Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Ancestral Village

Ceremonial Log Drum, Longmisa Village in Nagaland

In India, most city dwellers have an ancestral village to which they trace their lineage, sometimes countless generations ago. My wife Nitoli - coming from a tribal community - is certainly no exception. Since she is the outcome of an inter-tribe marriage there are two different ancestral villages, but ties are much more recent to her maternal ancestral village of Longmisa belonging to the Ao tribe in central Nagaland.

It's been a long time since any of Nitoli's family lived in the village - her grandparents left when they were young in favour of greater economic opportunity in the district capital of Mokokchung. Nevertheless the family's ties to the village are still strong and in fact we have gotten a couple of nannies for our son Valdemar from the village. It's a great way for us to find someone who is known to the family and can be trusted to take good care of the baby, while the young girls get a good chance to experience the big world beyond the village.

Since we were going to Mokokchung to visit family for Christmas, we decided to throw in a visit to the ancestral village. It's a fairly standard Naga village, but a lot of fun to see where Valdemar's great grand parents ran around as kids - and I also wanted to meet a local shaman who is believed to have "tiger spirit". This concept is a remnant from Nagaland's pre-Christian animist beliefs and is still held in high regard even amongst those who have long since converted to Christianity.

Those with tiger spirit are believe to have their fate tied completely to the fate of a tiger living in nature. They will wake up with blood in their mouths in mornings after their tiger has made a kill. And if the tiger dies, then so do they very shortly thereafter. They are also believed to be able to summon the tiger at will, and the shaman promised us that we would see his tiger on our drive back from Longmisa to Mokokchung. Sadly the tiger didn't show up, and we were later told that it was due to abnormally high degrees of traffic on the stretch scaring away the tiger (which had however, observed us from its hiding place).

Longmisa Village occupies a hill-top, which is standard in Nagaland. Nowadays the Church is always the dominating building

Preparations for Christmas taking place in the village main church

During the Christmas season every Christian house hold raises a red star over their house

One of the few remaining non-Christians: The Shaman with Tiger Spirit

Typical Longmisa house partially built on wooden stilts to manager the hilly terrain

Nitoli's niece Alovi taking a walk down Longmisa's main street which is the only paved street here

A beautiful old lady who asked me to take her picture. A few months later her granddaughter Likok, came to work for us as an au pair and she is still with us today, a year later. We were not aware of the family relation before Likok saw this picture on my computer.

Having lunch in the house of the village committee chairman. I love the wooden flooring, but unfortunately there is  not much prestige in this kind of house, with the preference going towards less comfortable and more expensive concrete house

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