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: 1st day
text: At cockcrow each man goes to his own house and has a drink of zu to strengthen him, and then returns to the morung with a cup of zu which he offers to some older man not taking part. The runners come out of their morungs in a body, ho-hoing, and meet at the place where the mithan is tethered. The tingkhupeo then cuts the rope and hits the mithan a sound crack with a bamboo, so that it bolts, and the bucks and men who have been standing round it quivering with excitement go pelting after it in a wild melee, everybody trying to catch hold of the tail. The spectators remain at a respectful distance, as everyone, including the mithan, is so wildly excited that anything may happen, and the track of the hunt is well marked by broken fences and demolished pipe-lines.
text: The mithan takes the shortest route to the jungle, and after several of the bucks have caught hold of the tail and been thrown flat and dragged or chased up trees the mithan is sufficiently tired for some bold spirits to catch the tail and keep hold as he runs, which he does while shouting his father's and grandfather's names at the top of his voice. The moment his morung hear they must rush to his help, and while some of them seize the mithan's horns and try to stop and throw the beast, others armed with sticks beat off any men from the other morung who may try to join in, this last being a fruitful source of inter-morung warfare. Eventually the unsuccessful morung make off or are driven off and the winners lead the mithan into the village and tie it up outside their morung. A number of thirsty old men are on watch for the catcher, and one of them takes hold of his wrist and proclaims his virtues to the village at large whereon the catcher, or whichever fairly successful runner has been seized upon, is expected to provide liberal zu or cash in lieu. If the old man prefers it he may claim the successful one's kilt, which he either keeps or allows the owner to redeem for cash, usually a rupee or eight annas.
text: If there is another mithan to be caught, the ceremony of the leaves and ginger is repeated and men of other morungs are excluded as before, and the mithan is chased and caught in the same way as the first. That over, everyone goes home to drink, rest and attend to their injuries and make ready for the morrow, and the day is often further enlivened by fighting between the morungs.
text: If for some reason it is impossible to chase the mithan, e.g. if it is a cow or calf or is blind, the beast is tethered in the village and the men race from an agreed point, which may be anything from one-half to three miles away, the first-comer striking the animal with a stick he carries and shouting his father's and grandfather's names. Where morung rivalries are strong the morung priest or some other aged partisan will go and sit by the path and wait for the leaders to come along. If the leader belongs to the wrong morung the old man hurls at him an egg which he has prepared with suitable incantations and if it hits him the victim straightway falls exhausted and lies overcome by uncontrollable vomiting. If the course is a long one the winner generally reaches the village at a walk, but unless he is on the verge of collapse he spurts the last twenty yards or so, or the length of the village street if he can. These races can be most exhausting affairs, and if the course is a long one and set along steep jungle paths the finishing point and the last part of the route are fairly littered with collapsed and prone competitors.