The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript tour diary of W.G. Archer, S.D.O. Mokokchung 1947

caption: Sema attitudes to young mens' houses (apuki) and the effect of christianity
medium: tours
keywords: apukikipitimi romkitotimi romkisheku
person: Chophimi clan
ethnicgroup: Sema
location: Yehemi Kiyetha (Kiyatha) Khumishe (Khumishimi) Satami Achikuchimi
date: 12.1.1947
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 31.12.1946-14.2.1947
text: 12 January
text: This evening the man who is teaching me Naga Assamese told me the Sema attitude to young men's houses. Sema Nagas went over in a mass to Christianity about twenty years ago. Non-christian villages still exist but nowadays they are very rare.
text: X himself is a Christian and his clan is the Chophimi clan which includes villages such as Yehemi, Kiyatha, Khumishimi, Satami and Achikuchimi. When X was small, it was still the rule for every village in this clan to have a young men's house called apuki (from apu - a youngman and Ki - a house). The apuki was not however used as a dormitory but was built to contain the 'sheku' or log-drum. The house and also the drum were always made with ritual and sacrifices and the latter was used to give a danger signal in times of raids. The young men slept in the house of a village elder.
text: X thinks that before the Semas were converted every Sema village had an apuki and not merely the Chophimi clan. Nowadays in every Christian village there are separate dormitories for the unmarried boys and girls. The practice of bedding down the children and the village youth in private houses has been given up and there are now separate halls specially erected for the purpose. Discipline is strict and 'if a boy does not answer roll- call he is fined a pice'. The boys' house is called Kipitimi romki - the houses for unmarried boys and the girls' totimi romki - the house for unmarried girls. The houses are not called morungs because the word is associated with non-Christian ritual. The boys and the girls enter the halls when they are 12 to 13 and leave on marriage. (21)
text: X tells me that far from Christianity destroying art it is still quite usual for Sema Christians to decorate their houses with carvings of mithan heads. Similarly the idea of carvings as denoting feasts of merit has also been preserved. But instead of performing certain prescribed gennas, a Sema, wishing to put up carvings must now give two or more big feasts at Christmas. When he has done this, he proclaims the fact through carvings in exactly the same way as was done in earlier times.