The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

letters from J.P. Mills to Henry Balfour

caption: Origin of the Konyak hip ornament; evolution of chest ornaments - heads
medium: letters
person: Balfour/ Henry
ethnicgroup: KonyakRengmaAngami
date: 23.2.1934
person: Mills/ J.P.
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
refnum: Mills Ms.
text: Kohima, Naga Hills.
text: Camp Chongwe.
text: Feb. 23rd 1934
text: My dear Balfour,
text: I am in the unadministered Konyak country and thoroughly enjoying myself. Nor is the P-R being forgotten - very far from it. A good many things are being given me, which I will send on in case they fill up gaps. Other things I am buying.
text: My special reason for writing tonight is that I am pretty sure I have solved the mystery of the Konyak "hip ornament". As you always thought, it is undoubtedly a very degenerate panji holder. A Konyak in full dress ( and a Naked Rengma) wears his "panji holder" - a horn decorated with hair in the case of the Konyaks - on his right buttock. It is only from that side that he can draw out panjis quickly. He never wears it on his left buttock. But he wears his "hip ornament" on his left buttock, and never on his right. I take it to be a panji holder in a useless position which has been allowed to degenerate entirely and become a mere "balancing ornament". Do you see what I mean? I wonder if you have enough material to link the one to the other. Don't do it till you get my final lot of stuff. I have an Angami tail (panji holder) for you which is the last word in elaboration.
text: I have also got a little material for you to show the changes of the long conch shell chest ornament into brass, and thence into a brass king-crow, and thence into an ornamented king-crow! Similarly the wooden heads worn on the chest are imitated by the brass heads of Vishnu bought in the plains, and how the brass heads are deliberately imitated in wood. But enough!...
text: Yours ever,
text: J.P. Mills