The First Settlers of Khonoma: In Conversation with Peu Kuotsu

The First Settlers of Khonoma: In Conversation with Peu Kuotsu

in Interview
Published on: 10 October 2018

Menka Singh

Menka Singh has been working as an Assistant Professor in History at Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi since 2012. She is currently pursuing her PhD from the Department of History, University of Delhi. Her doctoral dissertation is titled, “The Memory and Legacy of Colonialism in the Naga Hills, c. 1832-1947”. Her M.Phil dissertation was titled, “State, Family, and Orphans of Partition, c. 1940-1980”. She was enrolled at Hindu College and Lady Shri Ram College for her Masters and Bachelors in History respectively. She has been part of workshops, conferences and seminars on both Partition Studies and Northeast Studies. She has presented papers titled, “The Youngest Citizens’ Speak” at the University of Nottingham, “Midnight’s Orphans” at Hansraj College, “Midnight’s Orphans – A Cinematic Representation” at Kirorimal College, “Being a Muhajir” at Germanic and Romance Studies, “Midnight’s Orphans – Recovering the Marginal in the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent” at ARSD College, “Spirit Interaction, Propitiation, and Fraternization” at University of Tezpur, and “Centering the Subaltern – Theatre and Poetics of Bhikhari Thakur” at IIAS, Shimla. She has published five papers and has a keen interest in partition narratives, folklore studies, child rights, jurisprudence, cultural studies, Gandhian ideology, gender studies, and the methodologies of history writing.

Khonoma, Nagaland

Peu Kuotsu is an elderly member in the Khonoma community. He sits in an area which was made by a man who managed the feat of successfully organizing a feast of merit. 

Summary of the interview


Peu Kuotsu speaks about the first settlers of Khonoma settled in this area. There is a morung or a boys’ dormitory for communal living here. The other morung is of the first settlers. They made façade by pulling a bamboo string on a wood split in the middle (segomeiki). After doing all that, they built up a morung where they gave a feast. All the male folks came together to sleep in the morung. During festivities like sekrenyi, terhonyi, etc., they dress in their best attire and compete in different activities. The best dancer, singer, best dressed, etc. are selected during the festivals. 

He narrates the story of the man, tiger and devil. The man takes the best care of his mother, while the devil scares her and the tiger threatens to eat her. So, the man buries his dead mother under a stove so as to camouflage her scent in order to prevent the tiger from eating her. Since then, only men and not animals are allowed to cook on the stove.  


He also talks about evil spirit possession. When someone is possessed, he would have to go to a shaman who would do the rituals. The shaman would take a chicken and kill it beyond the gates of the village and with enchantments drive away the spirits. He would then return and inform the afflicted person that the spirit has been cast away. If someone leaves behind his spirit, then he has to consult a shaman to get his spirit back. The shaman after doing enchantments would inform the person that the spirit has been restored. These are some rituals, which were practiced by our ancestors till Christianity came to this village. 
Translated by Neizo