DimasaThe Dimasa are part of the greater Kachari group—one of the ancient Kachari tribes. They live mostly in the northern half of the Dima Hasao District, an administrative district of the Indian state of Assam that includes the ravines of the Jatinga valley and adjoining land. The name 'Dimasa' most probably stands for "children of the big river," referring to the Brahmaputra. Kacharis appear to be one of the earliest indigenous ethnic groups of north eastern India. Most independent tribal communities in this region are of Kachari origin. The Boro, Rabha, Sonowal, Thengal, Dimasa, Garo, Hajong, Deori, Chutiya, Tiwa or Lalung, Hojai, Barman of Kachar, Trippra, etc. are all of Kachari origin.
DistributionDimasa Kachari are mainly found in the present-day Dima Hasao District (Old name "North Cachar Hills") of Assam. They also have a sizable population in Dima Hasao and Nowgong Districts of the State. In Dima Hasao, following the formal conversion of their king Krishnachandra to Hinduism the ordinary Dimasas have largely adopted Hinduism. These new converts to Hinduism are called Burman of Kachar. On the other hand in Nowgong District the Dimasas have come under the influence of Assamese Vishnavism, and there they are called Hojai (Hojai is also a name of a Dimasa male clan. This term is also stands for the priest). In Dima Hasao, a section of the Dimasas is confined within the historical village named Semkhor, and eventually become a separate group of Kacharis called the Semsa Kachari.
The earliest Kachari settlements were in the foothills of the Himalayas. From there they moved to the Brahmaputra valley with their Capital at Kamruli Kamrupa. Sir Edward Gait in his History of Assam (1906) is of the opinion that the Kacharis were the aborigines or earliest inhabitants of the Brahmaputra valley. After hundreds of years of rule in the Brahmaputra valley, a bulk of this race due to socio-political turmoil, were believed to have migrated south of the Brahmaputra and settled in the areas of the present Sadiya of Assam after crossing the mighty river by planning of cane bridge, probably the Brahmaputra. This section is now known as 'Dimasa' etymologically 'the children of the great river' (di = water, ma = big, sa = children)(see Bordoloi 1988, Gait 1906).
Facing Ahom aggression, they further migrated toward south, on to the Dhansiri valley and established their capital at Dimapur presently in the state of Nagaland after a short stint at Kachomari about forty kilometers from Dimapur. It was here that the Kacharis undertook an arduous task of state building and flourished for several hundred years till 1536 when they shifted their capital to Maibang at the present day district of Dima Hasao (Old name "North Cachar Hills") of Assam. Historical relics of Kachari royaldome still exist in and around Dimapur, particularly in the Dimapur fort called Kachari Rajbari in spite of the constant ravages of human encroachment, show that the Kacharis at that period had attained a state of the result of bricks making. Among the large tanks Podum Pukhuri, Bangle Pukhuri, Bamun Pukhuri, Raj Pukhuri, Jor Pukhuri and others. still survive to this day. It is said in one folklore that during the invasion of the Ahom, The Kachari King had dumped gold and other precious metals in some of these tanks and believed to have told his subject that long after he left, a day would come when a male Mithun would come from the hills and dig up this gold by its horn, which would weigh mound (about 240 kg) and that would be the time when Kacharis rise again and prosper.
The Dimapur reign of the thirteen-century extended along the southern bank of the Brahmaputra, from the Dikhow river in the east to Kalang in the west and Dhansiri valley. Historian are not in the position to tell the exact date of establishment of the Kacharis capital at Dimapur. However, according to a Kachari tradition, the Muli bamboo( Wa-thi) flowered once after ever fifty years and during the region of the Kachari Kings at Dimapur these flowered nine times This means that they had ruled for 450 years at Dimapur, and since the Kacharis shifted their capital to Maibang in 1536 Kacharis had established Dimapur approximately in 1087. This had been elaborated rightly by S.R. Thaosen. A Dimasa Scholar in his own right, in his article. This fact becomes more vivid by the fact that when Ahoms invasion too place in this region in 1228. Dimapur was said to flourishing at its full heights. For, it must have taken at least hundred years for the King to build his state.
The beginning of the end of glorious Rule of the Kacharis at Dimapur began with the advent of the Ahoms in the upper Brahmaputra by the close of the fifteenth century. The expansionist behavior of the Ahoms lead to constant hostilities between the two. Thus in the year 1490 the major battle was in which the Ahoms were completely routed and their Chief Chuhenpha was forced to sue for peace. However peace did not last for long as the Ahoms intruded into the Kachari territory and set up a fort at Morangi(near the present Jorhat)and thus the battle ensued in 1526 AD and the Ahoms were again defeated and pushed back beyond the Dikhow river, which became the natural boundary between the two principalities for some years. Meanwhile when the Ahoms kept on consolidating their army, the Kacharis, emboldened by previous successes, became complacent and neglected the security affairs of their country. Taking advantage of this, the Ahoms again broke their peace treaty with the Kacharis and set up a fort at Morangi and thus another battle ensued and the Kacharis were finally defeated due to superior number of army. A Kachari folk tale says that the Ahom army rode on cows during this battle, which shocked the Kachari army, since killing cows would be a defilement. The Kacharis, particularly the Dimasas of that period, considered cows ‘gushu’ (impure). Only later, after they embraced Brahmanical Hinduism, did they believe cows sacred . After defeating the Kacharis monarch Khunkradao Raja, the Ahoms installed Dehtsung, the kings brother, as Dimapur King on condition of allegiance to the Ahoms ruler. However, within a few years the Kachari king revolted and refused to pay tribute to the Ahoms ruler and thus another battle became inevitable and in 1536 another fierce battle was fought. The Kachari King was completely defeated and the city of Dimapur was sacked. The survivors of the ruling clan along with loyal subjects thereafter shifted their capital to Maibang.
From Dimapur, the royal family of Kachari in their last lag of migration moved to Kashpur of Kachar district of Assam. The Kachari kingdom finally annexed by the British East India co. along with Assam following Yandabu Treaty.
Dimapur-the seat of ancient DIMASA civilizationSituated on the banks of the river Dhansiri, (originally known as Dong-siri meaning a ravine of peaceful habitation) Dimapur, often described as the ‘Brick City’ by European scholars and also by the Ahoms, was the ancient capital of a ruling nation, the Kacharis, who were once a powerful and predominant race in the Entire North-East India region particularly the Brahmaputra Valley. There are two versions of how Dimapur got its name. Many writers are of the opinion that the name ’ Dimapur’ was derived from Kachari words Di-meaning water, Ma-meaning big and Pur-meaning city or township in Dimasa dialogue. while other believe that Dimapur is a corruption of Hidimbapur , meaning the city of Hidimba of Mahabharata fame whose wedlock with Pandava prince Bhima gave birth to Ghotokacha, who is believed to be the progenitor of the Kacharis. Later Hidimbapur devolved to Dimbapur and then finally to Dimapur. In some Kachari folklores Dimapur is often referred as Dimabang Halali, which implies that Dimapur was originally known by that name but was Sanskritized later by the Brahmins. In Ahom Chronicles Dimapur has been described as ‘Che-din-chi-pen’ (town-earth-burn-make) meaning ‘brick town’ or ‘ Che-Dima’ meaning town of Dimasa
The seat of capital of Dimapur Kingdom was originally surrounded by bricks walls of four feet wide, sixteen feet high with outer ditch running alongside the walls of sixteen feet width and twelve feet in depth except on the southern side where the river Dhansiri served as the natural ditch. On the eastern side there was a fine solid gateway with brick masonry of pointed double arcs. The gate was secured by double heavy doors hinged in pierced upright setting of solid stone blocks. At both ends of the battlement there were turrets of half quadrant shape and in between the arc-way and the turrets were niches resembling ornamental windows. On both sides above the arc there were symbolic works of sun flower. There were originally inset by bright brass coating and could be seen dazzling from the great distance.
Inside the fortified city, there were seventeen artistic stone pillars. These stone monuments were decorated with carvings of foliage, flowers, familiar animals and birds but nowhere any human images of gods and goddesses were seen. These implied that the Kacharis were free of Hindu influence at that time. These monoliths are believed to be lineal monuments of the ruling kings of Dimapur. The biggest of them was seventeen feet high and twenty four feet in circumference and was said to be memorial of the greatest Dimapur ruler Makardhwaj (probably Khungkradoa Raja who was given sanskritized name by Brahmins later) in whose time the traditional glory of the Kachari Kingdom rose to its climax and during whose time the conquests were made of Manipur and Burma by Dehmalu, the greatest warlord of the Kacharis. Also during this period, heroes like Rangadao ( Who was given the southern part of Dimapur, Ranga Pathar after his name), Degadao and mystic heroines like Waringma, Waibangma flourished in war affairs and mysticism. Other V-shape stone monuments seventeen in numbers indicated seventeen royal clans of the ‘Kachari Aristocracy’ a term used by Dr. Francis Hamilton, a renowned scholar of the Kachari Royal Clan.
Shri Sk. Barpujari in his book ‘ History of the Dimasa’ and some writers opined that the Kachari Kings to commemorated their Victory over other tribesman, erected moonlights of different shapes indicating the different traditions of the vanquished tribes. This tradition of carving victory memorial is in vogue hill tribes and it is possible that the Kachari kings might have followed the tradition of these tribes hhhand it is possible that the Kachari kings might have followed the tradition of this tribes for administrative interest. Dr H. Bareh in the ‘ Gazetteer of India’ writes that the oblong V-Shaped stone pillars closely correspond to the similarly V-Shaped post protruding from the roof of the house of wealthy Angamis
The tallest and largest megalith, which lies isolated from others and has a unique Sultanate style, is believed to have been erected by the founder king of Dimapur, who after vanquishing the tribes all around made his triumphal tower to commemorate his victory and this became a tradition setter. In and around this old city, large number of tanks over fifty in number existed, although most of them have since either dried up or have been destroyed by reckless human encroachment without an iota of respect for the history. These tanks were believed to be either dug by the kings for providing water supply to their people or might have resulted due to brick making, as pieces of old bricks could still be found in and around these tanks and, as has been mentioned earlier, Dimapur was known for use of bricks. Most of large tanks are rectangular and have a hardwood seasoned poles planted deep at the centre of the tanks, which have lasted for hundreds of years. Others are of irregular shapes without any such wooden poles. Inference in that, the former ones might have been dug by the kings for water supply and the later were habitation as Digjo Dijua meaning cut off from main river or stream’ and this tradition is still in vogue, and this area covers Dimapur and Kachari inhabited areas of Karbi Anglong District of Assam in the Dhansiri valley. The present Dimapur is the commercial capital of Nagaland and is one of the fastest growing townships in the entire North-east region. But irony is, in the name of the modernity and development, this ancient city of Dimapur, whose historical relics finds a place in the World. Heritage is being gradually destroyed of its rich history by reckless human greed, and total destruction of its rich heritage is only a question of time.
Religion(sowaithai)Religion: Spiritual - In a Dimasa society, it is believed spiritual life, Spirit is a soul. Dimasa believe traditionally the re-birth of soul after death. Religion: Dimasa believe that they are the children of Bangla Raja and the great divine bird Aarikhidima. The six sons namely- Sibrai, Doo Raja, Naikhu Raja, Waa Raja, Gunyung Brai Yung, Hamyadao born to Bangla Raja and Arikhidima are their ancestors and the Dimasa consider them to be their ancestral gods. They are called Madai in Dimasa. The evil spirits born out of the seventh eggs of Arikhidima are responsible for the diseases, sufferings and natural calamities. The Dimasa consider themselves to be Hindus although they have their traditional gods and goddesses. Among the six ancestral gods, Sibrai being the oldest is the most important and even worship his name is to be uttered first. Sibrai is equated with Hindu Siva and Ranchandi with Parbati or Kali. The Diamsa also believe that Matengma, Hirimdi and Kamakhya are other names of Ranchandi. The whole Dimasa kingdom in bygone days was divided into twelve religious areas called Daikho. There are twelve priests for twelve Daikhos. The priest of a Daikho is called Zonthai is all in all. His authority is undisputed and above Zonthai is called Zonthaima. Dain-yah is for sacrificed animal. Hojai is performing the puja over the twelve Zonthais of twelve Daikhos, there is a principal priest or chief priest called Gisiya. The selected person will get the Zonthaiship only when Gisiya offers him holy water called Dithar(Di-gathar). The Dimasa concept of heaven and hell is also very faint. according to their belief Firinghi is heaven, Damra is the land for the dead where the dead persons retain their original form.
Manner is a human virtue inherent in man’s character, also and passed from father to son and mother to daughter.
In Dimasa, the village system is called Nohlai meaning a cluster of houses and the whole village with its population is called Raji. Dimasa tend to live on river banks and next to streams. Therefore, Dimasa Kachari villages are on hills, with thirty to fifty, though sometimes (rarely) as many as four hundred houses. The houses are built in two facing rows. The houses, with a timber superstructure, mud-plustered bamboo walls, and thatched roof are called Noh-Dima. Each families in a village has a few fruit trees—like Guava, mango, Jack fruit, plaintain and others.
The traditional village headman, who is at the top of the village administration, is a Khunang. He has both executive and judiciary powers. He is assisted by another official called the Dillik (Assistant Headman). Next to him is Daulathu who occupies the third place. Next to the Daulathu is the Haphaisgao, who holds office for two years. Other village officials include Phrai, Montri, Hangsbukhu, and Jalairao.
Dimasa houses use a floor plan called Noh-Dima that partitions the structure into a drawing room, sleeping room, kitchen room, and granary. A place for pounding rice is called Thengkhikho in Dimasa. Santho-rimin is another kind of pounding rice place. Dimasa use a household article like to keep water used the bamboo and for cooking use silver utensil,spoon made of wood and Dish made of wood and banana leaf and other, a house for latrin, bath room and others also. The village, ealier in Dimasa society, there is grouping system of houses which is called punji which consisted of one a place around. Nohdrang named in Dimasa called club is placed in the middle or centre in the village or punji. The road communication is contact from the village to centre i.e. market, shop, town and another place. In the socio-economic life of the Dimasa, the role played by livestock is of great significance. Domesticated animals and birds are not only required during the celebration of socio-religion festivals and performance of rituals but required for Domestic consumption and sometimes for commercials purpose also. The Dimasa Kachari rears Buffalo,Pigs, Fowls, Goats, Ducks, Cows and others. Many stone monoliths are lying scattered at Kachomari pathar on the Daiyang river in Golaghat district Assam, bears the triumphant victory in the battles many times by Dimasa King from 13th century. The remains of the palatial buildings, the traditional capital gateway and the decorative art of architecture, geometric and floral ornamentation found in these relics are marvelous. The sculptural design of animals and birds on the pillars at Dimapur by Raja Makardwaj Thousen in tenth century show clearly the state of cultural development of the Dimasa Kachari. Many erected ramparts, temples were not seen at capital complex Dimapur due to the destruction by Ahom period in 1536. Stone house was erected at Maibang by Raja Harish Chandra Hasnusa in 16th century. Stone inscription was installed at capital gate of Maibang by Raja Meghanarayan Hasnusa and statue of Horse is not worthable. Numerous temples of Garhere vitor, Khasputr and Singhadowar of Khaspur both palaces of Queen Indraprava Devi were erected by Dimaraja in 18th century bear the cultural of that time. Economy: Agricultural is the principal occupation and main source of livelihood of the Diamsa Kacharis. Dimasa were compelled to adopt shifting cultivation, commonly known as jhum, in hilly areas. Tracts of plains land suitable for permanent cultivation lying here and there between the ridges are very few. The Dimasa mainly cultivate maize, sesame, cotton and others. Many Dimasa families cultivate pineapples, oranges, cotton and mustars to a limited extent. In the jhum site itself a house to store the harvested paddy is erected and this house is called Mandu. Biba’s meaning is to be applied to a boys and girls to carry the paddy to his own house from the keeping Mandu. Custom: As Dimasa Kachari have both male clan and female clans their law inheritance is somewhat peculiar in nature. The Dimasa have a patriarchal society. But in spite of that they have three types of property namely paternal property, maternal property and common property. The paternal property consists of real estates, weapons, cash money and the cattle. The maternal or mothers property consists of jewellery, clothes and looms with their accessories used by the mother. The common property consists of the cooking utensil, brass-metal dishes and bowls and other household equipment. According to the customary law of inheritance of the Dimasa, while the paternal property is inherited by the sons, the maternal property is inherited by the daughters and common property is shared by the sons and daughters equally.
Bishu: Bishu is important festival celebrated by Dimasa with the celebration of great pomp and splenduor among the Dimasa. Bishu is celebrated after completion of harvest. Bishu, the word gives the meaning such as Brai-Sibrai or Shiva is a supreme God in Dimasa society. So, in this way, the entire harvesting new paddy offer first to the Brai sibrai madai for peace of the human kind is called Bishu. It means ‘Bi’ means pray and ‘Shu’ means asking the peace in the world. Fangsla, an artistically designed gate, is erected at the village entrance for the Bishu festival. Bishu has a three kind namely Surem Bishu observe for three or five days, Hangseu manaoba Bishu is observed for seven days and Jidab Bishu is for only one day. Gajaibao is selected as a head of the festival. He is conduct all the festival. Meats of the animals and birds killed are consume in a communal feast on the very day. Bishu is followed by singing accopaniment of playing by dancing of Kharams (Drums), Muri, the wooden buggle continues first to third days without stop. Man and woman, Boys and Girls and others with their traditional dress spends whole night by dancing in the festivals. In the afternoon local games like long jump, high jump, stone throw is organised in front of Nodrang in last day. Bishu garba is conducted by the Khunang with elders. Any chief guest, invited guest has to be welcome by playing the Muri and Kharam in any occasion in Dimasa society.
Idea: Dimasa has a concept and idea to uplight his own society. It has an education for preparation of intellectual. Dimasa has a conception of philosophy to rebirth the soul. Social: A Dimasa family generally consists of the head of the family, his wife, their unmarried son and daughter and unmarried brothers and sisters of the family. Dimasa Kachari has forty male clans called Sengphong and forty two female clan called Julu. The Dimasa society has a own society system of marriage. Existence of female clans along with the male can makes the Dimasa marriage somewhat complicated. The male clans and female clans are exogamous and no marriage can take place between the boys and the girls of the same clan whether be it patri clan or matri clan and however distantly related they might be i.e. A boy belong to Kemprai clan (Patri clan can never marry a girl of a Kemprai father although they might be very distantly related. The same principal is followed in case of the female clan also i.e. a girl belong to madaima mother.) The Ritual performance: The Dimasa have a place cremation ground called Mangkhulong. Dimasa cremate the dead body after death. The ritual performance has to be conducted after 12th days by Bramin rarely. But in olden times and days, this performance has to be conducted after one month or a year gathering all relation and others.
Dress & Ornaments(Gainsari-Phinsari)
Germants: Dimasa Kacharis,being a colourful tribe, have their own traditional dresses. A Dimasa man wears a Rhisa about a metre in breadth as a ‘Dutti’. It is generally deep green coloured. Sometimes white Rhisa is used by a man. Besides a shirt he uses a chadar called Rhimsao also. He uses also cotton or Endi-silk. Sagaopha or Turban on his head when he goes out of his village, a Dimasa woman puts on a skirt like Mekhela called Rhigo. It is either made of cotton or endi-silk. The Rhigo may be white or coloured covers her body from waist to knee below. For covering the upper part of her body. She uses a piece of cloth called Rhijamphain. It is used as a chadar. The girls at the time of dancing use a special type of chadar called Rhikhaosa. Dimasa woman weave many designable cloth called Batho rhimai and others.
Ornaments: The male Dimasa use only two types of ornaments namely Yaocher and Kharik. The woman are the habitual users of ornaments i.e. Phowal-a necklace made of silver, Khamaothai-earring made of gold, Chandrawal- silver necklace, Rangbarsa-necklace made of coin, Khadu-a heavy braclet made of silver, Eansidam-a nose ring made of silver, Liksim- a necklece of red beads and Jonsham- a necklace of ordinary beads collected from the forest. The males put on the traditional dresses like rhisa, rhithap, khaodam(shirt), rhikhaosa, Sagaopha(Phaguri-headgear), rhemsao and rhemsao-rhemai. The females put on Rhigu, Rhijamphain, Rhijamphain-beren, Rhikhaosa, Rhikhro, Jingsudu, etc. and wear ornaments like Khadudima, Khadu, Khamauthai, Longbar, Panlaubar, Chandrawal, Rangborsa, Enggrasha, Jongsama, Ligjao, Jingbri, Yaoshidam and others.
instrumental music. No songs are used. Khram (drum) follows the rhythm of the Muri (fife) and so also the dancers. Though one may find the music from Muri to be monotonous, there are variations with noticeable microtones for different dance forms. That is why young men practice dancing at Nadrang during leisure hours and the village children follow the rhythm and stepping at a distance from an early age.