The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Twenty-two. Love and Poetry
caption: importance of songs in Naga culture
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Yet songs are the principle and recognized medium through which the individual as well as the group express their most intense emotions. At an early age Konyak boys and girls receive their first training in singing; they are taught not so much by their parents, but by the older members of their morung. All the great feasts are occasions for singing, and every night the boys visit the girls in their dormitories, and there they spend hours in singing and friendly talk. Small boys of eight or ten already join in these visits, but they return later in the evening to their own morung, while the older boys stay on in the girls' dormitory or seek the secrecy of a granary on the outskirts of the village where they can be alone with their loves. And when at dusk the young people return from work on the fields they assemble on the raised platforms specially built for this purpose at all the entrances to the village: boys and girls, leaning affectionately against each other, sing alternative songs, which though following traditional lines and couched in archaic poetical language, are often spontaneous compositions. Boys and girls sing in turn, each vying with the other in appropriate responses, and their verses, sometimes sentimental, sometimes taunting, always play on the inexhaustible theme of love. Many songs are straightforward descriptions of the usual occurrences in the Konyak's daily life, and make to us, who are denied the full appreciation of their poetical language, no very great appeal. Such a song is the following:
text: To the village, to the girl's house
To our girl friends, we go.
Of food we don't think,
Of drink we don't think;
For love alone we have come;
Walking we come,
Walking we go.
text: This song needs no explanation; the boys of the morung which lies usually near one of the village gates, go through the village to a dormitory of girls belonging to another morung-group. Usually they are welcome, but sometimes they find the hospitable girls entertaining young men of another village. Such is the situation depicted in the following song: