Ralte, one of the Mizo clans live in all areas inhabited the Mizo tribe in and around the present Mizoram of the North East India. Ralte is one of the largest clans of the Mizo. Many of them belong to the mizo elite group. We must however remember that there is no much distinctive trait among the Mizo clans, and therefore no one among them know who is Ralte or other clans as there is absolutely no caste system in the Mizo society.
This poeple now known as Mizo live in the extreme north-east corner of India protruding deep into the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh. Grierson in his linguistic survey of India called them Kuki Chin Group of the Tibeto Burman family. J .D.Baveja in his book named, The land where the Bamboo flowers, 1970 page 1 states “The Mizo with their keen sparkling eyes, snub noses and whitish complexion betray their relationship with the people now living between Burma and China. Indeed, there are many legends about the origin of the Mizo which confirm this belief. Unfortunately the Mizo have kept no record about their ancient history for the lack of script which they never possessed. The stories, as we hear today, have passed on from the father to the son”.
As the Mizo belongs to the Kuki Chin group of Tibeto Burman family, they naturally came down to their present settlement from Burma. Therefore appearence they do not look like fellow citizens of other parts of the country. Unfortunately, when they are seen the people of other parts of the country, they are never considered as fellow citizens of India. Moreover the Mizo language belonging to the Tibeto Burman family is still not included in the VIII Scheduled of the Indian Constitution. Because of isolation and grievances arising out of unrecognition of the language etc. the Mizo have separatist tendency and as a result of which an uprising broke in 1966. It is still a matter of a very delicate question requiring careful and skillful handling. Otherwise it could again explode. The inclusion of the Mizo language in the VIII Schedule of the Indian Constitution will be an important step for their joining the main stream of National life.
The Mizo have distinct culture, tradition and language, including laws and customs. They lived an independent life for a long time before the British occupation of the land. During the British period the land was divided between Burma, Manipur, Assam and Bengal for the sake of administrative convenience. The people still regret the divisions, and attempt to re-unite the dismembered territory is being made now in the name of ZORO, Zo- reunification.
The Mizo claims that he originally sprang up from a cave called “CHHINLUNG” somewhere in the northern hills of Burma. No one has been able to locate the exact place of that cave nor is there any serious attempt to locate it. However, Chhinlung remains the reminder to all the different clans of the Mizos that they belong to the same origin who came down from Burma not very long past.
The Chhinlung cave might have led people to imagine the long and distant past, yet the fact remains that there never exist such cave except in the popular folkore of the Mizos. It may be interesting to relate the folklore :
Once upon a time there was a certain Chief who, in his dreams, changed into a fabulous creature called “Awk” and swallowed the moon which many people observed. When the chief awoke his mouth was bleeding. A year later he died and his ghost turned into “Awk” and went up into the sky. That night the moon was full and big and the “Awk” could not swallow it. The next day the Moon was smaller and the “Awk” was able to swallow it. Since that time ‘men came to know that there existed an “Awk ” which could swallow both the Sun and the Moon.When an eclipse occurs there is much excitement and beating drums,etc. This is to frighten the “Awk ” so that the sun and the moon shall not be swallowed forever. The Mizo believed that once upon a time the “Awk ” swallowed the sun so effectually that the general darkness prevailed. This awful time is called Thimzing, i.e. the gathering of darkness and many awful things happened, everything except the skulls of the animals killed in the chase became alive, dry wood revived, even stone became alive and produced leaves and so men had nothing to burn. The successful hunters who had accumulated large stock of trophies (the Mizo hunter always preserves the skull of the animals he had killed as tropies of his skill and a hunter who was able to accumulate large stock of such trophies was highly respected the society) of their skill were able to keep alive using them as fuel. As it was pitch dark, neither animals nor men could see at all, and tigers went about biting widely at trees, stones and people. A general transformation took place, men being all changed into animals. Those who were going to the jhum were changed into “Satbhai” Koro ( Laughing thrushes), as can be known their white heads, which represent the turban worn men, and their cheers chattering. People wearing striped clothes became tigers, the chief of those days being represented the hornbill of today, whose bill represent the bamboo ladel for stirring rice while cooking, but another version is that the chiefs became King crows, whose long tail feather the chief valued much and wear as plumes. The back hands of the gibbon prove clearly that his ancestors were dying thread when the Thimzing occured. Another version ascribes the same origin to the crows. Similarly, hose who were earring tourches finding their way down stream beds were changed into fireflies. The Chawngthu family were sometimes said to have been turned into monkeys, the Vangchhia into elephants, but another version says that the elephants were old women who were wearing their ‘Puanpui’ i.e. cotton quilts – with the tufts of cotton outside. Wrestlers were suddenly transformed into bears, which to this day grapple with their foes.
The Paihte or Vuitu clans became a species of squirrel, while the Raltes ancestor was just saying, ‘Vibel kan Chep teh ang nge’ ‘Shall we suck our pipe,’ was therefore changed into a sort of squirrel called ‘Chepa’ from the sound it is always making.
“The domestic animals were changed into wild ones, but a number of large boulders in Vanlaiphai are said to represent Chhura’s – which were grazing there at the time of Thimzing. After this terrible catastrophe the world was again repeopled men and women issuing from a hole in a rock called “Chhinlung.”
All the clans came out of that place (Chhinlung). Then two Ralte came out together and began at once chattering, and this made “Pathian (God, creator) think there were too many men, and so be shut down the stone.” Had it not been for the chattering noise created the Ralte couple the population of the Mizo would have been larger.
As seen in the folk literature the Ralte has been known to be one of the oldest clans of the Mizo. They had been speaking their own language. They had a seperate form of worshiping before the advent of Christianity. They are hard working and prosperous group. Educationally they are the most advanced clan of the Mizo. Many of them work as teachers even in the most interior villages to help the missionaries for spreading education in Mizoram.
Inspite of all these fruitfu1works, the Ralte Language is dying gradually. For instance, one Ralte family headed Thangbuia (L) was living near my house in 1987. They are my family friend and they spoke Ralte dilect at home. Now all the elderly members of this family expired and the use of Ralte dilect at home was gradually disscontinued
Today the young members of the family have completely forgotten the Ralte language. The reasons for the gradual decline of the use of Ralte language are not far to seek. They are as follows:
(1)As already stated above, the Ralte clan spoke and sang in their own language long before British occupation of the land. Let us look at the following lines:
“Pawi no cha cha hawng thawk e Kawlni Runin
Ka suaipui leh ka Langmual a nuam lo ve,
Nah thing hnuaiah an sakruang pal ang kan tun,
Au thlung lu leh kawr silai pal ang kan lak.”
However it appears that the use of Ralte language and the Mizo (Lusei) go together side side even in those old days. For instance there was a Ralte chief at Champhai at the time of the migration of the Mizo from Myanmar about 1700. In the feud between two clans, Mangkhaia son of Mangthawnga Ralte chief of Champhai was taken as a captive Darkawlchhuna, leader of another village, situated on the eastern bank of river Ṭiau. (Champhai is on the western side of the river, the eastern side is in Burma) While in captive Mangkhaia was longing for his home and family, the rich chief of Champhai in the far east of Mizoram bordering Burma (Myanmar). Mangkhaia composed songs proclaiming the miserable conditions he sufered as a captive, his longing for his home and family and his desire for immediate freedom. All these lines are composed in Mizo and not in Ralte. From this we may conclude that from long time back, the Ralte, even the chief, spoke and composed songs in Mizo.
Ralte song known as “Mangkhaia Zai” composed in Mizo (Lusei) some few lines are as follows :
Dara sawngsa lerah ka chuang a,
Kan Champhai khua thloh ang thlir i nge,
Ka nu’n Tuichhin lam zawl a phiat a,
Keiin Dara run-in ka phiat e,
Ka pa’n Dar thir bu riat a nei a,
Min tlan duh lo ka pa Mangthawnga’n,
Min tlan duh lo ka pa Mangthawnga’n,
Kan neih Cher thil zawng tlang thang na e.
Mounted I upon Dara’s platform,
Wishfully looking at my Champhai home,
Where my father’s rich treasure lay in store,
Without delay the treasure should have been paid for my ransome,
To release we from capacity and live in freedom free.
Yet my father Mangthawnga was a niggardly,
He would not depart his treasure for he is miserly,
Although his richers was known far and wide.
2)Secondly, the Ralte never favour groupism. They are completely unaware of group favouritism. They settle every where in every part of Mizoram, even in the most interior place. They are open hearted and are adjustable, adaptable every where. They are mostly educated and lead the light of education in Mizoram. By adapting and adjusting in every part of Mizoram they gradually discontinue the use of Ralte language. Many of the early political leaders were Ralte. But they never show fovouratism and never form groupism.
(3)Mizo was the medium of teaching in almost all primary schools and all the clans of the Mizo including Ralte gradually use Mizo as their mother tongue.
(4)Before the abolishment of the Mizo chieftainship, the language used the chief was mostly Mizo ṭawng or language.
(5)Mizo ṭawng is being used in almost all the churches.
(6)The Mizo use Mizo ṭawng as the Lingua Franca in all parts of Mizoram. From the above we may safely say that Ralte have been the binding factor of Mizo unity. Their contribution for the Mizo unity into a whole one is largely the fruit of their works. Fortunately there is no distinctive trait among the various Mizo clans now. They now live together in one harmonious whole.