Nachi

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Nachi is a type of fish found in the rivers and streams of the Garo hills in Meghalaya, India. It is usually found living beneath rocks and in holes in the river beds. There are two types of nachi: nachi doreng, which is black with small white specks; and nachi balgitchak, which is reddish brown with small white specks. It is traditionally cooked using karitchi, which is made from the stem of the banana tree. Locally available vegetables and spices are used to cook the nachi curry and according to the Garo people it is one of the best dishes in the Garo tradition.

After gutting and removing the head the fish is mixed with chili, salt, ginger, onion and papaya flowers then placed inside a bamboo tube. The mouth of the tube is covered with banana leaves or teapeng leaves and then put over a fire to cook. A specific type of bamboo called watebok is used and only a tiny bit of water is added to the tube so that the fish cooks mostly with the steam coming from the bamboo itself. This type of cooking is called brenga. Nachi fish is still available for home consumption in the village but it is not usually sold in the markets.

As well as being eaten nachi is used as a medicine in two different ways. The first is to cure skin diseases. The blood of the nachi fish is applied to the skin without the knowledge of the patient and after a few days the problem will have disappeared. The second is for jaundice. Either men or women will cook the fish along with the tender leaves of the kering tree and the patient will eat this with rice. According to the people of the villages of Sasatgre, Chandigre and Daribokgre in the Nokrek region of the West Garo Hills, their ancestors believed that the nachi fish came from pieces of wood that fell down into the water during jhum (shifting slash and burn cultivation) preparation.

The behavior of the nachi fish is very different from that of other fish. When they are migrating during the monsoon they climb onto the ground, listen for the sound of the water then jump towards it. When the rivers dry up during the dry season the fish dig holes in the riverbeds so they can stay where the water is available. Nachi can be caught all year round. The fishing materials used by the a·chik mande (hill people) are makkal, rupok, silompa and milsi (fish hooks). A bamboo basket called koksi is used to carry the fish. If it is not going to be eaten fresh the fish is dried on a bamboo stick over the fire and stored in a koksi until it is eaten.

In the days when there were less people the number of nachi fish in the river was greater but nowadays, due to higher number of people and increase in fishing the nachi population has reduced considerably. Moreover people are now using poisons such as bleach, makkal (a poisonous plant) and insecticides to catch the fish, killing the juveniles as well as the adults. When the nachi fish is caught with traditional tools the immature fish do not get killed and the population can increase. If the rivers and streams are protected and fishing during the breeding season can be prevented the numbers of fish could increase substantially. In order to protect the current population nachi fishing is not allowed in the village and if anybody is found breaking this rule a sum of money plus a bag of rice, a bag of sugar and 45 kg of salt are imposed as a fine on the offender.

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Territory

StateIndia
Region

Meghalaya

Other info

Categories

Fish, sea food and fish products

Indigenous community:Garo