The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : Return to the Naked Nagas (1939;1976)

caption: Chapter Five. Heathens and Baptists
caption: disturbance to economic and ritual system by missions
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Ao
location: Chantongia
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Social prestige was not their only reward. With every feast they acquired the right to increased shares of meat whenever another villager gave a Feast of Merit. This system of reciprocal gifts made for the smooth distribution of perishable food. ln a country where effective preservation of meat is unknown, any individual household slaughtering a mithan or a pig would suffer considerable loss unless there existed an organization of exchanging surplus meat for shares in animals to be slaughtered in the future by other villagers. The Feasts of Merit with their slaughter and distribution of animals provided such an organization and were thus the very opposite of a thoughtless squandering of wealth. But they did more than this. The wealth of the ambitious was employed to provide food and enjoyment for the less prosperous members of the community, for at a Feast of Merit there was meat, rice and rice-beer for every man, woman and child in the village.