The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes made by W.G. Archer between 1946 & 1948, and miscellaneous papers and letters

caption: grave effigies
medium: notes
person: Ang morung/ Oting
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Oting
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 9:24
text: Konyak. Oting. Grave effigies. Males only.
text: On [] March, I saw a grave effigy in actual process of being carved. A little boy in the Ang morung aged about 8 years had died the previous day and his corpse had been quickly taken to the graveyard. Two villagers had then been called and they were sitting at his house carving the effigy. Both were from the other morung and it appeared that in Oting a bereaved family can request anyone to do the carver's office. Such a service is always voluntary. No fee is charged but neither is the carver subjected to ritual abstentions. The two workers merely come to the house and the family gives them their food for the day. Nothing is sacrificed. When I saw it, the figure was almost ready. It was carved in white wood and shaped and chipped with a dao. A little knife was used for making the eyes and ears. Some bits of glass were put in for the eyes and mouth. The crimson juice of a creeper was then mixed up into a solution and the whole carving was smeared with the stains. Some bent branches from a tree were cut down to serve as bent arms. These were nailed to the figure with little wooden pegs. When all was ready, a set of tiny clothes was handed out and the figure was given all the attire of a young warrior. A plumed hat was set on the head. Baldrics were tied round the chest. A little bamboo basket was tied to the waist. The waist itself received a cane belt and the legs below the knees were tied round with red string. A little spear was placed in the hand. When all the clothes had been given the family and some members of the clan formed a small procession and went down to the grave. They were led by an old man of the clan carrying the effigy.
text: The corpse is put on a bamboo platform about 5 feet high and is covered with a shallow roof made of palm leaves.
text: 5 clans in Oting - each clan has a separate shed for its effigies. The shed has bamboo seat on 3 sides and the effigies are set up in rows behind them - the wood is sometimes stained a yellowish-brown colour.
text: Three figures which I saw in one shed were all trimly dressed. Gradually however the sheds collapse. It is no one's work to maintain them and as the rain pours in the roof rots, the clothes disintegrate and finally the figures fall and lie in the mud. Behind the new shed which took the effigy lay five old figures decayed and overgrown with moss.