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: creation myth; explanation for disease; dog sacrifice
medium: articles
keywords: hedgehogsnake
ethnicgroup: KookieKhongjai
person: McCulloch/ Major W.
date: 1858
refnum: from: Selections from the Records of the Government of India, No. 27 (Calcutta) 1859
text: The Khongjais bring their progenitors from the bowels of the earth, and they relate the manner of their reaching its surface thus. One day their king's brother was hunting hedgehogs, when his dog in pursuit of one entered a cavern, and he waiting its return remained at the mouth. After the lapse of sometime, the dog not having returned, its master determined to go in and see what had become of it. The dog he did not find, but observing its tracks and following them, he found himself suddenly on the surface of the earth. The scene presented to his view both pleased and astonished him, returning to his brother he related his adventure, and counselled him to ascend with his village to the new country. To this the king agreed, and having made their arrangements, they started on their journey, they had arrived near the surface, when they found in the way a large serpent which opposed their further progress, and saw that the orifice by which they were to emerge had over it a great stone kept open merely by the support a bird gave it with its legs. On seeing this the people of the village began to abuse the king's brother, accusing him of having deceived them, and of having brought them from their burrow to deliver them to the serpent. Stung with their reproaches the king's brother attacked and killed the snake, and he and the greater portion of the village emerged into the light. Meanwhile the king, having discovered that a wooden dish or bowl which had the magical property of always being full of meat, and some other articles of a similar magical description, were not amongst his effects, returned to fetch them. Before he got back, the bird having got tired of supporting the stone had let it fall, (56) and unable to raise it, he and his wife had to remain below. Attributing the closing of the orifice to the ambition of her brother-in-law to become king, Nemnik the king's wife cursed him, and those who had gone up with him, to suffer from diseases hitherto unknown to them. This curse, they say, is still upon them, and when disease presses them sorely they sacrifice to Nemnik a methin in mitigation of her wrath. Continuing the tale of the proceedings of their progenitors, they relate that the party who had reached the surface began to feel the cravings of mortals, and not knowing where to find water were becoming greatly distressed, when noticing a bird fluttering over a spot not far off, and going to see the reason for its doing so, they found a reservoir of that element by the side of which they cooked. Having eaten and refreshed themselves, they commenced clearing a spot for their houses. Whilst busy doing so, their new king accidentally killed a child which had been playing in the jungle unknown to him. A choking sensation seized him, and he became exceedingly ill. Pitying his master, his dog fawned upon him, and licked his hands. This instead of pleasing enraged him so, that he dealt the animal a cut with his dao, and some of the blood spurting out on his throat, he was relieved of his pain and recovered. Since then, they say, pains of the throat have been cured by sacrificing dogs and applying of their blood to the part.