The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - J.H. Hutton, Diaries of Two Tours in the Unadministered Area East of the Naga Hills', 1926

caption: first tour
caption: to Mongnyu; ant-hill with buffalo's head carved in it to bring prosperity; path and grave clearing; status of Phom women; shaven heads of women; association of boys hair cutting with head-taking; forked posts; execution of a woman thief at Tuensang
medium: articlestours
ethnicgroup: Phom
location: Mongnyu Sekitima Saoching Tuensang
date: 12.4.1923
person: Hutton/ J.H.
date: 4.1923-27.4.1923
text: to Mongnyu, alias Phom, the Survey's "Pohum" a smallish Phom village with three morungs and a great flair for intrige. On the way up to the village I noticed a great ant-hill with a buffalo's head carved in earth on the side of it. [SKETCH - buffalo head, carved in the side of an ant-hill at Mongnyu to bring prosperity] They told me that it was made, when the path was cleared, in order to obtain riches in paddy. I did not ask whether the clearing of the village paths is here, as it is with the Angamis, associated with the cleaning of the graves of the village dead. [The Angami Nagas, p. 198.] Both the Angamis and the Semas, I think, take advantage of the same festival to make a pretence at renewing occasionally the village defences, rendered useless by the Pax Britannica, "for fear the spirits will be angry on account of failure to keep up the ancient customs." The spirits in this particular case, I take it, are the souls of the dead whom one might naturally expect to be good conservatives and to dislike their descendants not to do as they did. The Angami village of Sekitima did the same in 1922.
text: When we got to the village, we found a bevy of the village beauties sitting outside the gate in wait for us. One or two had washed their faces, and showed very fair skins with a touch of pink underneath, but otherwise they were dirty, and everyone of them had betel-juice dribbling from the corners of her mouth. The status of the Phom woman in her own house and in Phom society generally may be gathered from the fact that they put up one of their own menfolk to tell us how much they would like to have children by us - and they married women and their husbands listening!
text: It was here that we first met with the custom which is fashionable among the women of those Konyaks which the Changs call "Chagyik" of cutting their hair as short as possible all over the head and of plucking it out entirely along two broadish triangles one on each side of the centre of the head starting from the forehead as the base (Pl. I, figs. 4 & 5; Pl. 2. 2, fig.4). Before plucking out the hair they rub in ashes, which apparently makes the hair come out quite easily. This practice is not confined to the unmarried girls, as shaving the head is with Angamis and other Naga tribes, but is permanent; "a very evil custom and a parlous," as Marco Polo would have said. In a verminous country, however, it probably has its advantages. In Mongnyu it is not universal and we noticed only a few women whose hair was dressed thus; Mills was told that they were immigrants from Saoching, further east.
text: The hair of the boys in Mongnyu is first cut short after they have "touched meat" [i.e. human flesh. Mills says that some Sangtams, e.g. of Sirire, have to take a head before they can have their hair cut round.] taken in a raid. Batches of boys whose hair is then cut together are thereafter treated as adults. For this ceremonial hair-cutting the cutting block [See The Angami Nagas, p. 22 and the illustration, p. 370] used to be made of seven sword-beans [Entada scandens, mentioned above.] each stuck on a bamboo stalk, the opposite ends of which are bound together to make a handle. (SKETCH - hammer for ceremonial hair cutting in Mongnyu.) The hair must be cut with six taps of the beans on a dao. Mills tells me Ao boys have theirs cut with a hammer made from a little bean.
text: In Mongnyu outside the morung I noticed forked wooden posts erected, the new one being put up immediately in front of and continuous to the old, and tied to it with ropes, while a few longish sticks, forked or branched, were stuck into the whole group so formed.
text: Someone described to me today how the Changs of Tuensang recently executed a woman thief by throwing her repeatedly into a pit full of tree-nettles. [Cf. The Angami Nagas, p. 148n. The Sema Nagas p. 28 Mills The Lhota Nagas, pp 102, 186n Stack The Mikirs, p. 48] This treatment should have a most discouraging effect on the thievishly inclined.