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Lushai Birth and Death Concept

Birth Ritual:

In naming a child, the Lushai have a strong emphasis on taking the names of their ancestors. In a society that is patrimonial and patriarchal the eldest son of the eldest male member is compulsorily named after the last syllable of the paternal grandfather. This rule serves as a yardstick for tracing the family lineage in successive generations.

Concepts of Death and Obsequies

Their Concept of Natural Death:

They had held many beliefs and notions about death before they converted to Christianity in 1894. Death at old age before the family members was considered natural.

Concept of Unnatural Death:

The Lushais considered the following deaths as unnatural: death from the bites of ferocious animals, death by being pressed under stone, fall from tree, death during pregnancy, etc. They feared these types of death, as they believed that such deaths come suddenly and without any warning. A person may have many plans for life; but such death does not let a person to materialize those, which causes lots of pain to the departed soul. What is more, they believed that, such a death did not allow that person to take revenge for any wrongdoing on him. Hence, they remained fearful thinking that the departed soul might come back to retaliate.

Obsequies:

In the past, if anyone died, the old people of the village used to wash the dead body in the water. Other people helped them by making a machan (raised platform). Once the dead body is washed, it was laid on that machan; his/her belongings and clothes and beds were taken with him to the graveyard and a boiled egg was hung above his head. In those days, young men were given the task of digging a grave. First the aged people used to throw mud on the grave and then other people did the same. Once the dead body is buried, the young men planted a stone on the grave as a mark of identity.

Obsequies of the Young Children:

If a baby of three months or less died, middle-aged married people used to take the responsibility of burying the dead. The baby was wrapped in cloth; in its one hand, they kept rice and a boiled egg in the other hand; and then cotton soaked with the breast milk of its mother was kept in its mouth. Then the dead body of the baby was put in a large earthen pot, which was then buried under the floor of the house. They kept rice and milk as sustenance of the baby.

Their concepts of the departed souls of the dead: In the past, the Lushais believed that the departed souls of the dead hung around the kith and kin, or tried to take revenge on their enemies or tried to accomplish their unfinished work. Many family members of the dead used to offer food to the departed souls after pronouncing their name. They believed that after staying in this world for three months, the dead left for the world of the dead where it would meet other family members and relatives who had died before. They used to hang the egg believing that the egg would introduce it to those who had died before him. Without such an egg, they would not recognise him.


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