The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes on the Zemi Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: founding a village
medium: notes
keywords: tingkhupeo
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, ring binder 1
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: Founding a village.
text: The would-be founders go to the selected spot and clear a little of the jungle near the spring and in the village site itself, and light at fire on which they pile leaves to make a column of smoke. Somebody, preferably an elder, says: "We are arranging to make a village here. Let me know in my dreams whether it will be good or not. Let the smoke go up to the sky, let everybody see it. Let the village be famous and fortunate" - or other appropriate words. They then return to their own village, and if the old man's dreams that night are not good, they return to the site another day and repeat the ceremony and try again. Only those who own or have rights in the land on the site can consult their dreams about the village, and if the first dreamer had nothing but bad results, he hands over the task to someone else suitable. If the dreams are universally bad the site is abandoned, but more usually someone gets reasonably good dreams and the plan goes forward. It is so long since there was any unowned land in the district that no one seems to know what happened when founding on a new and ownerless site.
text: If the dreams are satisfactory, the colonists return on a later day and clear the site altogether, and when it has dried, the felled jungle is burned. When the site is clear, each man builds a rough shelter of leaves and saplings on the site where his house is to be.
text: The colonists must leave the parent village before the Hgangi genna, and must celebrate it in their new village. They pack up all their goods and go to the new site, but do not enter it, and camp in the jungle a short distance away.
text: The next morning everyone rises fasting. An unblemished bull- mithan has been selected, and the tingkhupeo takes hold of the leading rope and gives a pull towards the village site, saying as he does so: "Come. We are founding a village with a good mithan. Let there be many people, as numerous as fish. Let there be no illness".
text: Once the tingkhupeo has given the first pull the young men catch hold of the ropes and drag the mithan in, the tingkhupeo going first, and after them the old men, women, children and everybody else. A little water must be carried in a chunga, and two bits of firewood and some plantain leaves must also be taken along. Unless this is done the ceremony is not complete.
text: The mithan is taken to the site chosen for the hazoa, and ties up there. Fresh fire is made with the thong and stick, and each householder takes the new fire to the temporary shelter on his house-site. The mithan is then killed, a piece of wood called 'nta-tsing' being put with the stake to which the mithan is tethered, and 'ngai' (thatching grass), 'nka' and 'nsuk' are thrown on the mithan's body just before it is speared. The tingkhupeo spears the mithan and says: "Let whoever eats of the meat remain well like 'nka' and 'nsak', let people be as plentiful as 'ngai'." As at Pokpatgni, somebody must sit fasting in the dekachang while the meat is being cut up. The lower part of one hind leg goes to the tingkhupeo, the other to his subordinate, and the head is cooked and eaten at the hazoa by the tingkhupeo, the old men and the leading men generally. The contents of the entrails are taken out and scattered above and below the village by the tingkhupeo, who says: "Let the village extend as far as this. Let the people be as numerous as ants". The lower parts of the forelegs go to the tingkhupeo's junior assistants, and the rest of the meat is distributed among the villagers. On this day the village is closed to strangers, and the colonists may not visit the parent village for five days, after which they can go back and fetch anything they have left behind.
text: The colonists may bring no food with them into the new village, but as zu cannot be brewed in time for the feast, they bring that from their old homes. Often people from the parent village help carry the colonists' possessions to the new site, and eat the evening meal with them in their jungle camp; but they must all return to their village that evening, leaving the colonists alone. Funeral meats and fowls killed for ceremonies may not be brought into the new village during the first year. After the founding ceremony and the one day's genna, food may be brought in from other villages if it is clean food. If any relative of a colonist should die in a different village during the first year, no one from the new village may go to the funeral or contribute to the funeral offerings. Later, when the funeral is over, they may go and inquire what has happened, but they may on no account go to attend a funeral or there will be terrible consequences for the whole new village. For three years the colonists may not go back and live in the parent village. The time used to be five or ten years, but has been shortened.
text: The colonists live in their temporary shelters until Hgangi is over, and then build their permanent houses. House-sites have already been chosen by the 'bags-I' process, but if a man has bad dreams after choosing a site, he changes to another. The dekachangs have the pick of the sites, and can turn off anyone who has chosen the sites required for them.