Jina Etiben Folklore of Ao Tribe in Nagaland

Folklore from Northeast India – A Love Story from the Ao Tribe

This romantic folktale takes place in an old village named Mopungchuket in Mokokchung district of Nagaland where Jina and Etiben lived. Jina, a poor and coarse-looking man falls in love with Etiben, who on the other hand was the most beautiful, and smart woman, and belonged to a rich family. Etiben’s beauty was known throughout the region and many rich and handsome suitors came to ask her hand in marriage but destiny had planned different things for her. Jina charmed Etiben with a love charm and they became inseparable. The two lovers would meet each other in the mountains and near the water holes where Jina would play his Kota-Kongi and Etiben would clean her gold ornaments. And as time went by, their parents and everyone in the village came to know about their relationship. 

Their relationship was strictly opposed by Etiben’s parents. Her parents demanded a dowry of cows and oxen from Jina for Etiben’s hand. As Jina was poor, he failed to pay off the dowry. In the meantime, a rich man named Tenyur from Sungratsu village appeared with cows and oxen and asked for Etiben’s hand from her parents. They agreed and Etiben got married to Tenyur even though she tried everything to stop the marriage from happening. Etiben even pretended to be ill to postpone the marriage but failed. 

The two lovers were separated. They were determined to go to any extent to preserve their relationship. They would secretly meet each other in the fields and would spend time together until they were discovered by Tenyur. After they were found out, Tenyur beat Etiben black and blue and left her unconscious in a field of crops. Jina came to know about it and nursed Etiben very carefully. She stayed with him secretly night after night and tried her best to console her. However, Etiben succumbed to her injuries and Jina died soon after due to the grief of separation. 

Before their death, the lovers had promised each other to meet again in the netherworld. When the villagers were burning their dead bodies, they watched in awe as two smokey figures rose high up in the sky holding hands and resembling the forever-in-love Jina and Etiben.

Cover photo @ hill theatre nagaland

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