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Meitei transliteration of the term "Gangte".jpg
The term "Gangte" written in Manipuri script (Meitei script)
Total population
40,000 (approx) worldwide[1]
Regions with significant populations
Northeast India, Bangladesh, Burma
Gangte language
Related ethnic groups
Meitei  · Chin  · Thadou  · Hmar  · Mizo  · Simte  · Vaiphei  · Zou  · Paite

Gangte is an ethnic group mainly living in the Indian state of Manipur. They belong to the Zo people and are parts of the Kuki or under Mizo tribe and are recognised a tribe of Manipur, India. They are also indigenous inhabitants of Mizoram, Assam and Myanmar, and a recognised tribe under the Indian Constitution.[2] With a population of approximately 40,000 worldwide (as of 2018),[3] they primarily live in Manipur's southern Churachandpur district and neighbouring states of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam.

Gangte also live in Chin State and Kabaw Valley of Myanmar.

Other clans or ethnic people in this group are the Thadou, Lushei, Paite, Vaiphei, Simte, Zou and any other Chin-Kuki-Mizo tribes.

Gangte is also the name of the language spoken by the Gangte people of northeast India and Burma, one of the northern Chin, Kuki and Mizo languages of the Tibeto-Burman family.


The Gangtes, like the rest of their brethren (Chin-Kuki-Mizo) traced their origin from Khul, which means 'Cave'. This cave is believed to be in present-day China.

Folktales and folk songs describe places such as Shan, Raken (known as Arakan in Myanmar), etc. which are located in present-day Myanmar.

Washed up and over by myriads of interpretations and takes, the genesis of the Gangtes is almost like a well-kept secret bedimmed by theories of grandeur or otherwise. As is won't to any tribal history wanting in documentation, the Gangtes have their chronicle etched in folklores and traditional oral transmissions and legends.

There are two theories regarding the origin of Gangte.

Firstly, the name Gangte derived from a place called "Ganggam" and all the inhabitants were called Gang-te, meaning "from Gang" or "people of (from) Ganggam or Gangland".

Secondly, Gangte is believed to be the name of the ancestor of the Gangte.

According to one folktale, Gangte progenitor wandered through the forest with his dog and finally build a village. He had three sons namely Mangte, Mate, and Tukgek. Tukgek had a son named Thanglun, who in turn had 10 (ten) sons. These three sons of the progenitor viz Mangte, Mate, and Tukgek along with their sons are the clans and sub-clans of present-day Gangte.

At present days, most Mangte and Mate people do not speak Gangte as they are mingled with other tribes or communities while most of the descendants of Tukgek speak Gangte, preserving the custom and culture.

Though the term Gangte is much wider used than thought, people mistakenly refer to it as descendants of Tukgek such as Thanglun, Teklah, Neihsiel, Thangjom, and their sub-clans.

Socio-political structure

Late 19th century and earlier

The village

The village, as an institution, occupies primacy on par with other forms of institutions among the Gangtes. According to Rev. G.S. Gangte in his book Gangte Chronicle, the village constitutes the bedrock of the social, economic and administrative complex of the Gangtes. Owing to their nomadic tendency, the Gangtes are rarely famed for establishing a flourishing village. In effect, the location of their jhum sites solely determines the situation of their settlements. It is pertinent to note here that like the rest of the tribes, the Gangtes built their villages on hill-tops in consideration of defence against wild animals and enemies which as per history were not wanting. J. Gin Za Tuang (History of the Zomi Family, 1973) asserted that the tribes of CHIKIM, of which Gangte is a unit, after migrating from Tibet to Central China, hid in caves for fear of enemies. Thus, the inference, the Tribes originated from Khul or Cave.


Khawmuol is the prelude to any Gangte village, a gateway that leads to the village. Khawmuol is a special zone that one passes through just before entering any village proper. No doubt it occupies a pivot niche in village affairs. The villagers erect a wooden post at Khawmuol upon which they hang the heads of enemies taken after tribal wars. Dignitaries from outside or other tribes are welcome and received here. Moreover, important dos like magical incantations to cast off wild spirits have presided over at the Khawmuol.

Shelter (home)

The primitive Gangtes maintained utmost sacredness with a cumbersome meticulousness in choosing the location for assembling new houses. They, as a matter of tradition, effectuate a ritual which includes erecting three stone pillars, about knee high each; and facing each other in a triangular orientation. Then, an egg would be snapped in two halves and placed on top of a fire lit between the pillars. If the froth falls towards the to-be owner of the house, the site is deemed fit and auspicious. Otherwise, they search and test a new location for setting up a shelter.

When built a typical Gangte house is mostly erected out of wood, hay and bamboo. The front wall usually doubles up as the mantelpiece where owners display heads of animals hunted.


For the Gangtes, chieftainship occupies the highest court of administration and arbitration. Chieftainship, an ascribed position, exacts unquestioning obedience and undying loyalty from the subjects. Dr T.S.Gangte, in his magnum opus The Kukis of Manipur, elaborated the power of the chief. Dr Gangte wrote that disobedience of the Chief merits expulsion from the village, and neither could outsiders immigrate without his assent. The power of the Chief is nigh absolute in the sense that even in the distribution of and access to the wealth of the land, nothing goes but the Chief's will. The Chief is not only the ruler over his villagers; he is also their protector in times of adversity like famines and tribal wars. If a villager migrates without the proper consent of the chief, his property and belonging are detained by the Chief.

The Gangte Chief is entitled to certain tributes from his subjects viz, Changseu, Salieng and Khuotha.

  1. Changseu: This is a tribute paid to the chief out of reverence and loyalty. Practised till now, Changseu is a form of the tribal taxation system, customarily paid in paddy produce. It varies from two, three or five tins of rice grain. The Chief can exempt certain classess of villagers who are needy and poor from paying Changseu. This exempted lot is anticipated to offer either chicken or tribal brew to the Chief on the day of Changseu collection. Another set of exempted classess is constituted by the members of the village council. Changseu is annually collected on a particular date, post-harvest; and the Chief is obliged to treat his subjects to a sumptuous buffet or binge session.
  2. Salieng: Literally reworded, Salieng means the shoulder blade of animals. This is gifted to the Chief by anyone who caught wild animals in gratitude to his permission to hunt within his Chiefdom. It is also obligatory and villagers who play truancy are punished, punishment entails slaying a mithun or paying forty rupees to invite the Chief's exoneration.
  3. Khuotha: It refers to the collective labour force of all households in the village that a chief can call for if the need arises. Even the villagers are entitled to invite Khuotha but they must provide lunch for the village labour corps on the day of social work. Further, the Chief can make a trade for Khuotha in lieu of Changseu but is not obliged to furnish meal on the day he asks for the labour force.

Siehmang Upa

Siehmang Upa are selected members of the village council who aids the Chief in the Administration of the village. Elite capacities, Siehmang Upa are men of impeccable integrity and excellence in all walks of life. They are exempted from all kinds of tributes and taxes. The number of Siehmang Upa is relative to the size of the village. The combo of the Chief and Siehmang Upa constitute the village court wherein disagreeing parties sort out their differences or grievances. Anyone resolving to litigate against fellow-villager in the village court must pay the customary fee of a pot of country liquor. If any of the party is found guilty, then the same is compelled by ethics to slay, as a penalty, either a mithun or a swine and cough up a swelling pot of tribal brew. The village court also employs the service of the Tangsam or town-crier, which invariably is a hereditary status.


Otherwise known as the village/town-crier, the tangsam is the official spokesman of the village. Dr T.S. Gangte elucidated that the Tangsam has a prestigious role and the range of his chores is expansive. He is conferred with the duty to inform all the Siehmang Upa when and where the village council is to meet, and also to apprise the villagers of the outcome of the council's deliberations. For all his contributions, the villagers repay him with a tin of paddy each annually. It is hard to limit or detail the exact status and role of the Tangsam as he, literally, is the errand boy of the village who delivers as demanded.

Thiempu (priest)

A conspicuous facet of the primitive Gangte polity is the role played by the village priest, who is also the doctor of the village. Natively known as Thiempu, his status and role is a standout for the fact that there are certain areas of jurisdiction where his decision is the law. Given a situation, the priesthood is the only office that can challenge and curb the tyranny of the Chief. However, for all its might and main, priesthood is considered hereditary, with certain factors engendering its ascribedness. The nuances of healing and the enigma of medicine are well-kept secrets, finely hidden from the knowledge of the public. The passage of tricks of the trade is only between the priest and his sons or grandsons. Moreover, one has to spend a considerable amount to learn the secrets of healing and this discourages most of the villagers. Rev. Gangte has suggested that in some situations, the priest is considered the head of the village. His role is more pronounced than that of the chief vis-a-vis festivity and religion.

As the keeper of the health of the masses, the sickly are referred to the priest who is expected to identify the cause of the illness. The spirit of the age has it that all ailments are the handiwork of evil spirits, and the priest is expected to cast them out. Patients are treated by the priest with indigenous herbs and magical invocations. So long as the incantation or spell is not revoked from the patients, they are not allowed to socialise with the rest of society. The priest does not charge any consultation fee from the villagers. But the villagers pay for his service by doling out a tribute in the form of paddy or other items. The priest also conducts divine sessions with the spirit and prays for the productivity of the land. Hunters returning from a successful safari are welcome by the priest at the Khawmuol with drums and chants for which the priest is entitled with a bulk of the meat of the hunted.

One captivating aspect of priesthood concerns the priest unquestionable power to restrict entry to the village. The priest, when circumstances demanded- that often are tribal wars and plague, would hang a branch of tree (Theubawk) at the Khawmuol to signal that sojourners and strangers are not permitted to enter the village. This ban applies even to the next of kin of the priest if they reside in another village. Anyone who trespasses this ban is liable to the harshest penalty.


Thiksek is the blacksmith of the village. In fact, every village has its blacksmith who takes care of knives, spades, saws and other instruments implemented for daily work in the fields. Even warfare contraptions like swords, sabres, guns, arrows and gunpowder are the produce of the blacksmith. As such no village can afford to persist without a blacksmith. In appreciation of his deeds, the villagers return the favour in the form of a tin of paddy per household annually. Should any villager be successful in their hunts, they are bonded by custom to gift a chunk of the catch to the blacksmith as Thiksek-sa.

Suok (slaves)

Chroniclers like John Shakespeare were the first to highlight the existence of slavery in CHIKIM society. In his work The Lushai Kuki Clans (1912), he put forth a detailed view on tribal slavery. On the whole, slavery among the tribals vastly differs from that of the West or New World. Tribal slavery is not under duress, it's almost voluntary. Close observation gives the impression that in most cases, slavery seemed the only option for survival. Among the Gangtes three variants of slavery were practiced:

L.B. Thanga (the Mizos, 1979) says that till 1928, Chemsan Suok can buy freedom by compensating the Chief, his master, with a mithun or forty rupees in cash.

Naming system

The Gangtes does not have written history so to know their history and ancestry and to trace their lineage a unique method of naming was and is still in use today. The grandparents named their grandchildren from the last syllable of their name for instance Thangmang = Manglun = Lunkholal = Lalminlun and so on. The grandfather will named the grandson and the grandmother the granddaughter. The firstborn son and daughter will be named after the paternal grandparents each and the secondborn son and daughter after the maternal grandparents. Any child (children) other than the first and secondborn can be named by friends, family or relatives of the child's parents following the aforementioned rule. This naming system is also used by most of the Zo peoples .

Christianization and the new socio-political structure

  1. The Church:

With the advent of Christianity in the late 19th century among the Lushais of Mizoram and its subsequent infiltration to the southern parts of Manipur spreading among the Thadous, Hmars, Vaiphei, Gangtes in the early 20th century, the traditional mode of education was soon replaced by the Church. Presently, ESC (Evangelical Synod Church) under ECCI and GBA (Gangte Baptist Church) are the predominant churches.

  1. Gangte Tribes Union (GTU) is the apex body of the Gangte people.

Besides, there are numerous organisations among the Gangtes. Wherever there is a Gangte, a certain form of Organisation is established to interact, provide help, communicate and bond the Gangte people.

2. Gangte Youths Organisation (GYO) is a philanthropic organisation working for and helping the needy, destitute and distressed and also working for the welfare of the people.

3. Gangte Students Organisation (GSO) is an apex students body of the Gangte people. The GSO work for the welfare of the students and learners either academic or any arts or displine or field of study.

4. Gangte Literature Society (GLS) is a body working for the preservation, promotion and upholding the Gangte language.

5. Gangte Culture and Custom Society is work for the preserving and promoting the culture, tradition and custom of the Gangte.

  1. Education:

The Gangtes are one of the most educated and brilliant among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo community. 99% of the population are literate, all persons are well educated and mannered and are mostly fully employed.

The Gangtes are very well developed. Among the history of the world, India, Burma and Bangladesh: the Chin-Kuki-Mizo in particular, they have set a number of records.

Of those records, mention may be of Dr. Tongngul Gangte who among the tribal people of Manipur was the first person to pass HSLC EXAM (Class X) in 1924.


As in ancient Gangte, the Present day Gangtes are very honorable. They predominantly live in and around Churachandpur town (Manipur). They are also well known in History, Politics, Education, Arts and Science.

Notes and references

  1. ^ "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  2. ^ "List of notified Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census India. pp. 7–8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  3. ^ Distribution of the 100 non-scheduled languages