The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : 'Konyak Nagas' by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, (1969)

caption: Chapter Two. The Social Structure and its Units
caption: Thendu chiefs, rituals and feasts of merit
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York59:7
text: The chiefs of the Thendu group, however, did perform rites suggestive of feasts of merit whereby they sought to raise their personal prestige. There were four stages in these rites. The first involved the carving and dragging in of a log gong for the chief's house. When the gong had been brought to the village and placed before the chief's house, chiefs of numerous allied and friendly villages were invited to a great feast. Several mithan '(Bos frontalis)' and buffaloes were sacrificed, and shares of the meat were distributed to the guests. The feast ended with dancing, and on the following day the young men of the chief's village went to the forest and felled trees suitable for the fashioning of forked posts. As many of such Y-posts were carved as animals had been ritually slaughtered. These posts were erected in front of the chief's house, and as this was done, the chief's priest, invariably a man of commoner clan, poured beer on the forked posts and addressed the dead animals with words such as these: "Mithan, buffaloes, do not grieve; in your place we erect these posts; in the future mithan will be as numerous as the eggs of insects." Small pieces of meat from the sacrificial animals were then "fed" to the Y-posts.
text: At the next feast a large post carved with hornbill motifs was brought in. The men carrying the post chanted in imitation of a tiger's roar "because chiefs are of tiger clan." In front of the chief's house a deep pit was dug, and in this a dog and a cock were placed and crushed as the men slip the post into the hole. As soon as the post stood erect, large numbers of cattle were brought for sacrifice, the slaughter of up to forty mithan being allegedly not unusual.
text: Both the carving and bringing in of a log gong and the erection of a carved post in front of the chief's house could be repeated in the course of two even more lavish and elaborate feasts. Chiefs who had performed any of these feasts of merit had so gained in power and status that thereafter they were permitted to eat only the purest food. No animal which had been killed or wounded by a beast of prey or which had any blemish, such as a torn ear, was suitable food for chiefs who had performed these feasts of merit.