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: the dance
medium: articles
ethnicgroup: Sangtam <Northern
date: 12.1947
person: Stonor/ C.R.
date: 1950
refnum: 'Anthropos', vol. XLV 1950
text: The dancing divides sharply into two types, quite distinct from one another: the slow, measured progress of the torchlight dance on the evening of sacrifice, with the performers armed to teeth, and the more lively, rapid, circling dances done next day contrast completely. It is interesting to note that J. H. Hutton [ footnote: J. H. Hutton, The Sema Nagas (1921), p. 111.]) has recorded of the Sema Nagas that the dancing accompanying their feasts " begins with a procession called aghoghe, in which the dancers advance across the open space by successive threes, carrying their spears... and hopping on each foot alternately ". He goes on to tell how this is immediately followed by circle dances, minus the weapons, and which exactly parallel those of the Northern Sangtams. It appears therefore that the entirely separate dances of the Sangtams are a continuous performance among the Semas. Hutton (loc. cit.) describes the Sema dances at a feast as an " amusement ". I do not see how we can fail to regard them as an integral part of the ritual, although, on the day of the feast, they are certainly a very happy part of the ceremonies. The night dance, carried out after the men are returned home tired from a day's work, without the fortifying influence of beer, and for a short time only, has little suggestion of recreation about it. On the face of it this dance might well be to drive away evil spirits, particularly since weapons are carried: this is no more than surmise, and when I asked about it my informants were non-committal.