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: becoming an elder through Feasts of Merit
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: Feasts of Merit have two functions in the Central Nzemi social system. They ensure the distribution of surplus rice, and of wealth in other forms based upon that surplus, among the village community through the medium of a feast; and to encourage the owner of riches to distribute them thus to his poorer neighbours instead of hoarding them, they reward him with prestige and political power. A man who has performed Feasts of Merit is a likely candidate for a seat on the village council; he may be asked to become a hangseoki-kazeipeo, a warden of the young men's house; if he is of the appropriate tsami he is more likely to be chosen as a kadepeo than a man (72) who has not performed Feasts of Merit. Nor are the benefits they confer restricted to men. The wife and daughters of the feast-giver brew the beer required and cook the rice, the meat being cooked by men in the large front room or hall; they wait on the guests at the feast, and after it they receive reflected glory from the increased prestige of the husband and father. Old men and women are formally feasted in the inner room of the house, and although the wives of the men attending the main meal in the large hall receive no part of it, they may have as much rice-beer as they can drink and in fact receive a good deal of food through the back door in the shape of scraps and small titbits.