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: visit to Yekhum and Sanis
caption: trip to Kohima
caption: Mungkhau of Sanis and polygamy
medium: diaries
person: Mungkhau/ of Sanis
ethnicgroup: Lhota
location: Sanis
date: 14.8.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: But some of the men were big and burly and there was one outstanding man at Sanis, Mungkhau. He was a perfect specimen of a Lhota with his glistening skin, neat moustache and rippling muscles. He wore a red striped blue apron like the Aos and Lhota cloth round his shoulders - dark blue with lighter blue stripes. Above one elbow was a huge elephant tusk bracelet about three inches deep and one-and-a-half inches thick. He had bought it for eighty-five rupees from an Angami trader who had imported it ready sawn from Calcutta. He wore cloth gauntlets covered in small cowries with a stiff fringe of red goats'-hair along the top. He had boars' tushes round his neck and his hair was cut like an Ao's. Some of the other men in the village looked like buccaneers, brawny stocky old scoundrels with necklaces of white conch shell and great wads of cotton wool in their ears.
text: We went into Mungkhau's house, through a small outer room with its rice pounder, up a log step into a little passage which ran through to the back of the house. A row of cubicles opened of the passage and in each was a wife standing beside (41) her fireplace and bed. The Lhotas are polygamous and each wife has her own little domain. The wives are of equal status, but naturally the first wife has the greatest authority. Mungkhau has four wives and, as the eldest served us with rice beer, they all chatted to each other in the friendliest of ways. Then we were given great lumps of roast pork and rice in a wooden dish shaped like a chalice. We asked Mungkhau why he wanted more than one wife and he said that as a man grew richer and had more land to cultivate, so he needed more wives to work in the fields. He could also have more children that way. We asked him if the wives liked other women being brought in and he said 'They like whatever their husband likes'. This particular man was an 'ancient', but we noticed that several Christians also had three or four wives, it seems that even here the Missions have failed to stamp out polygamy.