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: log drum rules and rituals
medium: tours
keywords: moatzu
person: LimaPungmenu clanChaneri clanSongkong morung
ethnicgroup: Ao
location: Mongsenyimti
date: 6.2.1947-7.2.1947
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 31.12.1946-14.2.1947
text: During the evening I discussed with Lima the local rules and ritual of the log drum. The log drum he told me is beaten on a variety of occasions and each had its own special rhythm. The occasions are the Moatzu festival, the return of morung members with a head, death, a village fire or when a hostile band is approaching. The rhythms are our telegram and wireless. They tell everyone for miles around what is happening. If a village beats the drum without proper cause he is punished.
text: Every year in August, the drum is the centre of a ceremony. The morung leader (Songpur tampodba) summons the morung members. They gather at the drum and he then kills a small fowl saying 'May many heads come to us. May the harvest be rich. May the morung flourish'. The fowl is then placed in front of the drum and the morung members all join in beating the drum.
text: When a new log drum is prepared, the ritual is more elaborate. The whole morung consisting of all its age groups decide which tree shall be felled. All the members then go to the spot and the first stroke is given by a man of the Pungmenu clan and the second by one from the Chaneri. Both must use the same axe and the first striker must leave the weapon standing in the cut for the second to pull away. Until the drum is actually installed, these two men are genna. When the first two strokes have been given, all the others join in and at last the tree is felled. That day a fowl is sacrificed (62) and its carcass eaten by the first two strikers. The next day four to five pigs are taken to the tree and after sacrifice are shared by all who do the cutting and carving. The work of shaping the drum lasts from 5 to 15 days. When all is ready the whole village (and not merely the morung) goes to the spot and to the noise of many 'ho-hos' the great log is slowly pulled to its site. Men, women and children all assist and in one case in Mongsenyimti, the pulling lasted thirty days as the drum was dragged for 3.5 miles. At the time of pulling, a live cock is tied to the drum's neck and its shrill crows accompany the passage. When the drum at last reaches its berth, a shed is erected over it all all the sides fenced in.
text: According to earlier custom a human head had then to be procured. Now a days however the head of a wild animal serves as a substitute and in the case of the two log drums in Mongsenyimti the heads of a monkey and a tiger cub were used. When each animal was killed, the head was taken to the drum and set down on the drum's head. An old member of the morung then said 'May many heads come to this village'. After that the fence was pulled down and the morung members gave the drum its first beating.
text: Although the end of the log drum is shaped like a buffalo's head, Mongsenyimti tradition does not connect it in any way with buffaloes. 'It is the head of a man. In front are the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the tongue. Behind them are the ears (Songkong morung) and after them, the neck. The little holes in the trunk are for pulling it up'.
text: Although the log drum is obviously imbued with supernatural essence, it is not invoked at times of drought or sickness neither is it sounded or appeased when leaving for a column or raid.