The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript - memoir of time in the Naga Hills as a Deputy Commissioner, 1919-1920

caption: tour with Mills in Ao country
medium: articles
ethnicgroup: Ao
person: Cantlie/ Keith
date: 1919-1920
form: private collection
refnum: loaned by Dr Audrey Cantlie
text: Visits to the villages were made en route between the Government Rest Houses. As each village was on top of a hill for defence purposes in the pre-British days for defence purposes in inter-village wars, the exercise was strenuous. The usual ceremonial of taking a little zu (rice beer) from a grimy bottle after cleaning its neck with a hankerchief was gone through. The Ao keeps his house fairly clean but his eating utensils are left dirty and his body gets a wash when the rains begin. He is regarded as immoral but this view springs from the upbringing of the Western nations or the Hindu plainsman. The Ao girl has sexual intercourse with young men without being restrained by her parents. A marriage may ensue if she becomes pregnant but though a child may be born another man will not hesitate to marry her. Married women will leave their husbands and go to live with another man for trivial disagreements without adultery and a woman may change her mate several times. Ao society regards living together is acceptable as a marriage and a stigma is not attached. Among the Angamis the girls have complete sexual freedom before marriage. If a child is born a marriage may not result and Hutton thinks all such children are killed at birth but he found it hard to obtain facts on this delicate point. Aos are talkative and happy people. The Angami is dour and though the unmarried girl has sexual freedom she is expected to be faithful to her husband after marriage and actually is so. Unmarried Ao girls shave their heads or keep the hair very short like Angami girls who are shaven. Unmarried Ao girls cover their breasts but after marriage very often do not bother to do so.