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 twenty-one. Masang
caption: reincarnation of Gaidiliu
medium: books
person: MasangHaichangnangGaidiliuDikheo
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: I looked across the hearth at Haichangnang. I saw his face, his look; and I understood. To Masang I was, and always had been, re-incarnated Gaidiliu.
text: I sat there most of the day. It comforted Masang. He hardly spoke at all, except to reiterate his pathetic appeal, but he lay, half-seen in the dark, his hand on my knee, or holding mine, like a child. When I moved away, as I once or twice did, there was a sudden moan, and that dreadful hand, that crusted, skeleton's hand, came feeling over his head to pull me back. I was glad I had Haichangnang and not Namkia. He didn't interfere with the dying man, rate him, exult as Namkia might have done. His face convulsed with pity, the little man sat, and watched the two of us from across the fire. When he spoke at all, it was with sympathy, comfort and a human gentleness which I loved in him.
text: Then there was time to think. In the quiet house the whole mysterious jigsaw fell into shape.
text: From the very first moment he saw me, I later learned, Masang believed that I was Gaidiliu. Why, Heaven only knows; for, as far as I can tell, there is not a single point of resemblance between us, except our sex. But she had promised, it seemed, to return in another form, one in which her enemies would not know her; and what disguise could possibly be better than the shape of a European woman ? At all events, he up and announced my godhead publicly, in Laisong village, at the meeting there; and while the steady element, such as Namkia, recoiled, and the main body sat (158) tight and awaited events, the mad and faithful, such as Guilong, fell for it hook, line and sinker. So that was why I had been mobbed as I was. That was why strangers appeared from the back of beyond with presents. That was why the Bopungwemi party stripped their youngest member and made me an emergency gift. That was why headmen had fallen at my feet and called me " Mother " and " She-Spirit ". And oh ! how right she had been, when she told Mr Mills it was hard work being a goddess, and she never had time for a bath ! Oh, the bleating inanities of Guilong ! Oh, the clutch of hands ! Oh, the clawing, the thrusting, the arrogant claim to worship, to derive benefit, at any hour of the day or night ! Oh, anthropology ! Oh, shades of 'The Golden Bough' ! The strain, the misery of being a God !
text: And after that, there had been the second visit from Bopungwemi. While the others, whom I had seen before, distracted me with chatter and gifts laid out, the fourth man of the party, a big, tall, hulking brute, had leaned against the veranda-post and stared and stared. And later, somehow, the rush of visitors had declined. I never asked Masang; but I was almost sure - he had been down, they said, and been to Maibong - that that was Dikheo; come at the risk of his life to see this re-incarnation Masang was talking of; and that he failed to pass me. So only Masang believed, and the few he led. Namkia, knowing - they all of them knew, but me - had kept him away from Laisong, cut short his visits, till, with his job gone, Dikheo dead, he fell ill, and sent for me - sent, Haichangnang said, by the name of Gaidiliu. And here we were by the hearth, on a dirty mat, Masang's black hand in mine, and Haichangnang looking at us across the fire.
text: From that moment, I think, I became a Zemi. I under- stood them as I had never done before. Their faults, their follies, their sincerities, were all so clear. I would have said before that Masang's recognition of me, based, it would seem, on no good reason at all, was just a device to regain his former power. Given a goddess, he could be her prophet. (160) But what to make of this ? Masang was dying. He knew it, and so did we; I could do nothing for him. He was afraid of death, but he was not asking me, myself, to save him. He was asking Gaidiliu, his queen, his goddess, in whom he so believed, in whom he trusted, whose hand he now, half-conscious, held and held; she for whose sake he had been beaten and jailed; she to whom, dying, he clung. I sat on and on there, quiet, the dry paw lying in mine.
text: It was evening when we left. The village mobbed us. For the first time consciously, but for the last time, I went down a village street as a divine being. They crowded and clung to me, as when I came. Now it was all simple and comprehensible. When Masang died, I knew, there would be an end of it all. Haichangnang caught my eye and knew that I understood, and, leaving the village gradually, patient at last with the crowds, we reached the bridle-road and went slowly home with a strange new sympathy and understanding between us.
text: A fortnight later, we heard that Masang had died. I doubt if Gaidiliu had a better servant.