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 through forestry reserve jungle; gaonbura's ceremonial dress; description of Bhandari
medium: diaries
person: Mills/ J.P.Chonsimo
ethnicgroup: LhotaAoKonyak
location: Gorunga Bhandari Woka T.G. Merapani
date: 20.11.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Mon. Nov. 20th.
text: We rode from Gorunga to Bhandari (c. 16 miles), starting at 8 a.m. Nice & cool at starting. A vulture sat on a tree by the bungalow, & grey-necked crows, sparrows, mynahs, white wagtails, etc. were busy around. For about 11 miles we passed chiefly through jungle, though the Woka tea-plantation occupied a large area, & a few clearings for padi-fields were crossed. The jungle at first was low but timber became taller as we approached the hills. We passed 'sign' of wild elephants & also a spot where a wild boar had been wounded the day before, but had got away into the jungle. Quantities of green pigeons were seen & two were shot; also spotted doves, a large grey shrike & some small hornbills (Malayan Pied Hornbills). The bridges over the streams were of bamboo matwork on poles, & very rotten. We usually had to dismount & lead the ponies over, or else ford the streams. Wild turmeric was growing by the side of the track. Elephants & wild mithan frequent this jungle, which is a forestry reserve & covers a wide area of the plains & foothills. The way was almost dead level as far as Merapani, where we stopped (c. 11 miles) at 11.45 a.m. at the Forestry Department bungalow, & lunched off bully-beef. I sketched an Assamese wooden plough there. Almost at once after restarting, we began mounting rapidly, as the hills rise very abruptly from the Plains. We rode up through jungle for about 5 miles to Bhandari (a Lhota village). The gaonbura of Bhandari had met us at Merapani, got up in all his finery - with bear-skin chaplet. stuck with tail feathers of hornbills (not artificially shaped, like the Ao ones), fringe-baldrick of red-dyed goats' hair, wide, cowrie-studded apron, fringed panji-basket, many ornaments & spear with fringed shaft. We reached the Inspection bungalow at 2.45 p.m. A cow was presented to Mills & was killed by Chonsimo, who cut off its head with one blow of his dao, rather a feat. We went into the village (of about 60 houses). The houses are widely-spaced & form a broad 'street'. The fronts are apsoidal with enclosed verandahs, in which stand the dhan-pounding boards. A passage leads past two or three small rooms - one for each wife - to a small main room which is floored with bamboo textile-work covered with a layer of mud & very springy. In this lies the hearth with the usual three upright stones for the cooking-pot. Beyond this room is an open-air platform on piles. The roofs are saddle-backed along the ridge (the reverse of the 'hog-backed' Konyak houses); thatched with reeds & with small projecting end-gables. Some of the roof-ridges are decorated with "enemies' hands" of split bamboo. There is only one very small & simple morung (a new one) shaped like the houses, but with a post roughly carved with mithan heads in relief & "enemies' teeth" carved at the top. This post projects above the front gable-roof up to the small projecting gable. At its base lie several large round pebbles, the 'luck stones' of the village. We watched a woman weaving cloth in tartan-like designs on the usual Indonesian type of loom. Graves are dotted about the village, new ones with a fence of bamboos with their tops split into funnel-like receptacles for gourds & other objects. These erections are dismantled after the harvest gennas, at the Tuku emung (the 'nine days sabbath', v. Mills 'Lotas', pp. 129, 130, 159). In one house there was a boy-child's grave; the burial was under the floor & a miniature dao and dao-holder were placed upon it, & some notched bamboo sticks were set with orange-coloured flowers. Several monoliths ('pulled stones') stand erect about the village, some of them fallen & left so. In the gaonbura's house we sat on the back platform & were shown two iron daos of obsolete type, which were greatly treasured by the village. We went to the house of the village 'priest' (a very solomn individual) & were there shown the process of casting white-metal bars in cylindrical moulds of green bamboo. It is really genna (forbidden) to see this done, but this difficulty was overcome by my agreeing to buy the cast bar with all faults to take the risk of failure. I bought the bar for 4 rupees (3 rupees being for the metal used, 1/2 seer). I also bought an X-handled weeding-hoe for 4 annas.