Zomi is the name of an
ethnic groupof people that occupy Northwest Burma, Northeast India, and Northeast Bangladesh, and normally known as Lushai, Chin and Kuki to the outsiders. However, a single name "Chin" or "Lushai" or "Kuki" has technical limitation within its own context, since the Mizo(Lushai), the Kuki, the Bawmzo and other ethnic groups would not normally accept a single identity collectively. When the British divided the Zomis' inhabitance with three international boundaries into India, Burma and Bangladesh; the above stated three main distinctive identities submerged, although those given names are not being used locally, and unknown to the natives initially.
Brief History of ZO People
The word "Zo" has many literal meanings such as "win", "respond", "higher altitude", "conquer" etc. and "Mi" means "people". However the word "Zo" in
Mizomeans "Hills". Due to external dominance and influence, the Bengali called them Kuki, the Burmans called them Chin, the Indians called them Lushai but they never called themselves by those names. Zomi is the most commonly known identity regardless of their living in the plain, high altitude, South, North, East or West.
Professor F.K. Lehman (Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Illinois (USA)), in his research findings, concludes that despite the variation in the form of writing, it appears to have a single root of Zo, Yo, Ysou, Shou and the like.
According to Rev. S.T. Hau Go the first General Secretary of ZBC (Zomi Baptist Convention) and a former lecturer of Mandalay University, Burma, the usage of Zo is widespread throughout the inhabitance of Zomi from Burma to Bay of Bengal. For instance, they are known as, Yo in Thadous areas, Laizo in Falam areas, Zomi Tedim areas, Mizo in Lushais area, Zotung, Zophei, Zokhua in Haka areas, Bawmzo in Chittagong Hill Stracts, Yaw in Gangaw areas, Jo or Cho in Mindat, Khomi in Paletwa, A-Sho in Prome, Thayetmyo, Sandoway and Bassein areas. Thus, Zo or Zomi is the most widely used National Name.
However the names given by their neighbors such as Lushai, Kuki and Chin are not National names, additionally never able to cover the whole Nation. Only the name “Zo” is found to be the most common name among Chin-Kuki-Lushai. [ [http://www.zogam.org/history.asp History,Zogam,history,Who are the Zomi?,zro,Zogam,Reunification,Organisation ] ]
The history of the ZO people is obscure, shrouded in myth and lends. In the absent of written documents, it is extremely difficult to have early history of the ZOs. However through historical, linguistics, archaeological findings and ethnic relationships, it is widely accepted that the ZO belongs to the Tibeto-Burman groups. The Zo people are an indigenous tribe, living mostly in the present-day Tonzaang and Tedim townships of Northern Chin State and the Kabaw valley of Western Sagaing division in the Union of Burma. With an estimated population of over 60,000 the Zo are scattered in various parts of Burma and the world. In India, they are officially recognized as the "Zou tribe".
Of the three major races of the Tibeto-Burman group of people – Tet, Pyu and Kanyan - the Zo Belong to the Tet group of people and are further sub-grouped under the umbrella name Chin. The Zos are the original descendants (progeny) of a legendary person named Pu Zo, who is believed to be the elder brother of Pu Zing Phaw (presently known as Kachins). Though living under the present-day military-ruled Burma, the Zote were known to have lived independently and harmoniously since time immemorial. Due to lack of evidence and difficulties in excavating archaeological remains, the Zo's origins are difficult to be proved. Though widely believed to have descended from Mongolia, the routes to the present settlements are not clear. It is believed that the Zote have descended from Mongolia to China and to Tibet and to the present day Burma.
Many of scholars believed that the origin of the ZO people was somewhere in the North-Western China, more specifically, the area which lies between the upper course of the Yangtze Kiang and the Hwang HO rivers are believed to be the original home of the ZO people. S.K. Chatterji, also makes an attempt to identify the area of the North-West China between the head waters of Hwang Ho and Yangtze Kiang Rivers: as the origin of the Sino-Tibetan migration in to India and Burma. Dr. Grierson wrote “tradition and comparative physiology agree in pointing to North-Western China between the upper course of the Yangtze Kiang and the Hwang Ho as the original home the Tibeto-China race, to which the Tibeto-Burman and the Siamese-Chinese groups belong”. It was also an accepted fact that this people belong to Tibeto-Burman stock. This historical linguistic and ethnicity of the ZO people to the place of origin established this fact from thence; the ZO people had started their migration as their predecessors had done. They moved southwards, most probably via Tibetan Highlands then onto the Salween River and entered the Irrawaddy and Chindwin valley.
The entry of the ZO people into Burma was in different waves along with the other groups of people. The above arguments are indeed supported by folklores, oral tradition and legend. They came into this region by following the route south-westward on the line of the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin. They settled in the watershed area of Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers for many generations and founded their kingdom “ Pupa Gam”. With the rising of the more powerful kingdom from south forced them to move to the east of river Chindwin. The Chindwin River is name by the ZO people as Tuikang (White Water). They crossed the river and settled in the area of Kale-Kabaw-Myittha-Yaw valley which stands still testimonial to our settlement even today.
The term ZO is derived from the generic name “ZO”, the progenitor of the ZO people. In the past, they were little known by their racial nomenclature. They were known by their plain neighbors of Burma, Bangladesh and India as Chin, Kuki, or Lushei/Mizo, Subsequently; the British employed these terms to christen those “wild hill tribes” living in the un-administered area and were subsequently legalized to be the names for the newly adopted subjects of Queen Victoria of England. However they called themselves ZO since time immemorial. It is also irony that some people less familiar or ignorant of their history interpret the name ZO to mean the climatic conditions of the highlands, “they occupy because they called the land with a cold climate of higher elevation “Zo”. This is totally a full misconception of the term and origin of ZO.
It is in fact also contrary to the origin and progenitor Pu ZO. This must have been one of the most catastrophic historical interpretations, because the people called themselves ZO when they live in the plains of Burma and the valley of Manipur (India). Thus, the name ZO could not have come from the climatic conditions of this land. They are ZO not because they live in the highlands or the hills, but all ZO and called themselves ZO because they are the descendants of the great ancestor, “ZO”.
The ZO inhabits the southern part of Indo-Burma, approximately ranging between 92 and 95 degree longitude east and 20 and 25 degree latitude north. The ZO folksongs give the picture oh their settlement, prosperity and the civilization that evolved in the plains of Burma in the last part of the Thirteen century A.D. It is also further believed that the ZO had once upon a time established an independent state in the upper Chindwin areas. This observation about establishment of kingdom is clearly evident by the terms “Kumpi”, “Mangpa”, and “Lengpa” which are equivalent to kingships. These above terms are indeed interwoven with the ZO people till today.
The ZO people are presently concentrated in the Northern part of Chin hills “Tonzang Myo”, in the kale-Tamu Kabaaw valley (Sagaing Division), and the southern districts of Manipur (Churachanpur and Chandel districts). This people are ethnically, culturally, socially and linguistically one people. They have their own distinct customs and cultures. The customs and cultures of this people can be very well identify if compare with the rest of other people. In fact they can be differentiated from their neighbor through their customs and cultures. They have rich cultures which ought to be preserved for all time to come.
The present distributions of the population of the ZO people and their most notable towns and villages can be seen from the Chindwin river in the east to Aizawl (Mizoram, India) in the west and from Kalemyo, (Burma) in the south to Imphal (Manipur, India) in the north. The hubs of their present settlements are all along most important routes of the region. They all spread all along the Indo-Burma road, the Tedim road and the Tamu-kalemyo National Highways.
Some of the most important inhabited towns and villages of the ZO people all along the above mentioned routes/roads are thus: Along the Tamu-Kalemyo National Highways are Tamu, Zanglienphai, Lallian, Kanan, Khampat No.(1) and (3), Nangkateih, Nangkhaukhau or BuangKung, Kyuantaw Yeshin or Tuikhal, Phetya Yeshin or Kuonglien, KannOo, Taazi, Kalemyo etc..;
Towns and villages along the Indo-Burma road are Sugnu, Singtom, Gelngai, Salem, Paldai, Sahich Tampak, Kathoung, Khollian, Moulnuom, Zangzom, Zangdung, Khoungtal, Denlha, Senam, Thuambuol, Khianglam, Lungtah, Gelmuol, Khuamun, Anlun, Naazang, Tonzangmyo etc.. towns and villages all along the Tedim Road are S. Muolnuom, Lamka (Churachandpur), Zoumun, Khianglam, Geltui, Gelzang, Busau, Hiangtam Khounou, Hiangtam, Singngat, Behiang, Khuaivum, Tonzang, Phungtong, Salzang, Tahzang, Lomzang, Gamngai, Tualmu, Gelzang, Gienchiel, Tedim. Moreover, apart from these routes and roads many ZO villages are scattering all other parts of this particular region. It will not be out of the text to include some more. In the Tuining, Singheu kual some of the notable villages are, Tuining, Vazang, Sangaikot, Kuvan, Tuaitenphai, Tuibul, Saiboh, Gangpimual, ZO Bethel, Khaukual, Moulom, Khuainuoi, Siongheu, Phaisan, Phaisat in Churachandpur distirict; In Tonzang Area to Khampat, Phaitu, Khamzang, Seksi, Thauthe, Maulawn, Liikhaan, Tuigial, Tuimang, Singtum, Sialthawzang, Boungkung, etc… The above towns and villages are aligned from North to South direction. There are other many villages which are not included here.
The ZO people took pride in calling themselves by this name for ages. The cultural heritage of the ZO people makes them whole as having a full blossom identity as ZO. This people traditionally named their sons and daughters, villages, places imbibing the great great progenitor “ZO”. Names such as Zogam, Zozaam, Zotui etc. stand testimonial to the affiliation that these people has had to their great ancestor Pu ZO from time immemorial.
Traditionally animism was considered to be the most widely practiced religion among Zo people, until the Swedish-American Baptist missionaries preached Christianity around 1899, for the first time. Today, we can witness so many different Christian denominations across Chin State and among the Zo people. Approximately there are about 5 to 10 percent of people who profess to be non-Christians currently in Chin State, the rest, however are Christians either by birth or conviction.
It is considered to be a Tibeto-Burman race. There are many sub-tribes under Zo People who live in India, Burma and Bangladesh namely, Zomi, Mizo, Lai-Zo, Bawm-Zo, Cho, Asho, Khumi, Kuki, Mara(Lakher) etc.
Traditionally animism was considered to be the most widely practiced religion among Zomi, until the Swedish-American Baptist missionaries preached Christianity around 1899, for the first time.Before the arrival of Christian missionaries in the 19th century there was a new religion in among the Zomi known as the Laipianism. It is practice even in the present day. The founder of this religion is Pau Cin Hau Sukte. He was said to be the son of God. There was a prophesy saying that a certain man will rise and abolish the devil worship or the old ways of worship which was practice in the Zoland and that man was Pau Cin Hau. He also invented the script for the Zomi known as the Pau Cin Hau lai...some of the main principles or doctrine are: 1) There is one God and all must worship him. 2) Pau Cin Hau is the son of God and thru him is the way to Heaven. 3) Every prayer must be addressed to God in the name of Pau Cin Hau. etc...
Today, we can witness so many different Christian denominations across Chin State and among the Zomi. Approximately there are about 5 to 10 percent of people who profess to be non-Christians currently in Chin State, the rest, however are Christians either by birth or conviction. A small but growing Buddhist population does exist in the southern and eastern parts of Chin State.
The simplification of term Zomi into English is Zo People. Zo people who occupied part of
India, Burmaand Bangladeshare considered to be indigenous people. Zomi settled down in large part of Churachanpur district, Chandel districtof Manipur State, India. The brethren, Thado-Kuki especially in India adopted the name Kukiwhich means hill people in Bengali language. Similarly Zomiin Burma are called Chininitially by the Burmans around 700 AD for the first time, and subsequently by the British. Zomi who live in Mizoram Stateof Indiareferred themselves as Mizo, although the two terms Zomi and Mizo simply mean "Zo People". Basically Zo people covered the whole Chin Stateof Burma, the whole Mizoram Stateof India, part of Manipur Stateof India called Churachandpur District, part of Sagaing Divisionin Burma, part of Chittagong Hill Tracts[ [http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/C_0215.htm BANGLAPEDIA: Chittagong Hill Tracts ] ] , Bangladesh, part of Rakhine Statein Burma. The area of the Chittagong Hill Tracts is about 13,184 km², which is approximately one-tenth of the total area of Bangladesh. It is believed that there are about 1 million Zo people in Mizoram, 5-700 thousands in Chin State, 300 thousands in Churachandpur district or Lamka and 2 million in the plain areas of Sagaing Division, Magway Division, Chittagong Hill Tracts, [ [http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/C_0212.htm BANGLAPEDIA: Chittagong District ] ] ,and Rakhine State. The numbers of Bawm Zo[http://www.ogiek.org/indepth/G0213792.pdf] [ [http://www.peterlang.net/Index.cfm?vLang=E&vSiteID=11&vSiteName=BookDetail.cfm&VID=04935&IALPHA=B& Peter Lang Verlagsgruppe ] ] in Bangladeshis believed to be around 6000. [ [http://bawm.info/ Bawm Literature Forum ] ]
Zomi who settled down at the central part of Chin State are known to themselves as Lai Zo, because of the central location of their inhabitance. Additionally, the Lai Zo were fond of the idea of exclusiveness from the Zophei, Zokhua and Zotung people. Hence, the idea of dichotomisation was applied by using US-THEM method of segregation for centuries, in this segmentation. The LaiZo, later dismantled the word "Zo" from LaiZo and use only Laimi, however they are very much part of "Zo" or "Zomi". Nevertheless, the word "Laimi" only covers a small numbers of people at the center part of Chin State. On the other hand, the name "Zomi" or "Zo" covers people who called themselves Mizo, Zomi, Kuki, [Bawm] Zo and Chin as a whole.
The southern part of Chin State, Burma occupied by Asho, Cho people, nonetheless, the words simply are the indication of their beings as southern Zomi (Zo People).
* [http://www.pu-zo.com PUZO Site Present the life of Brief ZO History, ZO Custom]
* [http://www.zoforum.co.nr Presenting ZO News]
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=zom Ethnologue page for Zome language]
* [http://www.zomi.org ZONET - Zomi International Network]
* [http://www.zophualva.co.nr ZOPHUALVA - All About ZOMI]
* [http://www.zogam.com Zogam.com - Bridging The Zomis - Chat,forum,galler and daily news etc...]
* [http://www.zogam.org Zogam.org Zomi Reunification Organisation]
* [http://www.zomionline.com Zomi Online Community]
* [http://mysticalseven.info/files/AN-INTRODUCTION-TO-THE-ZO-PEOPLE-OF-BANGLADESH,BURMA-AND-INDIA.pdf An Introduction to the ZO People of Bangladesh, Burma and India.]
* [http://www.khaipi.net/dev/zodic1 The First English-Tedim Online Dictionary]
* [http://www.zokuomthawn.com Zo Students' Online]
* [http://www.zodictionary.com English - Zomi/Chin Online Dictionary]
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