Musical instrument Repertoires and History in NE India: Studies from Manipur and Mizoram

MacDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Manipur and Mizoram were former states of considerable importance and extent in what is now Northeast India. The vagaries of political history have moved them to the political margins and they remain little known to ethnographers and archaeologists. Both are characterised by a central polity and a cluster of minorities, mostly belonging to the Kuki-Chin family of languages. In contrast to other regions in NE India, both have extremely rich repertoires of musical instruments mostly reflecting a complex historical record. The paper summarises the history and archaeology of both states and then explores the musical instruments associated with the central polities, which broadly reflects contact both with Assam and with the Tai-related kingdoms further east. By contrast, the musical instruments of the minorities reflect the ethnic diversity of the region and are linked more to Nagaland and adjacent areas of Myanmar. The paper will provide a broad historical stratification of instruments with typological and historical comparisons and reflect on how this type of material culture data can enrich archaeological hypotheses.