The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes on the Zemi Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: gennas
caption: Nkamngi genna: performed October-November
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, ring binder 1
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: Nkamngi (in the month Haru-keu).
text: On the last day of the old moon field-work is forbidden, and the feast of Nkamngi is proclaimed by the tingkhupeo. Brewing for the feast and rites begins, and a special brew of very thick zao kasang is prepared for offering to ancestors.
text: Some two or three days later, on the day appointed, which is always after the new moon has appeared, Nkamngi is held.
text: Very early in the morning the old man of the household offers the very thick zao kasang to the ancestors, pouring it by the side of the hearth. Any that is left over may be drunk by the old men only, and if they do not consume it, it must be thrown away. Young people who drink it will develop heaviness and lassitude. Once the offerings at the hearth have been made, the whole household may drink its own zu and call in their friends to join them. After this they take their morning meal, eating chicken, fish, or any other special dainty they can afford. In Asalu and most other villages unmarried men, and the newly-married if they like, contribute a chunga or a vat of zu to the dekachang. In Laisong all the dekachang members, even old men, contribute. The women carry their menfolks' contributions over from the house. The more generous members give cooked food, dog, fish, venison or some other delicacy, and fathers may send a contribution in the name of their infant sons.
text: The food is set out on the dekachang benches and the contributors named, which makes the donors more generous than they might be otherwise. The old men are called and feasted first, and after them all the members of the dekachang from the children upwards are summoned and feasted, the food being carefully shared out on leaf plates. Children may take home with them what they cannot consume on the spot, but young men give the surplus from their helpings to married men for their children.
text: Following Ngamngi, there are two, three or four working days, according to the convenience of the village; on the last working day wood and water are carried and stored and everything made ready, and the following day is Puhuigni.
text: During the preceding night and onwards fire, torches, cigarettes and all other forms of light may not be taken out of the houses. Fires in the houses must be carefully kept up, as should they go out, coals may not be fetched as usual from a neighbour's. Baskets must also be kept inside the houses, and not brought outside. All work is forbidden. Baskets, hens, salt and other goods may on no account be brought in from outside, though strangers may come in provided they bring nothing but what they stand up in. The day is given up to idleness and the consumption of zu.
text: Bathing is not allowed, nor water-carrying, dhan-pounding, or work of any kind. The villagers may not travel or visit other villages.
text: The prohibition against the carrying of fire outside goes on for a further three days, during which water-carrying etc. may not be done during the morning; about noon the tingkhupeo proclaims that it is permitted, and bathing, dhan-pounding and all the other household chores may then begin. During these three days no field-work is allowed, or travel, or visits to other villages, and no food may be brought into the village from outside, wither from other villages or the jungle.
text: On the fourth day the bucks and girls go for an outing in the jungle, looking for nam-nyeng leaves which are worn in the ears and are considered to have an attractive smell, and muthang, a plant with a white flower, whose bark when chewed stains the lips and mouth carmine. They may light fires and smoke as much as they like in the jungle. The young men search for cane, and take the pith from the growing end as a delicacy for the girls. On this day the prohibition against carrying fire is lifted, and villagers go to other villages nearby.
text: Formerly there were four days of abstention from field-work, fire-carrying, bathing in the morning etc. etc., but the period has been shortened to three.
text: On the fifth and sixth days after Pujui-ngi no field-work is done and there is another general holiday, which the men spend sitting about gossiping and drinking zu. On the seventh day field-work may be done. On the eighth, ninth and tenth days there is a further holiday. The eleventh day is called Hera-na, the village is closed to strangers, and no work is done. Each house pays a chunga of zu to the dekachang from whose pipeline it draws its supply, the annual payment to the young men from maintaining the line.
text: On the twelfth day there is a last holiday, but the village is not closed to strangers.