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" does not appear; it is rather extraordinary tliat they should
" remain so, as they subject themselves on the hills to great hard-
" ships, while to procure subsistence in the plains is a matter of
" no difficulty. Lately I have seen some instances of their settling
" in the plains and cultivating land with ploughs." From enquiries
made while living for some years among them, as well as from
researches into old documents in their possession, I am quite
satisfied with the explanation above given of their existence in the
Hill tracts, which, as Sir Arthur Phayre remarks, seems extra-
ordinary at first blush. The reason of their having been sent there
was simply, as noted above, to control, or rather attempt to control,
the turbulent hill tribes.

In 1842 an expedition under Captain Phayre and Lieutenant
(now Major-General) Fytche was undertaken to punish a maraud-
ing and refractory tribe called " Wullings." The eft'ect of this
expedition was to stave off raids for a few years ; but it is plain that
permanent quiet was not established, for subsequently opportunity
was taken to suggest the advisability of abandoning the country
inhabited by the wild tribes, unless somesuperintendency over them
could be established. In describing the country, Mr. Piicketts, the
Commissioner of Chittagong in 1847, thus writes: — " The country
*' is so unhealthy, so difficult, and so remote, we reahy have no hold
" upon it, except through the Phroos. Our police ofiicers are almost
" invariably attacked with fever on the fourth or fifth day after enter-
" ing the forests. Even the elephant-hunters, whose vocation takes
" them into the forests only at the finest seasons of the year, at times
" suffer much. " Again, Captain Hopkinson, Commissioner of Ara-
kan, in a despatch of 1856, writes as follows : —

'• I do not believe that a more impracticable set of savages
than these tribes exist on the face of the earth ; and I am sure
that a more impracticable country than that which they occupy
could not be found : all sorts of attempts have been made to win
the confidence of the chiefs, to attach them to our pohcy, and
to humanize them in some degree. Messrs. Bogle and Phayre,
and subsequently Sir Archibald Bogle as Commissioner of this
province, gave great attention to the realization of these objects;
but I have now some sixteen years' experience of Arakan, and
I never saw any real progress towards their attainment, and it is
my profound conviction that in the establishment of a superin-
tendency lies the best and only chance of success. If that
cannot ))e tried, or if that is tried and fails, the next best thing



is, in my opinion, to leave the tribes altogether to their own
devices ; internally, to allow them the unchecked enjoyment of
their accustomed pursuits of rapine and murder ; externally, to
cut them off from all intercourse at the point at which our
authority ceases to be established. "

In June 1870, the Secretary to the Chief Commissioner wrote
to the Government of India as follows : —

" No orders appear to have been passed by the Government
of India on the recommendations of Captain Hopkinson in 1856 ;
and thus the matter stood over until 1861 and 1862, when the
Arakan local battalion was disbanded, the new pohce levies were
introduced, and Arakan became a separate division of the pro-
vince of British Burma. The progress of affairs since the forma-
tion of the Chief Commissionership on the 31st January 1862 will
be found fully detailed in a communication from Major Hamilton,*
the Officiating Inspector-General of Police in this province. No. 1064,
dated the 18th April 1870, which forms an enclosure to the present
despatch. It will be seen from paragraph 28 of Major Hamilton's
letter that from 1863 to 1869, inclusive, there have been thirty
separate raids on the part of the hill tribes, beside the ordinary
dacoities, and that in these raids 65 persons have been killed and
268 have been carried away into slavery : of the latter, only 72
captives have been recovered. General Fytche deeply regrets this
unhappy state of affairs, which has proved an insoluble difficulty,
not merely since the annexation of Arakan in 1824, but, as far as
can be ascertained, ever since the separation of Chittagong more
than a century ago. In 1777, under the administration of Waeren
Hastings, the British authorities in Chittagong were compelled to
apply for military aid against the Kookees, and now, 1870, it is as
difficult to open up negotiations with the Shandoos as in any
preceding period. It will be seen from paragraph 3 of Major
Hamilton's letter that when our messengers endeavoured to nego-
tiate for the release of the prisoners carried away in January 1870,
they were simply told that ' the prisoners had not been taken to
' be given up, but to be ransomed, and unless they were ransomed
* they would be killed. ' "

Shortly after this despatch, General Fytche was relieved by
the Honourable Ashley Eden (now Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal),
who in 1871 drew up the scheme for the defence of this frontier,
the more marked points of which have been stated in a previous

* This active officer subsequently lost bis life in tbe service of the State, being shot by
dacoits in the Rangoon district in 1875 ; he was universally regretted throughout the





The tributary tribes residing within the administrative
boundary of the Hill tracts may be classified as below : —

(1) Kamees or Kumees.
(•2) Mros.

(3) Chins.

(4) Choungthas.

(5) Chaws.

(6) Koons.

Which of the above clans are the aborigines of the Hill tracts,
or which of them first settled there, will never in all probability
be known. Neither tradition nor old records avail towards the
solution of the question, and probably the explanation given by
Pe:mberton* when writing of the Manipuris, and the way they
settled in Manipur, which lies more than 2° north of the latitude
of the Arakan hill tribes, holds good of most of the hill tribes
forming our Eastern frontier. He observes : — " Pi ejecting as
" totally unworthy of attention the Hindoo origin claimed by the
" Manipuris of the present day, we may safely conclude them
"to be descendants of a Tartar colony, which probably emigrated
*' from the north-west borders of China during the sanguinary
" conflicts for supremacy which took place between the different
" members of the Chinese and Tartar dynasties in the 13th and
" 14th centuries. "

These Mongohan hordes, passing southward from Thibet in
successive waves towards the sea, doubtless populated the valleys
of Burma and Arakan, leaving behind, in the hills of our Eastern
frontier (which running down from a spur of the Himalayas, and
branching out into several ranges, may be roughly said to comprise
the whole land from Thibet to Arakan), a succession of hill tribes
consisting of Assamese and the inhabitants of the Cossya,
Garrow, Jyntia, Chittagoug, and Arakan hills. The features of
the majority of the Arakan tribes point them out as nnmistake-
al)ly belonging to the gi'eat Mongolian family of which the Burmese
are an offshoot, and that their language, with few exceptions, is a
distinct and separate one will be apparent to any Burmese scholar
on reference to the small table of the more common words and
phrases in Kamine which I have given in the appendix ; in short,

* Report on the Eastern Frontier, Calcutta, 1835.



my opinion is greatly against their being regarded as aboriginal
tribes, unless a prescriptive right, resting on the basis of their
occupation of the hill portion of our Eastern frontier for some
centuries, can entitle them to this appellation. Even within the
last thirty years, practical ihustration has been afforded of the
gradual movement of lower tribes towards the plains under the
pressure of stronger tribes above, and such a condition of things,
existing for centuries, would clearly explain the theory propounded
by Pemberton as to the process by which the Manipuris and
other tribes have been forced far south from the higher steppes of
the Himalayas and Thibet. Again, as stated before, the physiog-
nomy and physique of the population of the tract bear striking
testimony to their Mongolian origin ; and this remark applies with
equal truth to hill men I have seen living as far north as the
unsurveyed portion of our empire inhabited by the remote Shau-
doo tribes. It is not, however, within the scope of my present pur-
pose to enter minutely into the ethnology of the hill races, even
were I competent to do so : I merely refer to the subject with the
view of endeavouring to show how it w^ould appear that, by a certain
and inexorable law of the recession of other races towards the sea-
board, it is the fate of a very large portion of the population of
India to be left in the hills of which they are not, however, neces-
sarily the aborigines. Unfortunately, unlike some hill races, those
of Arakan have no written language, and being without buildings
or structures of any form, either in perpetuation of the deeds of their
ancestors, or of the rites and myths of their primeval rehgion,
possess no indications to assist in determining their history ; it is
only by deduction from the law of nature and by observation that
it can be somewhat unravelled.

I will now briefly describe the hiU tribes in the order given
at the commencement of the chapter. The Kamees, including the
Mros (for they are of one family), amounting to over 10,000, form
the largest division of the tribes, and some thirty years back dw^elt
on the mountain ranges, but w^ere forced down towards the river
banks from their highland homes in consequence of the pressure
and constant raids inflicted on them by stronger tribes to the north ;
they are divided into twenty-two clans, each with a distinct chief and
name, but their forced migration has upset in a great measure the
patriarchal authority and self-government that at one time the chiefs
of clans possessed. Each village has a chief or " Toungtja-min," a
title given by the Arakanese, in which language it means the chief of
a hiU Q'toung" a hiU, and '' min," a chief), a meaning which in
their own language is conveyed by the word ^' moiarain." The word



'• hamine,"hoth. in the Mro and Kamee languages, simply means man,
but the Burmese, with that sense of the ludicrous which distin-
guishes them, seem to have seized upon the peculiarity of the
dress adopted by the tribe as the explanation of the word ; the body-
cloth, after being passed two or three times round the waist and
once between the legs, is allowed to hang down in front and behind,
and the Burmans compare it to the tail of a dog, the Burmese
for which is '^hvaij-vujee" {''hvay," a dog, and " mijee," tail) : this
explanation of the word has been accepted by more than one
modern writer, including Captain Lewin ; but it is, as shown above,,
wrong, as Kamee simply means man {homo). The male head-dress
consists of a piece of cloth twisted round the head, with the hair
tied up in a prominent top in front. The male dress of the Mros
is similar to that of the Kamees, except that the body-cloth is so
scanty as to be almost indecent. The women of both tribes wear
much the same dress, which is a body-cloth resembling that worn
by the Arakanese, but shorter, and fastened round the waist with
cords of polished metal, with a cloth round their bosom sufficient
only to conceal their breasts.

The Chins, who come next in order, are very much scat-
tered throughout Burma and Arakan, comprising many thou-
sands, living mostly along the watershed of the long and extensive
range of mountains known as the Yoma-toung, which extends
from far north, where our Eastern frontier is conterminous
with Upper Burma, into British Burma as far as the Myan-
oung district. The Chins of the Arakan hills are far wilder
and more retiring than any other of the tribes : this is attribut-
able to the circumstance that it is only wdthin the last six
years that an English officer has been placed in charge of
that portion of the hills which they inhabit, namely, the beautiful
and extensive valley of the Lemroo river and its feeders. Unlike
their brethren in the plains, they pursue no steady or profitable
cultivation, but only grow sufficient rice for their own consump-
tion, with some to spare for the preparation, by fermentation,
of their national beverage koiing or rice-beer, a liquor which is
sufficiently strong, if taken in any quantity, to quickly intoxi-
cate. In accordance with the custom of all tribes of the Chin
family, the faces of their women are tattooed, the thing being done
as a rule with some ceremony at the age of puberty. A few days
after birth, moreover, the practice among many of the tribes is to
have a small mark or cross tattooed on the foreheads of their children;
and in cases where the tribes reside in a more turbulent and dis-
turbed portion of the country, the custom is observed with special



care. Some writers have assigned the following reasons for this
solitary* instance of tattooing among the hill tribes: — •

(1) in order, by disfigurement, to prevent their women being

carried off to the harems of the Burmese high officials ;

(2) to enable them to recognize their own women carried off

in raids, and to conceal the women of other tribes

carried off by them.
But, if either of the above theories rested on satisfactory grounds,
it would be reasonable to suppose that other adjoining tribes would
likewise have adopted the custom, though on the score of female
beauty, which is as lamentably conspicuous by its absence among
the Chins as among the hill tribes generally, there is certainly no
cause for resorting to the practice as a means of preventing their
women being carried off as concubines to the Burmese Court.
As the Chin tribes border on the frontier of Burma, it seems to me
most probable that tattooing was adopted by them in imitation of
the Burmese, and not especially invented for the purposes indicated
in the above two theories ; for against the acceptance of either stands
the fact that there are no greater raiders than the tribes adjoining
these Chins, viz., Shandoos, Kamees, and Upper Pin Mros, none of
whom practise tattooing. That it has, however, occasionally been
the means to some extent of enabling them to recognize their own
captives I can give practical proof, as it was only a short time
ago, when accepting the restoration of several Chin British subjects
carried of in a raid in 1875 by Upper tribes, that the offending
chief tried to palm off on me an unfortunate child of about three
years' old as one of the British captives demanded, and the decep-
tion was only discovered on the arrival of the interested Chins, who
stoutly denied any connection with the child, saying it was not a Chin
as it had not the usual mark on the forehead ; the consequence
was that I returned the child, and the chief was ordered to bring in
the real captive. The Chins are, Hke the other tribes, divided into
clans, and those nearer the plains adopt a costume similar to that of
the Burmese, while the more remote sail as close to perfect nudity
as it is possible to do, the Koo clan, who hve up the Pin river,
substituting for all other apparel a circle of bamboo-cane, dyed red,
coiled round and round their waists. Tattooing, though only
characteristic of one division of the hill tribes of Arakan, would
appear common to others of our Eastern border, for the Nagas of
Assam observe the practice ; indeed, further research may establish
the fact that the Nagas and Chins are of one family.

* This word is used advisedly, for, with the exception of a few claus of tlie Mro tribe
on the Mee river, none of tlie others tattoo. The Mros occasionally observe it by a
small inark or a star on the check, forehead, or breast, with which thoy associate
fecundity and various domestic virtues.



The next hill race of interest are the Choungthas, who
have been briefly alluded to in the previous chapter as of
Arakanese stock, sent up to the hills some centuries back by one
of the Kings of Arakan on account of their reputed bravery and
hardiness to control, or rather attempt to control, the hill tribes,
for they never appear to have succeeded : this tradition is partly
borne out by a remark of Sir Arthur Phayre in the Asiatic Journal.
When alluding to the Chouugthas, he says: — " This hill tribe belongs
"■ to the same great family of the human race as the Myamma, their
*' language being apparently of the same structure, their physiog-
" nomy alike ; they have black, straight hair, high cheek bones,
'* oblique eyes, and scanty beard. The Kamees appear, like the
*' Choungthas, in a more rude state of existence ; the traditions of the
" latter people refer to the former as already possessors of the
" country when the Myamma race entered it. From the fact that
*' they have never settled in the hills of the interior, but lived on,
" and cultivated land along, the banks of the river Kooladan, they
*' have been termed Choungthas from the Burmese word ' choiuig,'
" a river, and ' tha,' a son ; literally, ' son of the river.' " Mr. St.
John, Superintendent of HiU tribes in 1870, in his interesting
report for that year, gives such a life-like and detailed description
of this tribe that I quote it verbatim : — ■" The liakaing, commonly
" called Choungthas, are of the Burmese stock, and speak a
*' dialect differing but little from Arakanese. They are divided into
*' seven clans, viz., Loonhee (Arakanese), 2nd, Dala (Talaiug), 3rd
*' Tansata (Arakanese), 4th, Moontouk (Talaing), 5th, Koonsway
*' (Arakanese), 6th, Shwaybazweh (Arakanese), and Ttli, Pioke
*' (^Talaing), all situated on the Kooladan river, their most northern
" village being about eight miles above Dalekmay. Some clans,
" however, are said to be descended from Talaings, or Moons, who
*' came over to Arakan with a princess of Pegu who was married
*' to an Arakanese king A. D. 1588 : this story is borne out by
*' the fact that one clan is still called the Moon clan, and Dalekmay
" is said to be named from Dala opposite Pvangoon ; the name
*' should therefore be Dalagamay, named after Dala, contracted to
" Dalekmay. In manners and customs they differ but little from
•' the Arakanese and Burmese, and, as Captain Lewin observes,
*' belong to the great Myamma or Mramma family ; the root of
*' this word is mijam or mram, the ma simply beiug an affix signi-
«' fying mother in the sense of original parent. Choungtha simply
" means the sons of the river ; their numbers in this district are
*' 1,'2U0, but there are many more in Akyab; they are a quiet,
" pleasant people, more like the Burmese in disposition than the
*' proud, indolent, overbearing Arakauese ; their dress consists
*' of the Arakanese dolyah or waist-cloth, of dark homespun cotton,



" and a white goung-boimg or turban, the hair being tied in a
*' knot on the top of the head. The women wear the Arakanese
" tamein, which is the same as the Burmese, save that it comes
" further round so as not to expose the leg in walking ; the colours,
" however, are sad, and throughout the whole of the Arakanese
«' family there seems to be a want of appreciation of the harmoni-
" ous blending of gorgeous colours so dear to the Eastern Burman's
"eye. Tattooing is practised, but not as in Burma, the utmost
' ' being a few charms on the back or shoulders. Though professed-
"ly Buddhists, the spirit worship of their fathers finds a much
•' larger place in their hearts, and all the customs common to
" primitive tribes are strictly observed. Captain Lewin mentions
'* that the Choungthas of Chittagong tie the hair at the back like

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Online LibraryW. Gwynne HughesThe hill tracts of Arakan → online text (page 2 of 7)