The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

miscellaneous papers, notebooks and letters on Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower, 1937-1947

caption: funeral at Laisong
medium: notes
location: Laisong
date: 15.10.1942
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: Funeral seen at Laisong, 15.10.42, 5.30pm.
text: The man died at dawn. Many of the villagers were in the fields, so arrangements were made by his own dekachang only, and no mithan was killed, as he was poor. The grave was a square pit in very stony ground. A hollow the length of the pit (which was about 7'x7'x7') about 3 feet wide and 2 high was scraped out of one side at the bottom. The coffin was of white wood, very shallow; the hollow could not have been more than a couple of inches deep. The body, covered with one old cloth, lay in it, tied to it with bamboo thongs, with the shield on top, covering the body completely. Possibly the Kabui method of burial ("bandaging the body to a plank") mentioned by Hutton is something of the kind. Once laid in the grave, a basket with food, grave-goods etc was laid at the head. The hollow was then closed by large slabs stood on edge, the crannies being well filled in with smaller stones. Stones and earth were then flung into the pit, and the shaft filled with earth. During the filling in, an old woman (any old woman will do) poured some of the funeral zao kasang from a laoki into the shaft. When it was all filled in and a mound left, bamboo panjis were stuck into the mound and all caught hold of them in turn, saying (so I was told later), "There will be rice in the fields. There will be no bad dreams." When all had finished, the bamboos were pulled out & thrown away (should have been broken, but I did not see).
text: Dead laid so that they would face away from the house on arising.
text: Body laid out with face covered.
text: Young men watch the body all night.
text: Food put out for the dead man that night and after the funeral until the separation of the dead from the living at the Hgangi.
text: Spirit is believed to come for the dying and people visiting the house at night are said to have seen a spirit waiting outside and peering in.
text: Those who have lost one or both parents may not cut their hair until the following hgangi; sometimes a year without a cut; or a wife or child. (The nearest male relative must always go into mourning in this fashion; if prevented (e.g. by being in service) the next nearest male relative of the deceased must go into mourning till next Hgangi.)
text: Burial in an open wooden coffin. Spear and shield and dao with man; weaving things, axe and woman's basket with woman as well as clothes, food and other offerings. Occasionally a rough wooden cage is put over the grave to prevent fouling and trampling by animals.