The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - extracts from 'Account of the valley of Munnipore and of the Hill Tribes' by Major W. McCulloch

caption: adoption of Hinduism combined with worship of ancient gods; snake god; priestesses
medium: articles
person: Gureeb Nawez
person: McCulloch/ Major W.
date: 1858
refnum: from: Selections from the Records of the Government of India, No. 27 (Calcutta) 1859
text: A short time before the accession of Gureeb Nawez, some few Munniporees began to profess Hindooism, and since then their Rajas having successively adopted that faith, the profession of it has extended to nearly all. But although they thus profess Hindooism, they have not given up their ancient worship, and above three hundred deities are still propitiated by appropriate sacrifices of things abhorrent to real Hindoos. Their maibees, that is priestesses, for before the introduction of Hindooism there were no priests, are still in great request, more especially in cases of sickness or adversity, and what they give out as the oracle of the particular deity addressed is reverently listened to and acted on. The Raja's peculiar god is a species of snake called Pa-kung-ba, from which the Royal family claims descent. When it appears, it is coaxed on to a cushion by the priestess in attendance, who then performs certain ceremonies to please it. This snake appears, they say, sometimes of great size, and when he does so it is indicative of his being displeased with something. But as long as he remains of diminutive form, it is a sign he is in good humour. Particular families too have particular gods, and these at stated periods they worship, or literally "make happy". This worship consists in a number of married women and unmarried girls led by priestesses, accompanied by a party of men and boys all in dresses of a former time, dancing and singing, and performing various evolutions in the holy presence. The women carry in their hands fruits, &c., part of which is presented to the deity, and part scrambled for by the girls. In some instances, the god is represented by an image, but often there is no such representation, and a place is merely prepared in which he is supposed to be during the worship. The presence of the god, however, in either way, impresses the worshippers with no awe; on the contrary, it appears to be a cause of fun and jollity. A people who act thus cannot be very strict Hindoos. In fact, their observances are only for appearance sake, not the promptings of the heart.