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: construction of morung
medium: theses
ethnicgroup: Nzemi
person: Betts/ U.V.
date: 1950
refnum: M.A. thesis, University College, London
note: footnotes indicated by boxes within square brackets
text: On entering the hangseoki hall, a visitor finds himself standing alongside the central front pillar (katsiangdi) to which the front wall is attached. This is a massive tree-trunk, barked and slightly trimmed, and is from 30 to 42 inches in diameter. Midway between this centre pillar and the side-walls are additional pillars (hing-ba), each the split half of a tree approximately the same size as the central pillar; these support a massive cross-beam at the height of the top edge of the front wall, to which both beam and pillars are attached. Two-thirds of the way down the hangseoki hall is a further pair of pillars halfway between the centre line of the hall and the side-walls, and these pillars also support a large cross-beam, but there is no centre pillar at this point and the weight of the roof is taken by a king-post on the cross-beam.
text: The roof-tree (sum-di) of a hangseoki is a single long (24) tree-trunk a foot or more in diameter and from 90 to 130 feet long. Where a long enough trunk cannot be found two are sometimes spliced together with cane, but a single trunk is preferred. The construction of a large hangseoki requires ample manpower and labour. The length of the roof-tree, the length and breadth of the hall, the height and circumference of the front pillars, the size of the woodstack, the size of the traditional nzun-ze sleeping-benches, all indicate the numbers, skill and virility of the men who are past or present residents in the hangseoki. They are measured with pride during construction, the unit of measurement being the kap, or span of the outstretched arms from fingertip to fingertip. Though generally only the measurements of existing hangseoki are remembered, those of exceptionally large specimens of the past are sometimes quoted long after the structure and even the village which held it have disappeared.
text: The roof-tree rests on the central pillars and king-post and on either side of it are two purlins, one pair resting on the pillars midway between the centre line and the side-walls, and the other on the short pillars to which the side-walls are attached. Rafters of saplings are laid over these purlins and to the framework so formed is applied a lattice of thin, unsplit bamboos. The thatch is tied to this in individual sheaves. The work is begun from the bottom of the roof, each row overlapping the row below; the bundles are set with a slight space between and the bound butts of each successive row fit into the spaces (25) left in the row below, the leafy part fanning out to form a double thickness of thatch. To complete the roof, loose bundles of grass are laid along the ridge above the roof-tree and held in place by lengths of split bamboo laid parallel with the roof-tree and tied through the thatch to the lattice below. A well-made hangseoki thatch will, with minor repairs, last from 10 to 15 years.