The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, Naga diary four

caption: chewing pan; dancing
medium: diaries
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Longkhai
date: 21.2.1937
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 12.2.1937-31.3.1937
note: translated from german by Dr Ruth Barnes
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
seealso: notebook 8,p.176
text: After not too long a while the Ang's wife came up to me and offered me a pan leaf, like the people here chew, with lime and a piece of bark. It was impossible to refuse this obvious sign of favour in front of everyone, and I put the leaf into my mouth expecting the worst. (52) To my surprise the taste was pungent but not unpleasant and it even became quite spicy and was faintly reminiscent of pine needles. It stimulates the saliva production to a surprising degree and soon I found myself spitting red stained saliva as cheerfully as the other dancers. The men I had joined were from the Lamnu morung and there were thirty of us.
text: Soon the men of the Ang and the Dzing-wun morung together formed a second circle in front of the Ang morung and were singing simultaneously with us, but not in the same rhythm. Nevertheless the two choruses sounded quite well together. My exhaustion had vanished and I also no longer felt my knees. On and on we continued to move in the circle incessantly. A girl had lit a fire in the middle of the dance and the moon too appeared for moments behind clouds which were quickly moving across the sky and it drew grotesque shadows of the dancers onto the ground. (53) For moments then I became aware of the whole fantastic aspect of the situation.
text: But finally the dance was beginning to last too long for the elders among the Longkhai men and they called to the dancers that they would not be able to work tomorrow if they had danced all night long. I left the circle and suddenly realised that I kept barely on my feet from weakness. Slightly dizzy I sat down on the Ang's throne in front of the house. The boys now finished off the dance, daos were held up high and they ran around the open space a few times as a disordered group. I staggered into my hut and felt anything but well. Was it exhaustion or the unaccustomed partaking of betel? To my despair the Ang's brother came to see me and continued talking to me for the longest time. How could he know that the colour of my face had become considerably whiter than is normal even for us white people? As soon as he had left I fell onto my bed and soon was deeply asleep.