Dr Budha Kamei
Contd from previous issue
Hunting among 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 Hodson 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 among the Ao Nagas
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 and 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. 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.
Hunting among the Tangkhuls: Among the Tanghkul, hunting is a good and popular game. Group hunting with hounds is the most popular form of hunting. The dogs (Safa) are sent into the thickets to drive out animals from the forest, while the hunters with spears, waited along the ridges or gorges of hillocks; the common games are wild-boar, bear, barking-deer and sometimes tiger. However, the big animals are trapped in the pitfalls or are concerned in a particular place by picketing. Making traps with logs of wood and digging pits are of high technique, and are mostly done by warriors. Such traps are made in deep forest. One of the interesting forms of hunting is Vakhong. There are thousands of big Uningthou (Michelia Champaca) trees in the forest of Siroy Hill, Ukhrul District. There, high on the trees, small basins are made by axing out into the main branches, and put water in them. The birds while feeding on the fruits of the trees, immediately see the water, and feel convenient to get a drink from the artificial tanks where traps have been laid. Basketful of birds was caught in that way in the past. The birds are called Shiri after the name of Siroy where these good birds are available in abundance.
Sense of direction: Though the Zeliangrong have a wonderful sense of direction, it sometimes does occur that a man out of hunting loses his way in the jungle. Should this happen he cuts a stick and makes a few cuts in the bark to represent the pattern on a python’s skin. This stick he leaves on the ground and then sure to be able to find his way without difficulty. This custom is connected with the belief that the python has a habit of leaving its saliva on leaves, and that anyone who touches one of these leaves by accident will go mad and lose his way. A Chang Naga who loses his way cuts off a bit of his hair and sticks it in a cleft stick or the fork of a tree, no doubt as a replacement for his own person. After which the python lets him go and he finds his way home. A Sema Naga under similar circumstances does offer a bit of the fringe of his cloth.
Maintaining of Structural relationship: Hunting game has also been a mechanism for maintaining the structural relationship of certain kin groups in many of the hill tribes of Manipur. Among the Zeliangrongs, the person who first injures the animal is entitled to claim the head. According to the rule of sharing the hunted game, parts like head, lungs, heart and lower part of a leg will go to the owner as part of his due share. If there are more than two hunters, part of another leg will be given to the eldest one among the hunters. Other parts of the animal will be shared equally by the team members. The owner of the hunting dog is entitled to take the dog’s share and part of this share is always given to the dog. As a tradition, a share is also given to the Nampou, village chief. But, in the case of tiger or bear the killer cannot share of the meal. He has to offer a pig to the village elders; the pig is killed and observed its spleen. All the able-bodied men of the village perform Rishangtuna Kavoumei whole night at the residence of the person who killed the game. The meat of the game is divided among the villagers as well as his sisters; all the sisters in turn will give meat to their brother.
Among the Paites, each member of the household gets a share of the killed animal. Thus, the householder gets the head, liver, lungs, heart and entrails; the married brother of the father (Thallouh) gets the distal part of the thigh; a non-clan member gets one scapular half; brother of the father (Thallouhthusa) gets the distal and of one fore-thigh; the last office (Hanzutung) among the member of Thusa gets distal thigh. The office of Tuna is held by married sisters, father’s sister and married female member of the father of the household. It is graded on the proximity of kinship and seniority: Tanupi and Tanunau of the Tanu get one side of the rib portion each and the Tanuthumna and Tanulina get the shoulder blades. There are a set of Puu: the mother’s father (Pupi) or brother gets the shoulder blade and the Punau or the junior Puu gets one side of the is-chi-al part; Zawl or a pack of friends gets one side of the is-chi-al part; one’s wife married sister (the Nuphal) and extra member of the lineage or extra sibling (Behavaal) gets the unspecified cook meat each.
Among the Tangkhuls, the hunting team’s leader gets the head of the game killed. The first who does spear the animal will get the right leg of the forelimb. The second gets left leg of forelimb. And as share of the dog, the chest portion of the animal is given to the dog’s owner. If there is more than one owner of dogs, then it is distributed equally. The rest is divided among the hunting party. Among the Lhotas, the division of the killed animal is strictly regulated by custom. In the case of deer, one who first spear gets a hind-leg, second a fore-leg, and the owner of the dogs a hind-leg; the head, liver, heart and fore-leg go to the oldest man of the hunting party. The rest of the meat is divided among the spearmen. The older men get slightly bigger shares than the younger. A spear which only hits the animal in the face does not count. From every deer killed Sityingo, (the forest deity who owns all wild animals as a man owns domestic animals) is given his share. This includes six little bits of liver wrapped in one leaf and five little bits in another. The same are eaten by the oldest man in the village of the clan of the owner of the dogs. In the case of animals like pig and bear without the aid of dogs, the first spear gets the head, hind-leg, fore-leg, liver and heart, and the second spear the other fore-leg and hind-leg. The remaining members of the party take the rest of the meat. Should the animal be killed on the land of a friendly village, one of the legs of the dogs’ share or a fore-quarter or part of the ribs is given to the chief. Should game be killed, before pursuit by the original pursuers has ceased, by a different hunting party or a cultivating party in the fields of another village, as often happens, the dogs’ share, has to be given to the huntsmen whose dogs put up the game to start with. This is a point of etiquette most strictly enforced.
A peculiar custom found among the Zeliangrong, head of the enemy (Rihpi) is accorded with highest ritual celebration and the second highest honour is the killing of a tiger. The killing of python, bear and wild pig are the third grade. Success in hunting was considered a trial of strength and valour of an individual among the Naga tribes—an achievement which earns reputation for an individual in various spheres of social and cultural life including the marriage market. It is stated that a man possessing the “skill in hunting and warfare inevitably acquires a position of influence” in the community. The Zeliangrong, like other Naga and Kuki tribes, continue to hunt and trap through the employment of different traditional methods along with domestication of animals, fishing and cultivation. However, the practice of mass hunting is no longer practice among the hill tribes of Manipur.
Conclusion: To conclude, the Zeliangrong people did hunt wild animals by employing traditional methods in the distant past. Hunting is meant not only for material consumption but also for occupying a status in the society. As a rule the victim is divided into different parts and distributed among the clan elders including village chief.
A share is also reserved for their married sisters. In short, it serves as device for maintaining the structural relationship of certain kin groups. However, mass hunting is no longer in practice among the natives of Northeast including Zeliangrongs. Since tribal people closely associated with the forests, killing of wild animals means one moves away from the environment. To have friendly ecosystem one should stop hunting animals.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]