Kacha Nagas are the people belonging to the Naga ethnicity and are scattered over states of Manipur and Nagaland. Their population was 17138 as given in the Government of Manipur census report of 1981.
Kacha Naga is formed by Liangmei and Zeme tribes or in other word, both Liangmei aand Zeme are addressed as the ‘Kacha Naga’. Though they like to be recognized by their original tribal names like Liangmei and Zeme and disown the Kacha Naga name, these tribes are still enlisted as Kacha Naga in the scheduled list.
The word Kacha Naga is supposed to have been derived from an Angami word ‘Ketsa’ meaning thick forest. Regarding the coining of the name, legend has that an outsider came into the Kohima area of Nagaland and asked the locals, pointing towards the Liangmei and Zeme area, whether any people were living beyond the thick forest area.
The local people responded in the affirmative saying that some people lived beyond the ‘Ketsa’ (thick forest). Since then, the outsiders referred the people beyond the forest as ‘Ketsa Naga’ and later on the word got corrupted into ‘Kacha Naga’.
These fair complexioned, long headed, slim but of medium height people believe that their forefathers had emerged from a site they refer to as Ramting Kabin (Ram = land, ting = sky, Kabin = narrow passage). Ramting Kabin is a narrow passage between the earth and sky, which ultimately leads to a cave.
The cave is located in the Mao-Maram area of the Senapati district of Manipur. From this cave, they moved and settled in and around Chawang Phungning later on known as Makuilongdi, which is located in the western part of the aforementioned mentioned district.
The Kacha Nagas who subsist mainly on agriculture live in pile dwelling houses roofed with thatches. The Kacha Naga does not live long in one village as the population increases. They leave to form newer villages where one of them becomes the chief Nampthou of the village. Before establishment of a new village the invisible force of the spirits were neutralized through appeasement.
A temporary gate would first be constructed for their entry into the new village. After that, village gate, Kareng, was constructed facing the direction from where the people came. There is also a necklace Talui Tiuriang, an essential item for the new settlement ritual.
Loss of the necklace by theft, force or any cause is supposed to bring calamity to the village and its people and hence, it is preserved in the safe custody of the Chief.
The first sacrifice in the village was made at a particular place somewhere in the central part of the village. This place becomes the village shrine and is called the Sangbam. For a newly established village, fire is not brought from outside but is made by rubbing a dry bamboo piece against a particular piece of wood called Magang and the fire so produced is distributed to every household.
All the grown up boys come and stay together at Khangchiu. Here they are imparted moral discipline and other necessary training in the art of handicraft like basket making, wooden craft etc.
In other word it is rather a training institute for the members. There is also a dormitory for girls called Liuchiu. Here they flocked together and also look after the welfare of the village by contributing the voluntary services in the form of collecting firewood and water for the poor and deserted widows. They are also trained in the trades like spinning, weaving etc.
The Chief carries out village administration, which are a hereditary post and its council known as the Apaiki. Age and seniority in the clan is the main criteria for membership i.e. the council consists of elder persons. Next to the chief is Nangpen who assists the chief.
The village council decides village disputes by imposing penalty to the wrong doers. Time for all religious functions are fixed by another body called Khangkiang Phoum whose nominal head i,e, Tingku is the village announcer too.
At the beginning of each year, the chief performs a community offering to the spirit of the corns asking for abundant harvest. This day is tabooed for the villagers to cross outside the village and the chief also is abstained from sexual relation with his wife.
Celebrations are held when big game or valuable articles are brought in the village. Head of the enemy is accorded with highest celebration for five days. The second highest honour is the killing of python. Bear, Wild Pigs, etc, are the third grade of valor.
Celebration of these occasions restricts males to go out of the village. With the advent of Christianity, these traditional ways of life are fast getting neglected and forgotten.
Manindra Konsam from Sanathong wrote this article.