The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: Chapter nine. First-Fruits Festival
caption: buffalo hunt; padded horns
medium: books
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: The mithan-hunt was to be held first thing next morning. At dusk the young men gathered to pad the horns.
text: The animals - there were two - were in fact buffaloes, which came cheaper than mithan. One was not much more than a calf, with no horns to matter, but the other was a big bull with a magnificent sweep and a most uncertain temper. He was thrown with a struggle. Ring after ring of heavy creeper was applied to his horns and lashed on; and then the whole was bound with bark till it looked like nothing so much as a large and badly-packed bus-tyre. The chase was, by tradition, a stern test of nerve and stamina. The padding was, if used at all (Asalu frequently chased unpadded bulls), a precaution to prevent fatalities. But Hegokuloa were taking no risks. They piled it on and on to a fantastic extent, to handicap the beast; and Namkia's comments were caustic. It was still dark when Namkia called me next day, but there was a faint tinge of grey in the cloudy sky. I tumbled into my clothes anyhow, gulped a cup of tea, and hurried off down the street to where the runners, almost stripped, were grouped about the bull. Cloaks and necklaces were all discarded; they wore nothing but their small kilts. All the staff except (74) for Haichangnang and the cook were competing. Haichangnang had a poisoned hand, and the cook was no athlete. The local runners were fortified by ceremonies and rice-beer. Our team, so far as I know, had had to dispense with both.
text: Haichangnang and I backed into the shelter of a convenient porch. The street had emptied magically. The children were shut indoors, and every house-front was tightly closed except where one or two women, bolder spirits, peered out round the door jambs. The village priest took out a stout stick. His assistant cut the bull's tether with one sweep of his dao, and as he did so, the old priest raised his stick and caught the buffalo a hard blow on the rump.
text: The big beast threw up his weighted head in pain and astonishment. Then he found himself free, and launched off down the street at a thundering canter with a tumbling, jostling, shoving flood of men full-tilt after him. They swept between the morungs in a mob of bare, brown backs, blue kilts and shaggy black heads. Down in ruins went a wood-stack and the village pipeline, men fell headlong and were trampled on and scrambled up and ran on again; the bull jerked suddenly to the right, crashed out through a garden, leaped a stile with unexpected agility, and vanished into the jungle with his pursuers after him. The street was left suddenly void, with somebody's kindling stack littered the length and breadth of it and water spilling from the still-shaking pipe.