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

Dr. Budha Kamei
Manipur, one of the eight north-eastern states is bounded by Nagaland in the north, by Myanmar in the east and south, by Mizoram in the south-west and by Assam in the west. Different ethnic groups occupy the State. The people irrespective of caste, creed and religion belong to the same Mongoloid racial stock and speak the Tibeto-Burman languages. The inhabitants of Manipur are commonly known as Manipuris. Like the compatriots in the hills, the valley Meiteis, too, before accepting the Hinduism much relished animal meats. The Manipuris took interest in hunting not only for material consumption, but also for social and cultural needs. Success in hunting was actually prized and thus it had much cultural values. The paper is a humble attempt to delve into the traditional knowledge system in hunting method among the Zeliangrongs of Northeast.
Materials and Method: The study has adopted ethno-historical approach. The data are based on primary and secondary sources. For collection of primary data, about twenty knowledgeable persons from five Zeliangrong villages inhabiting in the hills area are selected as samples. The selected key informants are interviewed through unstructured enquiries at the study site(s)/village(s) to get the supportive response. The response of the informants is recorded. Secondary data are collected from available books, journal, electronic and non-electronic sources.
Objectives of the study: The objectives of the study are: to examine the traditional knowledge employed in hunting method; factors for continual of hunting culture; dream and omen associated with hunting; different methods of hunting; sense of direction; hunting as mechanism of maintaining Structural relationship and hunting methods of other communities. No scholar has so far been examined the indigenous knowledge system employed in hunting technique of the Zeliangrong in systematic way on the basis of available sources. However, local scholars have mentioned some aspects of the hunting method of the community in their respective works. So, systematic analysis and treatment of the subject matter is urgently needed. Man has always hunted. The greatest change in hunting since primitive man has been the gradual shift from hunting for survival to hunting for sport. This change was influenced by basic developments in the history of mankind. These included the domestication of animals and the shift to an agrarian economy, both of which reduced man’s need to pursue wild animals for food. Greater stability in man’s daily life caused him to turn to sources other than hunted game for food.
Continual of hunting culture: However, hunting continues to have its important role in the socio-cultural life of the Zeliangrong. Like many other tribes, the Zeliangrong, too, have the practice of hanging the skull of hunting animals and birds on the front wall of their houses. This cultural practice adopted is to show the achievement of the house owner. A successful hunter is an honour person and occupies a high status, privilege and prestige in traditional Zeliangrong society. With the high status obtained out of success in hunting those individuals get opportunities for entry into the esteemed, high offices of their village politic. It was the dream of every young man to achieve such position Shulaingameipu in their lifetime.
The main influencing factors of continual of hunting culture among the Zeliangrongs are personal taste, expertise and various other aspects. It is still found as embedded culture because there can be no other better ways for hunter in welcoming his guest with the hunted game. To meet the need of the family, they sell the hunting animal is another reason. They also hunt animals and birds to stop from destroying their agricultural crops since they depend mainly on agriculture. In addition, sticking to the intrinsic value of transferring traditional technique of hunting method of its application, are some of the main reasons for the continual of this culture. They perform hunting activities on both far and close proximity and in different time and places according to the taste of a hunter. Hunting for a day return plan and more than a day halting in the deep jungle are of two kinds found among the Zeliangrongs. Hunting with close friends is common when it does engage for more than a day. In the distance past, persistence hunting with dog and spear from an individual to community level was the common form of hunting. “A better and larger team of hunters can track much faster than an individual on his own. The difficult task, however, for the tiring hunter is to keep on the right track of the animal since its tracks must be distinguished from those of the other animals. When the animal is still running strongly, this can be difficult, but when it starts to show signs of tiring, it becomes easier to distinguish its tracks.”1 In fact, it was a test of persistence and physical endurance of the hunter. The commonly hunted animals are boar, barking deer, jungle cat, sambar (Chakhang), mongoose, etc. Birds consists of such as green pigeon, jungle fowl, spotted dove, owl etc. All the animals and birds are commonly hunted through the use of traditional hunting techniques and devices.
Calling method: Calling is a method of hunting. This is stimulating the natural voice of a species so that instinct brings the game closer; it is also imitating the sound of distress of a species on which the hunted game preys. In the first instance, the desired game comes to one of its kind; thus the technique is most effective during the mating season. In the second, the desired species comes because of hunger to the distress call of its natural quarry. Deer, elk and moose can be called by first method. Foxes, bobcats, and coyotes coming to the artificial distress call of rabbits exemplify the second method.2
Hunting with animals: Hunting with animals is another method hunters have used for centuries. Local trained dogs (Shulaimei Shi) are usually employed in hunting the boar, deer, wild pig, fox, reptiles etc. The dogs will start giving tongue as soon as they sense the presence of animals. They will follow the animal, yapping stridently; while the owners of the dogs cheer them on from behind with a deep call almost like a laud in order to encourage them to continue or not to stop the hunt. Yapping of dog notifies the hunter of the whereabouts of the game and the direction it is taking, for the thick forest prevents anything from being seen.3 Sometimes game must be forced to move through cover or out in the open toward a hunter who waits where the game naturally passes. Men on foot or with dogs move game by striking or thrashing the ground or cover. This method is known as driving or beating.
Hunting with spear: Spear (Bui) was an important tool of hunting before the invention of modern weapons. The Zeliangrong people used spear made of wood as it can not only pierce through the body, but also can poison animals to death gradually when they get pierced by it. Hunting with spear is universal.
Trapping method: Trapping is also one of the oldest methods of hunting. There are different types of trap for animals such as Khunthuk-pha (pitfall trap), Keikang-bei (rack fall trap), Rhou-pha (guinea pig trap), Sang-pha (squirrel trap), Sak-pha (spear trap), Jou-pha (monkey trap), Kagang-pha (neck trap for deer), Joukong-pha (neck trap for porcupine), Jouki-pha (drop trap), Thingdang-pha (beam trap) etc. In addition, they use traps for birds like Tengka-pha (leg trap), Pha-sang (noose trap), Bourun-pha (nest trap), Tang-bei (bamboo clapping trap) etc. Pitfall trap is made by digging hole. For animals like bison, deer and serrow, large holes are dug from about six to sixteen feet deep with pointed sticks stuck all over the bottom of the holes. Then, it is covered with leaves, small branches and earth spread carefully over the top. The animal steps on a thin covering over the sunken area and falls into the trap. Another type of trap, when a deer runs is found leading over some steep bank to a ravine. This bank is then strewed with dead leaves which offer no foothold, and are slippery. At the bottom of the shape are placed panjies at the angle of 450 with the ground. A deer or wild animal coming along the run slips at the bank and before it can be pull up it is pierced on the panjies. They also place panjis three or five as a rule, but not four, as this would be unsuccessful, in a path used by deer, where the deer has to jump over a fallen tree which hides the panjis, on to which the deer jumps and is pierced. The fall trap is used in the fields for monkeys and baited with a cucumber. When the monkey pulls at this a bamboo shelf loaded with stones falls down and crushes him. Nowadays, such traps are not in use. Among the Lhotas, “Before the making of pitfalls was forbidden by the Government large number of elephants, deer and wild pig were killed by means of them. Elephant-pits were huge affairs, but the ordinary pitfall was about ten feet deep, with the bottom covered with big jagged rocks and panjis, so that any animal which fell in was likely both to have its legs broken and to be impaled.”4
Sak-Pha: Sak-pha is a type of transfixing trap. In this type of trap, an arrow is made to be released. The arrow thus released pierces the game. Sometimes human beings are also attacked by this type of trap. Such trap is not in use nowadays. Jou-pha is laid in numbers in a place where there is regular crossing of monkeys. The hunter fixed panjies in the ground below the branches of trees which the monkeys usually use in crossing their way. The branches are correctly cut deep so that when the monkey does jump from the branches to the other branches may break down under the weight of the monkey; whereby making them to fall over the panjies and get themselves impaled. Kagang-pha is generally laid near a stream where animals like deer, mithun etc. are regularly either for drinking or crossing the stream. It catches the game by the neck. It consists of a rope made of fibre of a Thang tree. One end of the rope is tied to a log of wood with branches erected by the side of the passage at a height of about six feet whereas the other end of the rope is made into a noose. When the animal enters the loop, the loop automatically narrows its dimension to strangle the game. While using the trap, the height of the lower border of the loop varies according to the size of the animal which the hunter likes to trap. Joukong-pha is a trap which strangles an animal by neck and is used generally for trapping small animals. This trap is more effective when the animal comes from the opposite site of the trap. (To be contd)
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