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Volume 63 Number 4, June 2012

Volume 63 Number 4

Northeast India: The Insiders' Definition
Edited by: Margaret Ch. Zama

Editorial Note

Margaret Ch. Zama

Arunachal Pradesh
Myth, Memory, and Meaning: The Ancient Civilization of Kojum Koje
Mamang Dai

Tenyimia Festivals: The Basis of Socio-Cultural Life of the Community
Duovituo Kuolie

Nature as Mother Metaphor: Khasi Rice Myths
Desmond L. Kharmawphlang

The Use of Bamboo, Cane, and Timber in A’Chik Culture
Caroline R. Marak

Beyond the Spectrum: The Tradition of Lai Haraoba
Tayenjam Bijoykumar Singh

Arunachal Pradesh
Folk Songs of the Siang Valley
Tamo Mibang

Time for Change of Mindset

The Intangible as Cultural Heritage
Margaret Ch. Zama

Photo Essay
Phaneng: A Journey into Personal Engagement
Photographs and text by Samar Jodha

Book Reviews
Folk Embroidery of Western Himalaya – Subhasini Aryan
Anamika Pathak

Early Urban Centres in Bangladesh: An Archaeological Study: 3rd Century B.C. to mid 13th century A.D. – Afroz Akmam
Pratapaditya Pal

Books Received


Revisiting Marg : From Marg: Folk Dances Vol. 13, No. 1, December 1959: Assam by Maheswar Neog

Thematic Ad Portfolio
The Bamboo Crafts of Tripura
Kanchan Sinha

Thematic Ad-portfolio - The Bamboo Crafts of Tripura
Sinha, Kanchan
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 3 unnumbered + 1–11

This article highlights the work of NGOs in Tripura and the local resources and skills they utilize to make and market a rich variety of products made from bamboo. The photographs showcase bamboo crafts from not just Tripura but also Mizoram.

Editorial Note
Ahmed, Monisha
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 14-15
Marg bids fond farewell to Dr Pratapaditya Pal, who retired after 19 years as General Editor.
Zama, Margaret Ch.
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 16–25

This magazine focuses on five of the seven states of Northeast India – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Mizoram – that represent dominant tribal areas. The writers are from the region, hence “The Insiders’ Definition”, which reflects from various perspectives the rich cultural trove of a region to which one is proud to belong. Each article brings to bear on the reader the myriad ways in which the culture of a particular community can be gleaned and interpreted, revealing how the tangible and intangible interweave to eventually create a holistic ethos that contributes to the making of the collective thought process of a people that is unique yet universal.

Arunachal Pradesh - Myth, Memory, Meaning: The Ancient Civilization of Kojum Koje
Dai, Mamang
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 26–35

The people of Arunachal Pradesh have lived off its natural resources throughout their history without threat to the ecosystem; therefore the tenets of their traditional practices are deep-rooted in environmental ethics which support a close and harmonious relationship with nature. Their indigenous faith known as Donyi-Polo is still widely practised, based on belief in the sun-moon as cosmic symbolic power through which the Supreme Spiritual Being or the World-Spirit is manifest. This essay refers to oral traditions of the Adi tribe of the Siang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh by seeking to revive the obscure world of myths through memory, which in turn will find meaning by locating it in nature and the interpretation of this nature through the human imagination. The role of the miri or shaman as storyteller is crucial to this process and he becomes the healer and messenger travelling from village to village to remind people of the meaning of rituals that imbue the world with sense and order and how man received these instructions from the gods.

Nagaland - Tenyimia Festivals: The Basis of the Socio-Cultural Life of the Community
Kuolie, Duovituo
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 36–43

The Naga community consists of over 16 major tribes and several sub-tribes, believed to be among the earliest migrants from Southeast Asia to this region. Their society is complex and has well-organized, well-defined institutions which streamline the life of the community, the morung or bachelor’s dormitory being one such in the past. This essay on the numerous festivals of the Tenyimia community who form the largest group of Nagas, emphasizes the intrinsic role of these traditional practices. The enjoyment and celebration of each as a social event actually functions to generate life in a manner that is socially and culturally acceptable to the community. The essay also laments the fact that today these major traditional festivals are celebrated only in name, as a result of which the younger generation is being deprived and losing grasp of their conceptual uniqueness.

Meghalaya - Nature as Mother Metaphor: Khasi Rice Myths
Kharmawphlang, Desmond L.
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 44–51

This essay on the Meghalayan rituals of Khasi rice myths highlights the point that such practices are part of a discourse that illustrates the complexity of a culture in which the feminine is seen as nurturing and nature as a maternal entity. Rituals such as the Pynhir Myndhan that is part of the tradition are a cultural metaphor of the communion sought by man for a harmonious coexistence with the nature that sustains him. The matrilineal system of the Khasis also carries within it the underpinnings of the relationship between nature and mother built into the complex mechanism of their land tenure system, social customs, and laws. Respect is thus shown to nature for it is she who permits human beings to sow and reap for their survival, and her role as bountiful preserver and giver of life has to be acknowledged.

The Use of Bamboo, Cane, and Timber in A’chik Culture
Marak, Caroline
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 52–65

This essay reflects on how a community, in its adaptation to an ecology, establishes a unique link between tangible and intangible culture, enabling the tangible material to rise to the level of the sacral and beautiful. A’chik material culture is solely dependent on indigenous forest products – bamboo, cane, and timber. Describing the bamboo wind instruments as examples, the article shows how tribal lore elevates the material mundane, as the music produced becomes imitations of wind passing through holes bored by a bumblebee in a bamboo interknot. Material culture not only covers practical usage in their daily life, or as the manifestation of a knowledge system, but extends to the religious, the ritualistic, and the artistic.

Manipur - Beyond the Spectrum: The Tradition of Lai Haraoba
Singh, Tayenjam Bijoykumar
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 66–75

The Meiteis of Manipur, the politically and socially dominant group of the state, adopted Hinduism in the 15th century and their culture was greatly influenced by Vaishnavism of the Chaitanya sect. Yet they also retain part of their pre-Hindu beliefs and customs. This article looks back in time to resurrect the pre-Hindu deities who reside in sacred groves, and shows how the indigenous Meitei religion achieved a peaceful coexistence with Hinduism which came later. Despite having an ancient script dating over 1,000 years, the essential core of the sacred lore associated with Lai Haraoba has been preserved and handed down in the form of dance and oral literary and poetic traditions, by the maibi or priestess. How cultural heritage evolves is evident from what is now one of the more popular forms of Manipuri performing arts recognized worldwide – the Maibi Jagoi or the Maibi dance, derived from this very tradition.

Arunachal Pradesh - Folk Songs of the Siang Valley
Mibang, Tamo
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 76–85

This essay focuses on and explicates the folksongs of the Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. The author emphasizes their importance since they depict the image of the community in a cultural context, telling its history through song and, in doing so, continuing to influence the thought process of its people. The Adis are well known as gifted singers and dancers and the Siang valley is in fact known as the land of song and dance. The origins of Adi culture are connected in legend with the Siang river. Their songs reflect the close linkages that they have with nature. On festive occasions, men and women dressed in traditional attire dance together to these songs composed by their forefathers and orally passed down the generations. The themes of the songs are meaningful, depicting events of Adi history and their effects.

Mizoram - Time for a Change of Mindset
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 86–93

This article deals with Mizoram as a culture in transition, a highly relevant and topical issue that currently is the preoccupation of many, not only of this state, but of the rest of the Northeast as well. The essay recognizes the cultural tension that exists today between the desire to preserve Mizo identity through traditional practices and the recognition that these are proving to be impractical for present times. The traditional practices pertaining to death in the community are taken as a case in point, and a change of mindset that will permit flexibility in recognizing that it is not the things that we do, but our reasons for doing so, that are more important is advocated. The essay ends with the hope that this will permit change in the tools used which would be more in keeping with the times, without compromising the dignity of one’s culture, nor the intrinsic reasons thereof.

The Intangible as Cultural Heritage
Zama, Margaret Ch.
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 94–103

The focus on the intangible as part of the Mizo cultural heritage is highlighted. The intangible consists of the ethical and social values embedded in the life of the Mizo forefathers which served to bind, and bring order and a sense of security to a community whose survival depended on these very factors. The article explains how various cultural traditions such as the zawlbuk or male dormitory have been phased out and yet, how the intangible values of the concept of tlawmngaihna (code of honour entailing selfless sacrifice and giving of oneself for the service of others without expectation of recognition or reward for such acts) can continue to be adapted today for zonunmawi, the beautiful Mizo way of life.

Assam - Phaneng: A Journey into Personal Engagement
Jodha, Samar S.
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 104–111

This photo essay is on the vanishing Tai Phake tribe from the village of Phaneng, upper Assam.

Book Reviews
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 112–113

Folk Embroidery of Western Himalaya by Subhashini Aryan, reviewed by Anamika Pathak; Early Urban Centres in Bangladesh: An Archaeological Study, 3rd Century B.C. to mid 13th Century A.D. by Afroz Akmam, reviewed by Pratapaditya Pal.

Revisiting Marg
Neog, Maheswar
Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2012, pp. 148–150

In this article from Marg, Vol. 13, No. 1, December 1959, Maheswar Neog writes about the folk dances of Assam.