The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

Typescript, J.P. Mills, Tour Diary, March 1927, with comments by Ursula Betts, 1986

caption: Unusually precipitous terrain; Khangnam - pre-Administration village defences; pre-Naga inhabitants
medium: tours
ethnicgroup: SiemiNzemiKachari
location: Khangnam Chikhu R. Impoi Asalu Hange Maibong
date: 15.3.1927
person: Betts/ UrsulaMills/ J.P.
date: 3.1927
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
text: [UGB: The whole of this area forms an extraordinarily precipitous mountain block intersected by deep valleys - clefts would be a better word - and mountain torrents wholly impassable in flood. It is literally possible to lob a rifle-bullet from one village to another across the gulf, when it is a 12 mile march between them. This led to the smallpox disaster in Khangnam (see Naga Path) when it was utterly impossible to cross the flooded streams. Mills told me that he had never seen steeper country even in the Sub-Himalaya, and I wholly agree.
text: Khangnam, because of its remoteness, retained many features of a pre-administration village's defences. One approached from the east, to be confronted by a deep ravine. This was commanded by the village, which stood on a plateau beyond. Attackers had to descend a steep bank, cross a small stream, and approach the village gate by a staircase of 120 steps, fenced in on each side by bamboo barricades to prevent flanking movements. Round the village perimeter itself was a bamboo palisade bristling with sharpened bamboo spikes and extending some twenty yards on either side of the gate, though probably it originally surrounded the settlement. The gate itself was hinged at the top and swung inwards to admit passers (who had to duck). At night it was closed from within by a stout pole fixed to the gate at one end, with its butt wedged into a hole in the ground.
text: On my first visit (I later visited the village monthly to pay the V Force scouts there) we returned by Chikhu River Gorge, a most spectacular route, only possible when the river was at its lowest, and even then deep pools often required wading. The stream is pinned between towering cliffs with barely a streak of daylight visible far overhead. I can only compare it to the Samaria Gorge in Crete. It emerged just below Impoi, SE of Asalu. On later trips we took the easier route via Hange. This once large village had been destroyed by smallpox. Quite close to it, in dense scrub-jungle, there was one of the sites apparently belonging to a pre-Naga people, the Siemi (see Naga Path), said to have been wiped out by the Kachari Kings, then based at Maibong. They are said to have been small and dark and a few survivors were traditionally absorbed by the incoming Nzemi. Certainly in the Asalu group, close to which there are two major 'Siemi' sites - a village with house-platforms and another with stone structures, possibly fortifications - there were individuals with strongly frizzy hair, suggesting perhaps a negrito strain.]
text: The village say that no vaccinator has visited them for four or five years.