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 Ukha - shy villagers, fear of camera; surface soil banked into terraces behind logs; zu brewed from paddy husks; dislike of selling ornaments; daos; tattoos; effigies of the dead; disposal of the dead; village names
medium: articlestours
person: WoodthorpeChingmak/ of Chingmei
ethnicgroup: Phom
location: Ukha Pongu Phomching Yonghong Yakthu (Yaktu) Tobu Mon Shamnyu
date: 16.4.1923
person: Hutton/ J.H.
date: 4.1923-27.4.1923
text: April 16th. - To Ukha a steepish climb of about five to six miles after crossing the river. The people here were very shy. They gave us presents of rice and goats and rice-liquor, but were obviously afraid of our intentions, no doubt on account of what happened last time when they tried to ambush Woodthorpe's escort, and succeeded in wounding a sepoy and getting their village burnt. Probably they credit us with memories no less long than their own and the vindictiveness any Naga would display in our position. Many of the carved posts of the morungs were taken down and put outside, to save them, as we supposed, in case of the village being burnt, and when I turned my camera on a crowded morung built in three tiers (Pl. 1, fig. 1), all the occupants fled, taking it for some sort of deadly weapon, and could not be induced to return. Yet they cannot ever have seen or heard of a machine gun. If one looked at them they got up and went away. They had a few old heads in the morungs - the new ones probably hidden - and one morung had a fairly recent hand fastened up in it.
text: At Ukha, as at Pongu the young trees are very carefully preserved and kept growing in the crop and the surface soil is kept from detrition by a very free and systematic use of logs to keep up the earth in rudimentary terraces of a more efficient kind than I have seen between here and the Angami country. The drink they gave us here struck me as extraordinarily like the Kuki vai-ju, and, sure enough, I found on enquiry that it was brewed from paddy husks as by the Thados.
text: All round these parts there is a general reluctance to part with any article of personal use or adornment, for fear, apparently, that the soul of the original owner will fall into the power of the purchaser, which rather looks as though articles once worn became permeated with the owner's vital essence.
text: This sentiment seems a great deal stronger when it is known that a sahib is the purchaser as distinct from a strange Naga.
text: Apparently our 'mana' is regarded as being dangerous in itself, apart from any volition on our part. So, in many villages, nothing we had used, not even the bamboo mats we had borrowed for screens could be touched again by their owners or by anyone else after we had gone.
text: I noticed outside Ukha a few small stones erected, and others lying flat, probably having been originally so placed.
text: A Phom of Phomching apprised me of a belief that I had not struck before, by asking me to exchange a dao of mine for the fine dao which he was carrying. It was Kangshi and he said that a dao used to decapitate an enemy either turned harder than before or it turned soft in the hands of the beheader, and his had turned soft on him. It was the dao used to take the Yacham head already referred to. Eventually he exchanged it for a decidedly inferior dao belonging to someone else.
text: The Ukha men had, some of them, the "ostrich-feather" Chang tattoo on the thigh while the women had the same patterns as those of Pongu. Some of the men also had their throats tattooed with a vertical line pattern suggesting a stiff and high necklace with bone supports like those of some Konyaks. This pattern was seen at its best on the effigies of the dead which we here met for the first time on this tour. These figures are made of wood and collected apparently in family groups under open thatch shelters outside the village (Pl. 1. fig. 2). They are definitely stated to be provided for the habitation of the soul of the deceased whom they represent. [SKETCH
text: The wooden figures put up as the memorials of the dead by the Angami (v. The Angami Nagas pp. 47, 227) seem to be likewise for the accommodation of the soul. Some villages leave them till they rot away; others (e.g. Kohima) remove them after they have been up a year "as it is not good to let them remain too long." Wooden effigies are used as abodes for the soul in the Pacific. [Frazer The Belief in Immortality II 288 297 318 sqq 104) and apparently the skulls are sometimes kept inside them or at least with them (Frazer. id. I 311 and II 324). Elsewhere effigies are set up as memorials only it seems (Codrington The Melanesians. p. 174). A wooden image for the soul of the deceased seems also to be made by the Kafirs of Kafiristan J.R.A.I. XXVII, 78). For the head or skull as the location of the soul cf. The Angami Nagas - p. 198; Frazer, id., II, 325, Codrington, ibid.- 264.]
text: To our camp at Ukha, Yonghong and Yaktu men came in, and also the Chang chief Chingmak of Chingmei, an old acquaintance, who brought with him one of the Tobu chiefs. From the former we learned that Chingmei, which is apparently on the watershed dividing the sources of the Tsuta (" Tita") and the Zungki from another stream which runs directly east to the Chindwin, is in touch with the plains of Burma, more or less and its traders meet with people on the Burma side who wear trousers. Mills picked up a Khamti dao here and the metal armlets they wear hereabouts are said to be got from a place called Kamlugh which I take to be Khamtilong. Chingmak told us that Mom, a big village on the next range, renowned like Tobu for its daos, had told him to bring us a challenge from them, as they thought it a pity we should have come so far and go away without leaving them any of our heads. On Chingmak's representing to them the futility of trying to take on a force of our description, and saying that as many more servants of Government were always to be had to replace the killed in inexhaustible supply, they thought better of it, and resolved to bring presents instead. They changed their minds again, however and never came officially, though they had a spy hanging about our camp for a day or two. [SKETCH
text: At Tobu also known as Tijing, there is said to be a high stone sitting-place reserved for the hereditary chief, and held during the minority of the present very old and autocratic chief by his mother, a thing most unusual in these hills. Woodthorpe [Loc. cit.] mentions " a very fine stone viaduct in the middle of the village about 50 feet in length and 20 feet in height, with a most scientific culvert through it." I hope to get to Tobu in November.
text: Shamnyu, a village across the valley of the Kaimong north-east of Tobu, is said to have been burned by Burmese troops on their way to invade the Assam Valley, presumably in 1816, and Mills tells me that a similar legend attaches to Ungma, Nankam and the villages on the Langbangkong in the Ao country. This is confirmed by Woodthorpe's diary of 1876 which records that the villages on the Langbangkong range have two names because they received a new one after being burnt, of which Tsimr-Menden or Longmisa is mentioned as one. It seems, however, that another and much more likely explanation is also given of these alternative names - that when the Ahom Kings succeeded in exacting tribute from certain villages they gave them names of their own. This, however, though accounting for the obviously Assamese names such as " Naogaon " for Merangkong, will not account for all of them, e.g. Longmisa, and it is possible that the Burmese invasion had been confused in tradition with a previous inruption of invaders from the east when the invaders did not go on to the Valley, but stayed in the villages they conquered and in some cases changed the names of them, possibly driving out the former occupants who would naturally continue to use the old names, and speak of the villages by them to their neighbours in the plains.
text: As among the Aos, the successful head-hunter in Ukha hangs up a circle of cane in front of his house.
text: To-night was the first fine night since leaving the railway. Another presentation egg hatched on us here.