The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Village Organization Among the Central Nzemi Nagas', M.A. thesis by Ursula Betts

caption: Chapter three - the Ram or village community
caption: the individual's relations with the kienga
caption: head-dress commemorating sexual prowess
medium: theses
ethnicgroup: Nzemi
person: Betts/ U.V.
date: 1950
refnum: M.A. thesis, University College, London
note: footnotes indicated by boxes within square brackets
text: The second type of ornament is a headdress known as tala-na. In the centre is a single tail-feather of the Great Hornbill and surrounding this and attached to it are hornbills' wing-feather tips fastened to thin, wire-like threads of shaved bamboo. The tail-feather is fixed upright in the wearer's back hair and the bamboo slips are bent out and down to form a delicate encircling crown. The tail-feather represents the wearer's first affair and the wing-feathers his subsequent liaisons. They form an exact tally and when the wearer assumes the headdress for the first time (which he does in the hangseoke of his kienga on the day called Pwo-pa-pu-mai at the Hga-ngi feast) he makes a ceremonial exit from the building escorted by chanting young men, and calls on earth and sky to witness that his tally of feathers is accurate. This done, he goes in procession round the village with the young men still chanting, and afterwards the headdress is hung up in the hangseoki and worn as an ornament by any young man in gala dress who wishes to decorate himself with it. The owner himself never wears it again.