Impact of Christianity and Modernity in Mizoram’s Culture - Northeast India Christian Fellowship Madras Christian College on the occasion of Cultural Sunday - Mizoram 18.09.2016
Greetings and thank you Northeast Indian Christian fellowship MCC for inviting me to address this occasion.
I am happy to note that Northeast India Christian fellowship has a very positive impact among the northeast youth in Chennai.
I would like to start by reading the verse for today.
(Ecc.12:1). Remember that He made you, that He provides for you, that He cares for you, that He watches you, that He controls you; and remember that He can save you too. That’s a lot to remember, but it’s much easier to start memorizing when we are young!
As today’s theme I about Mizoram and it’s Culture- I would like for futher expand on how Christianity as well as modernity has impact on Mizoram’s culture both good and bad.
Well, to begin with, what comes to your mind when we talk about Culture, maybe many things depending on whom you ask, but to me I feel it can be divided into two broad sections.
Firstly, the arts, drawings, painting, architecture, food, handloom, dress of the society
Secondly, the customs, social behaviour of the society. I would like to expand more on the social behaviour and customs of Mizoram for your broad understanding.
a. No Dowry – Mizoram does not have a dowry system to speak of, except that instead of dowry being paid by the women to men in lakhs of rupees in mainland India, In Mizoram, we pay a dowry of about Rs 400-600 which is also again distributed among uncles, aunties and relatives about Rs 20 each which is more or less as a token of expression of support and love to the couple in times of need. You need to understand here that Rs 400-600 was a princely sum about 50 years back which could have brought a couple of cow’s or buffaloes. Fortunately, the dowry system has not kept up with inflation but the true meaning and symbolism continues to be handed down over generations.
b. No Caste System – There is absolutely no caste system in Mizoram. You can choose whatever profession you want, no one judges you based on what case you are based. People identify themselves more with local place where they stay and Christian denomination they belong to.
c. Honesty – The Mizo’s live in one of the freest society, in earlier days before the British occupation, the houses in Mizoram never had locks, they just used to put a log on the door to show that they are away. Till to day, there are shops in Mizoram along the road call Nghah loh dawr, or Shops with no caretaker. They just put the products on sale like vegetables, fruits, etc and put a sign on the rate of the product with a cash box nearby where the purchaser can just drop the amount or get change, which shows the level of honesty in Mizo culture.
d. Tlawmngaihna – or in my simple definition, “Putting others or society before self” is the theme of Mizo society. Mizo society is a very close knit society and in times of death and disaster, people help each other without any expectation of financial compensation. In case of death, the youth from society dig the grave, others bring tea, chairs to the house of grieved ones to console. In times of disaster like house blown away by cyclone, fire or landslide, the whole community will come to build a new house with all materials without again expecting any financial compensation. The system of tlawmngaihna extends to other aspects of mizo society as well.
e. Gender Equality – The Mizo people have a culture of gender equality, it really does not matter to a Mizo family weather a son or a daughter is born, both are equally appreciated and are given the same love, commitment and opportunities in Mizo families. In fact in Mizo society, you will find that the Majority of commercial establishments are looked after by the women folks, the same in government service.
However due to change in society, there have been some negative aspects which has crept into Mizo culture.
Due to change in Culture and society and impact of Media and social media, many of them have had some bad impacts.
1. Drugs and Alcohol – While alcohol has been around before Christianity, the missionaries who came did not encourage it, however due to proximity to Myanmar and golden triangle, drugs is not difficult to find and many youth have died of drgs over dose.
2. AID and Promiscuity – Due to impact of social media, TV a lot of the youth are involved in immorality which tends to lead to HIV Aids infection, unwanted pregnancy having a heavy toll on society.
3. Living beyond means – Many youth see the beautiful people in TV or Movies and aspire to live the dream life but without working hard for it and live beyond their means which makes them indebted.
I would like to encourage the youth who have also come here that while our society has been beautiful cultural aspects to it, there are also danger creeping into society because of peer pressure, but It’s also important to plan well and not fall prey to this bad practices and if you have fallen to any of these temptations or depravity, to set your life straight.
Many of us here from Northeast have head hunter fore fathers, if God forbid we were still animist and non Christians imagine what would be out outcome, just close your eyes and imagine where you would be and what profession would you be. Imagine other non Christian culture and see how the low caste are treated by high caste people even today, they are definitely not treated well. We would be semi illiterate or illiterate trying to live doing labor just about managing with our livelihood. So just imagine, your great grandfather may have been probably an animist, maybe he converted to Christianity, maybe it was your grandfather but their desire to seek the truth in the scripture, the Bible encouraged them to study and learn the word of God, which made them literate, and their literacy not only had an impact on their spiritual life, but also on their mental, social and health. They lived a healthier life, got better jobs and hence were able to support your father who maybe got a better chance than your grandfather. Therefore, it is upto you to take advantage of this blessing that God has given to you and me to utilize the opportunity we have to study hard and live an honest life remembering our creater. Do not spoil the hard work of your father or grandfather who have sacrificed for you. Be proud of your heritage and culture, and remember that you have moved from head hunter to a Christian culture of showing love and respect to society. Wishing you all the best in your studies here in this grand college so that you will be a blessing to society.