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 three - the Ram or village community
caption: the individual's relations with the kienga
caption: marriage gifts and ritual
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: When the amount of bride-wealth in kind has been fixed and the negotiations are finally completed, the youth is sent for to (62) the girl's parents' house. He presents her father with a spear as a token of respect and receives in exchange a new cloth. The young couple are then treated as man and wife, and the girl ceases to sleep in the leoseoki. She sets up house for the youth in the front room or back porch of her parents' house, with a separate hearth where she cooks and prepares rice-beer for her husband. He continues to spend most of his time in the hangseoki, but goes to her for meals instead of to his parents' house, and he visits her at night. After some days he notifies her parents that he proposes to take his wife to his parents' house. Rice- beer is then prepared, and on the appointed day a bull or a pig is killed by the girl's parents and the meat cut up. The tingkhupeo (the senior village priest) strangles a cock by their hearth and takes the omens for the marriage by the movements of its legs; the bird's flesh is set apart. The bride and groom go in procession from the bride's house to that of the groom's parents. The groom wears gala dress, as do any friends of his kienga who escort him. The bride also wears gala dress and is accompanied by a number of her girl friends of the leoseoki. She carries a basket containing her weaving and spinning implements, a hoe, and an axe, the equipment she needs as a housewife, and in the same basket is packed the flesh of the sacrificial cock. The basket (kalung) is of a special closely-woven type used only by women, chiefly for carrying rice from the granary to the house, a wife's particular task. This and the other equipment she carries is given her by her father. Her girl friends carry the clothes, cooking-pots, dishes and (63) other furnishings her parents have sent with her, and, if the bride is an expert weaver, some of the cloths she has made and is bringing with her are spread on poles and displayed in the procession. Behind the groom and his friends and the bride and her friends follow the bride's kinsmen, carrying meat and bamboo tubes of rice-beer and the head of the bull or pig. As the procession nears the groom's parents' house an old women precedes the bride and warns her to step into the house with her right foot. As they go in, she drops a dao or a sickle inside the threshold so that the girl's first step into the house may fall upon iron. The meat and the furnishings the bride brought with her are then displayed in the house and friends and neighbours are called to see them, including all those who helped the groom's father to negotiate the amount of bride-wealth. The food is then distributed. Married women of the groom's lineage share half the meat. Of the other half, part is given in small shares to those friends and kinsmen of the groom who helped in the bride-wealth negotiations, and the rest, including the head, is cooked and served in an evening meal shared by the groom's family and those who negotiated the bride- wealth for him. The flesh of the sacrificial fowl is cooked and dished up separately, the bride and groom eating it together. After this the bride and groom remain five days in the house of the groom's parents, living either in the front room or the back porch. On the sixth day they return to the house of the bride's parents. After this the bride may return informally with her husband to his parents' house and remain there, but it is far more usual (64) for her to stay in her own parents' house, living, as before, in the front or back room, while her husband visits her at mealtimes and at night. Since marriages only take place in the slack months between harvest and sowing there is little time in the year of his marriage for the groom to build himself a house. The year's delay allows the youth's father to recover to some extent from the wedding expenses and to save up rice and livestock for the cost of house-building.