The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes taken by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: legend regarding the Siemi; deo-moni beads
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Siemi
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, folder 6
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: Notes on non-Naga remains in North Cachar Hills, and traditions relating to them.
text: Zemi tradition relates that prior to their arrival the area was occupies by a race called by them the Siemi, whom they describe as small and dark. There is a suggestion that Siemi survivors and Zemi were contemporary at Hange.
text: According to Zemi legend, the Siemi used to make the valuable 'deo-moni' beads from a certain species of bamboo by a process involving the use of fire. One of their villages near Guilong was engaged in this when the smoke attracted the attention of the Kachari King in Maibong, and he sent out a party to find out what was happening. The party rounded up and brought in some of the Siemi, and the King asked how they made a living, whether by cultivation or other means. They answered that they lived by the manufacture of 'deo-moni' beads. The King then demanded the secrets of the process, and on their refusing to tell him, had them tortured. All died without revealing the secret.
text: The enraged King then sent out and had all the Siemi who could be found brought in, and asked them for the secret. When they refused, he had them boiled in a great cauldron, or killed by putting a red-hot pot over their heads, but none would tell, and they even pressed forward, demanding to be put to the torture first. Some were laid in icy water and then roast at a fire, but all died without telling their secret. The King sent out again against the Siemi, and the survivors fled deeper and deeper into the hills, till finally they fled altogether and went, as the Nagas say, "up" ie. into the interior towards the Naga Hills and Manipur, or north and east.