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: Mow and Muram tribes - houses; dormitories; marriage; theft; chiefs; planting; food prohibitions; sickness
medium: articles
ethnicgroup: MowMuram
person: McCulloch/ Major W.
date: 1858
refnum: from: Selections from the Records of the Government of India, No. 27 (Calcutta) 1859
text: (69) West of the Loohoopas are the Mow and Muram tribes. They state themselves to be of one common stock, but they are at deadly feud though closely allied by intermarriage. They have two festivals in the year like the two principal ones of the Koupooees. Ears pierced in cold weather as it suits convenience. The houses of the Mow tribe are gable-ended and the walls are high; those of the Murams are the counterparts of the Koupooees. In both tribes the young men never sleep at home, but at their clubs where they keep their arms always in a state of readiness. Amongst the Murams, the married men even sleep at the resorts of the bachelors, a custom resulting from their sense of insecurity from attack. The distinctions of families and the strict rules we have seen amongst other tribes against the marriages of members of the same family are observed amongst both the Mows and Murams. For a wife it is usual to give something, but the great expenditure of men, especially amongst the Murams, has made women exceed greatly the men, and a wife can easily be obtained for a khes or coarse cloth. Adultery is punished, as it is amongst the Koupooees. Theft is of ordinary occurrence, and is not, amongst these tribes or the Loohoopas, even considered disgraceful. If the things stolen are found, they are taken back, if not, it might be dangerous to accuse a man of theft. The whole of the Mow tribe is under one chief. The tribe is comprised in twelve villages, none of which consists of less than one hundred houses, and one of which numbers four hundred. From each house the chief receives one basket of rice. The Murams are confined to one large village of perhaps 900 houses; there was formerly another village, but it has been destroyed. In the single village of the Murams, there are two chiefs. For this singularity they account thus:- A former chief had two sons, of whom the younger, who was the greater warrior, desired to usurp the place of his elder brother. He urged his father to give him the chief-ship. The old chief afraid of his youngest son, and unable to give up the birth-right of the eldest, determined on a stratagem. He told his eldest son to go and secretly to bring home the head of an enemy. This having been done, the old chief summoned his sons, and giving each a packet of provisions, desired them to proceed in such directions as they chose in search of enemies, for he who brought in first the head of an enemy should be King. (70) The brothers took their leave, the youngest proceeding where he thought he would soonest procure a head, the eldest bending his steps to where he had concealed the one already taken. This he brought out of its concealment, and proceeded with it in triumph through the village. Nor was the youngest long in returning with a head, but having been preceded by his brother, the chief-ship was declared to be the right of the eldest. This however did not satisfy the younger son, he persisted in being called chief, and the matter was compromised by both being allowed to remain one as the great, the other as the little chief, neither of them has any fixed revenue. But the village, when it is necessary makes the great chiefs house, and they give him the hind leg of all game caught; the little chief has no right to anything, the houses in his vicinity, however, do at times give him a leg of game. Formerly no one was allowed to plant his rice until the great chief allowed it or had finished his planting. This mark of superiority is not at present allowed by the little chief who plants without reference to his superior. There are many prohibitions in regard to the food, animal and vegetable, the chief should eat, and the Murams say the chief's post must be a very uncomfortable one. In sickness they make small offerings to the deities, or give a feast to the poor of the village, but their priests or priestesses are not respected sufficiently to make them, as amongst the Koupooees, reduce themselves to destitution by their offerings. Slavery is unknown amongst them. They cultivate in the same manner as the Loohoopas on terraces.