Zauka takes over as head of Vanawia Pawl sect of Mizoram

AIZAWL: Vanawia, the high priest and topmost spiritual leader of the Vanawia Pawl sect of Mizoram, was accorded a tearful farewell by his followers on Saturday. Vanawia (78) passed away on Friday following a battle with lung cancer. He is survived by 15 wives and many children and grandchildren.

Vanawia was known throughout Mizoram for his religious belief which was to stay away from the 'world' as his followers were 'Van thar-lei thar pawl' or the new heaven on earth church. His seniormost wife Siamzingi - known among the sect members as 'Laldiheli' - was regarded as a prophet who could predict the future through writings on her arms.

Zauka, the second-in-command in ideology among the members of the sect, is now the leader after Vanawia's demise. Zauka has 36 wives.

C S Lalhmangaiha, who now resides in Lunglei after leaving the sect, said the Vanawia sect believed in the advent of the thousand-year kingdom on earth.

Earlier known as Laldarinsap among the Vanawia sect members, Lalhmangaiha said he left Vanawia in 2001 to join the Presbyterian Church. He lives in Lunglei now.

Vanawia, known as 'Lalzahabar', received an 'order from God' in 1974 and began to travel across Mizoram, besides Meghalaya and Manipur, to spread the 'word'. He and his followers believed that the writings on the arms of 'Laldiheli', whom he married in 1977, were the words of God and the sect's beliefs were completely based on the writings.

The presence of the sect was even acknowledged by the Centre after the writings on Laldiheli's arms predicted the sudden death of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Lalhmangaiha said they sent letters to Indira Gandhi and even met her regarding the prediction. "I was among the group which met Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to warn her," he said, adding that Gandhi was given the first warning in 1982 and the last one on March 5, 1983.

"We met her twice. After we told her about the danger to her life, she said, 'Everyone is going to die'. I told her that she would not die like her father Jawaharlal Nehru and other members of the family. She asked me who would kill her. I said that I did not know that and the killer might be someone she never thought would harm her," Lalhmangaiha said.

Indira Gandhi was gunned down by her security guards at her official residence on October 31, 1984.

He said after the assassination, intelligence officials visited the members of the sect a number of times at Thaltlang village, the abode of Vanawia and his followers in Mizoram's Lawngtlai district.

The members of the sect moved from place to place while they remained at Thaltlang village in the Phawngpui mountain, the highest mountain in Mizoram, Phawngpui was earlier known the Blue Mountain.

Lalhmangaiha said some members migrated to Bangladesh in 1991. In Bangladesh, they began to go astray and began returning to Mizoram. He said that a small group went to Thenzawl in the central Serchhip district form where they returned to Sangau village near Thaltlang and remained there.
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