Signs and Symbols of Poumai Naga

The Poumai Naga country is geographically located in Manipur and Phek district in Nagaland.  The Poumai is one of the oldest and major Naga tribe and biggest tribe in Manipur. According to Hill house tax in 2001, the total population of Poumai tribe is 151,005. (including the Poumai in Nagaland).  About 95.7% of the total population of Poumai inhabits in Senapati district, Manipur. There are four villages in Phek district, Nagaland with a population of about 6500 people

Different communities have different culture, sign and symbol, etiquette, gesture etc. Non-verbal communication is communicated with gesture, sign and symbols. All kinds of gesture, sign and symbols cannot convey an articulate meaning. However there are some specific gestures, signs and symbols, which are commonly accepted and understandable. According to different races and communities, different kinds of gestures, signs and symbols are used. In antique, the Poumai Naga tribe sends no any message to other village through writing for Peace TreatySurrender, Friendship etc. but different articles are used as a sign and symbols, which is easily understand through such kinds of signs and symbols.

With the advent of Christianity and education in Poumai villages, some of the rich traditional culture of sign and symbols are vanishing. In many ways, the sign and symbols are replaced and documented in writing on paper but some of the signs and symbols are still commonly used in Poumai Naga villages. To know some of the signs and symbols is very important aspects to live in the village. Signs and symbols are commonly used in the jungle, forest, paddy field, fishponds, on the road etc.

Some of the Signs and symbols, which are commonly used in Poumai villages, are briefly described below as,

i) Sounii or Sousha peiyou (Giving a piece of Meat)

It is the customary of the Poumai to give Sousha during the Laonii and Paoyi festival to their younger sisters, who are married to other village. It is a sign and symbol of blessing and remembrance. Sometimes, aunts and nieces are also given Sousha. Giving Sousha reveals the bond of love and remembrance even though they are married to other village.


ii) Poudziiziiyi (Twisted knot on the grass)

The twisted knots on the grasses near the Beehives, Wasp, Stone etc symbolized as reserved or had seen first by other. When such kind of symbol is found, the new comers do not destroy or steal the reserved things as a respect and right to reserve by other people. The knots on the grasses are decayed after one or two years and if the preserver wants to continue to reserve, then a new twisted knot of grass are put up. Poudziiziiyi or the twisted knot on the grass also symbolizes that something is there or kept. Generally the knots on the grasses are symbolized to indicate the place for other where the agricultural tools or other things are kept.


iii) Poudziihisiithouyi (A stick pierced into twisted knot on the grass)

The stick pierced into grass knot has deeper meaning and greater significance. It symbolizes not to be touched. It is generally used in private properties like in fishponds, vegetable gardens, a plot of land etc.


iv) Poudziikaonaiyi (A slant knot on the grass)

A slanting knot on the grass shows the direction of the hunting partner gone ahead or gone this way. The hunting expedition to unknown areas used such kind of sign and symbol to make sure to meet together and go home safely.


v) Siiberaikho (Rope tied to a tree)

If a tree is found tied with a rope, it symbolizes the tree is reserved by other people. A straight or good tree, which can be used for pillar or saw into pieces for building materials are generally reserved. The reason behind is the whole village has common property such as jungle; forest etc and anybody can cut down if the tree is not reserved with a symbol. From to time, a rope is tied replacing the old rope as to continue to reserve the tree. When a tree’s bar or out layer is removed it also symbolized reserved.


vi) Pouhuduhi kakouyou (A small long grass across on the way)

A small long grass across on the way symbolizes something is there ahead of you on the way. It is a sign of precautions. It may be a trap or any danger thing there ahead of you. In such kind of symbol is indicated, it needs to take precaution and look around before going ahead.


vii) Kikhusiini tyayi (Door closed with stick across)

When the door is closed with a stick or wooden plank across symbolizes no one is there in the house. In antique, people generally do not lock the door with a key; only a wooden plank or stick is attached across the door. People are very honest, no beggar and hardly burglar go inside the house to steal in absence of the owner.


viii) Chuhthouyi alia Siishoh (placing stones and planting trees)

Placing stones and planting trees symbolizes or shows the boundary of the land. Misplacing of stones and planting trees can bring land dispute. Therefore placing of stones and planting trees on the boundaries are done with circumspection.

ix) Sahpeiyou (Giving shawl)

Giving shawl to other symbolizes intimate friendship or wanting to keep good friendship. Giving shawl is a sign of bond of love and remembrance. Generally shawl is presented when a closed friend or relative is died. Giving the shawl to the V.I.P guests symbolizes respect and token of love for the visit.

x) Nghoupeiyi (Giving of spear)

During the headhunting, spears are widely used to fight the enemies. Giving of spear has great significance, which shows peace or no more war. The defeated group given spear to the conqueror means a sign of surrender; not to fight again. A warrior’s spear taken by other is a bad sign to the village, which means the village can be defeated in the future.


xi) Zhaiseiveiyu (sending blood)

Sending the blood to other village is a sign that there will be blood flushing in the village. It is alleged the NSCN spilled around with blood in 21 Assam Rifles camp before the NSCN attack the camp on 9th July 1987.

xii) Soushi Ho (Sending Chilly powder)

Sending Soushi Ho to another village symbolize that there will be problem and panic in that village where the chilly powder is sent. It is a kind of warning to that village by the sender.


xiii) Meivipeiyu (giving charcoal)

Sending charcoal to other village or another means that their houses or village will be burnt into charcoal. It is a warning and challenge to that person or village where the charcoal is sent.


xiv), Maipeisiseiyu (sending human hair)

Maipeisi seiyu symbolizes that crowd of people is coming to your village.

xv) Bahzii siiyi (to fist)

When some one especially elderly people fist their hand on the ridden bed before they die, it symbolize the curse passing to their children or anyone whom they have grudge against them.

In olden days some of the signs and symbols are used to give warning or open challenge to their opponent village. However some of the signs and symbols are used to pacify, as a sign of love, precaution and reserved. In addition to the signs and symbols, which is described above – there are more signs and symbols like Peisishohpiiyou (keeping long hair), which symbolizes mourning due to died of dear and loved ones, Ngheipheiyu (winking eyes) symbolizes not to tell. Repaohi meikhaoyu (smoke of fire in the hut), means some one is there in paddy field hut. Peisidaovuyu (burial of human hair) symbolizes the greatest promise for the lover to marry and to love till they are buried on the ground; Voudukheiyu (biting ginger) symbolizes the promise between two lovers to marry and to love to the end of their last breath.

Many signs and symbols are still commonly used in the village as their part of culture and customs. Even the world is fast changing in traditional culture and mixed with other culture; many signs and symbols which are used since time immemorial are still preserved and used in Poumai villages. Today if you go to Poumai villages, one can find that some of the trees are tight with a rope like a girl wearing engagement ring on her finger. The twisted knot on the grass also commonly found near the Beehives, wasp, stone etc, which symbolized as reserved by other people.

Copyright@Dr.Thohe Pou


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