriage is to be regularized sooner or later.
Child marriage is absolutely contraindicated among them. From the view point of marriage the follow monogamy. But there is no bar to polygamy. Hence is not treated as a break of marriage rules, provided can afford to maintain such a big family. According to their convenience, the other wives can live in the same house or in a separate house. The following criteria are in marriage.
1. Marriage of any kind is strictly prohibited within the same clan or families because they are thought to be originated from the same ‘GUMVN SO:YIN (forefathers). In the same way marriage is usually contraindicated within the sub-clan as seen in mising society.
2. The offspring of a mother with that of her own or closely related sisters are regarded as brothers and sisters. Hence marriage is contraindicated.
3. Intercaste marriage is not advocated though not totally absent. But this marriage is subjected to purification ceremony and approval from society.
4. Marriage of a woman without prior divorce is contraindicated.
1. Usually, a bride must attain atleast 18 years of age and bridegroom must be at least 20 years in age.
2. Marriageable girl from a ‘MITUR’ (From favorable condition)family can be offered to a marriageable boy.
3. Widow re-marriage is advocated. She can marry with an unmarried youth, a married man or a widower.
4. Polygamy is prevalent but polyandry is an absolute contraindication or totally absent.
5. Father is the guardian of marriage. In his absence his sons, in order of age are entitled to act as guardian in marriage of younger brothers and sisters.
6. In absence of father and son, paternal uncle and his sons are authorized to act as guardian.
7. Once a girl is married, she belongs to her husband’s family and the children born of their marriage, in all cases, bear the surname of their father.
PERFORMANCE OF DA:RO MIDANG:
The parents or guardians of a marriageable bachelor, at first send the proposal to the bride’s family on a day fixed already for the purpose. This is known a ‘YAMNC TADNAM’. Sometimes, the proposal come from the bride’s family side, directly or indirectly, and then in may be conveyed through some of their family members or close relatives. After the confirmation of the date and time, which may be many month later according to their convenience, the respective family convene the ‘DO:LUNG KCBANG’ and “MVMBVR YA:MC” for co-coordinated performance of the formal marriage “MIDANG”. The actual marriage is performed in traditional way with some modification of hindu culture. The BHOKOTS, the elder members of the village usually take the upper hand in the ceremony. Finally, the bride is offered by the father or guardian and is taken away on the same day to the grooms place.
The ancient system of ‘MAGBO DUGNAM’ the perspective bride-groom stays and renders manual labour in the would-be father-in-laws house for one or two years which may be extended to more in some families. Marriage is granted only after the probationary period and that also depends upon the satisfaction of the guardian. The impact of education has brought many alternations in the social life of the misings. It is an example of such and absolute system.
The ancient system of “MAGBO DUGNAM” has almost abandoned in the Mising society. Bride price known as “ALVG LA:NAM’ is prevalent in Mising Society. There is no fixed bride price. It may vary according to the status of the grooms family. Formerly, it was paid in terms of goods and animals. At present, don’t insist on the payment of the bride price. It is now seen only in “DUGLA LA:NAM” system.
“GANDHARVA” system of marriage is the widely prevalent form in the Mising society where the couple should be from the families of acceptable of marriage laid down by laws requiring social approval later. The formal marriage system “MIDANG” requires long drawn formalities and huge amount of expenditure. DUGLA LA:NAM is the outcome of love at first when they apprehend doubt about their parents consent to the formal marriage. The socio-culture occasions provide ample scope to the youth to develop love at first sight or meeting.
This is a love marriage in which the lover takes away his beloved in a stipulated night. Next morning, the lover’s relative approach the girl’s parents and if terms and conditions laid by the parents of the girl are agreeable to the parents of the boy then the parents of the girl give consent to the marriage.
It has been observed that divorce occurs seldom in Mising society. It occurs under some special circumstances. The initiation process may be unilateral from either side. Ultimately, it requires approval from the ‘DO:LUNG KCBANG’
The following conditions are considered valid and responsible for divorce.
1. if both husband and wife are mutually willing to end their marital connection. Then the ‘Do:lung Kcbang’ can give approval for divorce. No question of compensation arises in this regard.
2. if husband can not affords maintenance then the wife can leave him or divorce him.
3. if husband marries more than one wife then one of the wives may leave her husband.
4. if husband is indifferent to wife and of loose character, wife can divorce him.
5. if wife is disobedient, dishonest and unfaithful as well as licentious and if she does anything that may bad to physical or mental injury of husband, divorce from husband’s side is considered legal and reasonable.
As mentioned earlier, the matter of divorce should be brought to the notice of DO:LUNG KCBANG. No written documents are needed for the divorce.
MISING: VILLAGE ORGANIZATION
II. DO:LUNG KCBANG
III. MVMBVR YA:MC
IV. RVGBO GVNAM and ABVR GVNAM
Murong is the most important and useful traditional socio-cultural institution of Mising people. It is comparable with the dormitory system prevailing in other tribes. But many of the traditional functions of MURONG as were in the past, such as to guard the village by the youth from enemies etc. have gradually abandoned. Only on some important festive events such as for celebrating PORAG the concept of MURONG come to the Mising people. The youths and village people gather in the MURONG also to chalk out the programmes and to take social decisions.
It is the supreme social body of a village. It is constituted by the elderly people of the village who assemble in the MURONG under the village headman on specific occasions. The village body also takes all important social decisions of the village concerned and settle disputes of social importance. It delivers judgment and punish the offenders. There is no system of hereditary chief in Mising village. The headman of village is supreme in his own village only.
Memberships to DO:LUNG KCBANG are open to all people of the village. If the village people are not satisfied with the work of particular member of the kcbang, he may be removed with a substitution. There is specific assignment for each office bearer of the kcbang. No women will join the kcbang, she can make her voice heard or is invited when her opinion is felt by the kcbang.
Punishment are given by the kcbang after hearing the complaints. Which range from imposition of fine in money or excommunication (YODNAM). Yodnam is considerd as the severest form of punishment the village can conflict upon any villager for a serious crime. A man who rebels against custom will be isolated and considered outcaste. This is a sort of social boycott.
No physical torture is prevalent in Mising people whatever the offence may be. The immoral acts and major offence dealt with severity. In such cases fine is imposed and purification rites are imperative.
It is a benevolent youth organization of the village. The unmarried boys and girls are the members of this social organization. From functional point of view, this is the most important and powerful organization in rendering social services to the village people. Whenever a family wants manpower to construct a house, to transplant and harvest paddy or to conduct a feast in a festive occasion like a marriage, death ceremony etc. the headman of a family formally invites the “Mvmbvr Ya:me”. This organization stands as organization cum caretaker in the whole circumstance of the activities of the village. In murong during PO:RAG festival, ali aye ligang, bihu etc.. there are some office bearers in “Mvmbvr Ya:me who organize a meeting for such an invitation when formally made by co-village.
Co-operation and fellow feelings are some of the salient features of the Mising. Mvmbvr Ya:me service rendered to the village people is an example of such social integration. Another very important aspect of this organization is the responsibility of their members towards Dolung Kcbang. Moreover an important fact is that the first loyality of the Mising youth is always towards the Mvmbvr Ya:mc.
When family invites the Mvmbvr Ya:mc for particular work. The family has to offer only APONG and other eatables, preferably cooked rice and vegetables with some amount of meat. If the family is poor, the youth are satisfied with APONG only. Sometimes money is paid to them, the earnings from these sources are deposited into their fund and utilized at the time of feast as in DOPAN TV:PAN.
‘Abvr Gvnam’ ia a means of rendering physical labour on invitation of co-villager who cant otherwise get things done by his efforts. A woman reaper can extend an invitation to her colleagues in reaping her harvest. It is means which fosters mutual understanding of individual problem as well as paves way for fellow feelings. This system helps the people for social integration at the village level.
The Misings officially recorded as MIRI in the list of scheduled tribes of India under constitution order 1950, are originally a hill tribe of the Himalayan region of North eastern India. Either for their better wisdom or in their necessity of cultivable land, they migrated down along the Siyang river in several small groups in different period of history. It is believed that the first group of Misings landed in the upper region of the valley sometime between 13th and 14th century A.D., when the area around Sadiya was ruled by the Chutia kings.
The Mising belongs in general to the Tibeto-Burman family of the great Mongoloid race.
Here in the Brahmaputra valley amidst the alien communities and faith. The Misings had to adapt themselves to the new environment and changed social circumstance, and thus there grew up a new social order along the courses of the Brahmaputra, subonsiri , Ronganadi, Buroi, and Bhoroli river in the northern side and the confluence of Dibru, Dihing, Disang, Dikhow and Dhansiri river in the south. The name ‘MIRI’ was given to them, evidently by the plains people, but the always preferred to be known by their own name “MISING”.
By faith. The Misings are worshippers of ‘DO:NYI’ (Sun) and ‘PO:LO’ (Moon), but they cannot be possibly called “animist” either, in the general meaning of the term. It is noteworthy that they refer ‘DO:NYI’ as ‘Ane-Donyi’ (Mother Sun) and ‘PO:LO’ as ‘Abu-Po:lo’ (Father Moon) meaning thereby the Sun is the female cosmic principle and the moon the male cosmic principle comparable to ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Purush’ of Vedantic Philosophy. After creation of this earth, air, water etc. ‘Sedi-melo’-the supreme power, created ‘Do:nyi’ and ‘Po:lo’ and man. And then they stood apart leaving ‘Do:nyi’ and ‘Po:lo’ to take care of mankind. Hence, the Misings worship ‘Do:nyi-Po:lo’ as their supreme deities and consider them above all other lesser gods-“Uii”. Illness and misfortunes are attributed to these lesser gods ‘Uii’ which have to be kept appeased by offering pork, chicken and ‘Apong’ time to time.
However, after long sojourn in the plains, their beliefs and thoughts have been influence largely by the teaching of Hinduism. Besides, the epic stories of Mahabharata and Ramayana are so ingrained in their minds that no other religion other than Hinduism could find a better ground to flourish. Nevertheless, the caste system, the very root of Hinduism is alien to there social system that had come down from hoary past. As a result, in spite of their constant exposure to various religious institutions of the valley, they have their firm anchorage in the age old beliefs and traditions.
No doubt there are many ardent devotees of various religious institutions of the valley also. But old beliefs die hard and pork, chicken and Apong are freely used in all functions like “Midang”,”Ali-aye-ligang” and ‘Po:rag’ etc. it is a must in some religious rites like ‘Urom’, ‘Dodgang’,’Dobur’,’Kusag’ etc. of the many cultural functions.
The Misings have distinctive Mongoloid features like yellow skin, somewhat flat nose, prominent cheekbone, scanty beared, etc. they are thickly built sturdy people with jovial disposition. Though they have somewhat resilient nature capable of adapting themselves to any circumstances; but they stick to their decision with much tenacity. After long exposure to the subtropical sun in the valley, their skins have now sunburn-brown color, but faces with very fair complexion is not a rarity, particularly among the younger age group.
They are lovers of music and dance and the Mising girls dance somewhat sexual bihu dance with great spirit, and they have a dance of theirs own which is quite free from this sensuality.
The banks of the Subansiri and Brahamaputra reverberate with melodious ‘ Oi-nitom’ and ‘Kaban’. The ‘Kaban’ has a melancholic expression, mostly related to love-lost, an air of dejection blended into its melody and as such they are rightly called ‘Kaban’(Lamentation) example:
Pckv toma:nc, Pctta toma:nc,
Alab toma:nc, lapla toma:nc
Oi-nom Ka:lvngko ka:la toma:nc-
Meaning- I could not be a dove, nor, I posses the wings of birds, neither I could fly nor I could see my beloved. This invariably reminds the listeners the same feeling of dissolutaness.
On the other hand, Oi-nitom‘ is popular for its rhythmic beauty and colorful similes, compossed on anything that inspires their imaginations, ranging from expression of deep sorrows of separation to lighthearted satires.
Sagvvlai kapiyen, miksidvlai kapiyen
Mc:nam oimc pa:ma:mvl turradu:lai kapiyen?
Meaning: what for these sighs, what for these tears, what worth this life even, if I cannot have the sweet company my beloved.
The ‘a:bangs’ are a class by itself, comparable only to the slokas of Sanskrit literature. It exists in the memory of a special class of people called ‘Mibu’ in Misings. The ‘A:bangs’
Narrate the stories of distanr past.
According to an ‘A:bang’, the discovery of fire is attributed to “SIDANG” and “DASHING” the forefathers of Misings”
siding kolokkc, dashing kolokkc,
Sori mctkiyem tvkkang kvtoncm
Mctpu pudorc dorgc kane…..
Meaning: it was in the days of ‘sidang’ and ‘Dashing’, the fire sparked off from dry piece of wood when spurned with a rope.
Some ‘a:bangs’ narrate even the beginning of this Universe. According to them, in the beginning there was nothing but a state of being or not being. It says:
Mi kamangai, miming kamangai
Do:nyi kamangai, po:lo kamangai,
Vmmc kamangai, assc kamangai
Sedibabu bottcbv cdcm ru:lentonc
Meaning: no man was there, nor any matter was there; no sun nor moon was there, there was no fire, nor water. But ‘sedibabu’ the great lord created them all.