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: Great head-tree of Bhandari; fishing by poison; description of Sanis
medium: diaries
person: Mills/ J.P.
ethnicgroup: LhotaKonyak
location: Bhandari Sanis Wokha Mt. Japvo Mt. (Japro Mt.)
date: 21.11.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Tues. Nov. 21st.
text: We started at 8.15 a.m. & rode from Bhandari to Sanis (c. 15 miles). Just outside Bhandari village we examined the great Head-tree, on which heads captures in raids were hung as trophies. It is a Ficus and very old. The location of a new village depends upon there being a suitable tree, and if a village is moved to a new site, a branch from the old head-tree is taken along & placed at the foot of the new head-tree. At the foot of the tree are the 'luck stones' of the village, half buried among the roots. Nowadays on occasions imitation heads are hung on the tree, or from bamboo attached to it. We passed through jungle all the way, on a track which was quite good in places but difficult in others. First, downhill for some miles, then along a level valley bottom where we saw tracks of wild elephants; then up a long & very steep hillside. Eight Wreathed Hornbills (with pure white tails) flew by making a very fine sight. We collected samples of poison-plants, used for poisoning waters for fish-taking. One of these is now only employed in the mimetic fishing ceremony described by Mills in his "Lhota" book. We reached Sanis (Lhota village) at about 1 p.m. & rode straight through the village to the bungalow, quite a good one with splendid all-round views. Wokha mountain is fairly close, Japro is in the background to the south; the Mikir Hills are very clear & the Plains with the Himalayas in the distance. We visited the village after lunch. A leopard had entered the village while we were lunching, & had mauled three pigs, but did not manage to carry one off. Sanis village spreads over a large area & is very open, with wide 'streets' & open spaces. The houses have saddle-backed roofs with long projecting small gable-extension. The walls are of bamboo textile work. The richer houses have an apsoidal, enclosed lobby-front, or dhan-pounding room. Behind this a high step leads to the main room which is divided into 2 or 3 small compartments with a passage running along one side. Each wife has her own room. At the back, the main room extends from side to side of the building. The flooring is of bamboo matting covered with mud. At the back of the main room is a small store-room which leads onto an open platform (without any rail) high above the sloping ground. Only the lobby is on ground level, the rest on piles increasing in height backwards. The poorer houses are straight-fronted. We had to go into several houses to drink madhu, 6 or 7 at least. A great 'head-tree' stands between two sections of the village. On all sides there stand or lie genna stones (large sandstone slabs) recording sacrifices performed, and graves, with or without trophies, are dotted about promiscuously. Tiny huts raised on piles & with notched-log ladders, for the goats to go into, are numerous [I had seen similar goat-huts built onto the sides of houses in the Konyak country]. Small separate dhan stores are built on low piles. I sketched two ancient (& now ceremonial) daos in one house, & found a bullet-bow in another, and noted some fans with cane loop-handles, used for creating