Impacts of Christianity among the Nyishis

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TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, PRACTICES AND IMPACTS OF CHRISTIANITY AMONG THE NYISHIS

 

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House of a Nyishi family
  1. I.Introduction

Complex systems of beliefs in the spiritual qualities of nature and at the same time the conception of a Supreme Being are the two significant traits which characterises the traditional religion of Nyishi people. The spiritual worlds of the people are dominated by a number of Uyub (spirits) either benevolent or malevolent. It is normally believed by the villagers that various diseases, miseries and misfortunes are caused by the evil spirits. These spirits have such great powers that they may exert influence on man in his earthly life and after life too. Almost every tribal people believed in a Supreme God, who is just, benevolent and good. Traditionally, the village people often considered Donyi-Pollo or the Sun and the Moon as one supreme God.

 

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Nyokum festival of Nyishi tribe dance

Belief in the existence of supernatural powers is almost universal. Day-to-day unexplainable experiences have led the villagers into believing in other than the material visible world i.e. in the invisible spiritual world or supernatural power. Generally the people are found to establish a close relationship with the spiritual world either by controlling or overpowering the spirit by enchanting or practicing some techniques and canalising the power, for good or bad or by offering ritual or worship to propitiate the supernatural power for acquisition of the thing or object desired.

However, nowadays, there are clear indications that the Christian religious ideas have penetrated into the traditional religion of the people in the Nyishi villages. They have taken up certain ‘Christianised’ rituals as well as participate in the worship of God in church. Apart from their relative physical isolation from the higher Christian personalities, with certain amount of avidity, the people as a group has definitely came within the Christian social fold. However, there are still many who retain their traditional religious beliefs and ritual practices which are altogether free from Christian influence.

The Nyishis believes in the existence of a number of spirits which are called Uyub. They believe that there are Uyub in the jungles, on the lofty hills, on the top of huge or giant trees call Sangrik Sangney[1] (Banyan tree), in rivers, and inside and outside the houses and these spirits often hurt human beings. Most of the Uyub are malevolent in character and cause harm to the human beings. The most dreaded Uyub are the Dojang and Yapam who resides in the jungles and take a toll of the human lives as they please by making people fall ill. Similarly, Jengee and Pamte, Nyori and Pamsi are known for causing various kinds of fever. A number of these Uyub (spirits) live in the forests that make people miserable by causing fevers and aches, swellings, dysentery and sores. Parte-Ringte Uyub is believed to be responsible for agriculture and, therefore, if a man is to have a good crop, these Uyub (spirits) should be pleased. Then, there are domestic Uyub like Ringtum Partum, Chirr Yorr, etc., who look after the welfare of the family and are given offerings of chicken and fowl. It is very difficult to mention the name of all the Uyub here since their number is very large.

II. Objectives

The current paper is focused on the following prime objectives:

  1. i.To understand the traditional beliefs and rituals practices among the Nyishis.
  2. ii.To understand the emergence of heterogeneous Christian beliefs and practices among the indigenous believers.
  3. iii.And finally, to find out the impacts of Christianity which has brought social change among the Nyishis of the study village.

 

III. Methodology

For present paper I used both primary and secondary sources to collect data and to gained information on the given topic and its related aspects. The primary data were collected by undertaking fieldwork between December, 2009 and February, 2010. Secondary data were collected through consulting some relevant available books and articles on Nyishis. I have used conventional anthropological field methods for the collection of field data along with audiovisual tool for documentation. Participant observation method applied during the Christian ceremonial practices in Hiya Baptist Church and group interviews were conducted to find out key informants.

The priests and the well known village elders were interviewed in connection with the traditional religious beliefs and practices of Nyishi. On the other hand, eminent church leaders and members of different denominations were interviewed in connection with the origin and growth or penetration of Christianity in the village.

 

IV. Universe of Study

The study on present paper was carried out between December, 2009 and February, 2010 at Hiya village, which the name is taken from the hill slope of same name. Hiya, the largest village (in terms of area and population) of Kurung Kumey district is located in the extreme eastern part of the Nyapin circle, one of the oldest administrative circles of the state, with whom a status of small town was declared in the same name in 1953. The village has a population of more than 701 souls as per the recent electoral rolls of 2009. This excludes the population below 18 years of age. The population structure of the studied village is mentioned below:

 

Table No.1: Various denominations of Christianity in Hiya village with their populations.

Sl. No.

Denominations

Population

Baptised Members

   

Male

Female

Male

Female

1.

Baptist Church

228

203

115

112

2.

Catholic Church

49

47

41

43

3.

Christian Revival Church

52

60

23

31

4.

Indigenous Believers

34

28

------

-------

Source: Churches records & Fieldwork (Feb., 2010)/ Hiya village.

In fact, the Hiya village is the blend of two villages i.e. Hiya-I and Hiya-II and one adjoining sub-village i.e. Lumtey. Hiya, once a single village was bifurcated into two villages in the year 2001 where the adjoining sub-village Lumtey shift under Hiya-I. The village has now one government aided newly upgraded secondary school, one centrally sponsored primary school under Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) and two pre-primary community schools. The administrations of the village are run under Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) with 2 Anchal Samiti Members (ASMs) and 8 Gram Panchayat Members (GPMs). Besides, the village too has 2 Head Gaon Burahs (HGBs) with few numbers of Gaon Burahs (GBs). The mosaic of these two combinations looks after the administrations of the village.

 

V. Nyishi Traditional Religious Belief Systems

One of the major components of a society's culture consists of the systems of values and beliefs which are characteristic of that society. Nyishi traditional religious system has the following components:

 

  1. A.Initial Religious Beliefs

There are four initial religious beliefs in the Nyishi traditional religion: (1) the belief in impersonal (mystical) power(s); (2) the belief in spiritual beings; (3) the belief in divinities/gods and (4) the belief in the Supreme Being. These initial religious beliefs are essential to our theological interpretation and analysis of the Nyishi traditional religion and belief systems. Any meaningful and effective Christian approach to the traditional religions must begin from here.

 

  1. i.Belief in Impersonal (Mystical) Power(s)

The belief in the impersonal (mystical) power is dominant and pervasive in traditional Nyishi religious thought. The whole of creation, nature and all things and objects are consumed with this impersonal power.

In Nyishi beliefs, the source of this impersonal or (mystical) mysterious power is not always known, but it is usually attributed to the activities of higher "mysterious" powers, whether personal or impersonal that either generates or deposits such powers in things or objects. The potency, efficacy and the durability of such "inhabited" impersonal powers varies from object to object. Some objects are said to be inherently more power induced or "imputed" than others, that is, they are more naturally endowed with powers than others are.

The impersonal powers can be used for both good and evil. The life of a traditional Nyishi with this belief in the impersonal powers is at the mercy of the benevolent or wicked users of the mystical powers at their disposal. This belief is very much reflected in the traditional religious practices and behaviour.

  1. ii.Belief in Spirit Beings

Traditional Nyishi concepts of reality and destiny are deeply rooted in the spirit world. The activities and the actions of the spirit beings govern all social and spiritual phenomena. The spirit world can be divided into two broad categories: (1) non-human spirits and (2) the spirits of the dead (Aram). Non-human spirits are regarded in hierarchical order in accordance with their kind and importance, depending upon their power and the role they play in the ontological order in the spirit world.

First in the hierarchy is the Creator, then the deities, object-embodied spirits, ancestors' spirits and other miscellaneous spirits that are non-human, comprising both good/harmless (benevolent) spirits and evil spirits (malevolent). Man stands between this array of spiritual hosts in the spirit world and the world of nature.

The Spirit World in Nyishi Society

What constitutes the spirit world in Nyishi society is summarised below:

1) The whole world is full of spirits;

2) The abode of spirits is numerous, such as the banyan tree, burial grounds and other places;

3) The spirits are classified into two categories, the bad ones (malevolent) and the good ones (benevolent);

4) A belief in and practice of exorcism or spirit possession;

5) A belief in life after death, future reward and future punishment;

6) Spirit possession.

In defining the religious worldview of Nyishi society, we stresses the fact that the spirit world of the Nyishi people is very densely populated with spirit beings, spirits and the living-dead or the spirits of the. The spirit world is the most pervasive worldview. Contained within it are the spirits, the ancestors and the Supreme Being or God.

There is a very close relationship between the spirit beings and the mystical or impersonal powers and forces described earlier. This realm of the supernatural operates mystical power, magic, witchcraft, sorcery and many others. The spirit world or the realm of the supernatural is, in a sense, a battleground of spirits and powers that use their mystical powers to influence the course of human life. These mystical powers can be designated as positive or negative, good or evil, which may bring blessings or curses.

As we have already observed, in the Nyishi traditional religious thought, spirits are believed to dwell or inhabit certain trees like Sangrik Sangney (Banyan Tree), rocks or mountains, caves, rivers, lakes, forests, animals, human beings, the ground and other objects.

The spirit beings are usually divided into two categories: (1) the spirits of the Aram (dead elders or the ancestors) and (2) the non-human spirit beings. The ancestors are close to the humans and serve as their custodians. All spirit beings are endowed with certain powers and they apply these powers upon the humans for their good or for their harm. Because the spirit beings are malicious, capricious and sometimes benevolent, man must be wise in his dealings with the spirit beings. They can easily be angered, provoked or injured by the humans and so man requires tack and wisdom in dealing with them. In dealing with both the impersonal (mystical) powers and the spirit beings, man needs human specialists who have gained experience and access to these two types of mysteries to help them live a successful life and acquire good human well-being. These spirit beings can be "manipulated" to serve the humans or vice versa.

iii. Belief in Numerous Divinities

Nyishis for the past few decades have changed certain perspectives and even the definition of Nyishi divinities. Some no longer accept the term polytheism (worship of many gods). They prefer the term "divinities" or "deities" to "gods". The debate on whether Nyishi "divinities" were worshipped as "gods" or whether they were only "intermediaries" or "mediators" is inconclusive. Some[2] argued that "Nyishis do not worship their divinities nor their ancestors, but God". In this argument, a view is being held that sacrifices, offerings and prayers offered, are not directed to the divinities or the ancestors, as ends in themselves, but are directed ultimately to God. I have no intention of discussing this debate here, but simply to mention it in passing.

Nyishi divinities are many and each has its specific area of influence and control. Some of these divinities were originally mythological figures in some Nyishi legends and primordial histories and cosmologies, while some were tribal heroes or heroines. Divinities covering different aspects of life, society and community were usually established, such as divinities of the sea or the waters, rain, thunder, fertility, health or sickness, planting or harvest, tribal, clan or family deities. Nyishi divinities took the forms of mountains, rivers, forests, the mother earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and ancestors. The plurality of the divinities with their varying powers, influence, hierarchy, territoriality, even within one ethnic group or community, says a lot about the Nyishi religions, worship, beliefs and practices. This leaves an open door for religious accommodation, tolerance, assimilation and adaptation within the traditional religious thought. The traditional Nyishi understanding and the interpretation of Christianity have deep roots in these fundamental beliefs of the Nyishi traditional religions. This belief, just as in the case of the previous one, has a theological basis- the plurality of divinities (polytheism).

iv. Belief in a Supreme Being (God)

The people believe in Ane-Donyi (Sun, the mother God) who is regarded as the Supreme Mother, kind and benevolent. She showers her kindness on the society and nothing can be achieved without her will. She gives crops and keeps the Nassung[3] (granaries) filled; she gives children and keeps them well; without her mercy nothing could get.

B. Initial Religious Practices

Religious beliefs do beget corresponding religious practices and religious behaviour. The five inter-related and integrated religious beliefs examined in the previous sections have established the theological basis of the traditional religious system. These beliefs have in consequence influenced the development of the corresponding religious practices, which we are going to describe very briefly. The traditional religious system is informed and motivated by these religious beliefs and their corresponding practices, behaviour and feelings.

The people’s indigenous religion practices is coherently and comprehensively expressed in their oral traditions in the form of myths, legends, folklore, folktales and performing arts that is passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth by priests and shamans. In the early days, cult of sacrifice was the dominant features of indigenous religious practices of the people in the village. They believed that human share the world with Uyub (spirits) of benevolence and malevolent, which take up residence in every animate and inanimate object, specific places and sometimes in human being. The Uyub is the nearest equivalent term for God used in Nyishi language (Showren, 2007), which literary meaning for both benevolent and malevolent Uyub (Gods).

The foundational religious practices in the traditional religions are: (1) the practices of establishing links, relationship and close ties with the cosmic mysterious, mystical and spirit powers and forces; (2) the practices involving various religious and social rites, rituals (sacrifices and offerings) and ceremonies; (3) the practices of establishing various spiritual and mystical communications with the spirit world and spirit beings and (4) the religious and social practices of relating to the various activities of the traditional Nyishi specialists. Thus, encompassing all these features the traditional ritual practices of people are categorised into following:

1. Roo-Kugnam (Chicken Liver Examination): This ritual practice is takes place to ascertain the type of Uyubs through Roo Kugnam or Ruksing Kanam[4] (omen examination). It is usually perform by the Nyub (priest) and Nyajak (shamans) who are expert in such ritual. At the very beginning, the Nyub use to have a Roo (baby chicken) on his hand blows warm air from the mouth and start the ritual process. Besides this the chicken egg is also examined which coincides with the prediction and result. This examination of egg is called “Paap Chiinam”[5]. It is the chicken liver examination which tells everything for which the ritual chanting has been proposed. The chanting is done for specific case to trace out the main cause or vindicating the particular illness. Thus, the Nyub chant to find out the exact cause of the illness.

 

2. Sangrik-Tangnam (Cutting of Banyan Trees): This ritual practice is perform when a man or woman or children is accidentally dead. The chicken liver is examined after chants by the priest whether the spirit or God (Gangda Uyub) has taken away life or not. If the chicken liver indicates positive then a ritual is performed. Until the ritual is complete the dead body remains in the house. In that very evening the people of the whole village are quietly informed to get ready for an attack journey. In the next morning, a Ryatar[6] is performed for an all-round protection and to gain power and strength to fight against the evil spirits. The villagers then attack that particular tree called Sangrik Sangney (Banyan Tree). The people arrived suddenly around the tree with a weapons accompanied by a Nyub (priest) and tied a rope around the tree. When the tree is felled down, its upper portion is well guarded. Whatever the animals like snakes, birds, lizards, squirrels, and many other comes out are killed. It is believe that they are the form of evil spirits who have taken the life of a human being. This ritual is kind of revenge to the evils. The priest chants and people follow him during the attack in the following manner. It is called Gamte Tanam[7].

Sugh Gangtey Ge Atu nu, Ish Ge Ayu nu

Nu debe dapa nilo, tangbe tangpa nilo

Ho Gangtey Atu no, Anglik yama be

Uyub namtam namdar taju,

Sungkung namtam namdar taju

Poyub nyatey nu, Nyayub nyatey nu

Sanglum namtam namdar taju,

Sangrik namtam namdar taju.

 

The above phrase means: “Oh..! The owner of this land if you have taken the life of our man then you should not leave. We are going to destroy you and your dwelling place too.” Thus, it is a warning and challenge to the evil spirits called ‘Poyub’ and ‘Nyayub’. Lastly the tree is burnt down. After this, they retreat to their house with pronouncing a peculiar sound called Gugre Renam [8]while coming back. After reaching the village, the killed birds and animals are fixed on the Dapo[9] (pole) and are shooting with arrows by the villagers. After this, the people are dancing around the Dapo and by the same time the last rites of the deceased is perform and ultimately it is buried. The priest and the people who participated in the attack of Uyub used to sleep by placing their stomach facing the ground for up to five days. They are not enter the house for five days, and are only eat and drink on the ground. Any kinds of preparation including the animals sacrificed in this connection are restricted inside the house rather all preparations are done on the ground itself. It is because they believe that if such preparations are done inside the house, then the evil spirits will enter the same and will cause more miseries in the future.

3. Jarbik-Bignam: The Jarbik Bignam[10] is a prophecy of ritual through which the prediction is taken place. Here the sacrificed of animals does not take place. It is done through the special objects like Bopa (Head-gear), Alang (Stone), Uriuk (sword), Pate-Heegh (Tiger-teeth), Taab-Dumpo (Snake-head), Kyokam-Kheele (Claw of eagle), Kiidi (Soil) and through Ish (Water) etc. Usually, these objects are nearby the Nyub (Priest) during the ritual. This ritual is generally done to find out the cause of epidemics (diseases), theft cases and illicit relations etc. The Nyub (Priest) through chanting enquire the matter using the above objects to make a positive signal through its movement in favour of Nyub’s enquires. The silence atmosphere prevailed to maintain the secrecy during its night long chanting performance. The Nyub makes an enquiry through Jarbik Bignam chanting are as follows:

 

Lapang Atu nu,

yaj yallu ham napey niri?

Gangtey Atu nu kamju sucho paj bu nu,

Yaj yallu ham napey niri?

Hul nyetey nu ngam Nyijak-Nyub yaarj bu nu,

Yaj yallu ham napey niri?

Rillo- Pullo damj bu nu,

Yaj yallu ham napey niri?

Giir nyetey nu, sangkung mumii nu,

Yaj yallu ham napey niri?

Niid Atu nu, kamchang kamte nu, tungji bu nu,

Yaj yallu ham napey niri?

 

The Nyub through his chanting enquires the almighty protector, whether he had taken the soul or not. The Nyub also asks the creator of art and architecture the same. The spirits of the forefathers and ancestors are also taken into account in this enquiry. The God of prosperity and development is also asked for the same. The evil spirits of man who met unnatural deaths through accidents are also made enquire. The God of orator and debate is also asked about the soul.

 

4. Sudung-Ignam: The Sudung-Ignam[11] is an extraordinary traditional ordeal way of examination or proving through which the wrong or guilty person is prosecuted in a general gathering. It is done only when there is claim and counter claim between two parties for their innocence. Before going for such examination, it is to be established that the accused is specified by the omen of the chicken liver for his or her involvement in the erroneous act. This ritual practice is takes place in a special place far away from the village or human settlement. The people from both the parties gather and examination of Sudung takes place at the witnesses of everybody. It is peculiar to note that sometime even if a man who has been blamed for wrong act is innocent and yet is involved in some other act wrongdoing, which is equivalent to the mentioned case, he, too will have the same effect during the Sudung examination. Therefore, if a man who has been blamed unreasonably and who is ready to go for such examination must be free from committing any crime in his lifetime. If alleged person has committed any other such misdeeds, he is allowed to confess before the Nyub (Priest) by means of stick counting known as ‘Kyotar Tarha Nam’.

Therefore, the Sudung-Ignam is meant for particular examination for a particular person. It must be well proved through the omen of chicken liver; otherwise, it will be a wrong punishment to an innocent man. In this practice, there are two types of examination. One is the boiling of water maximum boiling point level (100 degree Celsius) in an Udung[12]. Then a small stone put inside the Udung and the accused is asked to take it out from the boiling water. So, one has to inserts his/her hand to take out the stone. If the person is innocent, the stone will be taken out without any harm but if he/she is guilty, he/she will never be able to take it out and his/her hand will be badly burnt in the boiling water.

Another way of proving the same is by tying off a long thread to a small Udung. Inside the Udung few gravels of stone and piece of Sangrik-naney (Banyan leave) is put. It is done so that the mouth of Udung does not touch water when it is floating on the water. After this, the Udung (Bamboo-tube) is slowly released to lake or river. The thread is controlled by the left hand with a sword in the right hand by the Nyub. If the person has done wrong, the Udung will be drowned in the water and if he/she is innocent, it will never go under the water. The chanting of hymns is started simultaneously with the preparation of the thread and the Udung for the Sudung examination. Thus, at lasts the proof of the Sudung come into limelight. If the offence is proved, according to the magnitude of the case a heavy fine is imposed. However, in Nyishi society imposing of such fine depends upon the decision of the elders present in the meeting. The financial capacity or position of the concerned family is also taken into account. In most of the cases, the imposition is finalised before taking such extreme step. Sometime if a person is proved wrong, he/she is instantly killed in the spot. Therefore, during such occasion both the party gets ready to protect each other because in such situation anything can be happen. In this way, the process of Sudung-Ignam is complete only within a day with hundred of witnesses from the village.

5. Sotung-Tungnam (A Black-Magic): The Sotung[13] is a dangerous way of taking revenge between two individuals, families or the clans. Such ritual is done for a particular individual or family to fulfil the desired effect. Thus, Sotung is the most evil traditional practice of taking revenge causing a heavy loss to human lives just for a slight misunderstanding and mistake. While performing Sotung, the Nyub become very awesome as the spirit penetrate into his body for all the miraculous tasks. Sotung-Nyub[14] invites all the different malevolent spirits at a place to convince and pursue them by offering gifts for the evil act of killing a particular man or a clan. It also includes the invitation of the particular Uyubs who are protecting the particular man or clan by the miraculous chanting power of the Nyub. Here, the “Cheney Butey-Radey Uyub”, the spirit and protector of that clan is fully convinced to attack their own people whom they are protecting. The Sotung-Nyub will try to offer and sacrifice animals like goat, pig and fowls etc. in favour of Sotung-Uyub so that the evil spirit may take the soul of the concerned man or clan. The people generally sit together only in the Nyodang[15] side of the house but never in the Koda[16] side during the Sotung ritual because the door of the house is half-closed. The ritual chanting with rapid walking takes place in the Koda. The Nyub digs a grave for the concerned living man with the Changlang-Kiidi (Soil for graveyard) in his left hand side and starts chanting and directing the evil spirits to kill the person. The Sotung chanting takes place usually at night in a very secret manner without the knowledge of others. If it is not done for a special Sotung ritual, it takes about 2 to 3 days to complete the process. The Yugang[17] is also constructed at a distance and secret site as per the direction of the Nyub. The Nyub is assisted by the Boo (Assistant Nyub). The Yugang is made of bamboo, dupp, etc. and its structure is approximately 1 metre in length and breadth respectively.

The cause of the Sotung-Tungnam may be due to a conflict involving woman, theft, land dispute and other personal enmities. During such Sotung performance, the Bujo[18] charged by the Sotung-Nyub are as follows:-

  1. 1.One string of beads (Sangmi) or Rs. 5000/- to Rs. 10,000/-
  2. 2.Letum-Ijee (Clothes) or Rs. 700/- to Rs. 1000/-
  3. 3.Uriuk (Sword) or Rs. 500/- to Rs. 1000/-
  4. 4.Dumso (Nyalap) or Rs. 500/- to Rs. 1000/-

 

Changing Perspectives

The Nyishi traditional religious beliefs and practices are nowadays changed to many folds as compare to as it was in some decades back. The mass religious conversion of the people to Christianity has contributed a lot in the process. Nowadays the converted people do not performed any kind of rituals related to their tradition/indigenous social and cultural life. They considered that the performance of ritual practices imposes heavy expenditure of animal sacrifice and taboo, etc. which become unbearable for some people, particularly poor section of the people. This forced some people from avoiding the practice of indigenous belief systems and practices and later changes their faith to Christianity. The advanced and rationalised religion like Christianity took all advantages of this divertive force. They interpreted that belief on evil spirits was superstition, practice of animal sacrifice in worship was wastage, and performance of worship in traditional system was the practice of demon/devil. Here they pleaded that there is only one SAVIOUR i.e. Jesus Christ upon whom the people should establish their firm faith and belief. This doctrine of faith attracted the people to Christianity and accordingly many of the people gave up their traditional religious beliefs and ritual practices. In addition to this diversion of religious faith many of those neo-religious people gave up their festival celebration i.e. NYOKUM and secondly they began to challenge customary laws of the society.

However, in contrast to all those adversities, the Nyishi indigenous or religious movements are geared up in many parts of Nyishi areas, though it didn’t yet reach many interior places. The Nyishi indigenous religion institution Nyedar-Namlo[19] is believed to be drawn out of the religious philosophical thought and considered as the highest end of spiritual existence (Showren, 2007). The God is worshipped in the form of a symbolic image of the Ane-Donyi (The Symbolic Sun), which is kept over the raised small platform in the Namlo (house). The devotees came to the Namlo either alone or in a family group, makes his/her offering or then departs. It would see that an underlying philosophy of the Nyedar-Namlo is to emphasise on abut action to preserve the Tani religion and culture with pristine ethos within the Nyishi community. Community also belief that all embodied souls is under the control of three Truths or Observances. They are Ane-Donyi (The Creator), Abo-Tani/Abu-Tain (Inheritor and Preserver) and the Sachang-Ane (Mother-Earth), the Supreme Abode of all human beings after their deaths. Sachang-Ane is a dwelling place for all living creatures including human, animal, and all living organisms.

People’s culture still has its roots in the customs and practices of marriage, inheritance and land ownership. Yet with the process of globalisation, a significant shift is taking place in the perception of their culture. The younger generations’ view that Christianity as superior has already shaken the foundation of the village society, both culturally and traditionally.

Modernity in the form of Christianity has brought in a new form of culture. People no longer sing traditional songs or traditional dances since they are considered to be primitive and belonging to an uncultured way of life. They have now been replaced with western music and dance in and outside the Churches. Hence a borrowed culture has become the guiding principle of the present younger generation in the village. The people are in danger of losing their own identity as Nyishi people with a distinct culture. Even though the people are in verge of facing a serious identity crisis in course of time due to the influence of Christianity, there still remains the possibility for maintaining their age old cultural identity. There needs to be the rediscovery and the giving of importance to their folk stories, folk songs, folk dances and festivals. That could only be possible when restrictions imposed by the Church leaders on any Church members especially youngsters to attending any ritual performances by the Priests are lifted.

 

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19. Souvenir (1996); Silver Jubilee Celebration, Subansiri Baptist Christian Association (SBCA), Model village, Naharlagun.

 

20. Srinivas, M.N. (1995); Social Change in Modern India (Rev. Ed.), Orient Longman, Hyderabad.

 

21. Stephen, S. J.(2008); Caste, Catholic Christianity and the Language of Conversion: Social Change and Cultural Translation in Tamil Country, Kalpaz Publications,

 

22. Subba, T.B., J. Puthenpurakal & S.J. Puykunnel (2009) Eds.; Christianity and Change in Northeast India, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi.

 

23. Syed, M.H. (2006); Social and Cultural Transformation in India, Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi.

 

24. Tara, T.T. (2008); Nyishi World (2nd Edition), D.B. Printers, Banderdewa.

 

25. Thomas, S. (2005); Christianity and Culture, Mittal Publications, New Delhi.

 

 Source:http://www.slideshare.net/Tarh/traditional-religious-beliefs-practices-and-impacts-of-christianity-among-the-nyishis

 


[1] It is a name of tree which is believed to be the home of evil spirits who are cause illnesses and ultimately led to death of the people.

[2] The ‘some’ in the present context is referring to the converted Christians in the study village.

[3] It is a store house for preserving the all kinds of agricultural products, which popularly known as granary in English.

[4] It is a kind of prophecy where future predictions are made by examining the chicken liver.

[5] It is form of ritual chanting of an egg to predict the future.

[6] It is a specific form of ritual performs by the Nyishis for peacefulness and coldness of mind during any kind of attack or test.

[7] It is a kind of phrase which is related with the warning to the evil spirits.

[8] It is a peculiar kind of sound produced by the people during ritual procession.

[9] It is a kind of pole stand erected on a ground for ritual purpose and on which ritual elements are fixed attached to it.

[10] It is a specific form of ritual through which the cause of diseases, theft cases and illicit relations etc. are find out.

[11] It is a kind of ritual where the culprits are identified by asking the person to insert his/her hand inside the boiling water.

[12] It is often term as bamboo-tube where the people use to carry water and for drinks.

[13] It is a kind of black-magic which is use to destroy/devastate the others.

[14] It is a priest who is expert in such ritual performances.

[15] It is the back side of the hearth in the Nyishi house.

[16] It is the front side of the hearth in the Nyishi house.

[17] It is an altar where all kinds’ ritual related sacrifices are made.

[18] It is an amount charged by the priest for her role in the ritual performance.

[19] Nyishi indigenous religious place (house).

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