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: Visit to Jai Dam and trip by steam launch on Jai Lake
medium: diaries
date: 31.12.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Sun. Dec. 31.
text: A great many vultures (both white and dark, buff-headed kinds) were soaring round the Guest House in the early morning. At about 10.15 a.m. a Willys Knight car was sent for me by H.H. to take me to Jai Dam and Lake (c.34 miles away), with a very good, English-speaking driver. Lunch & tea & a Kitmagar were furnished from the Guest House. The road led over rough low-scrub country with many palms at first. Later, jungle-growth was higher. Road very bumpy & twisting. Once we got snagged in a ditch but no damage was done, & the car was held up for an hour with a blocked carburettor. We did not reach the lake till after 1 p.m., having met the man in charge of the steam-launch on the road. He was not expecting me, the Maharana's orders having failed to reach him. We captured him, however, & took him on to the lake. It took 2.5 hours for him to get up steam. I filled up time by looking over the small palace on the dam & in examining the splendid dam itself, which converted the valley into a most beautiful lake 7 miles long. Presently the launch appeared & was very clumsily brought alongside. The launch took me round a great part of the lake, part islands upon which were Bhil villages. We passed two of the small & very rough 5-log rafts used by the Bhils for navigation. Both were carrying loads of hay piled high up. One was propelled by two boys, the other by two young girls, paddling in the bows. They were induced to come alongside after much shouting & persuasion. The lake is one of the most beautiful & the largest artificial lakes in India. Cormorants, Shags, Darters ("Snake-birds" Anhinga), small grey Terns & larger grey-backed Terns with yellow beaks, Common and Pied Kingfishers, large Egrets, Common Herons, Brahminy Kites & Govindhi Kites, were the chief birds seen. When fishing, the Darters dive from their nearly submerged position, by gradually lowering the neck stiffly, the tip of the beak being the last part to disappear under water. When the head is completely submerged the bird shoots forward & downward. The action in diving more resembles that of the Divers (Colymbidar) than that of their nearer relative, the Cormorants. Fish are very abundant in the lake & were rising freely, some evidently of large size. Small fry were spattering on the surface to escape their enemies. The beauty of the lake is increased as the sun gets lower. When the launch got back to Udaipur at 5.20 p.m. We passed several Bhil villages & fields with observation machans on high piles and with circular, umbrella-like shading-roofs. Many of the Bhils carried bows & arrows (I bought a bow & two arrows for 8 annas). The women were wearing numbers of brass, white-metal and lac armlets and anklets. The children were mostly stark naked. There were quantities of partridges, francolius, quails, doves & wild peacocks along & on the road, & often we nearly ran over them. Bee-eaters, green parrots, 'seven sisters' (Babblers), ring-doves & vinous-breasted doves abounded, & also Mynahs. Common Coucals were common. Jackals ran in front of the car & we passed quite close to a herd of Chinkara antelopes. At the Dam I had seen very many of the long-tailed Entellus Monkeys (pale buff-grey with black faces).
text: I got back to the Guest House in very good time, the car having travelled rapidly & well. I then packed & prepared for an early departure next morning, after a most enjoyable last day of the year.