OF NAGA ART
by Dr. Gautam
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.
G.C. 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..