Friday, May 16, 2008

Myoko : the division of pig's meat

For those who take an active part in Myoko and who can afford it, the sacrifice of a pig is a major event of the festivities. Not only because of the economical value of the animal, but also because the distribution of the meat - which is mostly given away and not comsumed by the performer, reinforces essential bonds of mutual assistance created by consanguinity, marriage or the establishment of ceremonial friendship. This intricate system of reciprocity manifested by the rules regulating the sharing of meat from slaughtered big animals (pigs, mithuns and cows) appears to be unique to the Apatanis.

In this post, I will describe first how the meat from the pig sacrificed for Myoko is divided. The way every portion is subsequently distributed among relatives and ceremonial friends will be explained later. I'm thankful to Arunachal Diary team for having provided some of the pictures displayed below, and also for having helped me to draw the sketch of the pig.

Meat cutting process mainly consists of extracting specific portions known as so, lyila, arna, aso, arbi, gimbyo, lyiho which, along with the main internal organs, will constitute the basic elements of the distribution.

Here are the main steps, in chronological order :

2. A central strip is cut off from the belly skin. This part is called arna.

After internal organs have been removed,
the pig is roasted and cleared from its body hair
by scratching of the skin with a blade, then washed.
Legs (lyila) are cut off first, then the head from
which the portion (so) including the lower jaw
and tongue is extracted.

4. The rectangular piece of bacon which
is obtained is divided lengthwise into
2 equal parts.

The remaining skin and fat is separated
from the thoracic cage and backbone

6. The backone is then cut into 2 parts. The splitting point is located just between the 2 lowest ribs.

Each part is further dived into 2 parts
lengthwise. Four pieces of bacon are
thus obtained, called aso.

The back part including the lowest rib is called arbi.

7. A transversal oblique cut is made in the other portion,
in order to extract the front part of the thoracic cage,
plus a strip of skin and fat that remains attached to it.
This particular portion is called gimbyo.

Kidneys and surrounding fat
makes up a portion known as lyiho

after removal

The upper part of the hind-leg will be the only portion eventually retained by the performer...

Once the meat has been cut, the various parts can be first left to dry in the sun on the verandah, suspended on the outer walls of the house. Later they are stored in the cellar (reke), where they start being smoked, waiting to be taken away by relatives who will come to the performer's home and claim their due share.


yasiyalow said...

Pictures look too realistic. kudos for taking such pains to capture this picture which is the central point of Myoko celebrationin. Can anyone tell why pig sacrifice is so important to Myoko festival.

NPR said...

Those pictures were captured by AD team and PB. I am not sure about the exact reason behind sacrificing of pigs during Myoko. I only heard that in olden days, Tanii people have started performing Myoko to placate those deities who causes outbreak of epidemic and famine at Ziro plateau. From Tanii folklore, it seems that Diu& Raru were the first people to start Myoko amongst Tanii. They must have started with sacrificing of pig for the same. As we can see from this post itself that pig meats are divided and distributed among relatives of owner, so this trend must have been manifested by descent of Tanii. At present, sacrificing of pig and distribution of meats to relative plays very important role in reinforcing the family bond amongst kin.

PB said...

@ Yasiyalow,
Thanks for your kind words. An 'anthropological' answer to your question could be this one : the pig is only a medium, but a medium through which ties which are considered essential for individuals are maintained and reinforced : with one's own lineage via the blood consumption, with buning ajing, akubo, ohobo, parents-in-law,... via the distribution/exchange of pig meat. Even parts such as the jawbone, small bits of hoofs, are used in some rituals, etc... This way as you said pig sacrifice naturally becomes the focus point of the festival. Hopefully this will become a bit clearer in a coming post.

AG said...

Good job PB... you have very well elaborated the distribution of pig's meat during Myoko and thanks for mentioning AD in your post.

'why pig sacrifice is so important to Myoko festival'

Is it because it was so valued during olden times and by sacrificing pig and distributing it's meat you are showing how much you value the relationship...just a wild guess, though.

amitsinha said...

Gud..I never knew about Tanii culture..nice 2 know and pics are very informative

NPR said...

@Amit sinha,
Thanks for you leaving a comment here in my blog.Keep visiting for learning more about Tanii culture...Cheers!!!

PB said...

@ AG,
Thanks, you're welcome... and this is also your work.

Kanno said...

Informative. Especially the sketch.

Rome Mele said...

Hey, Great pictures( poor pig, though ). This is a great effort indeed!
I wished someone could come with the same for my idu community as well. And one each for every others.
This is really a good one...


NPR said...

Thanks for ur appreciation.

This is only the beginning of our mission-that is mission to save our culture.I hope this blog should motivate rest of Arunachalee brothers to come up with an awareness of need of preserving our endanger traditions, customs ans cultures.

PB said...

@ Rome Mele,
Thanks a lot for your appreciation of this collective work. Since you are a confirmed blogger, why don't you consider yourself doing something similar for the Idu community ? Information is very much lacking and scattered on the Mishmis in general. Idu has been recently added to the list of world endangered languages by UNESCO, with no other language from Arunachal appearing so far on their list. I can give a hand for collecting some information already published in english if you need.

Rome Mele said...

Hi PB,
I agree with you about what you've said ' Idu culture in the verge of extinction'. Its not that I believe for having UNESCO told the same, but my personal experience in this matter - cultural degradation.
I am also one of the cause, and so are many other Idus. I know very little about idu-culture(though I tried a lot to keep myself updated to it) and learning Idu language is something that I still haven't perfected in this odd twenty years of my trials.

Do let me know about the sources of written works of idu ?
It would be of great help to me, least to say - conquer Idu language eventually :)


buru said...

1."This intricate system of reciprocity manifested by the rules regulating the sharing of meat from slaughtered big animals (pigs, mithuns and cows) appears to be unique to the Apatanis."

It is not. The correct statement is " unique to the Tani tribes" as this ritualistic naming & distribution of bodyparts of animals to specific relations is developed to a high extent in all Tani tribes, albeit to different scales.

2.Imp of pigs--AGs reason seems the most appropriate given the fact that in olden days of semi-starvation fat was the highest form of luxury/ energy food.For some reason, pork is an overwhelming favorite in the menu of almost all mongoloid peoples, be it Tanis, Koreans, Chinese, Viets ,Thais etc:)! May have something to do with the thin, fatfree nature of our physiognomy coupled with a relatively cold clime?

PB said...

@ Buru
You are absolutely right here. Formal distribution of bodyparts from slaughtered animals is found everywhere in NEI and beyond, among the Tanis, Nagas, Mizos, and so on.. But what seems to be more specific to the Apatanis, among all those patrilineal societies, is the way some of the important relationships are reckoned over several generations through...the maternal line. This is not very much apparent during Myoko, but it becomes evident at the time of Murung and Subu tanii.

popisarmi said...

Hello Pb & npr,
We appreciate your endeavors on save tanni. it's informative and well researched facts. your dedication and hardwork deserves a loud applause! Eagerly waiting for your next article on how every portion of sacrificed ceremonial animal is distributed amongst different relatives in Apatani! Frankly speaking, Your works remains me of that great anthropologist C.V.Furer Heimendorf whom I consider as anthropological "Father of Apatanis".

NPR said...

Thanks for your word of appreciations. We will try to post the next part asap in coming days. Keep visitng, cheers!!!

PB said...

Thanks, popisarmi.

Tim said...

Good Job! :)

DS said...

The ritual division of a pig's or a chicken's meat among Karbis looks similar to the Apatanis. Karbis too have this age-old practice. Pieces of meat are accordingly offered to friends, relatives and persons of higher status.

PB said...

Hi DS,
Thanks for visiting. Looking forward to reading something about it in some Karbi blog or publication...

prachi said...

hello! i m actually from maharashtra...but extremely interested in apatani culture! it is a very varied culture. i would love to know more. regards!!