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: Detailed description of a performance of Ao Naga dances from Ungma
medium: diaries
person: Mills/ J.P.
ethnicgroup: AoSema
location: Mokokchung Ungma
date: 3.11.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Friday, 3.
text: Raining heavily during early morning, but cleared by breakfast-time. Spent morning in the bungalow, writing. After early lunch Mills & I went down to a large open grassy space to watch dances by Ao Nagas from Ungma. Nearly 300 men had come to take part, and when we arrived they were already practising a war dance in massed formation. The effect was very striking & impressive - a solid phalanx of warriors, elaborately decorated with feathers, fringes of dyed hair etc., moving rhythmically forwards & backwards in the strong sunlight, the blades of their daos & spears flashing & glinting with dazzling effect. Two chairs had been placed for us on a small knoll, & we sat surrounded by Ao women & children & a few Goorkalis. First, there was a great advance of the entire mass of dancers in close formation, 6 deep & line abreast, about 270 in all. They marched right up to us, with short hopping steps, waving their spears & daos, & then kept retreating & advancing to rhythm marked by a large, double-membrane drum & by a chant on deep notes, in octaves, with high harmonic notes interposed. This was a Mo-yari (Sema dance). At the end, they sang a salute to us, barbaric & impressive. They next danced the Shubu-yari ("Ornament" dance) in long procession, single-file, the line being about 500 yards long. This was followed by the Ali-champayari ("earth-stamping" dance) in double columns, line ahead, with hopping steps, the two lines alternately facing forward & facing each other, as they proceeded in sinuous curves. The 4th dance was the [blank] yari ("fish" dance) in single column, line ahead, holding hands & dancing forward with a fairly quick, limping step, zigzagging