The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : Return to the Naked Nagas (1939;1976)

caption: Chapter Twenty-one. Head-Hunting Rites
caption: concentric circles of dancers in head dance
medium: books
person: Chinyang/ of Wakching
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Even the smallest boys, as yet too young to live in the morung, are all dressed up in hats and feathers, and most of them enthusiastically swing dao much too large for them. Slowly the dancers pace round the stone circle in front of their morung, but they are so many that the younger boys form two concentric circles within that of the older men. The song consists of two parts: the gruff voices of the older men sing a phrase in measured tones, and the shrill voices of the boys join in with hearty shouts. Though these alternate chants follow definite formulae the words are more or less improvised. Side by side with hymns of glory to Wakching and her warriors occur such phrases as "Before we captured many heads, now we may not cut them off ourselves." The Thepong people leave their own morung, and move in turn to the Bala, Balang, Angban and Oukheang, dancing before admiring crowds of girls and women. Each of the other morung forms its own procession, dancing independently through the village. It is a gay, colourful, and fantastic mixture of quivering, dazzling white feathers, swaying red goat's hair, and flashing dao.
text: In the old days, after a successful fight, things must have been much like this, and Chinyang's happiness at seeing once more the Wakching of his youth is echoed in me. It is a joy to see the eagerness and enthusiasm with which he instructs the youngsters and the care with which he prompts them with the words of the songs, or shows the right dance steps to a small boy. It has long been a source of worry to the old men, that the younger generation was growing up without the right to the old ceremonial dress of their fathers. Now the danger is banished for some time, for today even the six-year-old boys taking part in the head-hunting dance 174) acquire the right to wear the head-hunting dress. There are tears in many eyes as the old men watch the roaring and dancing crowds, reviving the happy memories of their own youth; the days of head-hunting seem to have returned, be it only for one glorious month. I am happy too, for helping the younger generation to acquire the dress of their fathers is but small return for all the helpfulness of my Wakching friends.