The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes on the Zemi Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: Potpatngi genna: done in September after the early rice has been harvested
caption: gennas
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, ring binder 1
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: Potpatngi
text: This is performed as soon as the village has enough early rice, that is some time in September, and if one or two houses have not enough they borrow for the occasion.
text: Zu is made ready beforehand, and a sacrificial beast, traditionally a mithan but nowadays more often the less expensive buffalo, is bought. Usually each morung has one.
text: The evening before the genna begins the mithan is roped and thrown outside whichever morung it belongs to and rings of creeper are lashed to the horns. They follow the curve of the horns round, forming a circle, the intention being to pad the horns and prevent anyone being gored, but sometimes a large quantity is put on to weight the beast's head so that it will tire quickly and be caught. (Asalu group not infrequently chase with the horns unpadded). When enough creeper has been put on both horn and creeper are bandaged round and round with bark, leaving a smooth surface. When all this is complete a buck from each morung breaks an egg on the mithan's forehead and runs it down the side to the tail, saying: "Ahang!" ("For me!") The mithan's legs are then freed and it is allowed to get up and stand tethered till the following morning.
text: All the bucks then go ho-hoing into the morung. Two bucks, one from each morung, go together to the malik's house and each puts a little ginger into the hand of the malik's wife and takes it out again. Both bucks say: "Akianga-nu nimra-ni". ("My morung will catch it".) The woman replies: "Eh". The bucks leave the malik's house and stand in the morung proper, outside the house doorway, and say: "Kabui peilo". ("Give the mithan") and the woman answers: "Lulo". ("Take it".)
text: As soon as they hear this, all the bucks assembled in the morung shout: "Ahang"! The then go to the other morung, if that also had a mithan, and there pad the horns and repeat the ho-hoing and ceremony for the evening meal, after which they gather again in their respective morungs and go in a body to the rival morung and ho-ho, returning still ho-hoing to their own. A bamboo torch is not lit, and the tingkhupeo or whatever old man acts as priest for that morung, assisted by the buck who put the ginger into the woman's hand, perform a ceremony to ensure success on the morrow.
text: The old man puts some pieces of plantain leaf on the ground in front of him, and some ginger, some ten of a dozen pieces, on another leaf. He lays two bits of leaf one on top of the other, cuts a piece of ginger into five or six slices with a dao, lays them on the two leaves and draws it all forward out of the way. During this procedure he is muttering in a low voice, a request to the spirits to give them the mithan and to save them from being hurt in the chase. He then slices some more ginger, puts it on two more leaves and draws them away to the first lot, and so on till all is finished. The buck assisting him then takes up the leaves and sliced ginger and puts them in the small fenced patch where the spears are kept. Once this ceremony has been finished no one from a rival morung is allowed in, except old men unable to take part. Any intruder meets with abuse and a hot reception, but as soon as the mithan has been caught they may enter other morungs freely. That night the bucks and any married men taking part in the chase must remain chaste, and the married men generally sleep the night in the morung. Anyone who does not observe this prohibition not only exposes himself to the risk of severe injury, but imperils the success of the whole morung.