Reminiscing our Foreparents: Christian Perspectives by Ezra Pamei (Mth)
History of our land had been mostly an imported one, which means almost all the history (Indian history) were written by the western writers from western perspectives for the western readers. In doing so they (the western missionaries) have pictured the rich culture and traditions of ours as something detrimental to the imperialist policy of the West, and we unfortunately have fallen into their snare. We are very much influenced and carried away by this so called western ideologies. We generally accept the history presented to us without critically analyzing and evaluating the issue. Perhaps, this is mostly because of we being ignorant and uneducated. The need of the hour is, as S. Wesley Azariah has rightly pointed out, to “deconstruct and reconstruct” our history. We need to deconstruct the western ideologies and reconstruct it in our contextual tribal perspectives. This methodology will surely bring us to our understanding on how the western writers and also our own earlier native writers with their (western) influence have depicted history to us.
Positive and negative consequences are bound to arise when development takes place. And we rather tend to give more importance to the positive aspects. Indeed, the western missionaries have done tremendous work for the growth of our society both physically and spiritually. We must be grateful to them for introducing to us the world of advancement. Yet, we must also at the same time be aware of the damage done to our rich cultures and traditions in the name of development. Undoubtedly, it is with the advent of Christianity that we specially the Rongmeis have lost many of our rich cultures and traditions. Young generation like we are uninformed and unaware of our cultures. In fact, there are even some elders who are ignorant of our own culture. The rich culture practiced by our fore-parents are in the verge of extinction, which simply means we are in the verge of losing our identity. We Christian are responsible for the lost and we solely are responsible to bring back our cultural songs, dresses, dances, folk tales, festivals, customs, etc. In fact, we should be thankful to our non-Christian brethren who resides in the Imphal valley and other parts of the Zeliangrong Region for preserving our culture and tradition instead of criticizing them for being not Christian. It is good to see in the recent times the cultural awakening among the Christians. Some churches have set apart one particular Sunday to celebrate cultural Sunday which is very much commendable. We also need to celebrate our cultural festivals, though we need modified methods of celebrating these festivals. Modifying by avoiding some elements (which is unchristian) yet without affecting the genuine traditions. We rather need to be proud of our culture which our foreparents have practiced.
One good example of how we are being influenced and indoctrinated by the western ideologies is that we tend to devalued our foreparents. We disregard them for being head hunters, savaged, naked, worshipper of stones and spirits etc. We often said proudly from headhunters to soul hunters in which we ourselves put us down by picturing the savage culture of ours. Indeed, these are historical facts as presented by those western writers but in very erroneous perceptions. They (foreparents) are in fact happy and contented in their own way. That is how they live, they are compelled to live that way because situation compels.
We, in our Christian perspective, talked about our foreparents being without God. However, Rongmeis are very religious group of people. Before the advent of Christianity, they believed in Poupei Chapriak (Ancestral Religion). There is a strong belief in the existence of supreme God or being named Tingkao Raguang (God of heaven or heavenly God) who is the creator of universe, man and living beings. His abode is believed to be in heaven where an eternal peace prevails. He is propitiated as the giver of crops by cultivators before sowing weeds in the fields, and also giver of worldly wealth. At the command of Tingkao Raguang (Supreme God), man and woman were created by the God Dampapu and Goddeses Dampapui. They (man and woman) were lifeless, therefore Tingkao Raguang breath life and soul into them and became human beings. Hence, the soul comes out of God and it is eternal. This soul will go after death either to heaven or in the land of the death (Taruai ram) depending on the deeds of each man.
It is believed that the supreme God lives in the heavenly abode called Tingkao Raguang Kandi. The Rongmeis believed that the good doers who follow the social and moral conduct in the society and those who offered big sacrifices to God to please Him will go to heaven after death. There is no concept of hell in Rongmei religion. The land of the dead or the abode of God is the place a person after death will go. But a sinner (a person who committed nuan of god and man) will be reborn in the form of lower beings. Sin is known as Nuan. A person who breaks the religious and social norms has committed the nuan of God and man. Those who commits nuan will be punished by God.
Having said all these therefore, it will be wrong to say that our foreparents lived without God. The only difference between our foreparents and us is the privilege that we have in Christ Jesus (the True God). We proudly professed ourselves as Christian but we are, in fact no better or even worse than our foreparents. They are known for simplicity, truthfulness, generosity, and also for being religious. The Rongmei Christians today are worse than our foreparents headhunters. We witness killings and murders every single day. They did not have clothes to wear in their time, yet they live a decent life. We have more than enough clothes yet we reveal our body by not wearing decent clothes. There is immorality everywhere. Being nude is not a big thing anymore. Truthfulness among the Christians today is hard to find. We are not true in our belief, not true to our fellow brothers and sisters. There is no true spirituality, where many of the Christians are for show off. We are saved by grace unlike our foreparents. God has forgiven us, however, in spite of the forgiveness of sin we still live in darkness. We need to question ourselves, how truely are we living as a Christian?
The traditional dresses that we wore today, the cultural dances that we danced, the folk tales that we relayed to our children, the traditional way of making food, the moral teachings that we taught to different age groups are from our foreparents. The scripture did tell us to respect our foreparents. We need to do away with the negative mindset on how we see them. Instead we should be thankful for the legacy they left behind.
- Namthiurei, The Great Awakening.
Woba James, Major Issues in the History of Christianity in India: A Post Colonial Reading.
- Kahmei, “The Zeliangrong Nagas,” in Manipur Past and Present, Vol. III.
Gangmumei Kamei, A History of the Zeliangrong Nagas: From Makhel to Rani Gaidinliu.
Mangthoi Thaimei, “The Rongmeis” in Manipur Past and Present, Vol. III.