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Deep Inside Khiamniungan Naga Morung

Political science major Studied in Shillong Meghalaya Nothing more


Khiamniungan is one of the major tribes, inhabiting the easternmost corner of the state of Nagaland in India. This community is endowed with rich culture and custom. Among their traditional institutions, the Morung(dormitory), a grand building was primarily the cornerstone and a pivotal institution for them.

A Brief History of Morung

Morung was an important educational and social institution basically for men in the traditional Khiamniungan tribe. It was here, the elders impart and foster the spirit of patriotism, respect, unity, helping each other and so on. It was a center of social, religious and political activities. Similarly, it was also a guard-house for the tribal village vigilantes at the climax of headhunting period.

Traditional Rituals

Unfortunately, the rituals that are going to describe below are not in practice anymore. However, it continues to exist in the form of folklore that has been transmitted generations after generations.

Two well known traditional rituals which were entirely conducted by the menfolk in the village society are called Chamtsa and Kiolug. These practices continued for many generations associated with the main Morung called ah-amponiu.

Ritual of Chamtsa

The literal meaning of Chamtsa is 'wrapped and covered with leaves.' Likewise, along with this package, the warrior hombre offers a prayer inside the Morung. Only the warrior would know the content of an internal package and the prayer he offered. Upon completing, he would hang on the wall usually at the back of the interior building. It depends on the warrior for how long he wished to keep the package hanging.

Ritual of Kiolug

On the eve of every battle, a group of six warriors would perform a ritual called Kiolug with traditional attire at the anterior of the main Morung. They would perform this as a vow or pledge to kill the enemies by keeping the Dao(Naga national Sword) on the ground in front of them and jumped with temerity and courageous behavior. After sometime, the entire group of people would eagerly join them the process and meanwhile, people would consider that particular person likely to be killed by their enemies during the war if any of his traditional ornament would fall from his body.

The night after the ritual, these six warriors would sleep in the main Morung without a blanket and bedding till the dawn as an act of bravery to conquer the war. Moreover, after the war, the villagers would name the person kiolug(Insult, coward or wimp), if he returns without a single enemy's head. On the other hand, a 'great warrior' was labeled to a person with an enemy's head.

Inside view of Khiamniungan Morung.

Conventional Methods and Superstitions

In the village, meetings were held in the Morung and the records and discussion of these gatherings were kept secret from the womenfolk.

The night before a group of headhunters moved out to raid their opponent’s village or to wage war, they would sleep in the Morung for that particular night. At this juncture, men were never allowed to eat the food cooked by women as it was their traditional belief that their enemies would kill them on a battlefield. Moreover, these warriors after the war would again sleep over the night in the Morung.

Women were neither allowed to enter the Morung nor on the bamboo platforms as Khiamniungans believed that it caused the death of menfolk.

Log Drum/Slit Drum

Log drums of the Khiamniungans are huge enough to produce a tremendous sonic boom which can be easily heard by the entire village. It is enough for the several people to sit inside in a row.

Log drums were carved far away from the village. Similarly, it requires hard work, skills and months to complete the carvings. After completing the sculpture of the log drum, the elders in the village requests the entire menfolk to drag to a village. It is still prevalent in the village till today but it's use is not significant anymore.

In the traditional village society, these drums were used to signal the dangers and rare happenings.

© 2018 Array Shimmer


Array Shimmer (author) on May 24, 2018:

Thank you Kaylee

Kaylee on May 01, 2018:


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