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 thirty-five. Finale
caption: Zemi wedding at Magulong
medium: books
person: Khutuing
location: Magulong
date: 5.1946
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: (246) In the next mail came the news that Tim had his appointment in the North-East Frontier service. He had been given the Subansiri Area, the post we hardly dared hope for the last unexplored tract. Time was short, it was a long way back to the railway; only a day or two more and we must go.
text: The wedding ceremonies were set in train. First Khutuing adopted me by the name of Katazile meaning " Giver of All " - the " V " Force free relief was the reason for that. It had saved Magulong from famine, and many households still preserved scraps of the salt, part-relics, part-talismans. Tim next presented Khutuing with a spear, the gift of respect, and a hundred rupees as my nominal marriage-price. Khutuing replied with the cloth of betrothal - not a white cloth, as in Asalu and Laisong, but a crimson-bordered 'mraipan,' the full-dress cloth of Magulong and its group
text: Then came the ceremony proper. A cock was strangled by the village priest and the omens taken from the way it crossed its feet. The flesh was cooked and set in a special dish; and with the shapely cane rice-basket which Khutuing gave me, the symbol of wifely duties
text: Not, however, the celebrations. For a people who sang as much as they spoke and danced as much as they sang an occasion without a party was unthinkable. It began that afternoon at four o'clock, in the great, dark, smoky hall of Khutuing's morung. Vats of rice-beer filled the back of the room. The bucks and warriors of both morungs were there, the elders were there.
text: A dance in the morung has an atmosphere all its own. The huge hall with its two pillars and fires burning on the floor is part smoky darkness and part yellow light; the dancers pass from one to the other, one moment lit to the last richness of detail, the next lost, a dim movement in the recesses. Behind the fires shadowy figures move and drift and watch, drummers, singers, girls waiting their turn, men bustling with drinks for the swaying choir. Time vanishes, the ages roll back; the stars are the same as they were three centuries ago; the gates are shut against the Angami, and the Zemi dance as their ancestors danced before them - roads, railways, the Government, have rolled away as though they had never been and outside in the night the countryside lies spread under the sky as wild, as beautiful as before the white man came.
text: We danced, we sang till the sun went down. We danced the moon down, too; all three cockcrows and sunrise, we danced them by; we were dancing still when the housewives woke to the day. At ten o'clock, at our urgent request, the party broke up at last. Chanting, singing, dancing, they saw us home. In the morning sun, the small, hedged compound was filled with feathers and colour. Grouped about the doorway, they sang good-bye. They ended at last with the ho-ho-ing, the 'heroa-kai,' that wild, ringing, barbaric chorus which I think would rouse me out of my coffin. They fairly threw the notes out, chord on chord, magnificent, savage, with the clang of bells. Up went a quivering arm. The whole band checked, on one sustained note. A second's pause; then " HOI ! " It was finished.