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: Manipuri weaving; bazaar purchases; Nowkakhela Festival at Nahabam
medium: diaries
person: Jolly/ MrJolly/ MrsGangeschaudra DasPhilpot/ MrPhilpot/ MrsMaharaja of Nahabam
ethnicgroup: ManipuriTangkhul
location: Imphal Nahabam
date: 30.9.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Sat. Sept. 30th
text: In the morning I went with Mr. & Mrs. Jolly to seen Manipur weaving on hand-looms (mostly of the simple 'Indonesian' type, but a few treadle-looms). The weaving was very skilfully done. Tangkhul cloths of large size & fine patterned colouring are woven on the 'Indonesian' loom for sale to the Tangkhul Nagas. I bought two of these for 10.5 rupees the two. It rained in the afternoon. I went round the Bazaars with Gangeschaudra Das (Rai sahib), the doctor of the Hospital & bought a pair of brass bugle armlets (2/8) & a brass head-fillet (2/8), also 4 brass saucer-lamps (Manipuri - 8 annas). We stayed there till dark. Gangeschaudra proved a delightful & informative companion. Mr. & Mrs. Philpot came to dinner & afterwards we all motored to Nahabam to attend the Nowkakhela Festival, by invitation of the Maharajah, in whose absence his brother, the Senapati, received the guests under an awning on the bank of the river. The night was dark but the scene was well illuminated & was a wondrous sight. A huge crowd of natives was assembled on both banks. Abundant fire-works were let off & fell & exploded amid the crowd, to the huge delight of those not immediately affected. Rockets now & then fell on our shelter & had to be promptly extinguished to prevent fire. An exhilaratingly dangerous performance. Two large barges, formed by uniting several large dug-out canoes & laying a platform over them, were on the river. Each carried at one end a large & tawdry shrine containing a huge figure of the 10-armed Durga, with a daughter on either side & a white lion in front; the whole elaborately garnished. Religious and secular dancing & singing went on on each barge & continued for about 2.5 hours. At about 11 p.m. the lights were extinguished & the shrines with their figures of Durga were pushed or lowered into the river (most of the embellishments having been previously removed), and with that the ceremony ended. The whole seemed very inconsequent, a strange mixture of religion and pure buffoonery, but it was none the less extremely picturesque & amusing. The ceremony seems to be connected with a fertility cult. The Senapati is a small, very fat, genial person, but as he could not speak English I was not able to talk to him, except with the help of an interpreter. Refreshments & smokes were served round continuously all the evening.