The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Twenty-three. The Spring Festival
caption: further description of Ngapnun dressing for a dance
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Longkhai
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: At last the long brown hair is ready, the parting made, and the hair plastered down with water, and now Ngapnun can begin dressing. She throws aside the coarse cloth of the ordinary working day and replaces it with a gaily embroidered skirt scarcely the width of her and, more of an ornament than a garment. While her skirt is scarlet, the girls of the common people may only wear skirts of dark colours. Round her slim waist Ngapnun fastens a girdle of many rows of coloured beads. Innumerable necklaces, many of golden-yellow stones, others of shells and discs of bronze, make any other bodice superfluous the wealth of ornament nearly conceals her small, firm breasts, and her long, delicate arms, that have almost a childish look, are covered from wrist to shoulder with rings and bracelets. Now she puts on her little anklets of bells that tinkle at every step. They are quite new acquisitions brought from a bazaar in the plains, and Ngapnun is very proud of them. But however much they please her heart, they are not nearly so valuable as her bronze armlets, heirlooms whose provenance is shrouded in mystery. A broad band, made that morning from a fresh leaf, binds her forehead like a diadem, and heavy earrings hanging to the shoulders put the final touch to her ceremonial dress.
text: No part of her is now unadorned except her narrow hands with their long, slim fingers, whose only ornaments are the fine blue lines tattooed at the cost of so much pain. Does Ngapnun suspect that despite the traces of hard field-work these hands of hers are beautiful? You have only to see her regal carriage, her confident smile, and the slightly mocking twinkle in her brown eyes, to know that she is fully conscious of her charms.