Poumai Naga Birth & Death Ceremony

Birth and Death Ceremony

There are some religious rites and rituals performed during birth and death. There was no much preference given in male baby in Poumai community but there was some tendency of preference given to the male baby. If there is no male in the family, the entire property is inherited by the paternal brothers. By nature the tribal people are religious and without the proper rites and rituals performed for the death are incomplete. All kinds of rites and rituals are performance for the death as the last homage pay for the death.

i). Birth

There are some religious rituals and ceremonies performed after the birth. During the birth, husband and some elder women assist in delivering the child. There was no doctor or hospital and delivering child is depended on the experienced women who help in delivering the baby. The labor pain women are usually given some salty chicken soup in order to deliver the baby with good strength. The young boys and girls are restricted to be present in the room during child delivering. It is a belief that if the small boys or girls crossed over the blood or fluids, it will squabble with the child in the future. When the baby is delivered, either mother or father cut the umbilical cord with a sharp bamboo knife and bury in the ground inside the bedroom. The culture of delivering baby is still practice in the village.

ii). Christening the child

Generally, the name of the baby is christened in the evening. If it is a male baby, one boy and a girl accompanied the mother with her child and step out side the house and christened the name of the child. They also take a shield and torch with them while going out from the room to give the name of the child. If the child is female, a girl accompanied the mother with her child to christen the name of the child. The girl has to take the Saosii (woman iron walking stick) while naming the child.24 On the second day of birth, a customary Laoyou birth ceremony is perform. For this birth ceremony, a temporary small room is parted from the main room and prepared a feast in honor of the child. Small boys and girls are invited to the feast. A cock and a hen are killed for the celebration. Today naming of child is done in the church and blessed by the priest and the entire congregation. There is a changed in naming of the child in early 1970s. The Christian mostly used only the Biblical name and other exotic name. However in late 1990s, the people reversed in naming child to the traditional name.

iii). Death

Some of the Naga tribes like Konyaks and Ao expose the dead on beer or platform. They do not bury the dead. The Poumai Naga buried the dead body after the Priest performed all the religious rites and rituals. The Poumai Naga believes in life after death. They believed that those who do good things while they are living on earth will live in Thaimaingi (a village for the death or land of the death), which is underground abode.25 The death body is ceremonially washed and dressed with fine garments and lay on a bed till the death body is put into a coffin to be buried. Washing the dead body signify the death body is going to live in different world for the dead. It is also their belief that if the death body is not washed, the death will alive again and may harm the other people. The elderly women and men washed the death body. The relatives and friends pay the last homage to the departed soul and sing dirge.

 

A cow is killed in honor of the death and distributed to all the households according to the number of the male in the family. This is known as Pahdayou. Some time a pig also killed for those people who dug the grave. There is no any specified cemetery for the Yaosomai (primitive religion believer) and so they buried the death body near to their house. The village Napaoh  (undertaker or Mortician) does all the religious rites and rituals during the burial ceremony of the death. When the man died, shield, spear, dao (machetes) and some other materials, which he frequently used when he was alive is buried together with him in the grave. When the woman died, it is buried with Shaosii (Specially design iron walking stick), Ro (basket), weaving tools, and some other clothes. For the rich people had abundant of materials to be buried with the death body in the grave.

 

Yet they do not put all the garments and some other materials; as they believed the dead man cannot follow other friends with heavy load on the way to Thaimaingi (village for the dead). When they put the garments and clothes for the dead man, it is make it sure that the number of the garments and clothes has an even figure. After the dead body is buried, some religious rites and rituals are also continued to perform by the family for some days. When the married woman dies, it is the customary of the people to give a cow or paddy to the maternal nearest relatives as a token of love, which is called as Thaimai Doupeiyou.When my mother died in 2003, my father gave a cow to my maternal brother as a token of love. Most of the Poumais are Christian but the old customs and tradition is still practiced. Giving Thaimai Doupeiyou signify to keep good relationship with all the maternal relatives even after she (mother) died.

 

In olden days, when the Chief of the village died, it is not declared as dead for 2-3 days. They send out some brave men secretly to collect hair of men or a piece of cloth from other village. When such brave men brought hair or piece of clothes, it is declared dead publicly to other villages. The collected hair or piece of cloth is put into the grave of the village chief. He who brought such materials are adorned with animals furs made into kilt like dress (Khyasoukai) as a token of honor. After the burial of the chief, the villagers observed rites and rituals for five days continually. No villager is allowed to sell anything for one year to their neighbouring villages and others. A special religious rites and rituals are also performed when the warriors or head-hunters died. All the villagers come to pay last homage to their respected warrior. All the materials that he used during his headhunting are buried together and firing of gun is a must for those people. The firing of gun signified the brave man, which is done for the chief of the village, warrior and brave wild animal hunters and some time even for the ordinary man in honor of him. When the heathen dies, the old culture of burying the death and other rites and rituals are still followed but the Christians followed the Christian’s their death rites and rituals.

Copy right@ Dr. R.B. Thohe Pou

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