The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, Naga diary one

caption: man dies of dysentery, funeral rituals and ceremonies
medium: diaries
person: Chinyak
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
date: 18.8.1936
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 2.6.1936-11.7.1936
note: translated from german by Dr Ruth Barnes
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
seealso: notebook 3,pp.187,107
text: (194) Wakching 18/8/1936. This morning I heard the hollow sound of the slit drum and was told that a young men of the Au-kheang morung had died. It was Chinyak from the Sha-yang-hu clan who had been sick for many months. Apparently he had a form of dysentery and he left behind a young widow but no children. He had made one offering after the other to Gha-wang and to Gashi and finally he had even moved into the house of one of his clan mates because he thought that his own house attracted misfortune. But all had been in vain.
text: When I passed the rest house and the bamboo memorials for the dead on my way into the village, several young men were busy putting up a new memorial next to Chingyam's. A swarm of girls were sitting on the platform of the rest house and in front of it. All had several large lancet shaped leaves in their hands. Two girls however were just busy tying some of these leaves into a sort of cap and marking it with white chalk lines. Such a cap was then put onto a wooden figure in front of the memorial to the dead. Another one was hung up on the memorial (195) and a third finally was carried into the house of the deceased by one of the girls. The wooden figure mentioned, by the way, was simply picked up from Chingyam's memorial, was recut a little and then used for Chinyak.
text: As already mentioned the boys were from the Au-kheang morung while the girls belong to the Balang and Ang morung, that is those morungs where the Au-kheang men like to find their wives. The morungs reciprocity extends as far as the funeral rites. If a Balang man dies the Au-kheang girls spread leaves. They also fulfil the same act of piety for an Ang-ban man. The same reciprocity exists between the The-phong and Bala, but if a girl dies the other girls of her morung spread the leaves. The boys of the corresponding morung bring palm leaves for the dead. Neither of the boys who had lost their morung comrade nor the girls who had no doubt danced with the deceased many a time and had joked and worked in the fields together, seemed especially sad or depressed. On the contrary they seemed very cheerful and they laughed and joked as usual.
text: (196) When the memorial for the dead was completed a line formed and boys and girls, one after the other, went into the village to the house of the deceased. The smallest girls went in front, then came the bigger ones and finally the boys. A small part of the way they spread the leaves. With the rest in their hands they then slowly climbed up to the village and entered the house where the dead person was laid out. This procession of the girls and the spreading of leaves is not done at the death of older people. Because of Chinyak's death it was genna today for the Au-kheang men to go to the fields but the women and girls went. The opposite concerned the people of the Ang and Balang morung. Here the genna affected only the girls and women. The-phong and Bala were not at all involved and men and women went to work in the fields.
text: When I was standing in front of the house from which the mourning of wife, mother and sisters could be heard, numerous people came and went to show their last respect to the dead man. Au-kheang women of Chinyak's clan brought little bundles of rice (197) and vegetables which were then fastened on the corpse's platform. Ang-ban women came without gifts, also people of the The-phong morung but of the dead man's clan. Other personal friends also came and all men bring palm leaves. On leaving the house most people dip one finger into a bamboo container with water standing ready to purify themselves. This was at about ten in the morning.
text: The funeral happens after two o'clock. The Ang-ban and Balang girls are again gathered in front of the house. The ready coffin of bamboo reeds with an open top is carried into the house by the older men of the Sha-yang-hu clan
text: (198) The train moves slowly on a narrow path towards the house of the deceased
text: The skull is buried after only six days in the skull place of his clan. The bones on the other hand only after three years when they are put only a new platform in the midst of the other platforms of the morung. This time no chicken was sacrificed because Chinyak had used up all his animals for offerings during his illness, and none of his sisters (two of them are married in Tanhai) had brought one. (199) My informants commented on this in a displeased manner as it is customary to give a chicken to the dead person.
text: Chinyak's young widow will stay in the house where her husband died for the next six days in any case. That is until the skull is buried. Then she will probably return to her father and marry again soon. There are no children. Her second husband has to give her father another bride price. Only a brother of the first husband does not need to pay the bride price if he marries the widow.
text: Yesterday I found out about another custom concerning the behaviour of relatives after a man's death. On 6th August old Shouba of the The-phong morung had died of leprosy. His only child Menin was married to Dukdan, an Ang-ban man. Already before his death Menin spent much of her time in her father's house to help with the household and take care of the sick man, but after the death she, her husband and their two children, moved completely into her father's house and were to stay there until Shouba's final skull burial. Only then will the entire family return to Dukdan's house.