The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - 'Diary of a Tour in the Naga Hills, 1922-1923' by Henry Balfour

caption: Ride to and visit at Khonoma: graves, morungs, dancing-ground, bead-work, spinning, native music
medium: diaries
person: Hutton/ J.H.Nikrihu/ of Jotsoma
ethnicgroup: AngamiAoKonyakKuki
location: Khonoma Jotsoma Kohima
date: 18.9.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Mon. 18th
text: At 11 a.m., Hutton & I started riding to Khonoma, about 12 miles distant, an important Angami village. The Khonoma bridle-path branches off the Dimapur road about 3/4 mile from Kohima. Soon it began to rain & it came down in torrents most of the day, drenching us to the skin. The track at first is good but it becomes very bad, often very steep & narrow. The rain had made the ground greasy & treacherous. At one place we rode down a very irregular & slippery flight of stone steps. We crossed one stream by a very narrow bridge formed of a large thick wooden plank, the upper surface of which was carved with mithan heads in low relief. This had been erected by the natives in place of an iron bridge, which was said to be unlucky. It was very slippery & riding across was a risky perfomance. There was a landslip across the track at one point, 7 or 8 feet high, over which we had to scramble the horses. At another spot there was a very strong smell of snake, but we could not see the owner thereof. The spiraeas are magnificent, growing in great bushes to a great height. A few yew trees were noted in the jungle. Some parrots were seen, but birds were scarce. Earth worms 18-20 inches long. We passed through JOTSOMA village (Angami), about 5 miles from Kohima, but did not stop. Genna stones in pairs (or groups of pairs) and stone graves were numerous along the track & near the village. Jungle all round, except where panikhets terraced the hill-sides; the rice well advanced, & the coix crops very tall. Many very effective scarecrows, some like hovering Kites, others in shape of men or gibbons swinging from tall bamboos. One bow-like example of bamboo (Kohkohpoh type) was
text: KHONOMA village is strategically situated on a ridge, the approaches on most sides being very steep & easily defended. In the village were numerous recent graves with elaborate erections over them for supporting deceased's property (ornaments etc). The women's graves have a pair of the spider's-web-like symbols, of white threads with black band towards centre
text: On the men's grave-platforms bamboo framework supports the deceased's shield, spear, panji-quiver, dao-holder, various dance & other ornaments, bottles & various treasured ornaments. I saw no wooden effigies. A woman was 'keening' at a man's grave (very recent), crying out loudly & sobbing. There are morungs (batchelor's houses) in the village, but very poor ones (not to be compared with the Ao & Konyak ones), containing hardly anything but rough sleeping-benches. We got up a stone-throwing ('putting the weight') contest between Nikrihu & another. The stone was a heavy boulder & the throws, or 'puts', very creditable.
text: (
text: The houses in KHONOMA are not at all consistently orientated. There are about 360 houses. Everything is filthy, ankle-deep in muck; cattle, pigs, fowls etc. wander in & out of the houses at will, & after the heavy rains the filth is indescribable. I watched some of the men making long, barrel-shaped, beads of conch-shell, by guiding the columella on the wetted surface of a saddle-shaped stone,
text: After dinner about 24 men & boys came from Khonoma to the bungalow & sang a number of their native songs. They sang very softly in chorus, two sides alternately - or, sometimes, with a bar interval between the two sides (like "Three blind mice"). Octaves & even rudimentary harmony were noticeable. The music sounded very pretty (reminding me of the Kuki mouth-organ) with drone effects. The love songs sounded melancholy, but war-songs & others were brisker with effective tempo accelerato movements. All sat huddled together on the verandah, a weirdly picturesque scene by lantern light. They were absorbed in their music & would have gone on for any length of time. It was past midnight when we dismissed them.