Special Report by Timothy Z. Zote
Mizonews.net in association with the Hmar Arts and Cultural Society (HACS) takes you on this remarkable journey to Senlung/Sinlung Cave. For a long time, it was desired to make further probe into the reported existence of Senlung/Sinlung cave along the Indo-Myanmer border. Thanks to Pu Lalhrillien Zote (Hrila), Saikawt MDC, who arranged the transport for the three-member team headed by HACS Asst Secretary Timothy Z. Zote. Other members: LRS Puruolte and Chala Kungate were accompanied by Thodou Students Association, (TSA) Chandel District leaders: 1. Lelen Haokip, Finance Secy. 2. Hempu Haokip, Secy. Information, 3. Lalboi Haokip, Member, 4. Thangboi Haokip- Member, 5. Seimang Haokip, Memebr and Thomas Haokip, Member.
Date 22/5/2012 (Wednesday):
The team started their journey at after a prayer by Pu Hrila, MDC, in front of “Hmasawnna Thar” daily office at Tuithaphai. Stopped at Imphal to buy essential items after which they were joined by Thadou Student Association, Chandel District, leaders to be their guide. After picking up the Thadou students’ leaders from Manipur University the team’s onward journey started again at 2:30 PM. They had tea at Kakching Junction and reached Sugnu at 2:20pm. After crossing the 35 Assam Rifles Check Gate near Chahkap Village the team reached Sajik Tampak at around 5:00 PM but a trye burst kept them late and they reached Aigejang village at 6.00 PM. This 26 household settlement served as their resting place for the night.
Pu Onkhawthang , Haokip (84), Chief of Aigejang, narrating the story about Sinlung Cave said:
“Sajik Tampak area once used to be ruled by Longza chiefs. Longza village chief was Ngulbel, who happens to be one of the Haokip tribes. Longza had existed way before the 1917-1919 Kuki-British war. Before moving to Longza they had settled at the now deserted Sielkui village near Khawlmunlien. The Longza brothers —Mangsuo,Mangchung and Hotinkhup — were often invited to enter Manipur fromBurma. After they moved to Sielkui, all of them prospered and they had 100 bisons each. It was only in 1959 that my family (descendent of Longzas) came back again to settle here at Aigejang village.”
Dinner was served at 10.10 PM and host Pi Kimneilhing asked them to sleep indoors but they said “we prefer to sleep on the verandah”. Some of them had a good sleep while one had “sweet dreams” which they preferred not to share.
Date 23/5/2012 (Thursday):
Morning came and the team members tried to gather more information the cave before they took another step closer to their destination. Aigejang chief’s wife Pi Kimneilhing narrates: “Earlier the Anal tribe used to live in the area. During 1997 -2005 several Meitei militants used to make their camps here.” This was all they could get. Not much information.
After light snacks and tea it was onwards Sinlung Cave. After 8 km, they reached Ashi village where an Army Camp has been set up. They were given water and after making entries and walking for another 2 km, they reached the last Army camp. “We freshened up again and after another entry we walked the up the steep mountain. It was a hard task and some of us had to take a good break,” the team member said.
After walking for another 3 km they reached Khawlhmunlien village, which was set up in 1994 by former Member of Parliament Pu Holkhawmang . The village has only seven household. “We requested the villagers to keep lunch ready as we continued on our way to Sinlung/Senlung Cave which was 3 km uphill.” Fully exhausted the team reached their destination at 12:24 PM where they inspected the cave for almost an hour.
“Standing inside, we were amazed. We had not even seen the legendary Sinlung Cave in our dreams and now we were inside a cave with a similar name,” one member said in astonishment.
The cave looks like a mountain of limestone and its mouth is milky in colour. “It made us wonder whether someone had been decorating it all these time… We wanted to see each section of the cave and it sure does looked different,” they said.
On the outside there were fresh footmarks of wild animals like the wild boar, deers and others. A large tree stands nearby and it looks as if it was a playground for by monkeys and squirrels. But, not a single one could be seen. “Earthquake and erosions have been responsible for the current state of cave. Some of the holes have already been blocked,” said Pu Gigin, Aigejang Village Authority Secretary, who served as the team’s guide.
The HACS is the second group to visit and do research on the cave. As per their measurement, the bigger cave’s mouth is 5 feet tall and 55 feet long. “At least 50 people could be accommodated if there was room for standing.” The smaller cave’s mouth measures 3×3 feet and is 14 feet long. There is one hole where it looks like humans can take shelter. It’s about 15 feet high. At least 8 people will be able to stand comfortably. There are two bell-like structures hanging here. If you hit them with your hand, it makes no sound, but if you hit with a pebble from the cave they make sound exactly that of a bell. There are lots of bats and the team had to endure the not just the smell of their urine but the creepy creatures pissed right on them. Since, natural lights were not enough candles and torch light were used. Once outside, the team marked their visit with an inscription ‘Sinlung: Hmar Art and Culture Society, Manipur , Date 23/5/2012”, Cross” with a ‘Hmar Arasi’ nearby.
After photo session they head back to Khawlhmunlien via an equally steep shortcut. Lunch was ready at 2:12 pm. After this the team members hitch-hiked again for another 9 km. Lucky they were, a Shaktiman passed by on the way that took them to Aigejang village. “By the time we set back for Tuithraphai it was almost 6.00 pm and when we reached Tuithraphai it was past 11.00 pm.”
Their Observation: In their own words
Sinlung Cave, as per the people living in the area, seems to be at one point of time frequented by our ancestor. The Thadous called it Senlung but they said they could not trace the origin of the word. “We don’t know who gave the cave the name of Senlung/Sinlung,” village elders said. They used to call the mountain “Sawhluh muol/Sunhlu muol”. However, as per oral traditions, they said Anals, Aimuol (which were once Hmar clans before declaring themselves Nagas) and Zotes used to live here and they could have given the name. Another version states that “Sinlung Pa” who wielded influential power had crossed this cave and hence the name. We also found that there were no inscriptions or drawings of any kind. As such, it will be difficult to say with confidence that this cave is indeed the legendary cave which our forefathers often mentioned. We think it will be wise to have the opinion of the Anal community as well. According to Rengkai chief Kailienlal they had lived here with the Anal and Zou tribesmen during the ‘Run wars’. At that time they had a settlement called Chakpi Kailien (Rengkhawpui Chanchin, p-4-6, by Thuomte, 1988,, EAC, Printing Press,). In, 1925, Oktong (now with 15 houses had around 80 household). Of these were 20 Zous, 30 Hmars and 20 Anals. It is our assumption that they could not live exactly in and around the cave, but it could be possible that they gave the name ‘Senlung/Sinlung’. By our observation, the cave surely was not man-made for human settlement.
There are no signs of human activities except those that are recent like “Senlung” written by Kuki Research Forum which first visited the area last year. Since, the name sounds similar to Hmar word ‘Sinlung’. This was the main reason the Hmar Art and Culture Society had taken upon the task to gather more information about the cave and after the eventful trip we cannot say that this cave is the Sinlung Cave that we have always cherished. More research needs to be done.