THE DARLONG BUKPUI
By Malsawma Darlong
The origin of this system is difficult to be fixed as most of the knowledge of Darlong history is lost in antiquity. Old folks state that the Darlong people had this custom even before their migration from the east of the River Tiau during the seventeenth century. All their young men used to sleep in their Chief’s house so that they can be ready for any immediate action. Though the Darlong had no education during the pre-British days, they had a novel way of making their men in their own system way of education. It was mandatory on all Darlong youths over age of 15 to stay in Bachelor's dormitories, known as BUKPUI where they received training in 'tribal welfare wrestling, hunting and village government'. The boys who went to the BUKPUI emerged as complete men. The training was intensive and strenuous, strict disciplines was maintained and basic values of life were inculcated to the youngsters. In other words 'bukpui' or the Bachelor's dormitory was an institution where the young Darlong males not only picked up skills in self-defense but also developed a positive attitude to life based on hope-spun values as well.
The importance of the BUKPUI in Darlong society could be gauged from the fact that some Darlong community elderly person have compared it to guru and his sasya in an Indian Ashram. 'It (Bukpui) was not only the physical abode of the youth of the Darlong Village but also was the crucible where the Darlong youths, the marginal man, were shaped into responsible adult members of society'.
The different simple forms of education for life for the Darlong community, as evolved in Bukpui are through their various activities, code of conduct and mode of living, ensured a healthy reciprocity between the different age groups and the elders as also between the claims of the family as a social unit and the wider Darlong society as an organic whole ..' Every Darlong Village had a bachelors' dormitory of its own in those days. Some villages, which were large and divided into several parts known as Khua which is called in a mizos Vengs. In fact, each Khua had its own Bukpui in a big village.
A dormitory was located in the open on the highest point of a village opposite the house of the Chief. The village elders, called Ulian had their houses clustered nearby. Made of timber and bamboo, the Bukpui had a thatched roof and its entrance was approached by a platform of rough logs at the uphill end. A fireplace, which burnt round the clock occupied the center of the dormitory hall, while there was a raised bunk to sleep on spreading from the far end through the whole breadth of the room. The open space by the hearth served sometimes as a wrestling arena and sometimes a dance floor. The Bukpui was used as not only a place for sleep by unmarried youths but also as rest house by travelers and visitors to the village.
For Entering the Bukpui of the Darlong, a person must attained a minimum age of 15 years of age to gain admission to the Bukpui. But younger boys too had their own assignments to do, though they had no right to participate in the Bukpui activities. The village boys over six years of age were entrusted with duty of supplying firewood to ensure that the hearth was always alight. A boy earn freedom from firewood-gathering duties and gains admission to the Bukpui as soon as he can prove that his public hair has grown and is long enough to tie around a smoking pipe. Maintenance of discipline at a bukpui was the responsibility of a youth Commander called Val Upa, elected by the elders and the chief.
The Bukpui usually came fully to life in the evening when youngsters gathered there to exchange ideas. They sang songs of heroism and spoke of the achievements of their ancestors. Late in the evening they went out to keep dates with their girlfriends and returned around bedtimes to have goodnight's sleep. The practice of sleeping out on a regular basis with their friends and neighbors helped the Darlong youths to build up a strong awareness of community welfare.
The Bukpui, as a social institution, was not, however, exclusion to the Mizos, Lushais. Several other tribal clans had their own respective versions of the Bukpui, in mizos which is called as Zawlbuk. According to Lt. Col J. Shakespear, the Chiru, Kom and Tikhap clans too had the dormitory system. The paites had no Bukpui, but the front verandahs of some of their bigger houses sometimes served as bachelors dormitory.
The Bukpui of the Darlong began to lose in importance after the appearance of the British on the scene. The introduction of formal education and conversion to Christianity on a mass scale struck at the roots of the indigenous village administration in India particularly to the Northeastern part of India leading to a steady decline in the utility and relevance of the Bukpui within the Darlong Community. The Darlong, who developed a new outlook under Christian influence, felt their own homes were a better place for their sons to live in than the bachelors dormitories. The Bukpui suffered a fatal blow when the power of the chiefs, who administered the dormitories, were taken away by the British Government and even after India gets her Independent.
Although some elderly people among the Darlong community tried to revive the Bukpui in a modernized form but it could hardly success. The name itself of the Bukpui has been nearly forgotten by the new generation of the Darlong community, Only in a village called Deora the name of the Bukpui till date survive. But the role played in the earlier days by the Bukpui as a collective organ of social control and the influence it exerted on the community life of the Darlong on the whole could hardly be exaggerated.
A dik loi aloi om chun ne hril khir nok hram dingin ei in ngen.