The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

letter from C.R. Pawsey to J.H. Hutton

caption: account of a funeral at Liokha
medium: letters
person: Hutton/ J.H.
location: Liokha Momphiyo
person: Pawsey/ C.R.
date: 3.4.1927
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
refnum: Hutton Ms. Box 365, 66-67
text: Momphiyo
text: 3/4/1927
text: Dear Hutton,
text: I send a short account of a Liokiha funeral. Surely one can hardly call an encasement in which most elaborate precautions are taken to prevent earth coming into contact with the corpse a burial.
text: The roofing in of the corpse looks more like the method carried on underground.
text: All this may be in Mills' book but I thought it worth while sending it to you.
text: C. Pawsey
text: Funeral at Liokha
text: The grave was dug so as to contain exactly the bed of a solid plank on which the corpse will rest. The plank had raised resting-places for head and feet. (Formerly the corpse was contained in a boat hollowed out of a tree). The sides and bottom of the pit were very carefully smoothed off, and a series of split bamboos, pointed at each end, were then most carefully cut to size and fitted so that one end was at ground level, and the other end diagonally opposite viz. SKETCH
text: When fitting is complete the bamboos are laid in proper order near the grave.
text: The corpse was brought out of the house, with the head carried by an old man (Hongpeng) who gets paid for his services, and feet by a young man, the wife weeping bitterly meanwhile. The corpse was wrapped up in a bamboo mat, and did not appear to have any cloths round it. (Rich men are sometimes buried with 12 or more cloths as a shroud). The head was pointing to the village of Yamhung, from which Liokiha was founded. The bamboos previously fitted were then carefully put into place, and covered with another mat, made to fit exactly. (It is of the utmost importance that no earth should touch the corpse. Such contact would mean that deceased was being laughed at by his heirs).
text: As soon as earth had started to be thrown in the wife with bamboo spear, and chunga, and lao of modhu in basket on her back started off hurriedly accompanying her husband's soul on its journey. The spear and chunga, filled with modhu, were left by the side of the path.
text: C.R. Pawsey