Glimpse of the past

Sneha Boro

Belonging to the Bodo Kachari tribe of Assam

Kendra Vidyalaya IOC, Guwahati

Hello everyone! I am Sneha Boro in Class XI Science. Writing was not my hobby from my early childhood but it became one after I wrote my first story in 6th grade when our English teacher asked us to write one based on a picture she showed on the board. And that opened doors to write Haiku and Tanka. I am still an amateur and improving my skills day by day.

Read My Story
Vote for me ->
Sneha Boro

She was an old lady nearly in her late 70’s. She was looking outside while sitting in her chair knitting a shawl. Narola and her siblings come running towards her and hug her around. “Grandma! Please tell us a new story today.” They whined. She laughed at them and let them sit around her. “Grandma, can you tell me about the history of our tribe?” She asked. She explained what she wanted to know and told her about what she learnt and then her grandmother asked the rest, “How about I tell you today the story which my grandmother told me about her grandmother?” “How old is that story?” The children asked. It’s probably from the 19th century ''19th century it’s that old.” “Yes! Shall I start?” She looked at their eyes which were curious to know about the story. She started. “Her name was Ehufulu and she was from the Zeme tribe.” The children laughed. “At that time people had names like this. And it’s a very old tribe of Nagaland.” She told them.
“So where was I? Yes, before the British occupation of India and their expansion in the Northeast region, everyone enjoyed their lives in the forests. But that doesn’t mean the North-east never had kings; the Ahom Dynasty was the famous one. But it was different for the people who lived in tribes. They had their known chief who was the leader and made many decisions for the people in the tribe. But your great grandmother’s father was not the tribe chief; he was a hunter and also worked in the fields to cultivate crops.” “So, was he a farmer?” One of the children asked. “Not exactly, at that time people didn’t have to fix property and lands like now. In the forest the Jhum cultivation was famous.”. “What’s that?” “Trees of a particular land are cut down and the ashes of the burnt down trees are used afterwards to use it as manure,” Narola explained to her brother. “Yes, that's right. Growing up in the tribe was fun and secure as my grandmother mentioned about her childhood. Things were wonderful back then. The people of the tribe enjoyed festivals to their fullest. One of those festivals which she liked was the Phounsanyi which is also known as the Sekrenyi which means the sanctification festival.  When I asked my grandmother about it she mentioned that her grandmother would laugh and replied that she liked it when she was young because she wanted to be an adult too.” “So, can you tell us about how it used to be celebrated earlier?” Narola started to take notes.

 The children started to take interest in it as well.  “As far as I know this is linked with the agriculture and initiation of adulthood for the young members of the tribes. On the first day, the older man and woman would sprinkle holy water to purify themselves. On the second day, the adolescent man would sacred water and sacrifice a cock on the second day of the festival. On the fourth day, which is also a new year for the tribe, they would gather around and sing and dance wearing their new dresses which were prepared for them. There were hunting competitions as well. And would cultivate or harvest the fields after they cleansed themselves.” She said, “Once she reached adulthood she started taking part in the preparation of the festivals with the tribe ladies, maybe around seventeen, she took part in Moatsu festivals preparation. Just like now, people used to celebrate it with meat and zutho and apong as drinks which were served by the women. This also involved rituals to express their gratitude to the forest and their ancestors.”
Grandmother remembered something funny and told them while laughing, “She told her experience of drinking it for the first time. It was strong and burnt her insides. That was the same for me when I had it as well.” She continued her story, “After that, she was married off to a man from the same tribe and they started their own life but things changed and lives became difficult for them. The Jhum culture was practised till the British came to the forest to inspect the lands. They claimed that those lands were there and started to put resections on them.  She and her husband turned into nomads and went from forest to forest with cattle they carried from their old home. But soon afterwards they had to settle down and started to live in the Yimchunger tribe. They had their first child there and soon her husband got a job by the Colonial officers to cut trees for plantation work. The wages were low but they had no option. Their daughter Ludina grew up in the Yimchunger tribe and married later on to a man of her same age from that tribe.”
“During that time many tribes turned to Christian and some were bribed with money, wines, etc. to take Christianity. But many tribes didn’t accept Christianity and continued their forefather's beliefs and they still do that.” “You mean just like us?” “Yes, we believe in U-kepenuopfu who has given to us. It may be an Indigenous religion now but it was followed by every tribe years ago.” “So, what happened afterwards to Ludina's grandmother?” “She and her husband didn't want to change their religions and they didn’t till the end. She gave birth to a son. He was called Zehlou and grew up learning the ways of life his parents lived.”

“When the British Occupation started in the year 1879-80, they felt that their culture would get lost and wanted to develop on their own, not with India. So, they applied for their independence from India. And wanted to form a sovereign with Myanmar. But they didn’t get it.” “But why did they want it?” “Because they were not Hindus or Muslims. And wanted to continue their individuality.” “But they didn’t have it, did they?” “Yes, they didn’t.” Their grandmother replied. “Did you know before 1963 Nagaland and the rest of the seven north-east states were part of Assam? Nagaland was carved out of Assam. It was mainly because of the diverse culture.” “I guess whatever happens is for the good.
Things would have been different that way as well. But it is not entirely good as well. The reservations we receive today were not available back in the early ’20s, after 1937 we got reservations in the name of tools against social oppression and injustice. It was for the uplift of our class. But the discrimination didn’t fade away that sooner. With time people have changed a bit and have become open-minded but there are still many who don't know about us and still judge us.” She said, “So, can’t we do anything about this?” They asked. “We can but the effects are still now. The best way to understand us would be knowing our culture deeply.” She replied. “Then, shall I call my non-Naga friends from school to join us in one of our festivals?” “Sure, only if they want to, Narola.”

The next day Narola talked to her friends about it and asked them if they are interested in the upcoming Hornbill festival. “It is the biggest festival and as we live in the Kohima district, it not so the Kisama village is not too far. And no need to worry, my aunt and her family live there, so I, as well as my cousins, give you all a tour around the festival.” She suggested. They all seemed excited but reality hit them, “But Narola we have to ask our parents first. Then we can tell you about it.” They said Narola was a bit disappointed but she hoped their parents would agree.

A few of her friend’s parents agreed and talked to her and her family about this trip as well. So, after a week they went to Kisama village. Some of her friend’s parents joined in as well. They saw the residents of the village and other tourists from around the world in colourful traditional ceremonial attire, which is unique for each tribe. The exotic headgears and ivory armlets are among other famous traditional things highlighted in the show. “Historically, the fighters had to prove their bravery to wear these. Now, this fiesta is celebrated to encourage inter-tribal harmony and to promote colourful local culture and traditions.” Narola’s cousin explained. “Oh, now the traditional dance of each tribe will start.” She said, They all were excited and cheered for the dancers in appreciation.

After the programs were over they moved to the stalls and looked around. They have different artefacts and food which they found unique. They saw a long drum instrument as asked about it. “This drum is beaten at the end of the festival to start the haunting contest.” Her cousin explained. “Do you guys know why this festival is known as the hornbill festival?” Narola asked. “Yes, isn’t it named after the bird hornbill which is found in the forest here?” She replied. “Yes, you are correct. This bird has been respected by many Naga communities for ages. And the folklore and songs sung during the festivals are based on it. So by this, you can guess how important this is for us.” Her cousin replied. “But as I have heard now the government has banned the hunting of this bird.” Her friend said. “Yes, that’s because due to the extensive hunting they have reached the brink of extension,” Narola explained. “I have heard some games are also played during the festival.”  “I guess before coming here you have done your research.” They giggled.  

“So now that you are here would you also join us to watch the National rock concert?” “We might. Let’s request our parents first though.” They said, “If they allow you to go then tomorrow I will take you to the night market held by her. And you must see the chilly eating compilation. My brother has a great spice tolerance so he will be participating this year.” Narola’s cousin's sister told them.  
They asked their parents and they let them slide. The next evening they all visited the night market and saw the chilli eating contest. Sadly, her brother didn’t win but he got second place.  The next day during the dawn, they visited the Morungs and saw the performers who would perform that day dress up.  One of her friend’s parents enjoyed the local rice beer and took some home as well. Narola bought some souvenirs for her other friends who missed them.  

And finally the last of the festival came. As her cousin mentioned, the drums were beaten and the hunting competition was started. Narola and her friends took part in the wood craving and they enjoyed their last day there. They thanked her Aunt’s family and her cousin who showed them around so many places. They all enjoyed their stay at Kisama village and returned home. When they started to go to school she handed out the souvenirs and told everyone about her experience, not only the friends who went with her, he also told the others about it and how it is a must to visit once in a lifetime. After Narola returned home from school she looked for her grandmother and wanted to share what her friends told her. She was sitting in her rocking chair and knitting the shawl. “Is it still not complete yet?” she asked. “It’s done.” She chuckled and told her what happened. “I guess, little by little things might change along with the mind.”

Narola is the eldest daughter of the Golmei family. She is very curious to learn about new things and recently in her school she studied the history of tribal people during the colonial rule in India. She asked her mother who suggested that she ask her Grandmother as she knew better than her. She then goes to find her.