Thadou - Sociopolitical Organization

Shaw provided little information about the political structure of the traditional Thadou village. From what he has mentioned, the position of chief/headman was of primary importance. The chief was usually in possession of the largest domicile in a village. The gathering point for village males was adjacent to the chiefs home. The chief also had the right to confiscate standing crops and stored grain belonging to any member of the village who migrated from there without his permission. Further, in regional intervillage combat, it was customary to take chiefs hostage rather than to kill them. It has been suggested that this was due to the belief that all chiefs were related by blood. The chief is owner of all village lands and receives the benefit of dues (e.g., annual cultivation due, migration due, and the due paid by anyone selling gayals, buffalo, or other cattle) and required services from his subjects (e.g., each villager must work one day each month in the chief's fields). Social control is maintained by the imposition of required service (i.e., to the village chief), dues, oaths, trials, and fines. Conflict between the Thadou and their immediate neighbors was intermittent in the early nineteenth century. However, the taking of life was not treated lightly in Thadou society: just cause had to be established before life could be taken. Village raiding was common and the taking of heads usually accompanied armed conflict. The taking of heads was associated closely with the cult of the dead. Heads secured in battle were placed on the graves of deceased relatives and it was believed that these captives would act as servants for these individuals in the afterlife. Raids were also conducted during this time for the purpose of securing heads for the burial of a village chief. In such an instance, village authorities would select a group for attack that had an unsettled debt or had committed an offense against the village.

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