Friday, July 10, 2009

Naga house Kunemece comes to town

This story was another special I wrote for the Hindustan Times, Bhopal edition, in the HT Bhopal live section on 15th July 2003. The Chakhesang tribe from Nagaland had come to the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS) to construct a home and bridge which they build in their thick dense rain forests back home on the foothills of the Himalayas. So when the director of the IGRMS called me to ask if I would be interested in covering them, I jumped in joy and told him I will be there in an half an hour and we will carry the story the same day before another newspaper gets a whiff of it. And so this story happened.

In the heart of the capital, the setting was typical. Dressed in colourful traditional tribal attire and adorning bead jewellery, a group of men and women – their features clearly oriental and their bearing purely tribal were busy performing a ritual under a several feet tall intricately carved wooden pillar.
Other such pillars, carved door and window panes and unusual decoration material such as stuffed animal heads, feathered staffs and beaded materials lay around. Anyone with an eye for the Indian heritage would easily identify the group as Naga tribals. So, had a Naga tribal settlement come up right in the midst of Bhopal?
It has, only if temporarily, on the premises of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, as a group of Chakhesang Naga tribal have come here to install a traditional ‘Kunemece’ – a Chakhesang Richman house. The house is being installed at the open air tribal habitat gallery of the Manav Sangrahalaya and the ritual for the commencement of installation was held this afternoon.

A very interesting ritual unfolded as the ‘Cekanghitu’ – the base pillar of the Kunemece was installed over the premises. The head tribesman conducted the ritual and also made some sacrifices. This wooden carved pillar, which would be at the entrance of the house, is considered the mainstay of the construction. It is used as a watch pillar and also as a signpost marking a settlement.

The door of the house is another interesting feature. The base of the door has a carving of a devil-faced man with huge yawning mouth and the upper part includes carvings of six huge breasts. The man signifies the head of the house who protects the home and the upper part signifies the woman who provides the food security. The adornments of the house are the stuffed heads of the animals killed by the tribe members.

The Chakhesang Richman house would be installed within a week. The setting of the house would be made more attractive by a huge – true to life swinging Bamboo Bridge, also installed by the tribal members on the Sangrahalaya premises. So the next time you visit the Manav Sangrahalaya do not miss the Naga House with the bridge. It is sure to prove an unusual experience.

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