The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Journey to Nagaland', by Mildred Archer. An account of six months spent in the Naga Hills in 1947

caption: walk to Mokokchung
medium: diaries
ethnicgroup: Ao
location: Lakhuni (Lakuni) Mokokchung
date: 10.7.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: 10 July, Lakuni.
text: This morning Naga villagers gathered to serve as porters and we set off on the walk to Mokokchung, forty-two miles away. We strung out in a long line. After a short time the Nagas started their rhythmical syncopated chant, each man wheezing a differently pitched note or grunt - Ao, Ha, Hunk, Hee, Ao, Ha, Hunk, Hee. The chant soon mesmerises one and in spite of the steamy heat I found the miles slide briskly by.
text: The Nagas in this part of the district are all Aos, the name Naga being a collective term for a number of quite distinct tribes. Many Aos are Christians and wear dirty shorts and shirts with their hair cut in English style. But some of the porters were 'pagans' with their hair clipped straight round above the ears as if cut with a pudding basin. They were quite naked except for a red-striped blue 'apron'. All our goods were packed into fifteen jappas, large bamboo baskets with conical lids that are almost water-tight. Each man carries about sixty pounds, and like all the best porters, he carries his load on the back with a strap around the forehead.
text: Gradually the road left the plains and rose steeply through the forest. The jungle here is full of gloom and mystery. Great creepers with stems like snakes twine from tree to tree and waxey fat blossoms lie flaming on the path. The floor of the forest is a tangle of high grass, bamboos, tree-ferns and wild plantains with here and there a delicate areca palm. Above this tangle loom vast trees which block out the sky. The greenish black of this background is broken by a creeper with pale lilac petals, another with misty mauve fans of flowers and a strange fleshy plant with orange whiskery (4) blossoms like bottle-brushes. Even the darkness of the trees themselves is relieved with small orange, purple and green fruits. One plant preys upon another; orchids and ferns cling to the branches of the trees, strange fleshy creepers grip the bark with long fingers and small trees spring from gaping holes in the sides of the larger ones.
text: I have never seen so many butterflies. They seem to exalt in this damp heat. We keep seeing showers of them; twenty of a kind all fluttering together or crouching on dark stones. The loveliest of all is a glistening peacock blue as large as my hand. Others are chocolate brown with a purple spot, or powder blue netted with black, scarlet, white and canary yellow. They dart against the dark glossy leaves like small sunbirds.
text: In Bihar, where we used to live, the aboriginals shoot all the birds with their bows and arrows, the jungles are silent, but here, although one sees no movement, the whole forest is quick with life. Monkeys go howling through the trees on either side of the path, the brazen scream of the cicadas has a feverish monotony, and the 'eat more pekoe' bird calls dully all day long.
text: The scenery is the loveliest I have ever seen; range upon range of forested hills which change their grouping continuously as we climb and climb. The tops rise out of the mist like islands in a white sea, while far below stretches the plain of Assam with the Brahmaputra a silver line on the horizon. The rest-house in which we are spending the night is poised on a hilltop. The butterflies are here too and as we drink our tea they are perching on our bare legs and shoulders.