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: Sekrengi festival at Kohima
medium: notes
keywords: warriors
location: Kohima
date: 19.2.1947
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 12:47
text: Sekrengi festival. witnessed 19/2/1947
text: On the third day in Kohima the young warriors and a few girls gather at a house in the early afternoon. All are at their neatest and smartest. The boys are in warriors' dress, their legs encased in yellow and scarlet leggings, their arms bright with white and scarlet bands, blue and amber beads about their necks, two cotton balls in each ear, while poised, dangling from the back of the head on a pile of cotton ropes is the huge strutted fan. This has a green and orange centre while fragile struts tipped with cotton radiate from the middle like the spokes of a wheel. The fan is kept in place by a bamboo pin driven through the topknot. Each girl wears a black cloth over her back and chest, rows of amber, white and grey beads, a white cloth at the waist and yellow and grey bangles on her arms. To keep the headdress in position each youth had to walk with gingerly care and once a row of youths is seated in line, he can only leave his place by stiffly edging his way up and out. The group of girls consists sometimes of the unmarried, and sometimes young married women. When all the warriors are in place, their dummy drinking horns between their legs, the singing starts. It begins by celebrating a famous warrior and they proceeds to chant a love story. Each song begins with a piercing howl. The tunes are all dirge-like in their grave solemnity. The singers sit stiffly in their places, no mirth or animation lighting up their faces, and the girls flank them, listless and solemn. Occasionally older men go round inspecting the dress and altering its set. In the middle are several fires, platters stand around heaped with newly cooked meat, gourds of rice beer froth at their tips, and a great basket of rice beer stands ready to replenish empty mugs. The whole atmosphere is one, not of play or joking frivolity, but of earnest ritual.