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: retreat to the village; Namkia's description of catching the bull; Hegokuloa's lack of sportsmanship
medium: books
person: NamkiaPaodekumbaRamgakpa
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: He had trampled out an arena for himself in the under- growth and was making short rushes up and down it, smelling enemies everywhere and unable to find them. There was not a sign of our team, but every tree was black with the men of Hegokuloa. One of them was right over my head, clinging to a sapling not six inches thick and rocking in an apelike frenzy as he shouted. Each time he rocked his foot came down on my head, so that with every whoop he lunged and I ducked, like a pair of mechanical toys, till the bull swung suddenly round with a snort and charged away in the underbrush. Instantly brown figures swarmed like monkeys from the trees or dropped like plummets from above and went racing off (76) after him; and for the second time that morning Haichangnang and I were left abruptly alone in a scene still quivering from violent activity. We waited several minutes to make sure the coast was clear, and then squeezed out of cover and made off back to the village as hard as we could pelt. When we arrived perspiring at the headman's house the first person we saw was Namkia, sitting delicately poised on a stack of folded cloths. He was thickly covered in dust, burrs, sweat and scratches, and, between gulps at a large cup of rice-beer, he told us how the team had fared.
text: He had been right in the van when the bull crashed through the garden and jumped the stile, and beyond that had been a narrow footpath on which he found himself in the lead. But as he raced down this with the tail and triumph almost in his grasp, both bull and path jinked suddenly to the right, and Namkia, overshooting, went straight ahead into a small ravine. His feet went out from under; he sat with a bump; and for twenty feet or more he skidded down the rocky bank on his bare stern.
text: Arrived with a crash in the stream below, he found himself once more up with the hunt, which had taken the more conventional route round. Leaping up and joining again in the battle, he was presently in the forefront with the new scullion, Paodekumba, a fuzzy-headed little man compact of muscle and tough as they come. First one and then the other of them took hold of the tail and was shaken off, and at last, in the confused chase which was going on all round in the thick scrub jungle, Paodekumba grabbed the tail once more, and Namkia, by a supreme effort, secured a grip on the horns. The bull then set off at a rousing gallop with the pair of them flying from him like tails on a kite.
text: At some point in this passage the bull tried to wipe Namkia off on a tree. He displayed a skinned arm in token. Then it came to a sudden stop with the idea of turning on Paodekumba; but Namkia whipped a providential loose end of the padding round a sapling and made it fast; and there (77) they were with the bull caught and Paodekumba most indubitably on the tail - a clear win for the Bower stable. Then up came Ramgakpa, who had been thereabouts, but dancing round at a safe distance in spite of Namkia's yells at him to help; and, a split second after, the whole of the Hegokuloa pack, who declared as one that never would they allow a visiting team to win on the home ground. They were almost at blows with Namkia over it when the bull broke loose; and as soon as the staff reached safety and stopped running, they put their noses in the air and stalked off home in a huff, while the Hegokuloa contingent shot straight up the nearest trees and were still there when Haichangnang and I burst in on them ten minutes later. And Heaven, as Namkia unctuously pointed out, was revenged on Hegokuloa for their lack of the sporting spirit; for the padding worked off the bull's horns and by mid-morning it was as much as a man's life was worth to come within twenty yards of him. They had to send back to the village in the end for the headman's gun, and shoot him with that. However, by then most of the runners had come home disgruntled to start the chase of the second beast; and that turned out an even bigger fiasco.