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: Ceremonies to mark the rebuilding of a morung
medium: diaries
person: Mills/ J.P.
ethnicgroup: Lhota <Liye
location: Diyung R. (Doyang R.) Pangti Chinglong (Chinlong) Okotso
date: 25.11.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Sat. Nov. 25th.
text: We broke camp early, but did not start away till 8.45 a.m., as Mills went fishing & caught a 12lb mahseer, a very good fish for the Doyang R. We started over the jhums to a ford about a mile above the camp-site. This ford was easy as the water was not much above our knees. Climbing up in the dhooly was difficult, extremely steep, up a very rough Naga path. I had to get out & walk frequently in the steeper, narrower parts. Much of the way was through a sort of tunnel formed by the tall sword grass which completely overhung the track. We were met outside the village of Pangti (c. 7 miles from the camp) by several head-men & had to drink madhu with them. Near the entrance to the village we passed a number of neat little shrines with last offerings to the dead. We went straight through Pangti, only stopping at a couple of houses to drink madhu formally. Outside the village we came to the village 'head-tree', with the village luck stones at its base among the roots. In a recess at the base of this tree were three broken skulls, trophies from a raid on Chinlong village c. 1913-14. These were covered by a flat stone which concealed them & was only removed with reluctance for us to see the skulls, which no one may handle. This is a Liye Lhota village & a good sized one. We came on to the bungalow, a small one of wattle & daub, erected for Mills' own use. After lunch we walked to Okotso village to see part of the second day's ceremonies concerned with the rebuilding of a morung. The dancers, all men & boys elaborately got up, many wearing hornbill feathers on the head, some (who had 'dragged a stone') wore a hornbill's (Dichoceros) head hanging down the back of the shoulders; others (noted warriors) wore the "enemies' teeth" ornament, ruho, behind the shoulders. Most of them wore fringed panji baskets, a few with projecting fringed 'tails'. Fringed baldricks were also worn & some wore red & yellow plaited 'gaiters'. The small boys wore cloths corresponding with their fathers' achievements. The wide, rectangular, cowrie-covered apron (or sporran) was worn by many. The dancers were led by the Puthi wearing a special kind of cane-work helmet covered with cloth of dogs' hair dyed red & with long dogs' hair strings hanging from it down the back. Pairs of boars' tusks forming circles were appliqued on the cloth cover & thin 'horns' of mithan-horn stood out at the sides of the helmet. The performers carried wooden imitations of the older type of dao, now superseded, and the Puthi and his attendant Yenga carried very old, obsolete daos entirely of iron. It was the second day of the ceremonies which last five days, & we arrived at the stage when a puppy (probably representing a former human sacrifice) was about to be killed. The dancers came in procession down the village towards where a small white puppy was tethered to a peg. An old man was tending the pup & covered it with his cloth, in symbolic protection. An argument ensued between the old man & the leading warrior of three, who circled round the puppy; and the old man stepped back. Suddenly the leading warrior cut the tethering string & cut off the puppy's head with a stroke of his dao. The head, wrapped in a piece of cloth, was taken to the new morung & was fixed to the humtse-tachingo, or central carved post, under the apsoidal verandah roof as an offering. The head is afterwards thrown away by the old man who attended the puppy. Dances continued, the dancers moving slowly round with a side-step - a pause, a side-step - a pause, repeated ad nauseam to a monotonous chant consisting of deep, droned notes answered by higher-pitched drawled notes. I took a few photos & sketched one of the ancient daos & the morung post with the puppy's head fixed to it. We were to have gone into Pangti to see the raising of a new stone, but, hearing that the stone had already been erected, did not go.