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: dekachangs
medium: notes
keywords: nzun-ze
ethnicgroup: Zemi
location: Khangnam
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: Nzun-ze: dekachangs used to, and should, have at least one nzun-ze, a massive sleeping-bench carved from a single gigantic log. Only 2 specimens are now known in N.C. Hills, one in the Lower Dekachang at Khangnam, the other, an inferior specimen, at Hangrum. The Khangnam specimen measures 19'7" long, and is 3' 2 3/4" wide at the upper end, where there is a raised block for a pillow; and 33" at the foot. It is 31 1/2" high at the head. The front portion is carved into open-work foot-rails, thus: SKETCH
text: In order to test the courage of young men, ceremonies would be performed with dhan and suitable incantations, after which the dekachang was vacated and the would-be valiant must enter alone and crawl the length of the nzun-ze through the holes pierced in the legs, dragging a cord with him. Through the recitation of the appropriate formulae the space under the bench had become filled with human heads over which he had to crawl in the dark. If his nerve failed and he gave up half-way, the cord would give him away.
text: Model of the Khangnam bench is to approximate scale 2":1', and was made in Khangnam itself.
text: The following are the dimensions of the Lower Dekachang at Khangnam, and are typical of a fair-sized dekachang. The Zemi unit of measurement is the "kap" or span, from finger-tip to finger-tip of outstretched arms.
_side_posts_____________________________=_40" wide