All living organisms, air, water, land, sun and moon provides knowledge – economic, aesthetic and moral – to human being for sustenance of life. Chakhesang¹ Naga indigenous knowledge of months for multifarious activities lie on the position of the sun, moon, the biodiversity and material culture. There was no written script but they had their own traditional ways of learning. Everything the Nagas know about themselves, their ancestors, the world, and the values which form the bases of their societies have been preserved and passed down throughout the generations by word of mouth. The sources of information for oral tradition lies on the tangible data of material culture, the sun and moon, and the biodiversity in the ecosystem. Parents and elders in the community also make a systematic influence through exemplary living, oral instructions and discipline. Though they do not have clocks or yearly calendars to keep track of time, they never commit any mistake for performing different agricultural activities. They carefully observe the position of the sun and the moon, the nature of trees, flowers, migratory birds, the chirping of birds and insects for the performance of certain religious rituals. The calendar of the Chakhesang Nagas is based on the phases of the moon and the position of the sun. The position of the sun when it rises and sets and the size of the moon are carefully observed by the village mewu² from a chosen place, to ascertain the day for announcing menyi³ to mark the beginning and end of the month.
There are twelve months in a year and the lunar system is followed in reading the months. After every three years, the leap year occurs called Relipfo year. During Relipfo year there are thirteen months and the extra month is called Relipfo khrü⁴ which comes between Ciede khrü (October) and Buhlo khrü (November). Whether a month gets twenty nine or thirty days is revealed by the village elder. Days are counted with the folding of bamboo plait stick which is kept on the wall beyond the reach of children. They follow the lunar as well as the solar system and make adjustments in the other three years. The months are named based on the common activities of the community. The name of the months and its meanings are briefly explained below:
1. Zatho khrü (January): Zatho khrü is similar to January as a new year starts on its first day. It is a time when rich men offers a feast of zatho which includes sacrificing unspotted mithun, pulling stone and erecting it near common foot paths, generously distributing fresh meat to every household and male member and preparing a big feast for the whole village. It is the highest and most respectable feast of merit among the Chakhesang Nagas.
2. Chüpfü khrü (February): This month is called Chüpfü khrü because in this month people collect fire wood for the whole year. In Khezha language chü means wood, pfhü means search or gather. Thus, it is the month of cutting firewood and carrying it home.
3. Tside khrü (March): This month is called Tside khrü because it is the month for sowing variety of seeds. Tsi means seeds de means huge.
4. Tsükhenye khrü (April): This month is called Tsükhenye khrü because seeds are already sown and the festival of Tsükhenye is cebebrated to give thanks to God for helping them complete the season for sowing seeds and also appease God to protect and help the crops to germinate well. Tsükhenye is a combination of two words, Tsükhe meaning finish the work and nye meaning festival.
5. Keme khrü (May): The fifth month is called keme khrü, Keme meaning merge and khrü meaning month. In this month the preparation for paddy transplantation starts after the celebration of Tsükhenye.
6. Kezü khrü (Zhüde) (June): It refers to the month of June. Kezü means dark and it is called so because during this month nothing is clearly visible because of the fog and monsoon rain. The main activities of this month are ploughing and plantation of paddy. People work in the field throughout the day despite the scorching sun or heavy rain because they have to complete the work within a limited time.
7. Ethsünye khrü (July): The term Ethsünye is derived from two words, Ethsü meaning millet and nye meaning festival and in this month people harvest millet and celebrate the millet festival and give thanks to God for his blessings.
8. Ehno khrü (August): This month is called Ehno khrü because the main focus of this month is Nonye festival and nono rituals. Nonye is the festival celebrated with the strictest nono menyi where people pray to the Creator to protect their paddy from natural calamities especially hailstorms and to give them a bountiful harvest.
9. Methsa khrü (September): The ninth month is called Methsa khrü. It is a taboo for Chakhesang Nagas to reap crops in the field till they have observed Methsa menyi. It is a strict menyi to thank God and appease him to protect the crops from hailstorms, wild animals or birds and also to seek his blessings for harvest.
10. Ciede khrü (October): The tenth month is called ciede khrü, cie meaning harvesting paddy and de meaning huge. It is the busiest season when the villagers harvest the paddy and carry it home singing joyfully.
11. Buhlo khrü (November): The eleventh month is called Buhlo khrü because it is the month where the newly harvested paddy is consumed. Buchüto festival is celebrated and rituals are performed to mark the beginning of eating the new paddy and also the reopening of entertainment and games. This festival is celebrated with the intention of giving gratitude to the Supreme Being for good health and weather and for the successful harvest of paddy.
12. Rünye khrü (December): The twelfth month is called Rünye khrü because the main focus is the celebration of the paddy festival. The term Rünye is a combination of two morphemes; Erü meaning paddy and nye meaning festival. The main significance of this festival is to offer thanksgiving to God for a good harvest and health throughout the year and to appease God to protect and bless them in the coming year.
Appearance of the new moon marks the beginning of the month while its disappearance marks the end. One month is divided into five phases – Khrüthse, Khrüparha, Khrümese, Khrüwhuli and Khrüsübu.
Appearance of the new moon phase is called Khrüthse. The second phase of the moon is called Khrüparha (half moon). The third phase is known as Khrümese when the sun and the moon are visible at the same time during the morning and evening. Sometimes, full moon appears on the thirteenth day of the month or on the fourteenth day. In the fourth phase, only the first quarter of the moon appears which is called khrüwhuli. In the last phase, the moon disappears towards the end of the month which is called Khrüsübu. It takes one or two days for the new moon to
The days are counted according to the traditional system starting from the menyi of the new moon known as Khrüthseru menyi. There is no written record of knowledge. Everything depends on oral tradition but they do not make any mistake in counting days, months and seasons for performing different activities. In the past, all the economic activities were controlled by the village mewumi (village political chief and religious priest) and cüsemi (clan representatives). The mewumi performs all the rituals before the beginning of any work. Everyone has to complete their work within a fixed period of time. The village priests and cüsemi carefully observe the solar system, lunar system, flora and fauna and decode the right time for different activities throughout the year. They help in leading the people to do the right thing at the right time and at the right place which makes them succeed and prosper in their daily activities.
1. Chakhesang is one of the major indigenous groups in Nagaland, India. During the colonial period Chakhesang was referred to as Eastern Angamis. Chakhesang is an acronym of three linguistic groups, namely ‘Cha’ for Chakrü/Chokri, ‘Khe’ for Khezha and ‘Sang’ for Sangtam (the present Pochury region). The nomancluture of Chakhesang was officially recognized by the then Deputy Commisioner of Naga Hills C.R. Pawsey in 1946 and also recognized as a Scheduled Tribe in Nagaland by the constitution of India.
2. Mewu is a status of political and religious priest who takes decision for village administration and religious activities.
3. Menyi is a day where normal work is stopped and rest is announced for the whole day to appease God and ask for his blessing and protection.
4. Khrü means moon and month in Khezha language.
1. Lohe, Kewepfuzu. Naga Village:A Sociological Study. Guwahati: Eastern Publishers House, 2011.
2. Socio-cultural Heritage of Kuzhami Chakhesang Nagas. Kuzhalhü Zawe: Pfutsero, 2010.
3. Medanism and Christianity:A Sociological Study. Guwahati: Eastern Publishers House, 2019.
4. “Unwritten Indigenous way of Counting Months and Season with our Ecosystem.” Broadcasted in Chakhesang Khezha Language in AIR Station Kohima, Nagaland on 25th July, 2022.