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: camp at Tuensang
caption: warriors' dance
medium: diaries
person: Tongpong/ of ChingmeiChingmak/ of ChingmeiBundo/ of ChingmeiHuttonMills
location: Tuensang
date: 11.11.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: The parade over, shields and spears were put aside, all joined hands in a line and the dancing started. The first was the dance done when setting out on a raid. Then followed the crow dance and the wagtail dance. There was another where a great warrior with a companion ramps up and down inside the circle reciting his deeds in a loud voice, and shaking his spear, his friends behind testifying to them.
text: These Naga dances are by no means as thrilling, or beautiful as those of many Indian tribes; there are no throbbing drums or elaborate movements. They are repetitive and monotonous with a barbaric jerkiness. But they move with a wild vitality, cat-like spring and jigging movement, which combined with the varied singing conveys excitement and elation. There is a great range of sound as in Negro spirituals; the voices are sometimes a deep soft bass alternating with each other like the responses of some wild litany, sometimes a high shrill feminine note interspersed with quavering catcalls and yodelling cries. They remind one of the devils and sprites in a pantomime. But the chief beauty of Naga dances lies in the brilliant spectacle and the ballet-like clothes. As I watched I felt sad and depressed for this is the swan song of a culture which will surely die. The opening of the new subdivision will be the first step in killing this way of life for without headtaking the warrior will have no further function.
text: The dancing continued all the morning. It was a thirsty business and friends of the dancers went round with tankards of rice beer and bamboo straws. They would hold them up to the dancers and then move with them for a short way so that the dance need not be interrupted. (144)