Post Mortem

Rejoinder on ‘Mythical Legends and Legendary Myths...’

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 7/11/2019 11:46:43 AM IST

 Delightful to see a scholarly article in the Nagaland based daily newspaper of Nagaland Post by one Menka Singh with a titled “Mythical Legends and Legendary Myths: A Case Study of Khonoma, Nagaland” that appeared on July 7, 2019 (article was in Sunday Post Special Supplement on June 7, 2019 but was circulated to the public along with July 7, 2019). Appreciate the dedication and hard work of the author who tries to unearth the cosmic scholastic field for wider audience and knowledge promotion in the field. Of course, profuse ingenious knowledge and information of indigenous Naga people about their origin, migration and settlement, which is still preserved and stored in the mode of social memory and oral literature, largely represented through the medium of folktales, dances, folksongs, monoliths, attires, arts, legends and myths. Myths are essential for every philosophical and epistemological understanding of human origin and migration that is beyond human comprehension. To come to realistic conclusion on any information about myths and legends that has been passed on orally for generations any serious scholar is expected to do comprehensive and meticulous field works. It is imperative to methodically verify and authenticate from diverse sources while narrating the myths and legends before jumping to draw a conclusion. A well read scholar needs to take time to corroborate the sources to minimise discrepancies. Otherwise, any half baked and concocted information can led to serious distortion of information of what has been widely agreed upon on various myths and legends. 

While appreciating the hard work of the author and her academic contribution, we are constraint to make certain things clear for all time for public consumption and for the author to make necessary changes in her future article to shun further distortion. While analysing one should be prudent enough to differentiate between myths from that of historical facts to make the information coherent and to come to cogent conclusion. This is more challenging to study for a society where there is no history of text and documentation but social memory and oral tradition that has been handed down since generations is the only obtainable source of literature. Thus, it is imperative to distinguish between myths and historical facts although the two may link to each other in any narration and discourse on Makhelian  (means those people who claimed themselves to have dispersed from Makhel, a village in Mao region of Naga inhabited areas in northern Manipur bordering Nagaland). Although various evidences and sources at Makhel as a place of human origination are shrouded in mystery since they are yet to be authenticated the presence of various stone megaliths, myths and historical specifics at Makhel and its vicinity suggests that it is a point of departure, if not of origin. Those Nagas who acknowledged the Makhelian tradition group themselves as Tenyimi that include Angami, Chakhesang, Mao, Maram, Inpui, Pochury, Poumai, Rengma, Thangal, and Zeliangrong (compose of Rongmei, Zemei & Liangmei ). Tenyimi is based on acceptance of common ancestry and that ancestral blood flows in the veins of their brethren. Currently, the Tenyimi are found in the states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland in India’s North East. With the dispersal from Makhel the Poumai internally sub-divided into Paomata, Leopaona and Chülevei further migrated to their respective place from Saranamei (Kosümei in Mao). Likewise, Rongmei, Zemei, Liangmei and Inpui tribes first settled at Makuilongdi following dispersed from Makhel where they further migrated to their respective place. It is quite possible that some northern Naga tribes might have initially settled at Khezhakeno (Kozhomei in Mao) subsequent to disperse since Makhel and then to different places. This may be the reason why some northern Naga tribes considered Khezhakeno as place of dispersal. 
Of the scores of evidences and legends which explain that Makhel is a place of dispersal for various Naga tribes, who called themselves as Tenyimi, the tale and significance of Chüte Bu Kajü (wild pear tree) is realistically prominent. A general perception exists amongst the Tenyimi that at the time of their grand dispersal they have had a discourse beneath the Chüte Bu Kajü and made a bond that they will meet again. Chüte Bu Kajü is not a myth but a piece of historical fact in the account of Makhelian race, which is still there for everyone to see. The stated tree is located at Shajouba village (Charangho) where a godly woman Paichara-a once lived, who is seen at times as a young teenage girl and sometimes as an elderly woman and later ascended to heaven on a string of yarn, which is at a distance of 3 kms east of NH 2, Dimapur-Imphal road and not at “Chajouba village” as noted in the article. Though there may be different versions on the origin of the tree, Charanghomei as the custodian of the tree believed that it sprouts itself and not planted by human. As a mark of respect and honour, if any branch of the tree is fallen/broken, genna (mass holiday/abstention from usual daily agricultural activities) is observed beginning from Charangho till the last village where the people claimed to have migrated from Makhel. Whoever first notices the fallen branch or stem shall keep away the broken pieces from the public view as mark of honour and accordingly inform to village chief or village elders for necessary action to embark on. Observation of genna can carry out together with number of neighbouring villages on the same day as and when they came to know the information of the fallen/broken of the branch. The observation of this genna is as strong and mournful as passing away of a fellow being. Fruits of the tree are forbidden to eat perhaps the only one of such prohibition in the Naga inhabited areas. The stem and trunk of the tree will also not use for anything such as firewood or woodcraft. Likewise, its stem and trunk should not hack or impair in any form unless so naturally. A popular perception exists that in the direction where new branch springs up is where the population get flourishes and vice versa. The tree symbolises unison and oneness of the Nagas.  
Dr. Athikho Kaisü, Teaches Sociology of Media at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

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