The view of Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, adorned with rolling hills and majestic valleys, taken from the hillside town of Zemabawk
Mizoram was still part of the state of Assam when it was known as the Lushai Hills District and then Mizo Hills District, before achieving statehood in 1987. Mizoram is landlocked in the Seven Sister States, the most eastern Indian states closest to China. In the local Mizo language, mi translates to ‘people’, zo to ‘hill’ and ram to ‘land’, thus rendering the name to mean the ‘Land of the Hill People’. The majority of today’s population in Mizoram are descended from a variety of indigenous Indian tribes that migrated to the region from the 16th to the 18th century, with influences from European customs during the era of the British Raj.
The fusion of the traditions and customs of these indigenous tribes has brought about an eclectic heritage that is evident in Mizoram to this day. The folk dance and the customary weaving of Mizoram are widely recognised. The traditional dance of cheraw, where dancers in colourful and contrasting attire step in between bamboo sticks that follow the rhythm of the music, has been popularly portrayed in media from various countries across the globe.
Weaving is an acclaimed handloom craft of northern east India, and just like every other state in this region, Mizoram has its own distinct variation of weaving that boasts captivating ethnic motifs. Female artisans are endowed with the expertise and knowledge of complex techniques from their mothers and grandmothers. These traditional methods employ the use of the lion loom and are still used today alongside the modern, less strenuous method of the fly shuttle loom. Puans, which are similar to lungis, a type of traditional garment draped around the waist, produced by master female weavers in Mizoram are renowned for their striking designs and intricate embroidery, both worked into the wefts. Today, these elaborately patterned and vividly coloured motifs are popular in shawls and women’s shoulder bags, a favourite amongst people both in and out of India.