Man,Spirit and the Tiger: A Naga story

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Man,Spirit and the Tiger: A Naga story

This is a tribal story from Nagaland. This story highlights the close relationship between man, god and religion. Nagas revere tigers and leopards a lot and ultimately trace the ancestry of their own culture to a single man and a single tiger[1].

There are two versions of the story. The first[2][3] is the less popular one and the second one is more or less similar between various Naga tribes. The first version goes as follows:

As the story goes, three brothers - a Man, a Cosmic spirit and a Tiger - once lived in a village. The Spirit was gifted with divine powers, Man was gifted with intelligence and the Tiger was gifted with strength and agility. After their mother died, the three brothers began fighting among each other for their mother's worldly belonging. The Spirit was the eldest, so he decided to step back like a big brother and let his two younger siblings have his mother's possessions. However, Man and Tiger could not settle on who between the two would be the one.

So they decided to have a race. They set up a bamboo pole far away and decided that whoever succeeds in reaching the pole first would stay in the village and the loser would go live in the forest. They started the race, but Man was cunning. He made a bow and arrow and knocked out the bamboo pole with a shot from far away. When Tiger reached the destination (before Man), he saw the fallen pole and thinking that Man had already won the race, he went to live in the forest.

However, Spirit knew what really had happened and was extremely angry at man. Using his divine powers, he took away Man's eyes and replaced them with goat's eyes so that Man could never again see the Spirit. Then, Spirit departed.

Man got control of the village. However, he dearly missed his brothers the Tiger and the Spirit whom he could no longer be with. Hence, he invented rituals and customs (in Naga culture) that would appease his brothers and bring them back to him. Thus, the Naga culture was born.

The second version of the story, which is from a more trusted source[1], differs from the first version in that the Man and the Spirit were in connivance in sending the Tiger to the jungle. This because when the mother was dying and the three children took turns to care for the mother, the Tiger was always smelling the mother's flesh. He was also a nuisance around the house.

In any case, even to this day, the Naga tribesmen rarely kill a tiger and if they do, they fill the tiger's mouth with water so that if the tiger utters the name of the man who killed him, the heavens would only hear gargling of water. In Naga culture, there are elaborate customs celebrating the relationship between man and the tiger.

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Semantic tags

Title Man,Spirit and the Tiger: A Naga story Article is on this general topic Tribal mythology Author Gaurav Moghe
Specific location(s) where study was conducted Not noted General region where study was conducted Not noted State where study was conducted Pan-India
Institutional affiliation Not noted Institution located at Not noted Institution based around Not noted
Species Group Not noted User ID User:Gauravm Page creation date 2012/06/26

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