The early Mizo society was a simple tribal society which had no known contact with her neighboring civilizations until the eighteen century. The great majority of Mizorams population is several ethnic tribes who are either culturally or linguistically linked. The society was strictly patriarchal and patrilineal with a well-defined culture of its own. Children grow up with their parents and paternal grandparents. No serious distinction is made between boys and girls during early childhood. Female infanticide ended more than sixty years ago. Mizos put much emphasis on teaching the child to develop a sense of group cooperation and Christian values.
The Mizos are close-knit society with no class distinction and no class discrimination on grounds of sex. Ninety percent of them are cultivators and the village functions as a large family. Birth of a child, marriage in the village, and death of a person in the village are important occasions and the whole village would typically become involved. The Mizo tribe is a fast developing tribe as this is evident from the fact that after the Christian Missionaries set foot in Mizoram in 1894, almost every Mizo had adopted the Christian faith. However while there was development in one field, people gradually seemed to be discarding their old customs and ways of life due to the influence of Christianity and modernization.
The Mizo follow the patriarchal form of society, the line of family tree is reckoned from the side of the father. They do not distinguish between household and family. The people who live together under one roof and eat from the same hearth belong to one family. The average size of a family is between six and seven people. The nuclear family is the common type. The vertico-horizontal type of family tends to split into two sections, the nuclear family and the stem family. The life of the vertico-horizontal type of family is the shortest. This Ego-centered cyclic change is a unique feature. Usually the family comprises of the father and the mother and several children. Sometimes we may also find the sister of the father living with them or at times a relative may also be living with them. Domestic unit In the early Mizo society, there was a clear-cut boundary as regards the duties to be performed by men and women.
The women know very well what duties they are assigned to and vice-versa one will not interfere with the duties of the opposite sex. They perform their activities well and even a family who happens to be very poor will not go begging but will instead try to support oneself seeking the help from others which appeared to be very respectful, and it was considered very disgraceful to go begging. Status The status of the mother in a family may be difficult to explain. In a word it can be said that she is in charge of the house, and thus she occupies the most important position in the family, because it is she who looks after the children, manages food and clothing for the family and arranges earthen pots etc. She looks after the domestic animals such as pigs and the chickens. The father however, is the head of the family and it is he who makes all the decisions. He looks after all the work other than the house hold and it is his duty to see that everything is in order.
Naming a child:
While naming a child there is no restriction in the case of a child born in the family of the chief. An infant can bear any name which the parents may wish for him/her. But in the case of the general community naming their child is a difficult task because they have to be careful not to offend their chief with their selection of certain names which the chief may not favor. One significant features in Mizo names which distinguishes a male from a female is that the names of females usually end with the alphabet i and a for that of a male though again there are certain clans and sub-clans who do not follow this pattern.
Another feature of Mizo names is that one cannot notice to which sub-tribe one belongs to just by looking at ones name because there is no mention of it. After the advent of Christianity one remarkable change in the Mizo society was the style of composing names from that of naming a child after great warriors or after some great deeds they accomplished to names composed on the line of Christianity or Christian values and it may not be wrong to say that the new generation of Mizo sub-clans started including the names of the clan to which they belong to at the end of their names.
Among the Mizos, there is a clear distinction between kinship by descent and kinship by marriage, although kinship is reckoned and recognized on both lines. As a patrilineal society, the rule of descent is strictly based on the male line only. In the traditional system, a woman was recognized, even after marriage, by her patri-clan name. Thus, all the children acquired membership in their fathers clan group which might be a localized group or might spread horizontally over many villages, and could never acquire membership in their mothers clan group except by a kind of adoption in which case they would not attain true membership in the politico-jural field. Thus, recruitment to any clan among the Mizo has been strictly based on descent through the fathers line only.
The pattern of inheritance, rules of succession and residence closely followed the system of descent. Among all clans, the rules of succession required that the youngest son should be the proper heir, although other male children also had a share in the family property. As the other male children did not have coparcenary right over the family property except to demand a split of household non-durable goods and properties, in many instances, this forced them to split from paternal family soon after marriage, especially after the first child was born, and started a new family of their own.
Mutual relations The husband-wife relationship in the traditional Mizo society was never mutual companionship but avoidance even to talk to each other in public except in a dispassionate way. However, this did not seem to reduce the mutual bond and love created by marriage. Contrary to husband-wife relations, the relationship between the mother and son was one of affection. The affectionate relationship to mother and son and the selfish attitude of the mother to brand the daughter-in-law as outsider was instrumental in the early split of older male children from the natal family. The youngest son was expected to stay out with the parents and look after the old parents and family properties.
The Mizos being patriarchal, property is inherited by men rather than women. The family property usually goes to the youngest son although the father may leave shares to other sons, if he desires. If a man has no sons, his property is inherited by the next kin on the male side. If a man dies leaving a widow and minor children, a male relation (who usually happens to be a brother of the deceased) takes charge of the family and looks after the property until one of the sons comes of age. If no such male relative is around, then the widow acts as a trustee of her husbands property until such times as his son or sons are old enough to inherit it.
However, although the youngest son of the family is the natural or formal heir to his father under the Mizo customary laws, in actuality the paternal property is generally divided among all sons. The youngest of them gets a preferential treatment in that he would get the first choice of the articles, and he would get two shares of the cash in case of one each for the other brothers. Women did not have any legal claim on the family property except a small share at the time of marriage which they carried with them as a form of dowry. However, a daughter or a wife can inherit property only if the deceased has no heir on the male side. They are entitled to their own property. The dowry, called thuam, she gets during the marriage from her parents is exclusively her own property. However, a written will formally executed may now confer woman the right to inherit the family property. This is a happy to the traditional customary laws.
The general societal changes have affected the family structure in many ways which may briefly be described as follows: * Dominant form of family in the present Mizo society is neither nuclear nor extended though both of the two have always existed. A family consisting of a married couple with unmarried children without any other relatives or lodgers in the household can always be seen. On the other hand, a family consisting of married couple and their married and unmarried children with grand-children and great grand-children is also existed. But the dominant form of family consist not only the primary kins but also other relatives or lodgers.
Therefore, the form of family system in modern Mizo society may be understood as a continuous cycle of three different forms. * Authority structure within the family is characterized by decisive role played by female members in the process of decision-making though the father of a house can be said to have wielded dictatorial power over the family. In fact, all the members of the family participate in the process of decision making especially in the matter relating to major events or decisions of the family. With the gradual disappearance of division of labor between man and woman within the family structure, women are gaining more and more power and have become independent in several ways.
* A traditional husband-wife relation which was characterized by avoidance and dispassionate interaction was disappearing. The relation becomes emotional, caring even in public and is based more on equal standings. This has been made possible by cultural modernization which emphasizes individuals freedom. * Rule of succession and of inheritance strictly follow the rule of descent which is strictly based on the male line only. Nevertheless, the traditional rule of succession to family property has assumed significant change in actual practice in recent times; and it is no longer the exclusive monopoly of the youngest male child to acquire the right to inherit family property.
Any male child who gain the favor of his parents ant its loyal to the family tradition may become the inheritor. However, there is a tendency practically observable in which female members are given certain portion of share in her fathers family properties. Therefore, the rule of inheritance seems to be undergoing practical modification in favor of women. * Traditional kinship relations dominated by a strong mutual obligation between members of the same descent group seem to be disappearing. Kinship relation within the descent group is now dominated not by mutual obligations but by personal preference. Under the changing circumstances, the mothers fathers group is becoming important kinship group for the ego.
The Mizo society, which was formally a little known society, have undergone tremendous changes during the last hundred years, and the processes of modern innovative change are still ongoing processes penetrating each and every corner of the life of the people transforming penetrating each and every corner of the life of the people transforming the traditional simple society into a differentiated, modern society.
General trends which have been observable in modern society which are observable to trends experienced in other societies are a decline in influence of corporate kin group, forms of family system, an increase in womens rights, authority structure within the family, more sexual freedom and the rules of inheritance. Factors which have been contributing for changes in family structure have been supported back and strengthening back by the family structure which all these factors helped to change. Although Christianity brought about a near-total transformation in the Mizo lifestyle and outlook some customary laws have stayed on.
* Mizoram: Society and Polity (1996) C. Nunthara.
* Kinship system of the Lushai (1960) B.B. Goswami.
* Changing family structure among the Mizos in Mizoram: A study in Aizawl District P.C. Lalawmpuia. * Culture and folklore of Mizoram B. Lalthangliana.