The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: Chapter thirteen. Hgangi
caption: carrying the stone into Laisong; a near accident
medium: books
location: Laisong
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: Laisong's biggest stone for that year stood about three-quarters of a mile from the village, rather above it and well out to the side. It was a good-sized slab, but it was the difficult country rather than the weight which made it a tricky job to bring in. A path had been cut out to it, and it was all that I could do to get there on my own two legs, carrying only a camera - over logs, over screes and rubble, over piles of rock, through mud, and all across a slope of forty-five degrees. It was impossible to drag the stone, so they were carrying it, and something like eighty men were taking part
text: About eleven in the morning they manned the scaffolding and drag-ropes, two fore and two aft, and started out, lurching and straining down the steep drop from the quarry to the cut path. The drag-teams came down flat to the ground like anchor-men in a tug-of-war, belaying on every stump and stub they met, till with a fearful flurry and stagger and reeling to and fro, the stone and its human carpet of carriers checked at the bottom and levelled out at the entrance to the cleared belt.
text: The slope was so steep that not more than a quarter of the carriers were taking the weight at any one time; the rest were having all they could do to keep on their feet. Swaying, rocking, lurching, now and then careering off down the slope with frantic ho-ho-ing all round and every muscle cracking among the men on the ropes, they progressed slowly and yard by yard towards the village
text: Three times the stone took charge, and the whole body swung floundering downhill into the jungle, while the stone itself hung unmoved and impersonal above all the frantic confusion of human effort. But the last time there was no check. Round they swung, down and down, the drag (102) teams scrambling helplessly along the ground. Their feet tore grooves in the loose mould, and found no grip. Down went men under the feet of others, who were themselves about to fall. There was a frantic note in the ho-ho-ing as they fought to halt, to hold, to avert an imminent disaster. Every man and boy among the spectators was running to the place. Namkia was already in the struggle. I stood burdened with heaven knows how many cloths and discarded necklaces, let alone the camera; but the old headman caught me by the arm and tugged. Down went all my holdings in the jungle, the camera on top of the heap; down went his red cloth; and we flung ourselves at the nearest empty places, at the head of the starboard rope. The others on it were already heaving, heels in, backs to the ground. Down the slope we went, fighting and fighting, we belayed on a tree and were dragged over it, we belayed again, we hung on, we lodged, we held - and the rear team took hold at the same time, and the stone, bobbing slowly down the hill like a juggernaut above its worshippers, checked and swayed gently where it was. The ho-ho-ing redoubled. The stone swayed up a foot. We took in a fraction on the ropes. Up again a little - and inch by inch and step by step we worked it forward on a long slant till it reached the path again with the village in plain sight not twenty yards away, and, sweating, strained and panting though we all were, we brought it in with a run under the water-pipes and swept it in a rush of victory to the head of the village street.