The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

miscellaneous papers, notebooks and letters on Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower, 1937-1947

caption: Halei-na genna
caption: first day. Harrok-na (jhum-firing genna)
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Zemi
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: 1st day. Harrok-na (jhum-firing genna).
text: Formerly it was forbidden to bring water into the house on this day for fear of the jhums not lighting well, as water is "cold". Pigs used to be fed outside the house instead of in, but the rule has been relaxed and these customs are a matter of choice. The householder used to perform a ceremony and offer ginger to the spirits, but this is also obsolete, though there may still be some old men who know how to do it.
text: A man who is going to light jhums may not wash that morning and must eat his rice and food very dry, without the watery part or juice, but nowadays this too is not strictly observed. The jhums are fired about noon. The lighter builds a fire near the place selected (matches are used), lights a bamboo torch, and with that fires the jhums, yelling as he does so, and shouting: "I shall loose the fire in the jhums! Fire is strong and male, not weak like a woman! The river and hill, everything must light! Fire knows neither father nor grandchild, it burns everything, everything must burn! When everything has burned well, my jhum will will be clean!" - or anything else appropriate.
text: When the jhums are well alight, the men retire to a distance and watch to see how it does, and if it seems to be going well and to need no attention they return to the village and sit down to a drink.
text: The genna is held whenever the jhums are ready for firing but all jhums need not be lit on this day. They may be fired earlier or later, as convenient.
text: The next day, or later, according to whether they are ready or not, Halei-na is held.