Discovery And Subsequent Development Of Vaiphei Alphabets


-Siamlal Vaiphei



            In 1907, there was a famine in the Manipur hills following the mass bamboo flowering when bamboo plants flower, they produce a large volume of seeds, which are a source of food for many predators, especially rats.

            As masses of flowering bamboo produce this natural bounty, rats are attracted to the area. Fortified by the Protein-rich seeds, they multiply rapidly.

            But the supply of bamboo seed is limited. When it is exhausted, armies of these marauding rodents turn their attention to standing crops devouring acres of rice, potatoes, and sweet potatoes within a few days. As a result, local peasants, who are fully dependant on agriculture for their sustenance, are subjected to famine.

            Such was the case in Manipur hill during the 1907, People of Bualtang and Maite were also not spared, they went into jungles to search for food usually parts of wild banana plants and  ‘Baha’ a local wild root. At this critical juncture, the British Government who had coverted most of India under their administration came from Aizawl to Sinzawl to distribute rice to famine affected villages.

            Two good friends Mr.Lungpao and Mr.Thangkai from Bualtang and Maite village set out to get rations of rice from the British Government at Sinzawl. The road to Sinzawl was a long way off, Maite-Umtal-Mualnuam-Khuangin-Sinzawl.

            At Sinzawl, they asked the agent who distribute rice whether he could issue rice for them as well. The Agent replied that since it was late in the evening, he would gladly issue them rice the next morning. The Agent then ask their names and entered in his register book.

            Now Mr. Lungpao and Mr. Thangkai were doubtful that the agent would remember their names as they had never seen the art of writing and had not been aware of such a technique. As Morning came, the went to the agent to ask for their share of rice, being absolutely sure that the agent would have forgotten their names. But the Agent called out the names of each one who came for rice correctly even that of Mr.Lungpao and Mr. Thangkai. Both Mr.Lungpao and Mr. Thangkai were really perplex as to how the Agent could remember their names as well as others who came for rice. Curiosity go the better of the two friends, they ask the Agent how he could remember all the names of those who came for rice. The Agent simply tell them that he had written down all the names so it was not difficult for him to remember all those names. Now being unsure of what the Agent had told them, they wanted to test the Agent knowledge, they gave the Agents names of their villagers which were quite hard to pronounce. The agent also willing wrote it down so that he would remember later on. After sometime thinking that the agent would forget the names given by them, they went to the Agent to ask for the names which they had earlier told the Agent. The Agent correctly pronounce each name again. Greatly inspired by their new discovery they ask the agent about the secrets of writing . The agent told them about alphabets their uses and their pronounciation.

            From then onwards there was no looking back for the two friends from the Manipur Hills. They were determined to learn the secret of writing and master the art of reading . In the meantime they work and earn so that they could go to Aizawl to learn how to read and write. When they had earned enough for the journey to Aizawl, Mr.Lungpao went to Bualtang where his friend Mr.Thangkai resides together they embark on the road to learning reading and writing. Their Journey was a long way from Bualtang, Bualtang-Leijangphai-thanlon-Parbung-Tipaimukh-Kawlbem-Lushai hills-Suangpilawn-Changjawl-then finally Aizawl. They went all along asking all the way to Aizawl. At Aizawl, they went to Dr.Peter Fraser who was a Welsh Missionary. Dr.Peter Fraser ask them their names, their village and their purpose of their visit. They told Dr. Peter Fraser that they had come to learn how to read and write. At that time, Watkin R.Roberts who had learned of the visit of two youths from Manipur, rushed to Dr.Peter Fraser’s residence to meet the two youths. They had tea together and had tea together and discuss their purpose of visit. The two youths told them that they were Mr. Lungpao from Maite, and Mr.Thangkai from Bualtang both from Manipur Southern Hills coming in search of learning the art of reading and writing. Since Dr.Peter Fraser was not in position to offer them their great desire, (At that time the Welsh Presbyterian School Committee does not have reservation for outsiders.) Watkin Roberts took them to Sairang where they could earn and study at the same time. There they went to Phuaibung village where Mr.Letjakai the Chief of the Village allowed them to join school soon they completed learning A,AW,B,CH in Lushai syllables.( The mizo use A,AW, B,Ch, instead of A,B,C in English to suit their language pronounciation.)

            In 1909, A very good news for the two friends came from Dr.Peter Fraser from Aizawl summoning the two friends for higher studies at Aizawl. At Aizawl, Dr.Peter Fraser announce that the School Committee has made provisions for them to continue their studies as well . At this time Watkin R. Roberts tell them that since he himself was a bachelor, he would contribute his small room for both of them to study and also that he would contribute towards paying for their books. Mr.Lungpao and Mr.Thangkai gladfully accepted his offer and they began to stay with Watkin R.Roberts.

            Under the guidance of Watkin R. Roberts they began their schooling, they passed out their lower class from this Mission school. Here at this Mission School some students were sponsored by the Mission, whereas others were studying at their private cost. But The two friends were sponsored by the Mission. Watkin R. Robert take special interest on this two students, even offered to tutor them as well. The Headmaster of this Mission School too gave help to them as they had come from far away Manipur Hills to study.

            Mr.Thangkai joined as a teacher at the newly opened Mission School at Senvon while Mr.Lungpao offered to serve as an Evangelist. As famine grip the area, they were sent off to work for the Lord and preach the Good News by the Mission on their own. In 1912, Mr.Thangkai went back to Bualtang and opened a school there, whereas Mr.Lungpao reached his village Maite to preach about the God and the Good News he had heard from the Mission school at Aizawl. Somewhere around the last months of 1912, they prepared to publish a book on Vaiphei dialect. Mr.Watkin R.Robert took special interest on their project. Along with him they undertook to write the first Vaiphei alphabets copying the most of the Mizo alphabets. Robertson insist on using J (pronounce as CHE) instead of CH, and GH (pronounce as Ekheh) instead of KH, so that they use “Janjin” in place of “Chanchin” and “Ghawvel” in place of Khawvel,however it was discontinued in later publications, the same CH and KH was used. In 1913 they publish in Vaiphei “Thu Kisang- Dawtna leh dawnhuna”. While they were preparing this projects, Elder Manghen who had been amongst the first converts by Mr.Lungpao had come to learn reading and writing. Along with him they went on to translate from Mizo The Gospel of John in Vaiphei, in 1916 Mr.Thangkai  and Elder Manghen went to Asansol, Kolkatta guided by Mr.Watkin R.Roberts, to BSI (Bible Society of India) to print the book. In 1917 the book was published. That was the first bible word in Vaiphei.

            After this publication, the next project they undertook was to print songs in Vaiphei dialect, in this project, Mr. Manghen, Mr Lunkhopao and Mr. Khaivung took the initiative, they called the book “Kristiante Labu” it contained 50  Christian gospel songs. In 1923, Under the guidance of Mr.H. Dohnuna they print the first song book at Aryan Printing Press at Silchar.This song book was popularly known as “Labu Vawm”. As soon as this song book was out of stock, they began to print another song book with 120 gospel songs, It was again printed at Aryan Printing Press at Silchar. The song book was sold at Re.1 per copy. As this song book had a pink cover it was popularly known as ‘Labu San’ in Vaiphei.

            In 1923, Vaiphei books such as “Baptisma leh Lalpa Ja-an” and the first Vaiphei alphabets and grammar book was prepared. But lack of proof reading persons limited its publication.



S.Phaltual in 1961 printed “Vaiphei Zillai Bu II” and “English Grammar Bu-I”. It was in 1964 that Mr.Khupkhawthang who undertook to edit Vaiphei grammar he named it as “Vaiphei Lekhabul” it was published by the Vaiphei Literature Society. In 1973, Dr.Th.Lamboi published in Vaiphei “Elementary English Grammar”, in 1974 P.Kapa Vaiphei edited the Beginner Zillai which was Published by Christian Education Department. In 1975 Braj Bihari Edited Hindi-Vaiphei vocabulary which was Published by the Nagaland Bhasha Parishad. In 1989, Mr.Tinlet published Zillai Dictionary, In 1996 Mr.Henzagen Vaiphei publishVaiphei Grammar.

            In 2006 December the Manipur Board of Secondary Education (BSEM) Prescribe Vaiphei text books namely, (i) Vaiphei Pau Pakvul Telkhawm –Bu-2 for Class X, (ii) Vaiphei Pau Suikhawm Hi Tiu –Bu-2 and (iii) Vaiphei Pau Matdan & Thuphuak (Vaiphei Grammar and Composition) for Class IX & X vide their Notification No.A/SC/6(V)/76(pt) dated the 18th December 2006 and


Finally, text book for Class XI and Class XII for Council of Higher Secondary Education Manipur was prescribed by the Council of Higher Secondary Manipur, Vaiphei Pau Zilna  and Vaiphei Pau Matdan leh Thuphuak prescribed as Vaiphei MIL textbook for study in class-XI and XII, by the Council of Higher Secondary Education, Manipur vide their NotificationNo. 3/3/2009-HSCL (1) dated the 17TH June, 2009.


Sources: .

1.Thangkai leh Lungpao damlai chanchin (2002)- Thiankhawthang

2..Eden thak ah ei puilut tute damlai chanchin (2010)- Mrs. Neikim

3.Vaiphei Literature Society



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