The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

'The Feast of Merit among the Northern Sangtam Tribe of Assam', by C.R. Stonor, 1950

caption: details of the ritual
caption: first day - killing a mithan; division of meat; dance
medium: articles
ethnicgroup: Sangtam <Northern
location: Chimongre (Chimongrr)
date: 12.1947
person: Stonor/ C.R.
date: 1950
refnum: 'Anthropos', vol. XLV 1950
text: [5] 2. First Day.
text: Ropes of creeper are tied to the horns of the mithan, and they are pulled round the feaster's khel or section of the village by men of his phratry in festive dress, with chants appropriate for the occasion. During their progress it is most unlucky for the beasts to stop, and an old man is delegated to chide them on with a long bamboo wand. The khel circumscribed, the forked posts are reached; here the mithan are shackled and thrown, with the head against the foot of the post. A small cut is made in the skin over the head against the foot of the post. A small cut is made in the skin over the heart by and old man of the clan, who uses a spear. Then another clansman pushes in a sharpened wooden stake which he twists about in the animals vitals until it is dead. While it is being killed it is struck symbolically with the bamboo rod just referred to. As the beast twists and rolls in its death agony, water is poured on the tongue and muzzle. As soon as it is dead, the head is cut off and is tied high up on the forked post (Plate II, Fig. 1). When the head is being tied on a small spray of cane leaves (Calamus sp.) is affixed to the bottom of the fork, and beer is poured over them. The meat then is then divided up:
text: a) The meat of the head to the two ritual friends or shyangrr myangrr. This is not cut off for another two days.
text: b) The hind-legs to the two shyangrr myangrr.
text: c) The fore-legs to the younger sister.
text: d) The neck to the elder brother.
text: e) The rump and tail to the father-in-law.
text: f) The stomach, skin,and organs of the belly to the father.
text: g) One side to the near relatives of the mother.
text: h) The other side and the remaining "lights" to the dancers, including the feaster himself.
text: In the event of a would-be recipient being dead ( or non-existent) the share goes to the nearest equivalent relation.
text: If the relative in question is living in another village the meat is sent, and there is no obligation to attend the feast. An hour or so after sun-down a short dance takes place. I did not see this in Phirre Ahirr, but it was reproduced for me in the neighbouring village of Chimongrr. A party of men and youths in ceremonial dress assemble at the feaster's house armed with spears and daos: they form up in file, with the front rows three or four abreast and made up of the most senior men present. They dance through the khel with slow and measured hopping steps, chanting slowly, and with spears pointed downwards (Plate I, Fig. 1