The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

diaries kept by Ursula Graham Bower on visits to Manipur and North Cachar between 1937 and 1940

caption: meeting with Tuinem headmen; a dance at Tuinem
medium: diaries
person: Taylor/ Col.Taylor/ Mrs.Pongse
location: Khunthak (Kungthak) Tuinem
date: 12.11.1937
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
person: private collection
text: Nov. 12th
text: Left Songphel about same time, 8 o'clock. Valley below was a lake of clouds,
text: Met on the road by a deputation from Tuinem, the headman, his lieutenant, who entertained the Taylors last year, & various oddments with chickens & zu. Reached the village about 2.15, had tiffin. The Nagas still hanging about the bungalow, scarlet blankets all among the trees. Fine looking men, but given to wearing old European (8) clothes underneath, which rather spoils the effect when they throw their robes back. Many of them had their hair cut Naga fashion, with a tail down the back and the sides shaven, and one had cock's feathers in the tail. Managed to photograph a good many, but the light was poor.
text: In the evening a party came round & offered to dance for us. We told them to come at 8.30, which they did, pretty well ginned up - or rather zu'd. They stood in (9) a line & sang several songs in a kind of chorus, one man giving the words, like a psalm in an old Scots Kirk, one man singing it solo and the rest joining in the chorus in harmony. There was a very deep, chesty bass and two or three parts on top of that. It was really very effective, especially when they go warmed up to it. Then they did a song & dance and skipped about the light of the verandah lamp, old Red Slippers, the 2nd headman, well to the fore. Then they did a sort of Nuts-in-May dance, formed in two lines. It was supposed to be two villages bargaining over a (10) bride, and ended, amid shrieks of glee, with the hauling of one little man over the other side. At least, it ought to have ended there, but they went on with another verse, possibly about what happened afterwards. I don't know, as it wasn't translated for us, Pongse and the Ukhrul lumbu being both moderately zu'd. Last of all they did a war- dance. My young buck let out the best screech of the lot, but he was too zu'd or too shy, or both, to nip in and do a solo. The headman's brother or cousin leapt about with an imaginary spear, and then dashed off & came back with a hedge-stake (11) with which he did the most marvellous war-dance. It was really thrilling, and he acted marvellously. Old Red-slippers grabbed another stake & joined in and they bounded about and crouched and stabbed and challenged for all the world as if it was the real thing. The headman got between them at the very beginning and leapt about with arms outstretched while they tried to break past him. Of course it was all pretend but Col. T. said that when they are actually dancing with spears the young bucks get so worked up they would certainly go for one another so the headman gets in and keeps them well apart, however much they try to get by. They went on till they were both exhausted, and nobody would take their places. I hopes the young buck would, but he was too shy. He led one song, very well, but adequately lubricated.
text: To-day, after Mrs T. & I had gone ahead out of Kungthak, Lt. Col. T. was following on when he heard the two medicine & tiffin japha-coolies bursting into full song. (They were two of the 13 from Mao, and both young lads, about 17 or 18). He asked Pongse to translate (13) and was told they were saying they were jolly glad to have the medicine & tiffin jobs, because they got all the zu to finish after it had been presented to the Colonel by the reception committees. They had had 5 bottles of zu between them on one hour and had a gorgeous lift on.