Lushei, The

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Lushei, The An ethnic group which is thought to have come from Burma, now Mayanmar. They identify themselves as the descendants of the Mongoloid race. The staple diets of the Lusheis are rice and vegetables. They produce paddy and vegetables through jhum cultivation. Among the favourite dishes of the Lusheis, Sa-um-bai (curry made of pig's oil, vegetables and chillies) is the outstanding one. The Lusheis keep fish and meat atop a bamboo-frame with fire below heating those up in order to preserve them for a long time; these are cooked and eaten later on.

Traditional dance of the Lusheis

The Lusheis used to wear dresses made of animal hide in the past. Later on, a wrapper called hukhal made of thread spun from cotton used to be put on initially by Lushei males and later females. With the passage of time, the women started to wear dresses made of woven fabric such as puanfel (thami), korchung (tops/blouse) etc and the men korchur (shirts) and puanbi (lungi) etc. Besides, the Lushei women wear different kinds of thami, such as puan-roupui, puan-chei, puan-dum, 'ngoute-kher' etc. The Lushei women like to wear and decorate themselves with ornaments of different designs. They wear necklace made of expensive stones.

In the second half of the 19th century, the Lushei alphabets, which resembled the Roman alphabets, were introdced through the initiatives of Baptist Missionaries Reverend F W Sevidodge and Bishop J H Lorraine. They set up education centres for educating the Lushei youths. Gradually, the Lusheis became interested about receiving education. At present, almost 96% Lusheis are educated and working in various government and private organisations.

The Lusheis are very culture-minded and conscious about preserving their own culture. Their distinct traditions, dresses, furniture, equipment, ornaments etc. are still in vogue.

The Lusheis used to worship the gods and goddesses in different ways in their own villages. Later on, the religion of the Christ spread among them. At present, 100% of Lushei is belonging to Christian religions. Apart from observing religious rituals of the Christians, they observe three other major festivals. These are: Chapcharkrita (spring festival); Meemtoot (in memory of the departed souls); and Palkoot (crop-harvesting festival).

The Lusheis do not allow marriages between the children of paternal uncles; but marriages between the children of maternal uncles and aunts are allowed. The old customs are still followed although there are no such marital restrictions after the adoption of Christian religion at present. If the marriage takes place according to the choice of guardians or young men and women, someone from the groom's or bride's side proposes through the palai (middleman). If the bride's parents and grandparents agree, then a date is set for the marriage ceremony.

The dowry system is prevalent in the Lushei society. In accordance with old customs, the bride takes position at the residence of the palai along with her parents and relatives a few days before the marriage. The palai arranges food for them by slaughtering pigs. On the day of the marriage, the groom's side brings the bride from the house of the palai to the groom's house and they then go to the church. After their marriage is consummated at the church, all relatives go to the groom's house and a feast is arranged there. The bride stays at the groom's residence on that day. After one or two days, the bride visits the palai's residence and all her belongings returns to the groom's house. According to the custom of the Lushei society, no marriage takes place in the month of August. Although the grooms used to wear shirts and lungi and the bride blouses and thamis in the past, at present the grooms wear shirts-pants and the brides white gown. The Lusheis allow the practice of divorce and marriage of widows.

After their adoption of Christian religion, various rituals practiced by Lusheis for disposing off corpses and their beliefs regarding dead souls are no more in vogue. The corpses are put inside graves after prayers are offered according to the Christian tradition. The youths prepare the graves and write the name of the dead, the date of passing away, name of the village etc on a stone, which is put in the soil. [Khandaker Fatema Zahra]