Praising with the Mizos
This Sunday I attended church with the Mizo community in Hyderabad. Who are the Mizo’s you ask? The Mizos are the people from the Northeast state of Mizoram. It is a hill country traditionally made up of small tribes. In the late 1800s, however, the land was officially declared part of British India which led to colonization and the introduction of Christian missionaries. Now, over 80% of the state is Christian.
In Hyderabad, 300 people who make up the Mizo population and about 50 of those are students here at the University of Hyderabad. So every Sunday they attend church together and worship as a community.
I was invited to join them through a mutual friend! The transportation went like this:
- bike across campus in the sweltering heat of the day to Main Gate
- take a shared auto to Mediputam area
- take a rickshaw to St. George’s Church
So an hour later we were at the church- quite a trek but I guess it goes to show how dedicated the Mizos are to make the trip every week.
It turns out that the Mizos don’t have a church space of their own, but St. George’s allows them to use their space on Sunday afternoons to worship, free of rent.
The church is gorgeous! And after doing my research, I found that St. George’s is the oldest church in Hyderabad, build in 1884 by the Anglicans. Now it is a part of the Church of South India (CSI) which is a union between Anglican and Protestant denominations. I may have to check out their morning services sometime. Anyway, like I stated, it is beautiful. A pure white building surrounded by lush trees and flowers.
The Mizo service was pretty standard, however, it was all in the Mizoram language. Luckily, I made friends with a girl named Lawm, sitting next to me. She was so welcoming. She translated some of the dialogue and helped me to pronounce the words in some of the hymns. Yes, I sang Mizoram hymns! The pronunciation is tricky because the some of the sounds are different. For example, a ‘w’ is a ‘0’ sound. Also, as you can see from this picture, music notes are not used so I relied on listening to the tune and repeating it back. The songs were accompanied by piano, guitar, and a drum.
In addition to song singing, there was reading of scripture, offering, a short message, and reciting the Lords Prayer. With it being the last sunday of the month, there was also a “fun activity.” The Mizo community in Hyderabad has spit itself into 4 groups respective to the area of the city. The groups switch off once a month, planning an activity or performance for the last sunday of the month. The group on campus is all part of one group and it was their turn to provide an activity. Therefore, we had a bible quiz game on the book of Romans, right in the middle of the service. Again, I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but it was neat to observe the camaraderie between groups and friends. The students also performed two songs as a choir! Click here to hear the choir!
All together the service was 2 hours, which was then followed by tea time (of course). Overall, I found the Mizos to be welcoming but not very talkative. They asked me how I like the service and were very grateful that I was there. In general, the men were very easy to talk to but the women tended to stay in their own groups and chat among themselves instead of reaching out to me.
The women cracked me up! The Mizo style of clothing is very different. First of all, Mizos have more of a Chinese-Asian look to them. The women are very petite, wearing woven, colored skirts wrapped tightly around their waist. Upon getting off the rickshaw they all sat down in chairs, removed their flats, and put on 2 or 3 inch high heals! Then they all took out their compact to touch up their make up. Haha!
After the service I went out with a few of them for Biryani, a tradition on Sundays. We took a rickshaw to Mediputam and entered a place right of the streets for Beef Biryani. It was the first time I had eaten beef in Hyderabad and it was very delicious. For those of you who don’t know, Biryani is a popular rice dish of Hyderabad. Marinated chicken or beef is cooked with rice along with various spices. Traditionally it is served with chutney or raita.
From there we picked up another shared auto, returned to campus, and biked to the ShopCom for a few more minutes of conversation. This mutual friend who took me, Andy was explaining that all the Mizos on campus meet up on a daily basis to see one another; around 5pm and 10pm for chai. Same spot, same time everyday. It is a chance for them to connect and converse.
This is a theme that had struck me multiple times throughout the day. As an outsider, it was amazing to witness the sense of community for the Mizos. They are all a minority in Hyderabad- Mizos look different and talk different- but they stick to their heritage and cherish the time they spend with their fellow Mizos. I loved being able to hear about how their land is different. Maybe I will have to visit Mizoram at the end of the semester…