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: rituals and sacrifice during the Spring festival; the god Gawang
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Longkhai
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: (200) Suddenly all is quiet. The individual groups break up, the girls stop their dance, and the men and the boys form a great circle. And now there is a space with an old man in the middle. By descent and office he is the intermediary between man and the immortals. He is taking a handful of cooked rice -- now he throws it towards the sky, and his solemn voice sounds through the breathless stillness: "Oh, Gawang, Lord of Heaven. Give that our fields may be fruitful; give us rice in plenty; give us millet in plenty; give us taro in plenty. The people of the village, let them be strong. Our children, let them be strong."
text: After each phrase the crowd of men raise their dao to the sky and shout in unison, "So let it be!" The hearts of the whole assembly tremble with awe before the deity, for in his hand lie happiness and misfortune, good and bad harvests. However bold and self-willed they may be, they know only too well that their efforts alone do not safeguard the growth and ripening of the crops, so they call on Gawang, god of the sky, who grants fertility to the fields and children to men. They trust in him alone, and trouble little over the lesser spirits, who have no power over the sun and the rain.
text: Dark clouds have gathered over the mountains, and as though the god deigns to answer, lightning rends the sky and thunder rolls in the distance. Heavy drops begin to fall, and the people have hardly time to run for the shelter of the chief's protecting roof before the rain pours from the sky. A spring storm in all its sudden might breaks over the hills, and the thirsty earth drinks greedily of the welcome rain.