MISHING TRIBE OF MAJULI, ASSAM

A traditional house of Mishing tribe, Jengraimuk village, Majuli, Assam


MISHING TRIBE AT FISHING




KUNEMECHE: A CHAKHESANG NAGA TRADITIONAL HOUSE OF MERIT

KUNEMECHE: A CHAKHESANG NAGA TRADITIONAL HOUSE OF MERIT

Kunemeche: a Chakhesang Naga house type exhibited in IGRMS
The tribe Chakhesang is a generic term formed with three Naga sub-groups namely Chakhru, Kheza and Sangtam who share common cultural affinities in a compact territory. They are distributed in the cold hilly region of the Phek district of Nagaland. A village chief and his council members govern the Chakhesang Naga villages. The economic resources of land, forests and water are controlled at the village, clan, lineages and individual levels. They practice both Jhum as well as terrace cultivation.
The hierarchal nature of traditional Naga society is attributed to the social achievements. The social status of a person or a family is counted on the basis of feast he or his family has given to the villagers. The social designation of richman or a noble family among the traditional Naga society is merely not  comprehend to the accumulation wealth in ones possession but measured in terms of an effective use and disposal for the cause of their society. The affluence of wealth with huge resources of livestocks and bumper harvest of crops in a family is more aptly and meaningfully utilized in the form of a grand feast to gain social status.
Chakhesang Naga tribe from Nagaland performing dance in front
of their house at IGRMS.
Kunemechi literally means the ‘house of merit’. Distinct from other common house types, Kunemechi is a house with special connotations designated to the man who sacrificed his wealth for wealth for organising feast for several times. A grandeur horn like projection of the house marks special status of the person and his family in the society. According to the Naga tradition, a normal house or a family cannot project their house with such kind of decorations. Only the person who has given feast for several times get such an entitlement to decorate his house with Ceka. Similarly, the house of merit again is identified with beautiful carvings on the frontal facade called Thilpa. The motives used in the carvings have elaborate meanings. Most significantly, the skull of Mithun (Bros frontalis) is used as an important motif of the carving that denotes the number of sacrifices made to perform rituals and ceremonies during the construction of the house. Arrangement of female breast like motifs in a row on the upper segment of the house signifies the enormity of food grains possessed by the owner. It is carved with a belief that the house will protect the villagers from untoward incidences of famine and natural disasters. According to a native, “we carve these symbols to show that our people are prosperous and our land is fertile. We also believe that this house is blessed with its benevolence and our people will not suffer to live in hunger. As a newly born baby gets his/her first food from the mother’s milk, likewise, this house will protect his people from famine and disasters”.
 Skulls of wild beast and animals hunted by the person during the time of construction or collective activities of hunting game are also decorated above the main door. The motifs of human head and skull of hornbill represents the symbol of courage and victory over raids. It is also associated with the concept of fertility. Five upright pillars standing in the front of the house bears carved motives of warriors; the spirit of which will guard and protect the house from any kind of destructions and unwanted evil forces. Kunemeche has a varandah in front and it has a spacious hall inside. The house is occupied by a number of big household items like pounding table, log drum, wooden cot and containers for storing rice beer. A hearth lying near the seat household head is the kitchen where they cook their food items. The wooden seat of household head is prepared from a single log and it is prohibited for others to use it. This wooden seat is a pride possession of the owner and unwanted use of it is a kind of disrespect to the head of the house. A hanging platform above the hearth is used for preserving meat and vegetables. With constant fumigation and heat from the hearth, the food items kept on these hanging shelves get dehydrated and preserved for a longer days of consumption. The uppermost shelve is used for storing baskets, drying grains, stacking firewood etc. Another room is kept separately to the western corner from the rest part of the hall. Bamboo matted walls are raised to separate this room and it is reserved for the children and guest of the family.

Kharu (village gate)

Kharu: a Chakhesang Naga village gate
exhibited in the premises of the museum (IGRMS)
In the olden days Naga villages used to indulge in constant fight with the enemies to keep their territory and resources safe and secure. Head hunting expedition was meant as an important practice associated with the cult of fertility. It was essential for every village to construct their village fence as well as gates very strongly at the strategic point to secure the village from enemy raids and attacks. A village in its different directions of the boundary maintains three or four gates and these village gates are voluntarily controlled by the warriors who are the members youth dormitory called Morung. The single wooden door of the gate (Kharu) possesses beautiful carvings of warriors, fighting bulls, female breasts and heavenly symbols of Sun, Moon, and Stars etc. These heavenly symbols are carved to witness the heroic deeds, sacrifices and feasts that were met out in the village.