TODAY -

Totem of the natives of NE India with special reference to TRC
- Part 2 -

Dr Budha Kamei *



Malangmei lineage : Once upon a time, there was an orphan boy (Khu-runa). He lived with his step mother but he was always in the Laoshangkai, hut built near the paddy field. He was treated badly by his step-mother that he was fed cooked rice mixed with feces of the rats so he did not want to live. One day a girl of his village brought a food packet for him given by his step-mother. He rejected the proposal of the girl to exchange his food packet with that of her since it contains feces of the rats.

By sitting on branch of a tree he picked up cooked rice with the help of porcupine's quilt and ate. In this way he became thin and faced the similar ill-treatment every day. Finally to escape from the cruel act of his step mother he decided to disguise himself as hornbill. He requested to his girlfriend called Jinlengnei to give her wreath but she refused to give the wreath on the pretext that her mother would not like to do so.

In fact she knew his intention. But the other girl offered her garland. He used it as his mouth and asked them to look at him that whether he was resemblance to hornbill or not. Jinlengnei answered no but the other girl said yes by nodding her head.

Then he took two traditional waist belts (Pheilaaks) from the other girl since her girlfriend declined to give. He used the waist belt as his wing and started flying like a hornbill. The other girl encouraged him to fly higher and higher and thus he disguised into hornbill. Before leaving them he shouted from the above that when Jourumei ceremony was performed on the event of Maku Banru, feast of merit "You should be in front of the row pounding the rice (Zousoumei) on fractured large wooden motor with pestles broken of its end. You should not look up and go on pounding when gathering yelled "Hornbill comes".

As per his instruction the two girls did when Maku Banru took place and the beautiful quilts of hornbill got erected on the end of broken pestles. It happened when the hornbill quivered its body. The people gathering in the rice pounding ceremony shouted, "It was beautiful" and the wicked step mother also requested his step son to drop one beautiful quilt for her daughter.

The son accepted and asked his step mother to open her mouth. While opening her mouth the step son put out wasted substance (Kamganlok) in her mouth and she died immediately. Thus, hornbill is the totem of Malangmei lineage and the descendants of the lineage do not kill and eat hornbill.

Dangmei lineage: There was a family of Dangmei lineage. All the sons and daughters of the family had their families except a daughter, she was beautiful but remained unmarried. The reason is she was often visited at night by an unknown person she replied while her mother enquired about her. The mother told her to tie up a Pheilaak, (traditional waist belt) at the waist of the man and as per her mother's instruction she did it.

On the next day her Pheilaak was found tying at the waist of her pig. The members of Dangmei lineage thought that if they take pork meat at the observance of great ritual ceremonies they may face evil consequences so they decided to treat Gakkok as their totem instead of pig.

Remmei lineage: In a village there was a man belonging to Panmei clan and he had a beautiful daughter. But she was pregnant after having an affair with a distant relative. When her mother asked about it she replied that she got conceived after embracing on her chest by a frog which falls from the sky in the midst of rain and thunder. It occurred while she was feeding the piglets.

The child would be special so they named the child as Remmeipu before it was born. Thus, the lineage of Remmei abstained from eating frog as totem.

Gonthangmei lineage: There was a girl named Dinlenglu of Gonthangmei lineage. She was married to Anbaan Ragwang. Man is mortal but the descendants of Gonthangmei lineage did not die since they got the blessing of Anbaan Ragwang through Dinlenglu. The members of Gonthangmei lineage starved of meat as there was no death occurred in the lineage.

Therefore they killed a bulbul and placed it on the bed and started weeping on the ploy of death of a member of the Gonthangmei lineage. They offered a dog as Takan (food for death) and burnt the victim. Dinglenlu came to know from the smoke coming up of the burning that a man had of her lineage had died. So she brought the matter to the knowledge of Anbaan Ragwang and Anbaan Ragwang assured that there was no death in the lineage of Gonthangmei.

After repeated request of Dinlenglu, Abaan Ragwang allowed her to go to the human world on one condition that she should not take the food of human beings. Abaan Ragwang dropped a golden ladder and she Came down to the human world. The descendents of Gonthangmei lineage were very happy to see her coming but Dinlenglu was not happy when she came to know the reality of it (that there was no death happened in her lineage).

At the same time they brought and offered her holy wine which she declined to drink because taking any food item of the human world means she would be in trouble. They insisted her to drink that Ragwang would not see her drinking as they covered her with' seven layers of cloths. Ragwang spitted in the plantain leave cup of wine through the seven layers of cloths when she was about to drink it.

The spit of Ragwang was converted into blood when it comes into contact with the wine. So she dropped it on the ground. Ragwang pulled up the golden ladder. Dinlenglu realized that she was prohibited to come back to the abode of Ragwang. She cursed her descendants for their trickery that the Gonthangmei lineage would be turned into dust (Butmutkum Mutkandu).

The descendants of Gonthangmei lineage touched her feet and prayed to forgive them. She cooled down her temper and said the lineage would grow quickly like plantain tree. Dinlenglu wandered from one place to another and ultimately she resided at the Konthoucham. The descendents of Gonthangmei worship Dinlenglu.

The only son of Dinlenglu was in the abode of Ragwang but he was crying day and night in search of his mother. Finally, he was also sent to the human world. The child stopped crying when he was presented is Kangam Laibon, a bunch of creeper by Muchara Khandimujungpu, priest of Tingkao Ragwang the Supreme God. Since he was also not allowed to return in the abode of Ragwang, he lived at the hillock of Phoichingtong. The descendants of Gonthangmei lineage worship Kholi Phaba every year in the month of Sajibu (April). So, the descendants of Gonthangmei prohibit killing of bulbul.

Maringmei lineage: Once upon a time, there was a man belonging to Maringmei lineage. He lived very happily with his sons but after few years he died. All his sons were young but they worked hard in the field for the growth of their family. However, everyday there was advancement in their field work than what they had actually done. They got surprise and discussed the matter and decided to find out who actually did the work at night time. In the evening after their hard work they pretended to go home but they were hiding in the nearby shrubs to observe the situation.

At dusk an old man with a spade came out and started digging in the field. The seven brothers immediately came out from their hiding place and caught him but the old man was their father. The sons asked him the reason of giving help in their field work. The father with a smile replied that he did it when he saw them working hard in the midst of sun and rain for their family.

The sons loved him very much to hear the reply and wanted him to live together. On repeated request of their sons the old father accepted to stay with them on one condition that they should awake throughout the night. They accepted the condition.

Before midnight all the sons were awake in chatting with their father but afterward they all fell asleep in the hut of Laoshangkai where they stay together. In the early morning the sons did not find their father instead there was a Thang tree growing at the spot where their father sat in the last night.

They thought the Thang tree is their father so they rushed to embrace it, also converted to Thang tree and grew as the branches of it. Therefore, the descendents of Maringmei clan has special honor for Thang tree that they never use it in building of house or making other household materials. Thang tree is the totem of Maringmei lineage.

Conclusion

After observing the above we can say that the TRC society is composed of four exogamous clans and each clan is associated with a totem species. They abstain from killing the totem, because it is a taboo. The children follow the totem of their father, but a girl after her marriage follows her husband's totem. No totem ceremony is performed and the function of the totem seems to act as representative of the clan.


(Concluded ...)


* Dr Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on March 06 2021.



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