Nagas - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. Christianity has taken root in some Naga tribes, but it has by no means eclipsed traditional Religious beliefs. The Angami religious system features belief in a number of spirits and supernatural forces associated with the cycle of life. Animate and inanimate objects may be regarded as embodied spirits, and there is a distinction drawn between the gods and the souls of dead humans. Among the vast number of terhoma ("deities") the following should be noted: Kenopfu (the creator god); Rutzeh (the giver of sudden death); Maweno (god of fruitfulness); Telepfu (a mischievous god) ; Tsuko and Dzurawu (husband and wife dwarf gods presiding over wild animals); Metsimo (guardian of the gate leading to paradise) ; Tekhu-rho (god of tigers) ; and Ayepi (a god who lives in Angami houses and brings prosperity). Supernatural forces are believed to possess both benevolent and malicious qualities and, when occasion demands, Angami belief provides for prayer to be made to them and for their propitiation or challenge by humans.


Religious Practitioners. Angami religious practitioners include the following: the kemovo (who directs public Ceremonies and is the repository of historical traditions and Genealogical information); the zhevo (who functions as integral part of the performance of personal gennas, and who also is called on in times of sickness to advise an appropriate Ceremonial course of action to cure the disease); the tsakro (an old man who inaugurates the sowing of crops); and the lidepfu (an old woman who inaugurates the reaping of crops). All of these practitioners are public functionaries. Other Religious specialists, whose realm of activity is confined to the private domain, are known as well. These include: the themuma, whose knowledge may range from competence in particular kinds of divination to knowledge of poisons; the zhumma ("invulnerables"), who reportedly can be harmed neither by bullet nor spear; the kihupfuma (individuals gifted with powers to cause illness and bad fortune) ; and the terhope (women who dream in order to foretell the outcome of various endeavors). A similar hierarchy of practitioners obtains in many other Naga tribes.

Ceremonies. Angami religious life centers on a series of eleven gennas (magicoreligious ceremonies accompanied by behavioral restrictions binding upon community and/or Individual) performed during the year. These are connected with agricultural events that affect the life of the Community. Gennas of less frequent occurrence include those for war dancing, interclan visitation, and preparation of a new village door. Individual gennas (i.e., those associated with the normal cycle of events in a person's life) include those for birth, marriage, and death. Some seven social gennas may be performed in order to gain status. Miscellaneous gennas for illness, rainmaking, head taking, and hunting may also be performed. Angami religious life also includes the observance of certain restrictions on individual behavior (called hennas ) and corporate behavior (called pennas ). The ceremony accompanying the genna (called nanu ) involves the offering of flesh (part of which is offered to the spirits), the wearing of ceremonial garments, singing, dancing, the pounding of dhan (unhusked grain of the rice plant), the abstention from work, and the prohibition of any contact with strangers. Similarity in the structure of rites and ceremonies obtains in other Naga tribes.

Arts. Music and dancing are important components in Angami gennas. Oral literature includes numerous myths and legends (which are also accompanied by song). Images of spirits and gods are lacking in Angami visual art, but the representation of the human form in Angami woodwork is known. Wooden dolls of the human figure in miniature are made and dressed in traditional clothing. Originally these were produced for artistic purposes but their value was Perceived by those who produced them, making them subject to sale. Life-size human figures are manufactured and placed over graves. The representation of the human head is a Common feature of Angami wood carving (e.g., on village doors, house gables, and wooden bridges), as are the head of the gayal, the pig's head, and an image representing either a human breast or the top of a dhan basket. Proficiency in wood does not obtain among all Naga tribes.

Medicine. Magicoreligious ceremonies are the major cure prescribed for ills among the Angami. In addition to these rites, a number of medicinal herbs are used for their curative properties. The brain of the khokhe fish, the bile of the toad, the casts of earthworms, a dog's eyes and hairs, raw eggs, and the marrow of the serow are among the animal parts and by-products used for medicinal purposes by the Angami. Among other Naga tribes (e.g., the Ao), magicoreligious means for the cure of illnesses are also preferred, but the use of plant and animal by-products for medicinal purposes also obtains.

Death and Afterlife. Attitudes toward the burial of the dead vary among the various Naga tribes. The Angami place responsibility for the burial of the dead on the male relatives of the deceased. Burial usually takes place within the village. A grave is prepared either beside one of the village paths or in front of the deceased's house. The body of a man is interred in a coffin covered by a white cloth. With it are buried a fire stick, one or two spears, a dao, a young chicken (alive), and a gadzosi seed (placed between the teeth of the corpse). The gadzosi seed is provided so that the deceased's encounter with Metsimo in the afterlife will be a successful one. A woman is buried with a few beads, a new under-petticoat, a reaping hook, a young chicken (live), and the gadzosi seed. Once buried, the coffin is covered with flat stones. Onto the stones is poured the contents of the deceased's ceremonial kang ("carrying basket"): seed for wet rice, Job's tears, millet (and every other kind of edible grain), zu (rice beer), and the deceased's drinking cup. The grave is then covered with earth and leveled. Atop the grave are placed personal implements once belonging to the deceased. Angami eschatology distinguishes between the fates in the afterlife of those who live good lives and those who do not. The former join the sky god Ukepenopfu, while the latter are condemned to pass through seven existences beneath the Earth. Life with the sky god is presumed to be an extension of earthly life with hunting, headhunting, drinking, and feasting. The major requirement for entry into this blessed state is that one have performed the zhatho genna and abstained from unclean meat thereafter. Angami males must struggle with Metsimo on the narrow passage that leads to the gate of the sky god's domain. Failure results in the deceased's being forced to wander between Heaven and Earth as a wandering spirit. Similarities between the Angami and other Naga tribes regarding eschatology do obtain. Belief in the narrow road leading to Paradise is Virtually universal among the Naga.

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Sep 29, 2013 @ 6:06 am
can u provide me with some article on influence of western culture on naga culture.

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