The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes on the Zemi Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: Nsing-ngi genna: performed in November for very young children
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: Hena-wing-ngi
text: Very early in the morning all the mothers for whose children the ceremony is to be performed go together to the village spring to fetch water. As their husbands did the day before, they must go all in a body, and the leader and the last-comer must be mothers of sons. The leader draws water first with a small laoki which must be either new or one not in general use, and pours it into chungas her husband brought the day before. All the other women have similar chungas and laokis, and as each draws water she says something to this effect: "Let there be no illness; this is good water, and I amd taking it for the ceremony. Let my child be strong and successful".
text: The women return in the same way as they came, and each goes to her own house. On arrival, she halts in the doorway and speaks to her husband, who is sitting waiting by the hearth. She asks him: "Has so and so (naming the child) come?" The father answers: "Yes, he has come". The woman says: "I saw his footsteps as I was coming, and they were very big". She then enters the house.
text: Nobody in the house may eat or drink until the ceremony is over, and all have risen fasting. If there are two children for whom the ceremony must be performed, one is sent to the house of some other couple who have no children, and the ceremony is performed for it there.
text: As soon as the woman has fetched the water an old woman who know the procedure is called to the house. If she has already done the ceremony for a boy she can only repeat it for a boy, and the same applies to one doing it for girls.
text: The ceremony itself is called hena-zao-taora, or hena-de-ki-ra. Strong rice-beer of the kind called zao kasang has been specially prepared. The old woman makes a cup of one of the leaves, and one of the household pours zu into it. The old woman mutters some appropriate words in a low voice which the others cannot hear, and pours the beer on the ground, but leaves a little in the cup. She takes a sip of it herself and says aloud: "I have performed the ceremony correctly. There will be no illness. Drink and remain well". She then gives a little zu to the child and smears some on its forehead, between the eyebrows. The ceremony is then finished, and the household may smoke and drink zu.
text: The father then kills a cock - a cock is preferable for both sexes, but it must be a cock if the child is a boy. The old woman is recalled, and when she arrives the father gives her zu, rice cooked in the water fetched in the new chungas, and the fowl's head and liver, also cooked. The old woman puts a leaf cup on the ground and on it the cooked rice and meat, then makes a leaf cup and pours zu into it, puts a little rice and meat on the ground and pours out a little zu, repeats the process, eats a little liver and rice herself, and lastly gives some the the child, smearing some on its lips if is is too small to eat. The family can then eat, but the men and boys must not eat from the fowl killed for the ceremony, but cook and eat separately. The old woman, the child and its mother, and girls, whether from the same or other houses, can all eat from the ceremonial fowl. The old woman must be invited to eat at the house at noon and in the evening, whether she accepts or not. If the ceremonial fowl is not all eaten, it must be thrown away in the evening, as must the rice and zu.