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: gibbons; weaving and carpentry; Manipuri house types; visit to Maharani; Kabui nautch
medium: diaries
person: Hutton/ MrsJolly/ MrJolly/ MrsShakespear/ Col JMaxwell/ ColDallas Smith/ MajDallas Smith/ Mrs
ethnicgroup: ManipuriKabuiKuki
location: Imphal
date: 1.10.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Sun. Oct. 1st.
text: After breakfast I interviewed the [female] Huluk, which has the run of the Residency ground. She was shy & not friendly, but sat on a low branch of a tree calling loudly with the peculiar, semi-ventriloquial notes peculiar to the Gibbons, giving the impression of several Huluks calling simultaneously. The volume of sound is considerable. A crow nearby was imitating her very successfully. Mrs. Hutton & I went with the Jollys to see some more of the weaving industries & native carpentry. I ordered models of the local dug-out canoe, and of a nearly obsolete kind of sledge-cart, which was in universal use 30 years ago, when there was no wheeled traffic. The Manipuri habitations consist of a compound with huts around it, each hut raised on a mud plinth or platform, 18"-20" high. The huts are mostly built of reed or bamboo course matwork coated with mud. A small Tulsi shrub or two is in each compound, & associated with this sacred plant are small shrines with natural small boulders set-up in the ground (?linga). No European may touch one of the huts (or even the plinth), as this would defile it, &, should this happen, the hut would be demolished & have to be built again (at the transgressor's expense). This is strictly adhered to. We went on to pay a visit to the old deposed Maharani, Premamayu, and her sister, the widow of the Senapati who had usurped the throne in 1890 & who was largely responsible for the massacre of 1891. The old ladies were delighted with our visit & enquired tenderly after Col. J. Shakespear & Col. Maxwell. They received us in state & led me in by the hand. We conversed through the medium of one of the Maharani's sons who spoke some English. A huge state umbrella was held over us as we sat. The Maharani is a dear old lady & most courteous & friendly. On parting she insisted upon presenting me with a very delicate sash, woven on her own looms. She also gave us a large bunch of bananas. It was an interesting visit.
text: It rained in the afternoon, but I went for a 5 mile walk by myself past the Monkey Tope & a good way along the river. I saw a good many Rhesus monkeys in among the houses, quite alive to their immunity & fearless. Bee-eaters were fairly abundant. I got back to the Residency just in time, at 4.30p.m., for a grand Kabui nautch; the dances being performed on the Residency lawn. Most of the dances were in linear formation, the men usually hopping twice on each foot successively & moving along, bringing their hands together at each movement. The girls, with fillets round their heads & coloured loin-cloth skirts, moved their feet with a shuffling motion & kept their hands raised all the time. They were alternated with the men, who sang all the time in strophe & antistrophe, to an accompaniment of drum and cymbals (the big drum was supported on the back of a small boy ). Each dance ended with 4 girls in the centre of a half-circle formed by the other dancers, & these 4 danced together in pairs, clapping each other's hands; first one & then another falling out until one girl only was left, and when she finished, the dance came to an end. The men wore imitation horns on their heads & carried daos. The singing was simple & the music quite intelligible to Europeans. The girls are far more Mongolian in appearance than the men, and much shorter. The dances were well executed & the effect very pleasing. Some Kukis brought to the Residency a Slow Loris (Nycticebus tardigradus) alive but very sleepy. We dined with Major & Mrs. Dallas Smith at their bungalow.