A long time ago, man, tiger, and god/spirit came into existence through a miraculous union between the already existing first woman and the clouds of the sky. All life on earth which includes beings in the animal kingdom, humans and spirits, originated from this union.
In the very beginning, there was a lone woman. She was the first woman and was called Dziiliamosiiro, which roughly means the “purest water” or ‘crystal clear water’. One day, at a place called Makriifii or Makhel, which is the present Mao Naga country, she was sleeping under a Banyan tree with her legs spread wide open. Suddenly, a column of white clouds descended and enveloped Dziiliamosiiro. There was conjugal relationship between the white cloud and Dziiliamosiiro as she slept. Some droplets fell from this white cloud into her genitals, and she became pregnant.
It led to her conceiving and giving birth to three children, namely Okhe (which literally means ‘tiger’ representing the whole of animal kingdom), Orah (literally meaning ‘god’ or spirit, representing the entire supernatural world) and Omei (literally meaning ‘mankind’), in that order, with Okhe as the eldest and Omei the youngest.
The mother taught her three sons. By the time the three children became adults; their mother Dziiliamosiiro was quite old and sick. So, the three brothers took turns to look after their ailing mother. When Tiger looked after her, he used to touch the mother’s body to identify the fleshy, good body parts which he would eat after her death. The mother would then become more ill with anxiety, and her worry intensified. During the turn of God/Spirit, Dziiliamosiiro would become more feverish and develop acute headaches when the other brothers went to till the fields. The mother relaxed and felt at ease, only when Man looked after her, because he tended to his mother with great care and concern. For, with his capacity for emotion, Man loved his mother the most and the woman constantly longed for Man to nurse her.
Before their mother’s death, there was a dispute between the brothers as to who should inherit her land. When the quarrels became more frequent and threatened to result in violence, the mother decided that something had to be done. So she devised a contest. She created a ball-shaped grass bale at a distance and told the three brothers to race for it. The one who touched the round grass bale first would inherit the mothers’ land. Man being the youngest and a good person, Dziiliamosiiro secretly instructed him that he should make a bow and arrow, and shoot at the grass bale, as she knew that he could not compete in strength with the other two. Man, following his mother’s instructions, succeeded in reaching the grass target first by firing the arrow and thus inherited his mother’s land.
Dziiliamosiiro then instructed the unhappy Tiger and God/Spirit to go to the thick jungles and to the far south (Kashiipii), respectively, after she died. Providentially, Dziiliamosiiro breathed her last on the day when Man was looking after her. Man quickly buried Dziiliamosiiro’s dead body under the hearth of the kitchen, as advised by his mother, before Tiger and God/Spirit came back from the field.
When they came back, Tiger demanded that Man show him where their mother was buried. Man refused, and Tiger began scraping off the mud wherever he suspected the body had been hidden, but was unable to find it. Together they all wept for their lost mother. Then, they sat down to discuss what they would do now, as their mother was no more. They came to the conclusion that they should all go to the respective places as had been directed by their mother.
But, when the time came for their departure, God and Tiger were hesitant to leave. They continued to remain at home with Man. They began quarrelling once again for the native home. Finally they decided to have another contest. The one who first saw the rising sun would dwell in the native land. The following day, they sat in a line watching for the first sign of the rising sun. Tiger and God were looking intently to the east, while Man was looking to the west. Man saw the sunlight drape the snow clad peaks of the mountains before anyone could see the sun rise. Thus, Man won the contest.
God reluctantly went away. Tiger though supposed to leave as well, remained at home with Man. But Man wanted to get rid of Tiger. One day, he asked Tiger what scared him the most. Tiger answered that fire and thunder’s sound were the most fearsome. Man tied a bamboo cup and a piece of a torn mat on Tiger’s tail, while he was fast asleep. He then brought a buffalo horn near Tiger’s ear and blew it with his might. On hearing the deafening sound Tiger woke up and ran out. The cup and torn mat tied to the tail made a huge racket as Tiger ran here and there, scared. Finally, Tiger ran away to the jungle.
Thus, the three brothers parted ways forever and Man, the youngest son, became Dziiliamosiiro’s inheritor, as she had wished. But, Man still recalls his relationship with his brothers and worships nature through rituals. (This story has other versions too which you can read here)
STORY COLLECTED BY: Deepam Chatterjee
1. The Myths of Naga Origin By R.B. Thohe Pou
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mao_Naga
3. The Mao Naga Tribe of Manipur: A Demographic Anthropological Study By Lorho Mary Maheo
4. The origin of Tiger, Spirit and Humankind: A Mao Naga Myth by Dr. X.P. Mao
5. THE ANGAMI NAGAS With Some Notes on Neighbouring Tribes J. P. Hutton
6. Folktales of India, edited by Brenda E. F. Beck, Peter J. Claus, Praphulladatta Goswami, Jawaharlal Handoo
7. http://www.iwgia.org/iwgia_files_publications_files/naga
8. The Kingship System of the Mao Naga by Chachei
10. Various oral narratives, songs, lectures and seminar proceedings