The blacksmiths of Sanphure and Phelungre

 Kiphire | October 6  

Balcksmithy, an indispensible profession which is confined only to certain clans or families is a lucrative profession and is an alternative livelihood which has played a key role towards developing any agrarian society.  

Sanphure and Phelungre villages, which are two of the oldest villages in Kiphire district, practice this art. Thuzoru clan of Sanphure village still practice the art of blacksmithy and keep the tradition of the clan and family still alive. Recollecting the art of blacksmithy, elders of Thuzoru clan said, “during my forefather’s days when there was scarcity of Iron, people came to us to make agricultural implements especially spade and dao for weeding use to bring few broken pieces of iron.”

“Since the iron is smaller in size, we cannot hold with hand; so we use clay as glue to stick the iron together. And we place it over the fire; then it is beat into sheets to make the products, especially spades.”  

Sharing details of the art, elders of the clan also said that once a year they repair the fire pit/hearth, where the iron is heated. Bamboo funnels are also used to blow air into the fire pot. Children and young men are not allowed to blow at the fire as part of the tradition.

Simultaneously, a rooster is killed in a ceremony. During the ceremony, only male members are involved. Further, the vital parts of the killed rooster is mixed with ginger, and offered to the gods in 60 bamboo spikes, along with 6 cups of local brew. The offering is placed near the fire pot.  

As part of the ceremony, in order to carry a base stone, a pig needs to be killed and cooked to be fed to the entire village. After this, the villagers go to the river side and lug the stone together.  

These days, larger iron pieces, including hammers made out of iron are used while making implements. Earlier stone tools and crane brackets were employed for the same process.  

Blacksmithy as an art is confined only to the Thuzoru clan. There is a community belief that if another clan partakes in the trade, their harvest would be adversely affected.  

Neighbouring villages who depend on Sanphure for blacksmithy informed that before the sowing season arrives in the month of January or February, they take their old iron implements, especially daos and spades, to Sanphure village for tempering. They also carry their own charcoal to the village, the best brew and vital parts of cooked pork for the blacksmiths.  

During earlier times, the people in the area had to go to as far as Kohima to collect iron for their implements. However, with the arrival of the British, the availability of iron in the area improved.  

As trades and professions continue to change all over the state, along with the changing times, the communities at Sanphure and Phelungre are bastions of an art that needs to be sustained and nurtured.