The Scheduled Tribe of Manipur: Chiru Tribe

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  • The Chiru tribe is one of the scheduled tribes of Manipur who speak an old Kuki dialect of Kuki-Chin group of language and they have close affinity with the Koms.
  • According to the Census of 2001, the population of the Chiru tribe is 5487 as against a population of 3664 reported in the Census of 1981. Also as per the enumeration of Tribal Benchmark Survey in 1983, the distribution of the Chirus in Manipur is as: in Senapati district, 2114 Chirus are distributed in 345 households; in Tamenglong district, at Nungba there are 737 Chirus in 116 households and; in Henglep region of Churachandpur district, 838 chirus are distributed in 86 households.
  • The tribe name “Chiru” is derived from their historical settlement site “Chibu”. They are said to be originated from Falam in the Chin Hills. In Manipur Chiru is mentioned as early as the middle of the sixteenth century. (Col J. Shakespeare: The Lushai-Kuki Clan).
  • In Chiru cultural configuration, the members are characterized to be neither individualistic nor personified. Right from their birth, an individual belongs to the community and in other words, a child is not the personal property of their own parents. A person should seek to blend into the group and rotate around the community life. So, parents have no right and they cannot bring their children up against the village right upon children. At the age of 8/9 years, a male child enters Leibak and after the completion of 3 years he becomes Darkai and he is allowed to use cloth. Before that he should remain naked. But after entering to Darkai, he becomes a socially approved youth. With the attainment of youth, if his family is of weak manpower, he is allowed to do work for his family by seeking permission.
  • The tradition of Chiru recognizes two social groups, namely Ulelam (senior) and Sairek (junior) into which all the men folk are arranged to enroll in either of the two groups. Reciprocal exchange is followed for economic activities.
  • Marriage involves inter-clan link. Among the Chirus, there are five clans, namely Danla, Raja, Sampar, Dingthoi and Chongdur with seven lineages each. To be a mate, one has to take wife from particular clans and a girl is given to a boy of a particular clan as allowed by their custom.
  • The clan also takes part in the admisnitration of the Chirus which is of village level. Village council consists of Khullakpa/Tuipai of Danla Clan, Meitei Lambu of Dingthoi Clan (it is in care of Dolang village but at Uran Chiru, it is held from any clan), Sangpu/ Khullakpa from Raja Clan and Thirsu from Dinthoi or Sampar or Chongdur. At present, in the Chiru villages, the village council exists in namesake and real power lies in the hand of village authority even though the post of chairman is conciliated by the Khullakpa Tuipai.
  • The pre-Christian Chirus are ancestor worshippers and performed various festivals with dance and music. Important ones are Laipusak celebrated in January/February. Only men folk enjoy it and it also bounds the calling of soul of paddy. Lamvaka is held in December in front of the Khangsen (dormitory). Darkai is observed during June-July. It is performed for every three years. It admits the children to step into another stage. Cheiraoba and Saroikhangba are also observed for the propitiation of spirits and prevention of disasters.
  • The modern dress of the Chirus is influenced by Meitei and Western Cult. Traditionally women wear no blouse, but use skirts, cloth as waist band and ornamented with Balongmo (peacock feather), har (wristlet), harbulo (armlet), ruithipui (bracelet of red bead), Sabet rui (necklace), while men use Lukhai (coiffeur), Pounbaiba (cloth wrapped across the chest from left shoulder towards right side waist) and Der (loin cloth). The Chirus wear a curious fillet of cane round the head and part the hair in the middle so that it is easy to distinguish a Chiru man.

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