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: role of women in the feast
medium: articles
ethnicgroup: Sangtam <Northern
date: 12.1947
person: Stonor/ C.R.
date: 1950
refnum: 'Anthropos', vol. XLV 1950
text: [10] It will be noted in the account of the ritual that unlike the Ao Nagas and some other tribes, the Sangtam women play no part in the dances or the sacrificial ritual. There is a very attractive dance performed by Sangtam women, but it is never done at feasts of merit. It would however be a serious error to assume that the women play no real part in the performance of the ritual. We are bound to regard the pounding of the grain, the brewing of the beer, the cooking of the food, all women's tasks, as an integral part of the ritual, which may be said to commence as soon as the new fire is lit six days before the mithan are killed. It is thus of interest to note how the festival is sharply divided into (1) the preparation and dispensing of beer and food by women, and (2) the ceremonies connected with the sacrificial animals, everything to do with which is purely the work of the men. We may logically assume this to be ultimately derived from an earlier epoch when cultivation and all pertaining to it was the work of the women, while provision of meat rested with the men: a state of affairs still existent among some branches of the Konyak Nagas and the Dafla Tribe. The share of the women in the ritual of the feasts of merit is as definite as that of the men: it is not however so evident to the casual observer.