The Zeliangrong people comprise three associated tribes (Zeliang, Liangmei and Rongmei) that live in South Nagaland and parts of Manipur (Tamelong District) and Assam and they share cultural similarities. The 29th of August is remembered by the Zeliangrong as the day that Haipou Jadonang became a martyr eighty years ago to the cause of independence from the British.
Jadonang was born in 1905 as the second of three sons in a family of modest means. From childhood there was something unusual about him; He would sleep for several days continuously, and on waking up to find his family mourning for him, he would tell them that he had been disturbed from his dialogue with God. It was also noticed that he talked to himself and whenever he predicted events in the future they came true. The rare flowering of bamboo and the rodent infestation it brings is feared as a time of famine. But when the bamboo flowered, young Jadonang told people not to worry but to sacrifice a mithun (buffalo) instead to God. They listened to him, and they were saved from the terrible fate of starvation. Jadonang was also a spiritual healer with the ability to cure many illnesses and everyone concluded that he had special spiritual powers.
At that time, the British ruled both Assam and Manipur, and in 1927 charismatic Jadonang mobilized the people and declared “Naga Raj” implying freedom from British domination. He was first arrested in 1928 and imprisoned for three days. On 19 February 1931 he was arrested for the final time in the Kachar Hills. He had visited the mystic Bhuvan cave with his young female follower, Rani Gaidinliu, and he had received a premonition of his impending death. The invitation for a discussion turned out to be a trap and he was jailed and hung to death. After his arrest Rani Gaidinliu took his place in the fight for independence.
During his time, Jadonang did not receive much recognition but his impact is still felt today. He insisted on preservation of culture, religion and identity and to unite his people on one platform he built temples, beginning with the first in his own village. There are now 12 houses of worship known as Kalum Kai in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland where followers come and worship on the full moon and on every Sunday. “The time in which Jadonang lived was a time of backwardness and he spoke the language of the people. He was intellectual, and he was ahead of his time. His songs, hymns, dances and costume designs have made the Zeliangrong culturally great”, points out Som Kamei, Director of the North East Zone Cultural Centre and Chief Guest at a commemorative event held in Dimapur in honour of Jadonang. He adds that “to nurture solidarity the Government recognizes and promotes Jadonang as a freedom fighter, and in general, we are all proud of the freedom fighter of the Nagas, although he has also inspired insurgent activities. He sacrificed himself for his people and country.”
The religion advocated by Jadonang was the cult of Heraka, also known as Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak (TRC). Tingkao Ragwang literally means “supreme God of the sky” and he is the supreme deity of the Zeliangrong tribes. Beyond time and space, he is believed to be “eternal, good, the source of life, the giver and ultimate goal of the human soul, source of holiness, architect of man’s destiny and source of knowledge and wisdom.”