Liangmai Naga Couple - photo by Ankur Deka
A Liangmai Naga Couple | Photo: Ankur Deka (OK North East)
The Liangmai people, belonging to the Mongoloid race and speaking a Tibeto-Burman language, form one of the 33 recognized tribes in Manipur. Spread across Manipur, Nagaland, and Assam, the Liangmai are known for their rich cultural heritage and unique linguistic identity. Historically agriculturalists, they have maintained their traditions through festivals like Chaga-Ngee, despite the modern influences of Christianity. This article by researcher Ankur Deka delves into the history, language, and cultural practices of the Liangmai, offering a comprehensive overview of this vibrant community.


Ethnically and linguistically, the Liangmai people belong to the Mongoloid group and speak Liangmai, a Tibeto-Burman language under the Naga-Bodo section family (G.A. Grierson in Linguistic Survey of India). Liangmai is one of the 33 tribes recognized by the Government of Manipur, which include Aimol, Anal, Hmar, Maram, Mao, Paite, Simte, Thangal, Tangkhul, Thadou, among others.

In Nagaland, Liangmais are recognized as Zeliang, which includes both Zeme and Liangmai. The language spoken by the Liangmai people is known as Liangmai. The Liangmai tribes of Mongoloid race reside in the states of Manipur, Nagaland, and Assam in Northeast India. They are primarily found in Tamenglong headquarters, Tousem and Tamei subdivisions, Kangpokpi, Supermaina, and Tadubi of Senapati district in Manipur, as well as Tening subdivision, Jhalukie, Peren, Dimapur, and Kohima in Nagaland. They are also present in the NC Hills of Assam. The community has a population of about 80,000, with Manipur having a significantly larger Liangmai population than Nagaland. Since 2003, all Liangmais in Manipur have followed Christianity, whereas there are still a few non-Christians in Nagaland. According to the 2001 census, the Liangmai population in Manipur was over 34,232, with 17,477 males and 16,755 females. The Zeliang population in Nagaland was 36,012, of which 2,315 were Liangmai.


Liangmai language is mainly spoken in Manipur and Nagaland. In Manipur, Liangmai speakers are found in Tamenglong headquarters, Tamei subdivision, Senapati district, and scattered near Imphal. In Nagaland, they are found in Tening subdivision, Jaluke of Peren district, Dimapur, and Kohima.

The Liangmai language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family under the Naga-Bodo section. It is mutually intelligible across Manipur and Nagaland, despite slight variations from place to place and village to village.

Liangmai is an agglutinative language with the characteristics of an SOV (Subject-Object-Verb) language. It is linguistically closer to Maram, Rongmei, Poumai, Thangal, and Zeme, which are spoken in the same region.

Liangmai has six vowel sounds and twenty consonantal phonemes.


The Liangmai are believed to have migrated from southwestern China. Names such as Suang, Hu Wang Liu San, and Kiang are similar to Chinese names. The Liangmai have no historical documents detailing their migration and origin.

Many writers note Makhel (known as Makhiang among the Liangmai in the Mao area) as a place where all Naga tribes lived together before a major dispersal occurred. The majority of the Liangmai are agriculturists and still live in villages. Their villages, often located on hilltops, provide a suitable environment for cultivation, and they practice shifting cultivation. They migrated from their ancestral lands in search of new fertile lands.


Chaga-Ngee, the biggest festival of the Liangmai community, is celebrated in October. Today, this festival, showcasing Liangmai's rich culture and tradition, is celebrated on October 30th each year. The festival is usually held in Tamei and Dimapur.

Historically, Chaga-Ngee was a celebration of victorious wars to honor brave warriors. It was also a festival of purification, sanctification, and rededication for future tasks. In the modern context, the primary reason for organizing this event is to preserve the rich culture and tradition of the Liangmai. On this day, both old and young Liangmais gather in their traditional attire to sing folk songs, dance folk dances, and play traditional games and sports. However, with the advent of Christianity, the present generation has largely forgotten traditional culture.


Liangmai and Zeme are collectively referred to as Zeliang in Nagaland, while in Manipur, they are recognized as Kacha Naga tribes. The term "Kacha Naga" is derived from the Angami word ‘Ketsa,’ meaning thick forest. Due to pronunciation errors by non-native speakers, the British incorrectly dubbed the word ‘ketsa’ as ‘kacha.’

The Zeliangrong tribe, with a population of about 400,000, is scattered across Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sylhet (Bangladesh), China, Myanmar, and other regions, and has emerged as a significant entity in the Naga family.

- by Ankur Deka|
Liangmai couple - Photo by Ankur Deka