The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

diaries kept by Ursula Graham Bower on visits to Manipur and North Cachar between 1937 and 1940

caption: killing a mithan and buffalo for feast at Laisong; dance and feast
medium: diaries
person: Gumtuing/ of Bara NengloLuikai
date: 11.3.1940
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
person: private collection
text: (18) Laisong March 11th.
text: Mithan still uncaught. Village asked permission to spear it in situ; it was visible far down on hillside below camp. Booth told them to bring it up if they could. They departed, and about the middle of the morning, when Booth was trying to get them to level the dance-ground, an S.O.S. came for all bucks available to go down & fetch it. At last they got it. Distant h--hoing signalled their arrival, a full-dress gang in front, towing on a rope skewered through the nose; another gang on a rope on the hind legs as brake. By the time we reached the central morung it was roped to a post. It was a huge beast, a bull, with a sweeping dewlap and immense depth between shoulder and dewlap; the shoulder was as high as mine. Booth took a photo of me standing by it. It was jet-black, and absolutely colossal.
text: We asked who would spear it; there were several volunteers, but Gumtuing of Bara Nenglo (19) insisted on doing it. He selected a spear. We had the gun handy in case of accidents. We went off to the morung porch; the young bucks threw the beast after a struggle, left side uppermost; Gumtui got behind it, made a stab over the heart, and little stabs, deeper, till the blood poured; and then in. I did not look any more than I could help. I wish I could have taken a photo of the crowd's faces. They were all men. The women were far off. I wished I was. I remember Gumtui's face as he stood behind the beast as it died; he was as straight as the spear he held in his hand, and the look on his face I can only call tense, fierce, utter triumph, and satisfaction, too. I knew what he felt like; and Gumtui is the cheeriest of souls.
text: It was dead at last, and it was Luikai's turn to spear the buffalo. They could not bring it down, as it would have smelt the blood, so they left it tethered loosely by a sitting platform, where there were logs which the bucks had dragged to show their (20) strength and virility; he lunged with the spear, I think, and it plunged among the logs, and then somehow he stabbed again, I don't know how, because I didn't look. It was a good shot, because the beast was all over the place, plunging and stumbling; he got it once behind each shoulder. It fell at the second stab. I thought it was dead, but it took a while to die. As it fell he said: "It will die". He had got the lung; the blood came pink and frothy. After about 4 minutes, or less (it seemed a year) I could stand it no longer & told him, or Booth did, to strike again; but he said: "It's dead", & tried the eye. It was. He cleaned the spearhead on the thatch. I think he felt like Gumtui, but didn't show it so much.
text: We gave them cigarettes. Booth took some photos. We went back to the perao directly after the killing, for a drink; I needed one. We came back to see them dance; they (21) were cutting up the meat. The entrails & their contents were all mixed up together. Piles of meat were on bamboo trays. I forgot to note that as the beasts died, a bamboo skewer was stuck through their tongues; I must ask why. When we returned for the dance some of the meat had already been cooked, and was offered to us. Booth ate, for the honour of the party. I couldn't. Hangrum matai, as senior member present, fasted till sundown for the death of the mithan. I must also inquire about that.
text: After dark they came down and danced at the perao, a hundred strong or more. First we had long reed torches & fires. It was magnificent. The glow of firelight on the bucks' bare bodies and on the tossing toucan's feathers was glorious. I put the Petromax lamps in the basha. One old matai nearly wept when I put the beautiful lamps away., but we got them out again later. Everyone very tight before long. Wall-eyed Willy of Hangrum led the (22) massed dancing. Then they danced by villages. Thingje tried to put on a good show earlier, but didn't do much; Kepelo were good; also Nenglo; and Hangrum best of all.
text: Everybody got tighter and tighter. We had the gramophone & bagpipe records. Nenglo (Gumtuing) was a promising pupil! At last, at 1a.m., the party broke up, or we broke it up. Gumtuing was with difficulty steered home by his friends, and kept on breaking back to us.
text: Luikai did not come to watch the dancing; buffalo or no buffalo, he had a blight on.