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: Yungphong to Yanching; Pongu men carrying to enemy village; pigs used as sewers; blocked paths; forked posts; carving; tattoo; men's belts; stone substituted for head; memorial screen; reaction to curly hair; lengtas; hats
medium: articlestours
person: Woodthorpe
location: Yungphong Yanching Yangnyu R. Jakphang (Jakphong) Yakthu (Yaktu) Ukha Shakchi
date: 14.4.1923
person: Hutton/ J.H.
date: 4.1923-27.4.1923
text: April 14th. - Through Yungphong to Yanching. These two villages were recorded as " Chamba -' and " Yangtung" by Woodthorpe in 1876, he coming from Hukpang ( " Siphang " ) across the Piyongkung Mountain. [Report of the Survey Operations in the Naga Hills, 1875-76, by Lt. R. G. Woodthorpe R.E. Assistant Superintendent No 6 Topographical Survey. This valuable report was printed but the Assam Secretariat in Shillong has only one copy and does not know of any others. I possess a second copy, given me by the late Mr J. B. Woodthorpe, General Woodthorpe's brother.] This time the situation was delicate, as we had Pongu men carrying our loads for us and Pongu was at war with Yanching. The Pongu men all wore bits of sword-grass or some other sharp grass about their persons " as this is the custom when going to an enemy village." They said at first that nothing would induce them to carry past Yungphong, but eventually we got them to go on past Yanching to the river the Yangmun or Yangnyu, beside which we camped. I swam across the river, while bathing, and found a huge concourse of strange Nagas on the far bank but quite friendly, as one of the headmen from our side kept them from coming too close by throwing stones at them. On the part of both the villages on the near bank and of those on the far, there seemed to be the greatest reluctance to crossing the river, a sort of local Rubicon. However, some men from Jakphong, Yaktu and Ukha which the Changs call " Aukhu," eventually came across to profess their friendliness.
text: In Pongu, Yungphong and Yanching there is a practice new to me, of penning up the village pigs in pens under the platform at the back of each morung which is used as a latrine, the pigs serving for sewers. Individual householders hand over their pigs to be fattened thus by the young men of the morung, and pay them for the services so rendered.
text: Yungphong, like Pongu, has very strong defences, a double rampart of earth and stone with perpendicular sides, a " panji"-ditch in between crossed by two bamboos for a footway with a cane slung alongside as a handrail, then palisades, ladders and a wooden door. In addition to this the paths to the village were all blocked with branched stumps sometimes with rows of them, which would entirely prevent anyone from running down the paths. [SKETCH
text: In front of the houses rows of forked posts form a low wall to the porch front and the gables carry " house-horns." The forked posts, at any rate, were probably significant of the performance of some such ceremony as the Lisu of the Angamis. [J.R.A.I., loc cit.] A buffalo head carved in one of the Yungphong morungs was of a rather new type, and confirmed the derivation given for the tattoo on the upper arm noted at Pongu. [SKETCH
text: The belts worn in these villages give a definite connection between the long strip of cane, which a Konyak so often coils round his waist, and the broad band of cloth stiffened to a shining white solidity with filed and fitted cowrie shells, which the Chang affects. The Yungphong belts consisted, some of them, of short lengths of cane split and joined at the ends one above the other so as to give a belt about six canes broad instead of the continuous coil. In some cases these simple horizontal canes were combined with vertical strips in a regular weave, naturally leading to the substitution of cloth. In other cases a simple belt of broad stiff bark (in one case I saw hide) was used, about six inches broad, which must give precisely the effect to the wearer that is given by the broad cowrie-stiffened belt of the Changs.
text: At Yungphong we noticed a round water-worn stone hanging up in cane harness under the eaves of the morung. The explanation given was that some Yungphong man "chopped" a man of Jakphong and took his head, and, in order that the bloodguiltiness might rest on Jakphong's own head instead of Yungphong's a stone from Jakphong's land was brought away and hung in Yungphong. It is difficult to see what good that can do unless the miserable ghost is deceived by the presence of a stone from his own land into thinking that the village is his own village and her enemies his enemies. Outside Yungphong was one of the large white screens of split bamboo that signify the death of a great or rich man. White screens of one sort or another all over the Naga Hills have this significance, and that attributed by Shakchi to such a screen on the opposite hill outside Ukha, viz, a desire to gloat over having taken a Shakchi head, was denied by the men of Ukha who stated truly I think, that it had the same significance as that at Yungphong. It is not impossible that the Shakchi villagers in making the statement they did, hoped that we should disapprove or perhaps wished merely to convince us that it was Ukha who were doing the head-taking, not themselves. On the other hand Woodthorpe in 1876 remarked [loc cit.] that they were always put up facing a village with which the erecting village was at war, as in this case but if the village is at war, there are likely to be deaths among its inhabitants. Could it be to indicate to a dead and decapitated warrior, whose soul has presumably gone with his head to the enemy village, the proper way back to his own ? The Angamis of Viswema who put up white and black cloths in a very conspicuous way, stretched on a scaffolding and looking like a sail (Pl.1 fig. 8
text: " It looks at a distance like a large silver chevron turned upside down. It is made of split pieces of wood with the white face turned outwards, placed close together vertically and fastened to huge curves of cane or bamboo, suspended between three trees; the whole length varies from 40 to 50 feet, and the average width is about 6 feet, widening to 12 feet at the centre point."
text: Here, however, it struck me that these screens were merely another instance of the buffalo-horn symbol, and possibly a means of the soul's communicating its fertility ' mana ' to the village or the village land. But I confess that the form might be likened to the representation of a gigantic bird, and some further erections described by him as seen at the Chang village of Yangpi gave him that impression. These were:
text: "large pieces of wood, cut, and the white face turned outwards, and joined so as to resemble a bird with outstretched wings, and placed in the branches of several of the trees of the village, and have the appearance at a little distance of huge white birds beginning to take flight."
text: Whatever the intention of these erections put up by various tribes they all have the effect of catching the eye at a great distance and letting one know that the village has lost some stout fellow by death. [I have since seen one just as described by Woodthorpe in the first extract given above. It represented a rainbow and was put up as part of the memorial of a chief who died at Chingmei. Possibly the rainbow is for the spirit to go to the next world by. The Semas call the rainbow - Kungumi pukhu meaning "the sky spirits bridge." In Greece the rainbow was Iris the messenger of the gods to mortals, while in Teutonic mythology again the rainbow is the bridge into heaven used by the gods (Stallybrass, Grimm's Teutonic Mythology 731 sq. and by the dead (ibid 733) I am indebted to Mr. Henry Balfour for the reference to Stallybrass. The rainbow is regarded as a path for disease by the Sakai-Jakun of Pahang, who, if they see a rainbow when on a journey stop and build a hut, and by the Andamanese as the road used by angels" (Man,J.R.A.I. XII, 338) or by spirits visiting their friends on earth (Brown, Andaman Islanders). It is probably with the same sort of idea that the Angami, Sema, Lhota and Ao Nagas will not point at the rainbow for fear their fingers would shrivel a belief found in Germany (Brunswick) and in China (Stallybrass op. cit., II 731 sq) among the Karens (Marshall op. cit. p228) in Borneo (Evans Religion Folklore and Custom in N. Borneo and the Malay p 15) and in Lifua in Melanesia (Hadfield Among the Natives of the Loyalty Group p.113).]
text: In Yanching I noticed again that the curly-haired negroid type was common, though I never yet in any village met the equal in this respect of a Sangtam or a Sema, I do not know which, from the village of Shiets, who had curly black hair lying close to his skull like an African. He must have been the butt of his fellow- villagers, for curly hair is regarded by Semas, as by most other Nagas, as peculiarly offensive and a matter for much ridicule, and is rare in most tribes.
text: I noticed at Yanching the use of both the thong and the quartz and iron method of producing fire.
text: The Yanching 'lengtas ' [A species of loin cloth usually in the form of a narrow apron hanging down from the belt in front of it, and passing also underneath it and down between the legs and ultimately attached by most tribes not by all to the back of the belt by a cord.] do not, like the Chang and Sangtam ones, have a bag to contain the testicles, but constitute a compromise between that and the simple Konyak 'lengta' which merely depends from the waist. The Yanching 'lengta' is attached directly to the testicles by a cord. A man of Noklang came in wearing an interesting red cane pointed cane headband intermediate in shape between the red cane hat of the Chang and the pointed white headband of the Northern Konyaks.