MR. PARRY’s monograph on the Lakhers is primarily important as being a record of an Asaam hill tribe taken before annexation and administration have had time to modify its primitive customs and mode of life, for the Lakhers have been independent and unadministered until the last few years, and generally detailed accounts of this kind are not obtained until a tribe have been administered for some time,and their customs and outlook have been modified in consequence, at any rate to the extent of causing them to conceal customs which they have discovered to engender disapproval
on the part of strangers. But this account of the Lakhers is also extremely important as likely to throw light on the
stratification of cultures in the Assam-Burma hills, since the features described are some of them typically Naga, and
some typically Kuki, while others appear to belong to neither of these cultures.
Externally and superficially the Lakhers appear to be a definitely Kuki tribe. Their language and material culture associate them with Lusheis and Chins. Their terms of relationship are rather Kuki than Naga, their weapons,including their ceremonial daos, are similarly Kuki. The dislike, which Mr. Parry records, on the part of a Lakher of using anyone’s comb but his own is typically Kuki, not based, of course, on any scruple of squeamish cleanliness,but on considerations of magic and the location of the soul
in the head or in the hair. The story of the theft of fire by a fly has several local parallels, but differs from most in the
case of the Lakher in that the secret stolen was that of flint and steel, used by all Kuki tribes, instead of that of the fire-
stick as in the Naga versions. As by the Kuki, in contradistinction to the Naga, no bees are kept, and the absence of the morung as a separate building is essentially Kuki rather than Naga. It is true that Lushei tribes do build a zawlbuk for their unmarried men, and conversely the Sema Naga builds no bachelor’s house as a rule, but the institution does not take among the Lushei the place it takes in Naga tribes, and its absence from among the Sema appears due to the same Kuki influence that has introduced a whole series of Kuki customs in connection with inheritance and the rights of chiefs. No doubt the zawlbuk among the Lushei represents the fortuitous survival or adoption of some non-Kuki customs, just as its occasional erection by Semas “in order to conform to ancient custom” indicates the disappearance under alien influence of a custom previously prevalent. The Lakher follows much the same practice as the Thado Kuki, young men choosing as a sleeping-place the house of any girl they admire. Like most Kukis and a few Nagas (e.g. the Tangkhul), the Lakher possesses the ordeal by water, or rather by diving, which is found from the Ganges to Siam, and is perhaps Mon in origin,but the fact that it is definitely unpopular may perhaps be taken to indicate that it belongs to an intrusive culture.
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