LOST HERITAGE OF NAGA ART.
by Dr. Gautam Chatterjee.
Dr. A.K. Das,
Professor Museology (Dr.Maulana Azad Chair) of National Museum Institute,
India,is an expert on Naga life, culture and arts
talks to Dr. Gautam Chatterjee, about the extinct
culture of Naga out of his long field experiences.
As an expert on Naga life will you throw some light on the SUNGKONG or
the log drum from socio-anthropological perspective. ?
Dr. Das.: This log drum is very integral
part of Naga life. This is created out of huge tree trunk sometime going
upto 30 to 40 mts. in length and 5 to 6 feet height. The drum is flattened
from the bottom to place it
on the ground firmly and from the top
through carvings a hollow is made and on bitting from top the sound emits.
Some time those are highly decorated with human motif.
This log drum is not only restricted to
create martial music but on all occasions from birth to death from
festivals to the death news and from
announcing time of the elders meetings to declare emergency when the rival
group attacks are the function of this log drum .
G.C. :Is there any sound code or rule of
the sound beat?
Dr. Das : As such there is no formal
codification of these sound beats. But through oral tradition everybody
understands as a peculiar sound emits on all different occasions. This is
more on the communication mode than a simple ritual of Naga people.
G.C.: When Naga people decides to change
their log drums what’s the process and ritual they follow?
Dr. Das: This is a very elaborate process.
First of all one of the Naga man has to volunteer to donate a tree from
his own forrest area. Then youth go to cut the tree and after performing a
ritual they start the
tree-falling process. And only tool they
use is Dao. Then for seven days the process of bringing tree
from forest to village starts. These are
brought through indigenous process. In all these days women and
girls bring foods and drinks for the youth
who toe the log. Its almost a festival for them. Once the log
is brought to the village expert
woodcarvers create the drum and do the traditional art work on them.
After a small ritual the drum is placed
near the Morung or dormitary for regular use.
G.C. Will you explain the much talked
about male dormitarty or Morung?
Dr. Das: Morung is a dormitary for youth
say from 5 to 16 years who spend their nights here. There is a separate
dormitary for females in this age group. Due to the open architecture of
the Naga house and
for the sake of privacy of husband and wife
children are to stay in Morung. But from these Morung the
youth keep a watch over the enemies and
declare emergency through bitting the log drum on seeing enemies.
Otherwise here in day time this Morung function as Gurukul without a guru.
It means children and youth are informed by all the elders(not by
particular person) about the tradition and customs . Likewise heritage and
tradition is passed onto the next generation.
G.C. Today those practices are passing
into oblivionness will you elaborate how the great Naga culture in
its functional point becoming extinct?
Dr. Das: It all started in early nineteenth
century when British intervened the hilly areas of North East India.
British clergy men and American Baptist Mission went all about to
enlighten this traditional people and conversion was the first step.
Clergy men tried to erase the pagan (non-christian) culture and they even
destroyed Morangs and burnt down sacred log drums to diminish the rituals
of those traditional feelings. But by the seventies of this century a
revivalism started and though Christian ,Naga people opted for their own
traditional attire from the Headgear to shawl which was a silent
demonstration to revive their lost culture and rituals .
G.C. Will you explain the context of lost
culture and the present revivalism?
Dr. Das : Today you can see the age old
traditions and festivals are again being revitalated. Though complete
revival is not possible and be it art or culture this only remains
symbolic than functional for which Naga culture was known for. Thus major
portion of their tradition is lost and symbolism remains only at
theatrical and aesthetic levels.
Dr Gautam Chatterjee