The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes made by W.G. Archer between 1946 & 1948, and miscellaneous papers and letters

caption: making a log-drum at Sangsomo
medium: notes
person: Chingr clanThungur clan
ethnicgroup: Sangtam
location: Sangsomo Komongsu Chongtore Panso
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 5:14
text: Sangtam - log drum - Sangsomo. Sing-kong (Sangtam) - the drum made 30 years ago - 2 men are sent to choose a tree - the 2 must come from the ruling group - they make a selection - when they return their choice is tested by breaking the stalk of a plant (?) and taking the name of a village warrior - if the stalk is bad they take the name of another warrior - & again break it - they go on until they get a good omen for a warrior - the village men led by this warrior then go to the tree - at the tree the warrior calls out the names of all the men he has killed. Then he addresses the tree 'From now you are the head of our village. Give us many heads. May all the crops be good. Banish sickness. Aid us when we go for tigers & wild boars. May many tigers fall'. After that he spears the trunk with a bamboo stave. The warriors' assistant next spears the tree with a similar bamboo stave - after that a representative from the Chingr clan spears it calling out the names of all the men he has killed - after that one from the Thungur clan does the same. Then all the village men & boys raise a great cry of 'oo-oo-oo' and throw their bamboo spikes at the trunk. After that the 2 men representing the 2 clans take a large cock, & again address the trunk. As they beseech it to safeguard the village they pluck out a few feathers - then they kill & cook the cock. They take 5 pieces from the breast and also the liver. They set up a pole with a fowl basket on the top the liver on one side, 1 piece of flesh on the other - 5 pieces: some rice beer in middle. In the basket they hang the intestines - they also put a twig in the basket as a sign of genna - then they add salt & onion. The 2 men then piece up the pieces of flesh & liver - 3 each - then they throw the pieces away saying 'Tsungrangre, since you have blessed us we offer to you first. The rest we will eat'. The 2 men then eat the fowl - after that a large pig is killed - everyone present gets 2 little bits from the breast or belly & a piece of liver - a piece of liver is offered to Tsungrangre - the rice beer is also offered - then the remnant eaten by everyone there - 5 big strips of flesh & a piece of liver are given to the 2 men of the 2 clans & 4 others from the 'ruling group' ie. 6 - these 6 will observe 30 days genna - after that the tree is felled (no special rule for the first striker) - then hollowed, shaped & carved - about a week - the village groups take it in turn to work at the drum - each group has a feast at the drum on the day it works - ie. a time of merrymaking & rejoicing. A skilled carver is chosen to carve the buffalo head - he also is given 2 big strips of pork & a piece of liver the original day and observes 30 days genna - the carver is chosen from one of the lesser clans (ie. recent entrants to the village) - he is in great danger and is likely to have his head taken by an enemy - since all the skulls are placed at the drum's head, the maker of the head is an object of special spite and hatred - he becomes the first villager to be attacked and killed. The carver must also be a good warrior - the villagers choose him - if he refuses he is expelled from the village. When all is ready, the whole village, men & women, go to pull it in - the carver of the head puts on full warriors' dress, stands on the head & as the drum moves slowly to the village, he shouts to the forest 'I have taken this head, I have taken that head, we have defeated this village, we have routed that village'. As it goes up the hillside he squats on the head. If necessary other villages come and help. 10 of the villagers wear full warriors' dress & pull on the horns (a brake when going down hill, push when going up in case the drum gets out of control, runs amok & gets broken). Others who have warriors' status also wear full dress & drag. If the party stops for a rest the drum is beaten. If the drum ran loose & a person gets crushed to death, the drum must be abandoned, therefore great care in pulling & guiding. Sometimes a new bamboo is pulled up by the roots, fitted through the horns & used for guiding. If it takes more than one day to pull the drum in, it is left alone in the forest, unattended. If a bird fouls it, they clean the drum but 1 of the 6 men will die. If a tree crashes and breaks the drum it is abandoned. The drum then enters the village through the gate. When it is in position, the 2 oldest men (pipure) in the village bring a pig and cock - kill them - they offer them in the name of Tsungrangre (God) to the drum. After (the drum is an embodiment of Tsungrangre - Tsungrangre is in the drum) therefore offer to Tsungrangre (in the drum) (the all mighty) to bring good crops, many heads, no illness. The village then kills a big cow or bull & a big pig - shares out the meat - finally a great dance - when the drum is berthed, a shed is built over it & a carved centre pillar with carved mithan head & a carved wooden head is shaped & put up the same day ( = the Sangsomo practice. Elsewhere a plain pillar & separate wooden heads to represent former skulls.) As soon as the drum is in position, a human head must somehow be got - as until a head is offered, the drum must not be beaten. If a stranger happens to pass by the village he is immediately beheaded - this is very rare - as all the neighbouring villagers are on the alert. The village therefore has sometimes to go far afield and sometimes it takes many months. (When Sangsomo brought a new drum in 1917, they had to wait a year before they took a head from the Sema village of Komongsu (6 miles distant) & in doing so they themselves lost one man but not his head.) When the news reached the village all the young men went down to the Tizu River with food and rice beer to meet the party and bring in the head and the corpse. They got back at mid day. Young men (not yet warriors) touched the head with their daos, then they put the head in the hollow groove and everyone joined in beating the drum. Then the warriors who had shared in the killing gave animals for a village feast and there was a general dance. That evening about 6p.m. they took the head from the drum and went to the magutung (head tree) - there the head taker cuts a bamboo in a special way ie. slicing upwards. A hole is then bored in the head by an old man and the head is tied to the top of the bamboo. The bamboo then leant against the tree. Other warriors who shared in the raid will also plant bamboos with earthen pots on them (as substitute heads) and one will put a pumpkin gourd. The man who set up the bamboo with the head has a partner. The man himself sacrifices a pig and a cock at the time of putting up the bamboo & the cock's head is tied to the head. Three or four months later when all the flesh has gone and the skull is quite clean, it is taken down by the old man who bored the hole and taken to the drum, that is if the drum shed is in bad repair. If it is in good repair, the taking down can be left for a year. When taking down the skull, the partner must impale a cock and the whole village subscribe for a pig. The impaled cock is set up in front of the centre pillar of the drum's shed, then the total number of warriors of the village still living is calculated and a row of little basket heads is made equivalent to the number of living warriors. These are strung together and the skull is tied at the bottom and the whole string is suspended from the top of the pillar. (No prayer or address.) After hanging they chant and beat the drum.
text: trum trum trum trum trum trum
text: hoh trum-trum hoh trum-trum
text: hoh trum-trum hoh trum
text: In any year, whenever a head is brought, the head is offered at the drum and some ritual performed. If a head is not got in any year and three years go by without heads, they do a special worship in the third year. They re-make the shed at least once every three years. If the thatch is badly damaged, everything is taken down and the whole shed rebuilt with entirely new material. If still in good repair, it is just patched. Offer a cock and pig - same address - village welfare & heads - beat the drum - (no dance). If the shed gets damaged in a storm, it is repaired there and then.
text: When drum is beaten: -
text: 1. For first head and any subsequent head.
text: 2. For moving a head from the head tree to the drum.
text: 3. When drum shed is repaired.
text: 4. Once a day (midday) and once a night and once at dawn, by the village sentry 'to keep wild animals away' and 'drive off enemies'.
text: At making a new village the first thing to be made is the log- drum & only when that is properly in place do they start to make the village houses.
text: No legends of the first drum. No explanation of the buffalo head, but Sangtams formerly kept buffaloes. Only recently they have thinned them down as they are heavy on the crops. In Chongtore many buffalo heads. 'When we were administered we had to kill our buffaloes to pay the tax'.
text: In Sangsomo.
text: The drum has an unmistakeable buffalo head which is also identified by the Sangtams as a buffalo. A human head is carved on the nose. Two tails at rear of drum in the form of hornbill heads. 2 more hornbill heads sprout just below the horns. The shed was damaged by a gale a few days before my visit and all the thatch was off. They could not repair it for a few days as sowing is still in progress (genna). For similar reason cannot pull up a bed of nettles which are under the head. The centre post is carved with a mithan head and a human head and a row of 11 little baskets and 1 human skull dangles from the top. The skull was a head taken by the gaonbura in 1927 from the Sema village of Sotoemmi.
text: Another skull has fallen down and lies among the nettles. On the face of the drum, 2 bits of skull are nailed in - 1 bit from Panso expeditions 1 from Kalyo-Kengu village.