History of Tribal Jews of The Far North East India

The Tribal Jews of India

As a result of the break down of the Jewish colony at Kaifeng in China, most of them fled for their lives to any directions following mountain ranges Rivers, and streams which resulted in loss of their identities.
Legends told us that our forefathers in their dispersion in China departed on boats along the  China rivers, and the Manipur Jews or North East Indian tribal Jews are the descendents of the on who fled towards the South up to Indo-China where they found shelters in the well known Valley-of-Cave.
Since we could prove our true national identity from the mouth pieces of our forefather’s histories and Encyclopedias.
Our aims and objects are to strengthen Judaism to live and act and die as what we are, the sons of one of the ten tribes.
Hence we are neither be neglected nor be rejected by our brothers who are in Israel.

Part One :  History

Origin : The tribal Jews of Manipur are originally descended from one of the ten lost tribe s of Israel who name was called Manasseh son of Joseph and father of Machir 1 Chro 7:14. The half tribe of Manasseh was led captivity into Assyria in 722 BCE according to Histories.
Patriarch and Ancestors: Abraham was the patriarch of all the twelve tribes of Israel. He begat Isaac, Isaac begat Yaakov and Yaakov begat twelve sons namely: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, Benyamin, Dan, Naphtali, Bad and Asher whom who the twelve tribes originated as nations. In the land of Canaan this twelve tribes were living peacefully many years under a single ruler or kings like- Saul, David, Solomon and his son Rehoboam.

Israel Divided: When Rehoboam son of Solomon ascended to the throne of his father; as a result of his acceptance the counsels of the young men that were brought up with him rather than to accept the counsels of the old men that had stood before Solomon his father. The tribes were making a rebellion against the kind and the rest two tribes Judah and Benjamin. In the meant time Judah and Benjamin supported the king and decided to be under him. Then the ten tribes were moving to the North of Palestine where they called the land.
Samaria: After the name of Capital, and they called themselves “Israel” as a part from Judah and Benjamin. Judah and Benjamin under king Rehoboam remained in the South, calling their land Judean Hills and their City Jerushalem.1 they called themselves JUDAH, while Israel were under the rule of another kinds like Peka, Hoshea, Jeroboam etc.

G-d’s Warning Upon Israel

The Lord shall scatter thee among all people from the one end of the earth unto the other and there thou shall serve other gods which neither thou nor thy forefathers have known even wood and stones” Deut 28:26

The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thy enemies; thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them and shall be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth”  Ibid 28:25

Thou shall beget sons and daughters but thou shall not enjoy them for they shall go into captivity” Ibid 41.

The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high and thou shalt come thou very low” Ibid 48

Therefore shalt thou serve thy enemies which the Lord shalt send against thee in hunger and in thirst and in nakedness and in want of all things; and he shalt put a yoke of Iron upon they neck,  until they have destroy thee. A nation of fierce countenance which shall not regard the persons of the old, nor show favor to the young. Ibid 50

The Lord shall send upon thee cursing vexation, and rebuke in all that thou settest thy hand unto for to do until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly because of the wickedness of thy doings, where by thou has forsaken me” Verse 20.

Assyria Invaded Samaria: Diaspora Began :
In BCE 72 the children of Israel dwelling in Samaria were led captive into Assyria be king Shalmanezar of Assyria. This was the beginning of the dispersion of the ten tribes among heathen nations of the world. “In Assyrian they were treated mercilessly and were deported and put them unto Halah and Habor, and Hara the river Gozan and in the city of Medes” 1 Chro. 5:26, II King 18:1. By this time half the tribe of Manasseh was brought unto Halah and Medes and Persia in the later. In BCE 457 they were under the rules of Medes and Persia, under Darius and Cyrus. Some of the ten tribes and of from Judah lived together and they share the same religion and common fates.
In 331 BCE, Alexander the great defeated Persian monarch, Darius at Arbella (Erbill) and annexed through Afghanistan and India. At the same time Persian Jews migrated to Afghanistan  or Paktoons among the Pakthus and Moslems (BCE 200). In Afghanistan  the Jews were slaves and servants were employed to watch the herds and earned their living  by hard works among the native peoples. Here the Jews built one stone upon another and offered the animals which caused them to be called Pagan people. As they were mingled with the Muslims at the same time they were forced to be converted to Islam, resulting to the lost of their identities. As they speak Hebrew they were known as “Nomadic tribe of the Semitic Speaking people” They choose to live in hills rather than in towns.
According to historian Josephus, the Jews in their dispersion kept thei scroll and the religions of Judaism under the care of priests and elders.

At Kaifung in China
From Afghanistan through the Hindu Kush valley they moved towards the negligible further east passing through rivers and mountains in the Hilly regions of Tibet. They happened to arrive in the Chinese border. From there they moved on and arrived in Central China then crossed Wei river and finally arrived at Kaifung (Kaifeng or Laifang as some says) where they established their colony in 231 AD. They settled their peacefully under leaders for many years. The Jews there could not live in peace anymore due to repeated aggression of China by the Mongols and that resulted to the breakdown of the Jewish colony. As a result of the Mongols invasion every one fled for their lives, whereas some of them surrendered to the Chinese king as hostages and servants.
As time passed by, the Jewish tradition was no longer in practiced and their identities gradually lost from time to time. As a result of this many of them get intermarriage with the native, changed their names and surrendered to the native traditions for fear of dead.

Arrival at the Cave Valley

Everyone fled for safety and sought shelters and could not take the parchment (Scroll). Many found shelters mainly in dense of forest and rock-caves and in hilly regions. So they were therefore called by the native according to the different climates of the situation, as Cave-dwellers, or Highlanders. At the same time they were no longer known and called Jews or Israel as they concealed their identities for fear of death.
A group arrived in Indo-China where they found the well-known cave and took shelters there as Traditions and legend claimed that the forefathers sojourned in the cave valley was about two generations, hiding themselves in the cave for fear of enemies, as histories claimed as fact. They had the scroll of the laws till this time. At length the price of China drove them out of the cave resulting to the lost of Scroll or parchment as claimed by traditions, but the priest got by heart the words of levitical services of Torah which had been preserved and followed till the beginning of 19th century.
Many of them supposed themselves as original gentiles at the same time the parchment was lost along with the scripts of Hebrew.
During their sojourn in the cave valley, due to poverty and fear of enemies they put on animals’ skins and lived on fruits. By the time they were corruptly given the name “Cave-dwellers” by the natives; no one of them were called by the name of Israel ever since.
During this period people were always in a state of fear, besides, they were in want of every basic needs, because of all these they were unable to observe Sabbath.

Lost of the Parchment
There was ever the special family to maintain the parchment. When their hiding place was publicly disclosed, Chinese prince with his army were sent to drive them out of their, besides their religious practice were against that of the Chinese Taoism.
Tradition has it that the Chinese prince and his army seized the property including the parchment of Torah, but they could not read the scripts as it was written in Hebrew, so they torn them into pieces and burned. Other traditions claimed that the parchment was lost when they people including priest family fled for lives in the jungles were they buried.
The priesthood had been preserved till the beginning of the 19th century, which was terminated by the Christian missionaries. Till this time the levitical priesthood and the service was endlessly continued through by heart. All vessels of the priest ministry were thrown away and burnt by the forceful powers of Christian missionaries who came from Britain and USA (1854-1910).

From Cave Valley (Khul or Chhinlung) to Manipur (Burma Border)
As Chinese prince drove them out of their hiding place, they have migrated towards the west passing through Siam (Thailand), Kale Valley, Mount Kenedy, Natchuang ranges and Shan and then to Burma where they found Irrawady river and followed up to near the city of Mandalay, where there was a small village called Aupatuang. There Chinlung was the chief of the village, and then they took settled at this village. History revealed that they were forcibly employed to build the place of Burmese king Thebow with teak woods only, and this palace was destroyed in the World War I.
As a result of a great famine broke out in Mandalay and Aupatuang, they had to seek where there was abundant food for their living. In course of time they happened to find the river Chindwin, they followed the river and arrived at Kalamyo where they took shelter for some years. Then later many arrived in Chin Hills and Khampat Valley.
Since their settlement in central Burma they were called “Luse” by the native people (Kachin) which interpreted as “Ten Tribes” as “LU” means “Tribes” and “SE” means “Ten”; therefore its means “The Ten Tribes” and they were also known as Chin-Lusi. The native meant “Ark-Bearers of the Ten Tribes” for they carried an Ark with them from Indo-China. In fact this people are not Chin in origin, however they were simply called by the native people for they speak sometimes the language of Indo-China, which is “Chin.”
Then they settled near Kalemyo coming from Aupatuang village. In the Chin Hills (as it is now called). They had their names of corrupted nomenclatures, but they are the “scattered people” said Prof. Haugo MA these names are corrupted nomenclatures given by other who were first in contact with them.
In 18th century from Chin Hills, Kalemyo and Khampat valley, some migrated to Manipur and Mizo District. Now there is a slight difference in tongues, customs and cultures molded by the climates of the situations. Histories said that they were not original Indian or (Manipur) but came to this place from China as refugees; since their forefathers concealed their true identities for many generations, their descendants became ignorant to the origin of their forefathers. They however, thought themselves and supposed as originally born of the Jews. They are permanently known and termed “Hill People” for they settled among the native hills people living in the Hill area of Manipur and Assam. Hence they are called “Tribal” Jews.
As knowledge increased, their ignorant and illiteracy gradually vanished. Though they were ill treated, now under the freedom of India they can freely practice and observe their original traditions and Torah laws as well. Many of them are still enslaved and their minds corrupted by the powers and influences of Christianity.

Fore Father’s Customs and Cultures

The traditional song of the crossing of the Red-Sea by our forefathers which was sung or recited by the priest is as follows: This song has been passed down from generation to generation and its one of the traditions that we never forget. 
Free Translation of Crossing of the Red Sea:

Observed we, the feast of the Passover;
Through the dried Red-Sea we crossed;
At night we were led by fire and by cloud during day;
Our foes of day and night with their chariots
Swallowed them all by the Red-Sea;
Fed we by a host of quails
And water out of the rock of stone;

This is a poem, that our ancestors sung, and they told stories behind it in different fashion they had no idea that it was the verse from the Torah, not until the Christian come to India, translated the Bible into English did we discovered it.

Circumsion: Since the lost of the pure Judaic tradition, circumcision was not ever practiced on the right time as it was not permitted by the climates and condition place of dwelling, instead on the eight day a new born child was brought before the priest to be offered (sanctified) to G-d, the priest blessed through prayer, as a sign of the lowest group among Israel.

Priesthood: Every village had their own priest to look after. In big village there are more than one priest. The priest is given the supreme power in case of religion and sacrificial laws. The priesthood was an inherited ministry. On some special occasion, the service and duty of the priest requires him to put on a breast plate, and ephod, a robe broidered coat, a mitre and a girdle.

Marriage:  Parents of both parties have the power on marriage cases.  It can be performed on the agreement of both parents of bride and bridegroom, but it has to be settled under the leadership of elders and priest and ceremonial service can be solemnized with witness each. Marriage with far akin and others nations are not allowed. According to the customary law the eldest son must be engaged from childhood by the parents to marry with the daughter of his mother’s brother at maturity. Marriage ceremony was performed by the priest and elders.

Inheritance: The eldest son has the right to inherit his father’s estates and properties when father dies. However all the powers and responsibilities of the family lies in the hands of the father as long as he lives. When father is going to die he is to handover all his duty of the family to his eldest son and then left traditions and other necessary things relating to household duties.

Village: Forefathers were habituated to live at village apart from the other people wherever they had settled. Under the power of the chief and with the advice of the elders the village was governed. Social life was controlled by the village elders appointed by the villagers on the advice of the chief.

Feast Days : During a year at least three feasts were observed by the forefathers, those feast were Chap-Char Kut or Hun-Juneh kut or Mim kut or Chang Thah Kut and Pawlkut in our present language, therefore all these feasts are observed at the appointed times and seasons.

Levirate marriage: Among brothers if one is dead, his wife is to be married to the living brother of her husband according to the custom. And the first son must be named after the death’s name to make his name alive among the nation.

Aldultery and Divorce : Under any circumstances, to commit adultery was never allowed, and was never heard among this people. If anyone found committed the offence of adultery, he or she was liable to expelled from the village. Divorce was not at all allowed.

Death: Death are buried or placed in an already decorated graves near the house, while the native (Manipuris/Hindu) burn their dead by fire by pouring oil.

The Ten Commandments: In the family and social life, these laws are strictly observed and followed. Stealing, murdering, adultery, false witness and covetous were never found among this people.

Women: Women were never permitted to interfere in the gathering of men; they were not allowed to wear men’s garment, in any meeting place, they sit apart collectively; she is bound to respect her husband.

Forefather’s Religion: Since the lost of Judaism, along with the true name of G-d, some   believed and worshipped certain trees, stones, river, high mountains and the natural objects as they worshipped in Canaan (During Rehoboam). However they did believe Supreme Being who is the one and only master of the universe. In religious matter, the priest was the head and counselor when the consecration of the whole village was celebrated; the following chart is recited by the priest:

Free Translation “Thou are Manasseh, begat forefathers coming from beyond the great river following rivers and streams, passing through mountains and hills- brought us thou into the land of strangers.”

Ministry of Priest: When anyone of the village felt sick, the priest was called upon to sick-bed to perform the sacrifice. By laying hands with recitation, the priest tied the throat of the animals, i.e. lamb or goat to be offered. Lev. 3:2,13. The priest sprinkled the animals blood on the ear right hand, back and feet of the sick person reciting the verse from Lev. 8:23, 14:14. For sin offering goat was killed and offered for forgiveness of sins. Sometimes alters were built by the priest and the concerned people on which the animal be offered before G-d. The priest sprinkled the animals’ blood on the horns of the alters. The meat was eaten by all concerned people whereas the limbs and the stomach were thrown away or buried.

During a year atonement for the whole village was ever be celebrated as a perpetual covenant throughout all the generations as told by the traditions. They believed that G-d must save the whole village from any plagues by celebrating this day, neither the plague comes near nor effected the villagers. In the ministry of priest, the vessels made of earth, a budding rod, robes, plates and many others were used inevitably.
There were many kinds of sacrificial laws according to the cases of the sick, sometimes the priest wring off the head of fowls for healing of the sick and also priest cleave the wings of fowls to be offered for sin, and of the sacred are the use of fine flour Lev 2:1 which was salted by the priest. The priest received the right shoulder of animals offered for so as to make peace between G-d and the sick persons with the priest making the offerings be blessed. In some cases of disease like Leprosy the priest loosed the fowled in field for healing the sick.
H.N.C. Stevenson’s record of the religion of this people was this: In Burma Hills, the basis of religion is a combination of ancestors worship and animism, a belief in warlocks and ware-wolves, fairies and fromes, the terrifying spirits hiding in caves and guarded trees, the power of light and darkness and other natural phenomena – such belief as preceded Christianity in all the lands of Europe.

Its is one of the fact that before the coming of Christianity in this land the people worshipped any natural objects, trees, stones, mountains, cliffs, rivers and any huge hold of earth and rocks believing to be the home of fairies and the evil spirits. They also believe both the heavenly G-d and the earthly gods to be existed everywhere or they can heal or hur. But in time of extreme distress and trouble proving their disbelief in heavenly G-d, they rather called their owned named god by the name Pathien Lungzai, only they expected bodily health from G-d.
They believed in the existence of the spiritual world after dead, where souls are assembled, they believed to be habituating there as the earthly life on Earth. Anyone who was very brave on earth was much respected in the spiritual world after dead.
According to Stevenson, forefathers regarded ancestors as G-d for the priest and called the name of ancient ancestors with their place of sojourn and the places where they were wandering.

The Coming of Christianity:
The first missionary who entered Manipur from America was William Petygrew of Amerian Baptist Mission 1854 AD. He established Baptist Churches in Kangpokpi. In 1910, other missionaries from America came and established other denominations at Churachandpur. This Christianity was responsible to the loss of our forefather’s religion, cultures and customs along with the vessels of the priest ministry. Therefore its hard for  the new generations  to find out the whole life and customs of their Ancestors. However, the good thing about the missionary is that, we came to know who we are by presenting the Bible in English.

To be Continue...................... 

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