Traditional knowledge system in hunting method: The Zeliangrongs of North East

Dr. Budha Kamei
Contd from previous issue
Jouki-pha
Jouki-pha is a cage-type trap having two chambers and is made of wood to catch animals like wild cat and smaller animals. (Jouki means a wild cat and Pha, trap). A fowl is set free into the inner chamber to charm the animals. When the animal does pull the real bait, the trigger is unlocked and the door does fall with a thud.
Phai-pha: Phai-pha, feet trap is made by attaching a long rope of the fibres of the Thang tree to the end of a bent bough. This rope ends in a running noose behind which is a peg. A hooped stick is stuck down into the ground in a hollowed place in a track used by deer and the top of the peg caught up underneath it. The rope is taken over the hoop and the noose spread. The peg is held in place by a short stick resting horizontally across the hoop against two vertical sticks. On the horizontal stick other sticks are rested at right angles to it and passing under the noose and raised from the earth at the other end by a bit of wood. The whole is covered with dead leaves. If the deer steps in the circle formed by the noose he depresses the sticks which rest on the horizontal stick which holds the peg in place. This does release the peg and the bough springs back into position, suspending the deer by the noose, which has run tight about its leg.5 Kaikang-pha is a trap working on the principle of lever release system. Kaikang means a plane rack of bamboo and woods usually placed above the Mhaimang, fireplace. The size and strength of the trap vary depending upon the targets to be killed. Thingdang-Pha is also a kind of trap, but it is not that sort of the trap used to catch an animal by leg or by the neck using noose. Thingdang-pha means a log laid in wait to fall. Here, a heavy log is laid on the path of the prey to fall upon it. Sang-pha is a trap used to catch animals such as squirrel and rat. Rou-pha is only used to trap a rodent, burrowing at the roots of the bamboos.
Catching of birds: Birds are caught in various ways. A very simple method is that they extract a kind of gum called Tajik from the trees and it is plastered on the branches of tree. By it, small insects, and ants are placed. When the birds sit on gum to eat the ants they are detained. This trap is called Tajik Pha. But, in most cases, they use snares with various knots in birds catching and it is generally placed on the fruit plants. Pha-sang is usually laid on the tip of branches of trees bearing ripe fruits. It catches a number of birds by the neck at the time when they are trying to eat the fruits. Tang-bei is used to catch most at a time and it requires to reset if the manipulation wants to catch another bird. Bourun-pha is also used to catch birds especially when they lay eggs. The trap is laid on the nest itself. When the bird enters into its nest, it is cornered, but not strangled. When it flies out, the noose does strangle it by the neck. Tengka-pha is a U shaped small trap used to catch birds by leg.
Mass hunting: Pei (village council) decides the date of mass hunting. But, hunting is prohibited during the agricultural season. Among all the Naga tribes of Manipur from the first day of the crop genna to the final harvest, “hunting, fishing etc. are strictly forbidden lest the grain in the corn be lost.”6The Zeliangrong, “do not take so much to hunting,”7 although they often used poison and dams to capture fish. On the day, before going for hunting an elder of Pei performs omen by ginger (Guhlim Daan Sanmei) at the abode of Northern village presiding deity (Kaipi Bambu) in search of good sign. If the omen is good, then all the young men of the village will go for hunting to the jungle with their spears and dogs. They also offer either an egg or chicken to the goddess of birds and beast locally known as Champei for a successful hunting. When a successful hunt takes place, all the villagers hold a great feast of the killed animals normally at the bachelors’ dormitory (Khangchiu). As per custom, the person who first injures the animal is entitled to its head (Shupi Ramei), which he does hang in his house as a trophy.
Hinting rights: Although hunting rights are restricted by the boundaries of the village land, beyond which game already started may be pursued, but outside which fresh game may not be hunted or sought for, snaring rights are not so limited. It is well recognized that snares may be set on the land of another village, and where the respective villages are friendly they will be allowed to remain. The ownership of the game caught in snares is not always respected, and it is not regarded as a punishable theft to take birds from another man’s snare, though it is looked on as a low thing to do.
Dream and beliefs of hunting: Beliefs in dream associated symbols and signs determine the day of a hunter among the Zeliangrong. To dream of chopping and carrying of firewood is a positive sign. It is also believed that dreaming of receiving guests in the house is another good sign for success in hunting. “Every Angami Naga dreams before going a-hunting and believes most heartily in the truth of such prognostications, and, at any rate with certain dreamers, these hunting dreams have a remarkable way of coming true.”8 Therefore, dream is highly counted in determining the daily life and activities of the Zeliangrong.
In addition, they have some beliefs while going for a hunt. To go with spear placing horizontally on their shoulder means some impending danger of being hurt by wild animals. In an outing, if one’s finger is bitten by lizard, they believe that the man will not achieve success in hunting for the whole year. Hornbill is regarded with reverence by them, but they do not hesitate to kill, and take the flesh as a great delicacy.9 Pairs of birds in the nest made in the holes of tree trunk, and the entrance facing towards the west, they consider them under the protection of gods.10 They never take the birds out of it as such interference will be followed by misfortune and bad consequences. They don’t consider other directions except west.
Hunting of the Meiteis: Among the Meiteis, even after accepting the Hinduism, hunting was, until recently, enjoyed out with full zeal and enthusiasm as a form of sport and pastime. The historical texts provide records on conducting of royal hunting expeditions. Apart from this, they had to hunt wild animals out of the motive of defending their settled social life against the wild animals that abounded in their habitat here and there in the valley. Individual successful hunter got royal reward in the form of highly valued clothes, paddy-field etc. T. C Hodson11 mentioned about Keirup, meaning tiger club, which was responsible to the authorities for the upkeep in proper order of nets and spears in enough quantity. An alike institutional arrangement incorporating hunting activities in the administrative system is observed in the office recognized as Sharung Hanba that prominently did exist in the administrative system of the famous Moirang principality of the ancient past in the history of Manipur.
Hunting of the Ao: The Ao Nagas are not great hunters. When the wild hogs begin to destroy their rice fields all the healthy men of the village turn out. They divide into two groups and go in search of the raiders. Having located the pigs, some of the men are left to encircle them, sometimes building fires to surround them. A number of men then go away some distance to build a V-shaped fence by driving stakes into the ground closely together. After this, the young men drive the pigs into the enclosure while the older men, spear in hand, take their positions on a platform built over the apex of the fence, from which they spear the pigs as they come rushing along.
After the killing is over, the fence is cut to pieces for future success in hunting. The young men of the dormitory carry the killed animals to the village, where the meat is distributed among all the villagers. The old men receive the lower part of the legs and also the heads of the pigs. If when the process of division is going on, a stranger should arrive from another village he would receive the largest pig as a gift. Of this he would take the head and one hind leg only, dividing the remainder among his friends or among members of his own sib if there be any in the village. In the evening, the women of the village gather before the bachelors’ hall and sing their songs of praise to the old men who have been gallant in war and also to the men for killing a large number of wild pigs. The next day the whole village observe genna.12 Like the Zeliangrong, they also climb trees and cut off branches on which the monkeys are hanging, letting them fall to the ground. This method can be used only on rare occasions. (To be contd)

The writer can be reached at budhakamei@gmail.com

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