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: ancient language of Konyak songs difficult to interpret
medium: books
person: Chingai
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Hungphoi
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: During the feasts it is not always easy to distinguish between the traditional songs from ancestral times and the many improvisations. My notebooks are full of fragments, many almost impossible to understand. Often even the Konyaks themselves do not know the exact meaning of the individual words, for the ancient language of songs is very different from the language in everyday use. Yet it is no dead idiom preserved only in traditional formulas, for today the young men and women still compose new songs in the same stereotyped phrases, though they are unable to give a word-for-word translation. In Hungphoi I manage laboriously to write down one complete song, thinking that I have captured on paper another part of the old head-hunting ritual. However, with the help of Chingai's word-for-word translation into Assamese, I learn that it is only a song about myself and runs. "The Sahib came as the wind, as the storm is he over our land; he brings heads to us all, all men give him thanks. Here stay the heads; from Pangsha are the slaughtered enemies."