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My Passage to Rih Dil

Rih Dil is a lake located in Burma, just about 3 kilometers from the Indian border and is associated with Mizo folklore, where the departed souls are believed to have made their passage before they go to their eternal abodes.


The Mizos in the past believed that the ‘other world’ was divided into two, and that all spirits went to a place called ‘Mitthi khua’ (village of the deaths), then some moved on to ‘Pialral’ (heaven); but to reach their eternal abodes, they had to pass through the lake Rih Dil.

According to the legend, after crossing the Rih lake, the spirits/ souls reach a hill called 'Hringlang tlang', where they look back at their village and weep for days longing for the world they had left behind. In this mythical hill, there is  spring water called ‘Lungloh tui’, which they drink to quench their thirst and this made them forget all about their past life. The hill is also said to be full of flowers called ‘Hawilo par’, which they pluck and wear in their ears and hair and this made them forget their desire to return to their loved ones and they proceed to ‘Pawla kawt’ and then on to the dead men’s village called ‘Mitthi Khua’.

The dead men’s village ‘Mitthi khua’ is where the common people settled, living just like they did in their past lives. But beyond that village exist a place called 'Pialral' or heaven, where only the men and families who earned the title called ‘Thangchuah’ through their piousness and having sacrificed animals and given the community feast could enter the heaven much to the envy of the people who had to settle in Mitthi khua where there is only hardship.

It was a lovely September morning when we started out for Rih Dil. The drive from Champhai to Zokhawthar, the last border village is about an hour, and after registering ourselves to the Indian police at the border post, we crossed a bridge, which was painted in two colours. The white half belongs to India and the red half belongs to Burma.


In a minute we were in a foreign land, and I felt a rush of angst gripping me. I was a bit apprehensive about carrying expensive equipment to a place where the Indian law would not protect me, and I really did not know what to expect out of Burma, but then, I brushed aside my fear, prayed for a safe passage, and then we were on our way.

In stark contrast to any Mizo village or town, there were liquor shops everywhere, and my boys started shopping and had their first beer, I guess after years! (Alcohol is prohibited in Mizoram, but...)


The people in the village speaks our language, they were friendly and inquisitive. We had our first Burmese meal, which was really delicious. I was just amused by the way they traded chickens and other commodities, because they sounded awfully expensive and it took us few minutes to realize that they were trading in Kyats and not Rupees! They are also highly enterprising about the way they trade goods between the borders.

We could not take our sumo jeep with us as the water was too high and the bridge was too dangerous to cross. The bridge actually swings and expands when one walks on it. We did have the option to hire a motorcycle, but we decided to walk, as we were told that it was only 2.5km uphill walk.

It was a pleasant walk, though it was very quiet. We met another group of Indian tourists, which was comforting, to know that we were not alone. It is hard to describe the fear that I felt while we were there, but I realized that it was not very comforting to be in Burma. In about an hour we reached the village Rihkhawdar, which was surprisingly well developed and there were some beautiful modern houses.

At last, we sighted the legendary lake in the middle of beautiful green hills and paddy fields surrounding it. While I have seen many mountain lakes, this one was indeed special as it brought forth memories of what we used to learn in school, my grandmother's tales, which was so long ago and I found it startling to be standing by a lake held so high in Mizo legends.

As we walked on, there were beautiful rest houses standing by the lake, which I guess were meant for the Burmese tourists, though I doubt that many would come this far when their roads connecting to the main cities are said to be very bad. Indians are given only a day pass to visit the lake.

And then we walked in to the restaurant, and I was dying for a cold cold water, but it was stocked with alcohol! Who in the world would drink in the middle of the day, especially when it was over 30C and then has to track back almost 3 km to the Indian border?? Well, some do, but it would have been nice if there was a bottle of chilled water.

Then we walked beyond the lounge, and heard a loud crowd boarding a boat for a ride. We sat and watched them as they were boating along the lake. I found it rather amusing that they have boats to ride on, but the charge was rather high, which was 400 Rupees per half an hour ride in the middle of nowhere!

Rih Outlet

While taking photos, I saw reflections of the trees on the lake and wondered if this was what the ancestors called ‘Mitthi pal’, the name of a mythical row of trees in the Rih lake said to mark the path across the water traversed by departing spirits on their way to 'Mitthi khua'. These trees were said to be connected with one another beneath the water in such a way that if one shook the one.

The men who were on the boat ride finally came back, and we were happy to find out that they are from Mizoram and that some had even worked with my dad in the past. I was pleased that they invited us along to visit the village, and then showed us the outlet of the lake called Rih Dawk.

All this while, I was ignorant of the fact that there was an outlet, because I was made to believe that the lake has no external or internal inflow! I guess this was to make the lake more mysterious than it already is in the folk lore of the Mizos. The water was clear, but we were told that some when in the autumn season, the water becomes muddy, and remains so for several days, till it clears itself.

My new friends explained to me in details how the lake drains itself below the village and then made its way down to paddy fields just before the Indian border. They took us for tea to a house, which I found to be of great comfort to find out that their name was Hualngo as part of my family are of the same clan.

Though there were more places to see, we had to leave because the gate at the border was going to close at 5pm, and it was already 3pm. A walk down to the border was much more relaxing, besides being in a group, I could consult the elders who were very versed in the history of the Mizos, and also gave me an insight to the Indo- Burmese trade in the border.

They had a laugh when I asked if the British had purposely drawn the line of border to make us suffer and make us long for our revered lake, as they had done with many countries before the empire fell. Seriously, do you not think that just 3 more kilometers would have mattered at the time they divided the Arakan and Lushai hills?

The anthropologist from nowhere


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 27th, 2008 04:54 am (UTC)
Awesome! When are you taking me there? :-)
Oct. 27th, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC)
save your holiday, and you can come visit me (and be my photographer:-) when I go there to do my research next year, after the monsoon, and I am likely to be there for two months. I will take you to Murlen National Park, and then to an awesome cave to open a box of skeleton (seriously) and then to many many awesome places.
Oct. 29th, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)
if you were to take a picture of the lake frm up one of the roads along the surrounding ridges, you could actually have a nice picture of it's famous "heart shaped" form and those strange trees/bushes that surrounded it. i see that the bushes have grown leaves in your pictures, when i was there they were all dry..twigs and sticks mostly.we were told they'd get green later, which is weird because i don't see much tropical bushes do that (shed leaves completely). we were also told that when the water gets muddy people came from all over to drink it for its 'medicinal' values.my aunt still have the water in a bottle hoping that it would get muddy as well when the lake gets 'magical' which we were told it would.

when i was there back in maybe it was 96 or 95, the bridge you mentioned painted in two colors wasn't there so we ran over the river (called "tiau" BTW)which was pretty shallow.in place of the bridge there was a roped 'sky-lift' (a wooden box which could carry 2-3 people, sliding along a rope), prolly used to cross the border when the water level rises. a couple of us hired this drunk burmese guide to give us a ride in the lift,the mechanic of the thing is that, the guy would get ontop of the box and pull us along the rope to the opposite bank. the guy who pulled us was so wasted that he collapsed when we reached the middle of the river and even threw up on us. we were stuck top of the river for about 30 mins, they had to have a guy monkeyed over on the rope to us to pull us to the bank since we were like 10 or 12 YO then.
i can't believe crossing the border still takes only 400 bucks. time sure stand still in that part of the world.

the whole rih ril legend is i think one of the most interesting story in the mizo folklore. the japanese had a somewhat similar version of it; the soul crossing to the other side, the 'waiting' villege etc. minus this lake. personally, the lake always struck me as something wierdly but beautifully romantic.

heh, sorry for spamming your blog but i just could not resist seeing these pictures.
Oct. 30th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
Re: nostalgic
A lot has changed since 95/96 and so has politics in Burma. I would have loved to climb higher to get better pictures, but our movement was really restricted and I did not want to get in to trouble in Burma. (NOT in Burma:-) Also, I guess we are now talking about two bridges, one that connects to India, which is painted white and red and the other is the suspension bridge. In winter, one can still cross the river Tiau, as it is low, but at the end of the monsoon, it is impossible.

I did the roped sky lift thing across river Sutlej long time ago, and it is indeed scary! I do not envy you about your experience as I completely understand about the insecurity one goes through in Burma. The sad thing though is that they are our people, but we are afraid of the army there.
Thanks for coming by
Oct. 30th, 2008 12:48 pm (UTC)
The photos on the left when clicked are linked to the on the right.

You are a good story teller :-) I thought Rih Dil was there dead souls went. I didn't know it as a passage.

When I went there in 97, a jeep could go under the suspension bridge but we hiked up the hill.

I didn't drink :-) The trip as a part of Science Exhibition at Champhai where I presented my school.
Oct. 30th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
You see, it gives me all the more reason to travel and document about places to visit and about Mizo society and culture. When my nephews and my niece reach your age, they will not even know what Rih Dil is all about:-) Thanks for coming by.
PS: About pic link, I will edit it as soon as I have time.
Nov. 2nd, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
Very Interesting.
Kan tet lai a Mizo Class vel a kan zir ka hrechhuak uaih uaih mai. It looks awesome to go there. And I do agree with u on the whole British Politics thingy...I wonder if Burmese people have their side of story/myth relating to RIH DIL.

NB: I think you might have linked it wrong for the pictures you put side by side. When you click the left ones it takes you to the link of the right one. Just thought I'd put that to your notice incase you haven't realized it :P

Nov. 2nd, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Very Interesting.
I guess someone has already beaten me regarding the link :P

Nov. 3rd, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)
Re: Very Interesting.
Spikey, I think there is a need for a drastic educational change in Mizoram. There is so much difference between what we were taught and what the reality is. I am not aware of the present syllabus of what the students are taught, but there is an urgent need to introduce Mizo history not only in Mizo class, but in the mainstream subjects.

I was in Mary Mount while I was in Aizawl, and I was horrified to find out that everything was still in place like the Green/Red/Blue House boards were and the kids were doing the same thing like I did in my time and yours...and I left Mary Mount in 1986!!! There is a need for reform!!
As for the British thingy, I have no doubt that they divided us with pleasure.....
Nov. 4th, 2008 05:45 am (UTC)
Hi, i'm mesjay. Been trying umpteen times to leave my comments but just keep getting rejected.

The pics are bootiful. Rihdil and all calls up a lot of nostalgia from childhood stories. Only it's a bit disappointing that the thick forests are all cleared.
Nov. 4th, 2008 11:34 am (UTC)
hello kimi
Mizoram i haw dawn thu kha i sawi a. Keipawh Nov 13 khan ka haw chho a, Mizoram Univ leh Chin National Organisation ten Seminar an buatsaih a. Ka han tel ve a, i rawn tel ve te ka lo ring ngawt a. Enge chanchin ni ta zel....!! Thlalak thar ka nei leh nual tawh a sin...!!

Nov. 4th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
Re: hello kimi
I thlalak thenkhat te chu LK ah ka lo hmu a, ka rawn comment ang:-) Aug -Sep thla khan ka lo haw a, ka cham rei hman ta lova, class kal te a ngai si a, bakah paper pahnih ziah tur ka la nei a, Jan 2009 hi ka deadline a ni a, ka in chhiar a tep tawh.

Kha Seminar kha chu ka tel ve chak lutuk....email in chhun zawm mai ang aw...
Nov. 4th, 2008 06:11 pm (UTC)
Mesjay, thank you. Ka zawh duh deuh che chu maw...Hmanlai khan Rih dil a an kal hma in, thlathum vel an thlarau a leng thin an ti tiraw? Ka la hriat uaih2 mahseng ka chian tak loh chu, mi an thih hnu in an ei tur te kha an dah sak ve thin em kha?
Nov. 6th, 2008 04:44 am (UTC)
A rei lam chu ka hre chiah lova, mahse an thlarau engemaw chen chu a chamin an ring ani ang, eitur and pe (chhiah) thrin anih hmel. mesjay.
Nov. 7th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
ka lawm e...Hnathial chanchin ka rawn chhawp tep tawh e.
Nov. 6th, 2008 08:24 am (UTC)
Top right picture is beautiful! It makes me want to shut down my computer, pack my bags and go away. Somewhere..where I don't know. With a book and a pen and just sit there by myself all day would be heaven.
Nov. 7th, 2008 06:08 pm (UTC)
Na, the place indeed looks tranquil, but this not not a place where you want to have some moments to yourself. Instead, Lianchhiari Lunglentlang will be a better place, it is peaceful and spooky:-) Talking of that I have to continue writing about my journey......
Nov. 9th, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
i went to rihdil with my family some years ago, it wasn't a very pleasant trip (due to other reasons). it was hot, i was cranky and believe me, you wouldn't want to go with a certain mizo "celebrity" singer who probably thought she was too good for her own good.
i liked champhai a lot though. lovely place and lovely people. have you ever considered being a travel writer? i think you'd make a terrific one.

& oh yes, did you find out anything about the exihibition venue in aizawl?

Dec. 11th, 2008 04:36 am (UTC)

wonderfull..informative site...pics/words..
link it to my blog: http://bamboosouls.blogspot.com/

Dec. 11th, 2008 04:39 am (UTC)
like your site

tag you to my site
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 8th, 2009 03:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you. This piece has been published in a magazine called New Horizon from Sikkim, which is a Travel magazine, aiming exclusively NE India...
Feb. 21st, 2009 11:02 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing.worth reading.
maruti car india
Apr. 18th, 2009 07:49 am (UTC)
Rih dil hi ka kal ve chak khawp mai, abikin thlalaka han hmuh te hian. Mizo dil hmingthangte tih bu kc vanlalruata ziah kha ka chhiar zo chiaha. Google ah zawng nghalin helai hi ka hmu fuh leh a. Rih ah khian loch ness monster ang deuh rul a om thin an tia, a kamah a lim te an siama, chungte poh chu hmuh a chakom
Jun. 12th, 2009 10:31 am (UTC)
nice work
good stuff. i agree (rather strongly) on the history that should be taught in our schools. could possibly be taught better too. i guess, in a way, the responsibility is on us, to at least speak of things many no longer speak about. i can't seem to find very much information on the old religion, for instance. it would be a pity to loose the myths too. keep up the good work!

Oct. 23rd, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
great work
really awesome.and very informative.would love to visit one day,dunno wen!
Jan. 9th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
Re: great work
Thank you all - the place is worth a visit - perhaps I will come out with more information about this place another day. I was back there in spring 2010 - still awesome:-)
Dipmoina Dowarah
May. 26th, 2014 08:23 am (UTC)
rih dil

i have been planning to visit rih dil, it is good 2 know your experiences. wish to be in touch for further help.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )