The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Village Organization Among the Central Nzemi Nagas', M.A. thesis by Ursula Betts

caption: chapter two - the village
caption: the kuloa
caption: typical Central Nzemi village; the kuloa; description of houses and platforms, stone defences, entrances
caption: village springs and pools, droughts, protective woodland round village, fires
medium: theses
person: Stewart/ Lt.
ethnicgroup: Nzemi
location: Hangrum Laisong Laisong Asalu
date: 1855
person: Betts/ U.V.
date: 1950
refnum: M.A. thesis, University College, London
note: footnotes indicated by boxes within square brackets
text: 3. The kuloa
text: The typical Central Nzemi village, the kuloa, comprising the aggregate of houses as distinct from the ram or village community, is built, as we have seen, on a high ridge or spur. The crest of the spur forms the village street and the houses face on to it on either side. Where the spur is narrow and the ground falls away sharply, the backs of the houses are not supported on piles, as among the Konyak Nagas, but on a house- (15) platform (heki-pung: "house-carrier") which is built up where necessary with earth and faced with dry stone-walling, sometimes rising, as at Hangrum, to a height of 10 feet or more above ground-level. In larger villages, such as Hangrum and Laisong, there are sometimes branch streets running down lesser spurs or down the steep side of the ridge. In this case the houses facing on to the side-street stand on stepped, cut-out platforms one below the other. In almost all Central Nzemi villages the former complete circle of fortifications (krre) with its gateways, stone walls, narrow, sunken lanes and steep steps of approach, spiked palisades and sharpened bamboo stakes, has now disappeared, although the ruined stonework is traceable and most villages mark their gateways for ceremonial purposes by wooden fences or a low stone wall. There are always two formal entrances, an 'upper' and a 'lower' gate at opposite ends of the village. [5 [Record T86709]
text: The village spring and its artificial pool lie on the village outskirts, below and never very far from the settlement. They are generally outside the walls and were a favourite place for enemy ambush; at Impoi additional fortifications were thrown out to protect them. Lt. Stewart mentions that in 1855 he saw Central Nzemi women carrying water long distances from sources far below the village. This is by no means the usual case, and from his description of the high winds and the (16) extensive jungle-fires which he saw burning, it seems that his visit was paid in March or April, when drought often occurs and water is carried as he describes from streams below the village. This is a seasonal shortage lasting only two or three weeks. To guard against the danger of grass fires in the dry and windy season, when the felled jungle on the new cultivation is burned off and fires frequently break out of control, villages such as Laisong and Asalu, which border on large areas covered in dense grass, preserve thick belts of protective woodland which either circle the village or form a deep firebreak on the exposed side. These jungle-fires do serious damage and often travel for miles. Stewart wrote of "whole mountains in flames and tongues of fire fifty or sixty feet high" [6 [Record T86710]