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 Pongu; rice beer; negroid types; field houses; tattoos; stone platforms; Y posts; carvings; drums; cows and mithan
medium: articlestours
person: Woodthorpe
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Pongu Hukpong (Hukpang)
date: 13.4.1923
person: Hutton/ J.H.
date: 4.1923-27.4.1923
text: April 13th. - -To Pongu " Chang " of the Survey. Like Mongnyu, it has, I believe, never before been visited. When this area was surveyed the majority, probably, of the villages mapped were located from the higher points of the ranges visited. Woodthorpe, when he did this survey, was exceedingly pressed for time, and had no one who could interpret properly; hence, no doubt, many of the rather puzzling names on the map. [I.E. the old map. The recently published topographical maps of the Survey of India were revised and added to in the light of mapping done by a surveyor with me on these tours.] Pongu is a Konyak village, probably with a strongish Phom admixture permanently at war with Hukpang. The whole village was effusively friendly and had a line of contiguous chungas [Chunga = a vessel for drinking, or for carrying liquid, made by cutting a section of bamboo so that the node forms the bottom, the node at the other end being cut off, obliquely, as a rule, to make a lip.] of rice liquor lent against a low rail and stretching for about 150 yards along the path for the column to refresh it self after its climb. The village is a very stony one and with exceedingly strong defences - ladder wall ditch wall, ladder, palisade, ladder again, wall and then solid wooden door. The curly-haired negroid type of head was very prevalent, and the carvings in the village more naturalistic than usual. We estimated the number of houses at about 180. Pongu dislikes the idea of making peace with Hukpang as that village is so notoriously treacherous that it is a great deal safer to be at war with her. Knowing what I do of Hukpang, I think the men of Pongu are wise.
text: Some of the rich men's field-houses here seem to be in the form of a single horn, a form also used by the Phoms (e.g in Urangkong) for sheltering the effigies of their dead, as well as the double form already referred to.
text: I noticed here a tattoo on the upper arms of the men which was new to me. I fancy it is derived from two mithun or buffalo heads placed nose to nose. On the chest the regular Chang tattoo of quasi-ostrich-feather style is worn.
text: Stones are erected in this village ; there are stone sitting-places ; stone foundations to the morungs ; and I noticed one regular stone platform, like the Angami baze though rather rougher than a baze would normally be. There were also the usual forked posts carved with the inevitable buffalo head. [SKETCH
text: The women have their chins tattooed like Chang women, but in addition have a trellis pattern on their breasts, and sometimes a circle with a dot in the centre of it on each cheek. The men occasionally have a face tattoo of two lines running away downwards from each corner of the mouth. The leg tattoo of the women is elaborate and elegant, but I saw no tattoo quite so effective as the simple network of the Sangtams further south (Pl.4, fig.5). The designs of the Pongu woman's leg may be compared to those on that of a Kalabit woman of Borneo depicted by Hose and McDougall. [Pagan Tribes of Borneo, plate 142.] [SKETCH
text: The great wooden dug-out "drums" in use here had a curious cone left sticking up from what one must call the floor of the drum inside it, but not reaching to the slot edge, when the drum was hollowed out. I examined the " drums" of other villages for a similar construction, but did not find it elsewhere. [SKETCH
text: We noticed here large numbers of skull trophies in which a cow's skull took the place between the buffalo horns usually occupied by a human skull. Apparently when a man wounds an enemy but fails to get his head, he hangs up a cow's skull in the place of the human skull which he ought to have got but didn't. The wounded enemy is probably regarded as dying in consequence of the genna done with the substitute for his head. But the question arises, Why a cow's head? A monkey's or even a bear's skull as used by Yacham and Yungya would seem a decidedly nearer approach to the human than a cow's. The Naga is not a pastoral race and does not drink milk nor has he been appreciably touched by Hinduism, yet in some respects the cow is treated with respect. Sharing as it does its owner's roof, it is the only animal besides the dog to which the Angami gives an individual name ; the Aos include a clan which, nominally at any rate, tabu the flesh of the cow entirely, though everyone else eats it ; when we come to the mithun, we find that both by Aos and Changs, if not by other tribes as well, the mithun of men is associated with the sky spirits while the souls of men are conversely bound up with the mithun of the sky, so that when a mithun dies on earth a spirit dies in the sky, and when a man dies it means that the sky spirits have sacrificed a mithun. I do not know that the beliefs as to mithun are in any way relevant, but, in the case of the cow, it seems possible again that one is in touch with some pre-Hindu belief that has been incorporated elsewhere into that so receptive system. So too there is an Angami custom which always suggests to me that I am witnessing the primitive practice in which the Hindu use of caste marks on the forehead arose. The seat of the Angami soul is in the forehead. [Cf.The Angami Nagas, pp. 98, 183.] To keep off evil spirits the young who are more susceptible to such harm than the adult, lick and stick on to the centre of the forehead a bit of the leaf of some aromatic plant usually wormwood, a spiritual disinfectant of great efficacy, which gives the exact effect of a caste mark. This is no new practice, as I have heard suggested but has a very definite and concrete purpose and must go far behind the days when Manipuris with white paint on their foreheads could be met in Kohima bazar.