The Misings are an ethnic group inhabiting the districts of Dhemaji, North Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat and Golaghat of Assam in India. A few live in and around Pasighat of East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. They are the second largest tribal group in North-East India, with Bodos being the largest. They were earlier called Miris which now they take as offensive. However the Constitution of India still refers them as Miris. They belong to greater Tani community which comprises of many tribes in Arunachal Pradesh in India and Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in China. All Tani tribes share linguistic, cultural and ritual similarities. All Misings trace back their root to Abutani or Abo Tani (The first man on earth) like any other Tani tribes.
The Misings belong to a mixture of East Asian as well as Southeast Asian subrace of the Mongoloid race, similar to the mixture of the Mongoloid subraces inside political China as people from Southern China may look more like the South East Asian brown-skinned Mongoloids and more towards the Northern China more fair skinned Mongoloids dwell. It's not known exactly where they migrated from, but it is popularly believed that they were dwellers of the hills of present day Arunachal Pradesh. This explains the cultural and linguistic similarities they have with many Tani tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. Other Tani tribes are Adi, Apatani, Nyishi ( Nyshing), Padam, Minyong etc.. Somewhere around the 13th century, they started migrating towards the plains of Assam, most probably in search of fertile land.
Legends says that they came into contact with more 'civilised' communities living in plains of Assam as early as in 16th century. Because of this, they lost their violent tribal nature and many embraced Vaishnavite religion. This exodus continued for at least 2-3 centuries.
No written evidence of Misings and their migration from hills to the plains of Assam is found in the Modern day. But it is widely believed that soon after migrating, they started living on the banks of rivers in plains of Assam. Reason for this change of habitat is not known except few theories centering around the fact that the Misings had to migrate to the plains due to harsh nature of climate in the hills. Many even claim that there were civil wars between the communities which led them to flee the hills.
One theory says that Misings presently living in plains of Assam were not a one single tribe, but evolved into one when many tribes from various Tani tribes in Arunachal Pradesh migrated to plains of Assam in search of fertile land as well as in search of civilisational progress. Over a period of time, they became known as Miris as they acted as middle men between tribes of hills of Arunachal Pradesh and people of plains of Assam like Ahoms, Kacharis etc. Miri means 'middle men' in old Assamese language. This explains presence of many Mising clans with different Mising dialects as well as different levels of development. But this theory still needs to be validated.
Typical Mising Okum ( House) : Contributed by : Anil Kumar Pegu
They settled on both banks along the length of the river, starting right from Sadiya in the east, to Buroi Burli (Bharali River) in the west. They have settled in Dergaon, Jorhat in the South of Brahmaputra. Few Mising villages are in Merapani, bordering Nagaland too. They continued their practice of living in thatched houses raised on bamboo stilts, known as Chang ghar. It was a protection against flood waters during the rainy season, although the original logic behind raised houses was protection from wild beasts.
Recently, specially after they were given ST status in Assam under Indian Constitution in 1976, they have progressed remarkably. This is one of the irony that Misings, though being community belonged to Tani tribes, they were not originally made ST ( Scheduled Tribes) by Indian constitution. Many opine that it was due to lack of violent tribal nature of Misings as well as relative better economic condition of Misings in Assam as compared to many tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. Also, it is now told that Misings chose to stay in Assam when they are given a choice to be clubbed with Arunachal Pradesh during re-organisation of states. Many say, Mising chose to stay in Assam as they have assimilated with Assamese society much better and well much more advanced than their Tani brothers in hills of Arunachal Pradesh.
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