Accorded recognition in 1956, Gangte is one of the recognized tribes of Indian Union. They are found in the North-eastern part of India, particularly in the States of Manipur, Nagaland, and Mizoram. They have a distinct dialect, custom and tradition of their own with a rich cultural heritage. Gangtes are known for their high sense of wits and humour.
In his book ‘The Scheduled Tribes’, K.S.Singh observed; “According to legend, they (meaning, the Gangtes) originated in a Khul located somewhere in the north”. L. Keivom, author and diplomat asserted that Khul is believed to be somewhere in China. Rev. G.S.Gangte maintains that the Gangtes had settled in a place called Ganggam around 200-15- BC. Contrary to popular believe that Ganggam is in Burma, he further recorded it as being situated at the Yunan province in Monsha region of China. Historians are of the view that the term ‘Gangte’ is derived from the word Ganggam, which means ‘people of Ganggam’.
Although historical datas are a matter of debate, however, many scholars and historians agree on one point – the Gangtes came to Manipur in the sixteenth century A.D. Today, there are 15,000 Gangtes settled in all parts of the States. In the words of T.T.Haokip, ex-Deputy Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly, “Gangte is quite a popular name in Manipur, thanks to the tribe’s various contribution to the socio-economic and cultural development of the state.
The Gangtes have their own dialect known as ‘Gangte Pau’, and is of Tibeto-Burman origin. They use Roman script in the absence of an indigenous one. The traditional shawl (Puondum) with its intricate design of a combination of black, red and yellow colours serves as an identification mark of the community.
The Gangtes accorded prime importance to education. Says K.S.Singh, ‘the Gangtes are well-placed in the field of education’. A large number of Gangte students, both boys and girls attend schools and colleges within and without Manipur. As per the 1981 census (which is more than two decades old record), the literacy rate of the Gangte tribe was 42.29 percent, of which the male literacy rate was 50.64 percent which the female literacy rate stood at 33.69 percent. According to K.Babudhon Singh, former Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly, ‘the tribe is well-known in Manipur for its good percentage of white collared employees’.
The Gangte is a peculiar tribe that has a long history of its own. Gangte history is notorious for disastrous incidents encountered down the years. Sometimes hard to believe but these incidents cannot be dismissed lightly. Attacking the wild elephant with knotted cloth, stamping the sharp edge of an axe in an attempt to blunt it, jumping off a high cliff in an attempt to swim the mist below et al are some of the most disastrous incidents the resulted in their large-scale demise. In his book “Political and Cultural History of The Hills People” Vungdouthong wrote, “had not the Gangtes met such misfortunes, they would probably be one of the numerous tribes”.