LEN NUPA, fabled a fairyland, is the tie that binds Tedim and Falam ~ Dr. James Dongno
Many nations in the world have stories about fairylands in their folklore and cultures. Fairylands are generally mythical, legendary, incorporeal and they are more of imagination in nature. They commonly have intriguing stories which are more fictitious or supernatural than they are factual and so they rarely physically exist in the real world.
Known to the local people for many years and looming large in their mythology, LenNupa has the reputation as one such fairyland. However, it has one characteristically absolutebull distinctiveness from all other fairylands in that it is physical! The place itself, where its wonders that seemed supernatural but were personally witnessed by hunters from villages around the sanctuary had happened, still exists in all its former glories today. This is what makes LenNupa extraordinary from all other fairylands of the imaginary world. However, with the advance of Christianity the mystical events believed to be the work of the Devil, have dwindled over the years leaving only the physical beauty of its nature pretty much the same to this day for visitors to enjoy.
LenNupa, Tedim’s coveted natural heritage : Nestling snugly atop Ailam Ridge, unrivalled by Thuam Tuili lake, Innbuk Mual, Lihli (Rih) lake and Lunglenkawl in novelty , LenNupa is Tedim’s proudest heritage, a gift of nature’s art. It is just three miles west of Kapteel, the biggest village in Chin State with more than 700 houses, ( the State’s standard villages have 150 houses) on the India-Myanmar ASEAN Highway which is to be constructed next year, 2019. Only sixteen miles west of Tedim, the commercial hub of Chin State, LenNupa would be just twenty-minute drive when the highway is completed.
Chief Pu Thuam Thawng bought land from Tashon Chief: It is impossible to talk about LenNupa without mentioning Kapteel, the seat of the Chief of the yonder area, Gungal, west of Manipur River, encompassing LenNupa. Kapteel was established in 1867. Pu Thuam Thawng, son of High Chief Pu Gawh Pau of Saizang, was appointed chief of Kapteel to establish feudal chieftainship in the area. In his early incumbency, he bought a large parcel of land from Chief Pu Con Bik of Tashon, who initially asked 120 mithuns (gayals) for the property. They finally agreed to settle a deal by payment of the following in lieu of the original asking price : a/ 17 flintlock short guns, b/ one pair of elephant tasks, c/ one brass gong, d/ one set of cymbals, normally consisting of 3 pieces, e/ one mithun, f/ one live wild mithun (pyiang), and g/ setting free Lal Vanchingii, the daughter of Khuangleng headman Pu Thanrangaa. (Names from LAAITUI KHUA MUAL SUANG) The former had been held captive in Kapteel. In fact, the headman had offered Rs.3,000 in ransom money to Pu Thuam Thawng for the release of his daughter but it had been declined. Now, being tipped off about Pu Thuam Thawng’s intention to buy land from Con Bik, Pu Thanrangaa bribed the latter with Rs.3,000 to release his daughter as part of the transaction.
Demarcation of the purchased land:
1. The purchased land extends from Lang Kawn Ridge in the south-west to Mu Sil Ridge in the north. Customarily, the acquisition of the land was consummated to be official by public recognition with a ceremonial ritual in which Chief Thuam Thawng killed two mithuns. The lower jaw bones were smeared with the beasts’ blood by the village priest while chanting an incantation of prayer and blessings. As a demarcation of the boundary in the south-west, the blood-smeared lower jaw bone of one bull was affixed to an old oak tree on Lang Kawn Range between Saimun and Langzang villages. The other jaw bone was fixed to another oak tree on Mu Sil Ridge in the north.
2. In 1910 Capt. B. Luife reviewed the boundary of Kapteel and confirmed the south-western boundary of Kapteel Chief’s jurisdiction as, “ Ailam Mual (with LenNupa on top) then down Tuipi Lui down to its confluence with Manipur River” in the east. This was after Chief Thuam Thawng had given away part of his land to Suangzang chief, south of Kapteel.
3. In 1930, Dy. Commissioner, Lt. Colonel, LE Burne issued an appointment order that reads,
“APPOINTMENT ORDER OF CHIN HEADMEN UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 5 OF CHIN HILLS REGULATION 1896”
Dated 5th August 1930,
Tong Ko Lien (Thawng Khua Lian), son of Kyin Mang (Cin Mang) of the tribe of Sukte is hereby appointed Headmen of Kapteal (Kapteel) village. (His jurisdiction was demarcated as thus),
“The Ridge of Ailam Mwell(Mual) to the source of the Ailam Lui, then down the Ailam Lui to its confluence with the Tuipi Lui to its confluence with Manipur River. ( LenNupa is on the Ridge of Ailam Mual and the source of Ailam Lui is the sinuous stream that flows in the heart of LenNupa. (Pl see below, JSZD)
West – The Inbuk Range and the Ridge of Tak Mual as far as the Second boundary Pillar, then down the Chil-Check(Cilcik) Lui to its confluence with the Kwe Lui(Khuai Lui) then down Kwe Lui to its confluence with Tang Lui……(Circle No, 9 Gvp. No.95/176T of 1949SCAG – Falam p 11) (Copy retained at Kapteel Headman’s Office)
Additional evidences testifying LenNupa is in Kaptel’s domain : –
1. Commissioner Pu Thawng Cin Thang, grandson of Chief Pu Thuam Thawng, mentioned LenNupa was in Kapteel domain.…. as he organised the Sukte Independence Army, SIA, spearheaded by NW Kelly, SDO Tedim, in defence of Chin Hills from the advance of the Japanese 33 Battalion in 1944…. Pu T K Mang, Buannel pan LenNupa ah. TtZ Vol.2
2. Commissioner Pu Tual Khua Mang BA BL, Advocate, also great grandson of Chief Pu Thuam Thawng, wrote “ Famous LenNupa is included in the land purchased by Chief Pu Thuam Thawng of Kapteel from Falam Chief Pu Con Bik”. Teltui Zingsol Vol.2 II
3. Solicitor Pu Lian Za Kam wrote “ Mr NW Kelly, Sub-Division Officer of Tedim , Pu Thawng Cin Thang (Later Commissioner) and others temporarily based their Head Quarters at LenNupa in Kapteel domain on the 14th March 1944, and thence on to Sa Ek.” SuangSuang Magazine p 152.
4. Len Nupa is in Kapteel Ward, ‘Ohsuh” The permanent official map, in use for administrative affairs as well as records of land since the British rule in 1890, retained at Land Records Department, SDO’s Office, Tedim Sub-division, depicts LenNupa in Kapteel domain. (Pl see map )
5. Moreover, there is a general consensus that LenNupa is in the domain under Chief of Kapteel and it is pretty much so in the folk memory of Tuitawh, Laitui, Muizawl, Zampi, Mualpi, Thalmual and Phaiza villagers even to this day. All these should suffice to evidently confirm that LenNupa is in Kapteel’s domain.
Discovering LenNupa: Unlike most places, LenNupa had three names including its erstwhile name, Luazang. First called Luazang by neighbouring villagers then christened ‘Buannel’ by Pu Kai Tuah, it finally became known as LenNupa, in a ‘history-making’ friendship.
Originally called Luazang : Earlier, people often heard something strange at this place. They heard a loud voice, sounding like someone drunk was vomiting, echoed the valley. The place was therefore originally called, “Lua Zang” meaning “The Vomiting Field”. Hence the sinuous stream – Lua Lui, meaning “Vomiting Stream ” which continues down to its confluence with Tuipi Lui, and thence down to its confluence with Manipur River.
During the rule of Chief Pu Thuam Thawng over the area since 1867, Pu Kai Tuah, a valiant warrior, was his trusted ‘defence minister’.[Later, Pu Kai Tuah rose to second in rank after Chief, Pu Thuam Thawng on “the assault of the British political officer Tun Win”, famously known as ‘Myo-uk suam’, at Suangbum in 1892 in an act of defending Zoland (Chin Hills) from British annexation]. Thrice every year Pu Kai Tuah made regular reconnaissance missions around Kapteel scouring the forests for anything that is militarily suspicious and not in keeping with the area.
A vast open clearing with hillocks and a serpentine stream: On one of his regular missions Pu Kai Tuah and his army accidentally came to a vast expense of open grassland in the thick forests that capped the ridge of Ailam Mual. It was a 120-acre grassland with what looked like gigantic ant-hills scattered all over the area. At the middle was a valley where a small stream flowed with its serpentine course running side to side almost flowing back into itself as the ground was level. The water was cold and crystal clear, flowing stealthily – whisper quiet.
A flat rocky deck: At one place is a flat rock formation with regular columns in exactly the same appearance as the deck, innka, of a house. Innka, the front deck, is an essential part of a typical Tedim house. Made of thick broad timber planks usually of teak wood, innka serves as an alfresco accommodation during feasts, weddings and funerals, as a sort of social arena and is also a perfect place to sundry grains during harvest time.
Pu Kai Tuah christened the place ‘Buannel’ : Pu Kai Tuah was fascinated by the awesome natural beauty of the landscape that defied descriptions. Perhaps the question was not who would want to live here with all its stark scenic beauty all around; maybe it should be who, on earth, wouldn’t? And so overwhelmed, Pu Kai Tuah then thought of establishing a village there. As they explored further down the valley where the stream flowed, they found themselves in a marshy ground of knee-deep soft mud and they trundled along squelching. Pu Kai Tuah, therefore, named the place, ‘Buan nel’, meaning “Smooth Mud”. It was the second name.
The tie that binds us : Why is LenNupa known as Buannel in Falam area?
One day on another reconnaissance mission, Pu Kai Tuah and his army came back to ‘Buannel’. They spotted a man of good physical build having his meal by the winding stream all alone. Pu Kai Tuah stalked and captured him charging him of espionage in preparation for a tribal war on Kapteel. He accused him “ You come here to spy on my territory. I will not kill you but take you as my slave.” The man was cringing before Kai Tuah, shaking like a leaf, “ Please do not capture me, I do not spy on your territory. I am from Bocung village. I have come here to ask for game from Chawng Tin Leri who, we believe, is the goddess in possession of wildlife. Please pardon me and do not take me slave”, he begged.
Trading names : A feeling of compassion surged through Pu Kai Tuah as he listened to the man’s relentless plea for forgiveness and freedom. Pu Kai Tuah then reprieved his captive but demanded his hunting spear. The man kept begging for pardon and gave Pu Kai Tuah his sword. Pu Kai Tuah then said “OK, killing or enslavement do no good to either party, so let us be friends and as a token of our friendship let’s trade the names by which we call this place”. The man said “We called this place, LenNupa”. Pu Kai Tuah and party then took LenNupa and they gave the man Buannel and let him go free completely pardoned – a friend. From that day on people in Tedim call this mystically beautiful place LenNupa and those in Falam area call it Buannel. LenNupa, therefore, is the third and final official name of the place.
A unique symbol of pardon and friendship : It is interesting to note here that notwithstanding ‘Buannel’ does not mean anything to Falam people and neither does ‘Len’ to the Tedim people, both parties have been steadfastly faithful to honour their agreement to this very day by keeping their traded names. This is a unique symbol of pardon and friendship put into practice for the first time ever recorded in the tribal history of the track. In those days, Pu Kai Tuah could have easily killed him and added his trophy-head to embellish his already highly-esteemed image to further his eminence and influence in the society.
A pardon, ‘out of the blue’ : Pu Kai Tuah’s compassionate mercy on the Bocung man who trespassed on Kapteel’s territory, an act punishable with enslavement or beheading as commonly accepted by tribal practices of that time, came “out of the blue“ given it happened on his mission to scout the area for any alien trespassers and here he got in his hand exactly the culprit he was looking for. He had unreserved right to do whatever he wanted as dictated by the tribal practices of the time.
Pu Kai Tuah, the epitome of kindness to be cherished with equal gratitude : Instead, Pu Kai Tuah turned it around, pardoned him completely and made friends with his offender. He did entirely of his own ‘history-making’ volition. This is marvellously a forerunner of concept of the modern civilised world, poles apart from the time, and of course never before heard of in the land. The names, LenNupa and Buannel therefore, are testaments of kindness, pardon and friendship encapsulated. This should always remain to be cherished and respected in our generation and on as a binding friendship between the peoples of Tedim and Falam. And the names Len Nupa and Buannel as they are called on either side should always be resonant with memories of Pu Kai Tuah, the epitome of untold kindness which by no other means whatsoever can be reciprocated enough except with equal respect, gratitude and civility.
LenNupa, a fairyland? : There are many gripping stories about LenNupa as witnessed personally by many villagers of Kapteel making it a physical fairyland the like of which nowhere else to be found.
An orchestral music with boisterous children: Except for the occasional bird songs punctuating the calm atmosphere, tranquillity reigned at LenNupa. But suddenly at one point, much to their bewilderment, in the midst of the serenity Pu Kai Tuah and his entourage heard the most unexpected cacophony of drum, gong, cymbals and horn with voices of children echoing through the valley. Strange as it was, not one, not two, but all of them heard it in broad day light. It was strange and all too eerie – a ghost country? – a fairyland too real? Pu Kai Tuah instantly dropped the idea of settling a village there.
Dos and Don’ts : In those days it was tribal taboo against uttering things like LenNupa or Innka when one was at LenNupa . They used the word “ Hausa pi” meaning, The high Chief or “I Pute khua”, meaning, our grand fathers’ village, for LenNupa and “ Hausapi’ innka” meaning, The High Chief’s deck, for the rocky deck. Because people got lost when they ignored it and to disregard this taboo was at one’s peril.
Damages done were restored : Many experienced that if they playfully trampled the sinuous stream’s narrow banks to let the water flow back into itself just for the hell of it, they discovered back they were restored exactly as if nothing had been done to the original state.
Beware of big words! Once a group of hunters pitched their camp at LenNupa. One of them had a call of nature and the rest warned him to be careful not to get lost. “Get lost?, there’ll be nothing like that” he replied defiantly. On the way back he was seen wandering aimlessly around the camp not knowing how to get back. They watched him for quite a while in amusement but eventually they called his name saying “We are here”. All at once he could locate the place and returned to the camp. He later admitted he totally and completely lost his way. From that day on he vowed to be more careful to speak next time when at LenNupa.
Nocturnal orchestras : Hunters often lost their way home ending up spending nights at LenNupa and they heard orchestras of gong, cymbals, drum and horn all night long.
Lullaby all night : A man named Phawng Gin on one of his night watch in the bothy of his Bungzang taungya near LenNupa heard, in the still of the night, a voice clearly and loudly singing a lullaby the whole night “ Dear friend, if you do love your mum come and drink “water of peace”. As for me, I don’t love my dad nor mum, but my teeth are lurid red as I chew sugar canes grown in my garden down below.” It was said there once grew a kind of sugar cane without nodes which, however, had become extinct.
Nahlun : There was a ‘tree of forgetting’ called ‘nah lun ‘ , meaning ‘the leafy’ tree. LenNupa was known as the temporary resting place for the spirits of the dead, a haven where the spirits spent a while after death lamenting over their distraught families. In order to relieve the painful memory they had to eat the fruit of nahlun that helped them sever the tie with their earthly families. From there they went on to their final destinations.
Feasting with the spirits of the dead : During Khuado festival, the Zomi (Chin) New Year, that follows harvest time, there were great celebrations in the village. Good food and zu, abounded and people danced, sang, ate and drank. Just past midnight spirits of the dead came down from LenNupa to Kapteel joining in one after another. They danced, ate and drank too, but somewhat in an uncanny way through the night. Then just before dawn they whispered to one another and returned back to LenNupa, disappearing inconspicuously one by one . This was observed only by the elderly men, women and the village spiritual leader.
Warning! No bird shooting : In 1952 the Middle School Headmaster of Kapteel, Siapi Tuang Za Cin took his students on an excursion to LenNupa. On the way up near LenNupa they were shooting and chasing a quail. As luck would have it they didn’t get it. That night they dreamt that a young girl asked them angrily “ Why did you shoot our chicken? My father was very angry. If you got it he would not let you go unpunished”. ( Oct. 12, 2018) Dr James Suan Za Dong