The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript - J.H. Hutton's tour diary in the Naga Hills

caption: Description of a leopard hunt and killing; refusal of Wokha to sell land to the Mission
medium: tours
keywords: womenfishingputi
person: ZachiyoNlamo/ of Wokha
ethnicgroup: AoSemaLhota
location: Wokha Tsingaki (Chingaki)
date: 1.6.1925
person: Hutton/ J.H.
date: 29.5.1925-29.6.1925
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
refnum: Hutton Ms. Box 2
text: 1st
text: They brought me word in the morning as I was getting up that Wokha were ringing a leopard and invited me to join in. It meant going off to a place 3 miles away at once and I went off without my breakfast and was lucky to get back by midday. It was an inglorious affair, but not without excitement and the village enjoyed it as if it were a cinema or theatre. I was surprised to find women all about the place, which was most unexpected. The Aos and Semas do not take their women to these shows; apparently the Lhota does, though he bars them entirely at fishing meets, where the Sema encourages them. They told me that they would kill all right today as the leopard had eaten the head of its victim, a dog, and that invariably the leopard or tiger that eats its victim's head succumbs to the hunters. It was the usual plan of a "V" shaped palisade-screen in a nullah and a beat down into it from both slopes. All went according to plan and the leopard, which had little chance of escape, was killed with the minimum of risk to anyone. Sometimes they say, the leopard manages to get through the screen - it happened the other day at Rephyim and then someone gets damaged. The exciting part is the wait for the beast at the end as the area of unbeaten jungle gets small and when the leopard has been seen on the move. The men "ho-ho" and this suddenly changes into a shrill wail of a most uncannily exciting kind set up by the women in the background. This dies down to give way to the deep "ho hoing" of the men beating and stopping the sides of the beat with shields and spears, and then keeps swelling up again from time to time. It reminded me more than anything of a magnified version of the wailing of the souls of unborn children in limbo as represented on the stage by Tree for Stephen Phillips' "Ulysses" where Odysseus descends into hell. When the leopard, a smallish female, was killed, the trunk was left in the jungle and the limbs cut off to hang over a tree just outside the village, with which they may not be taken. The village Puti or rather a deputy makes the first cut, then anyone chops the limbs off to a chorus of "ho ho", which is repeated when they are hung up and again at the village morung where the puti assembles all the men who have taken part in the hunt before they are allowed to go to their houses.
text: After getting back I heard cases, dealt with a dak and renewed one or two gun licenses. I was busy till after dark.
text: Zachiyo raised the question of the land wanted by the Mission. He swore that the village would never sell, but mentioned that Nlamo, the Puti, who only has an insignificant share in the common land, was trying to get the Mission to buy regardless of the other owners, as he hoped to make enough out of it to pay his debts. Indeed Zachiyo said that he had actually borrowed more money - including Rs.100/- from Chingaki - on the strength of this very problematical deal. I suppose any village gets the puti it deserves, but I can hardly believe that even Wokha had had to deserve Nlamo, whose whole life has been spent in a sort of jail-bird's fight from one roguery to the next.
text: They fed me here on "bread" - rice soaked and pounded up with crushed plaintain.