The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - H.H. Godwin-Austen, Journal of a Tour in Assam, 26th November 1872 to 15th April 1873

caption: denuded hillsides due to Munipuris need for wood; extinction of rhinoceros; Tangkol Nagas - description of women's clothes; cultivation of cotton and silk; Imphal market
medium: tours
person: Gordon/ Capt.
ethnicgroup: Tangkol
location: Imphal
date: 4.3.1873
person: Godwin-Austen/ H.H.
date: 26.11.1872-4.4.1873
person: Royal Geographical Society, London
text: 4th March
text: Went up to the station again next morning & observed a few distant peaks. This point rises abruptly on the ridge, is mostly of hard sandstone & dips W by N 25o. To the North it is scarped & well wooded, & close under it lies, very prettily situated, one part of the Kookie village, the rest lying further along the ridge North, another cluster to the South. Many of the large forest trees still stand about but are fast going [55] down before the axe, to be taken along the good road into Munipur & used up as fire wood, to this cause I attribute the bareness of all the hills within a radius of 12 miles of the Raja's Palace, the grass that supplants the underwood & the annual burning at this time of the year that the last undergoes. The valley of the Laimakhong on the Eastward has the same character as that of the Imphalturel & Eeril, a broadish flat arm gradually decreasing to the main sources. The grass had there all been burnt & the late rain had brought up the young shoots afresh giving it a pleasant green look, while all on the other Eril side was still of the same ochre tint of the dry standing jungle grass, this will however disappear & great fires lighting up the sky high up and far around tell of its destruction. There are now no Rhinoceros in the valley & these fires I believe are the cause of their local extinction. I determined as the weather was now so very misty to descend into the valley to the East & Plane Table down it back to Munipur which I shall always designate by its proper name, Imphal, it being so confusing to use the term Munipur for both country & capital (the old site was once when Capt Gordon was political agent in 1834 some miles further south & there he died). In going down the hill we walked along with a Tangkol & his two wives, they carrying the hoes & baskets I was rather amused in the abrupt way he stopt on arriving at a field on the roadside & motioned to them with a grunt to commence their hoeing work which they quickly began without saying a word, their lord & master apparently not having the slightest intention of doing anything in that line himself. The Tankol Naga women wear the short skirt extending to just above the knee similar to that worn by all the other Naga tribes, but is generally broadly striped white & black, a blue cloth like a scarf crosses the breast from over left shoulder, the right being free & the basket when light is carried rather low on the back, the strap crossing the shoulders & breast & transferred to the forehead when heavy. In the valley below I saw the line burnt in some of the ravines about for local consumption. It is in the form of concretion thrown down by springs & limestone as a rock does not occur in the valley. Cotton, but very stunted, is grown on the flat bottom of the valley. No use is made of the water supply, only a few feet (5-6) below the surface in the stream that winds in short serpentine bends down the valley. Artificial means would render it most fertile. Plane Tabled all down the valley, passing the village & thanah of Susukameng (at point of hill opposite the thana & on the right side of the valley; 60o ENE). Here silk is cultivated & plantations of mulberry occur along the main bank. Black partridge were calling on all sides. It was quite dark when we reached Sumbum yet as the road was fair & there was a young moon I determined to walk in, in the cool, to Imphal & reached the Residency bungalow not long after [Intleson?]. At this late hour the bazar was only breaking up & we met numbers of women coming away from it. (56) This bazar is quite an Institution of the country. It is held in front of the main Gateway of the Raja's residence and a space some 150 yards square has been given up to it. This area is laid out in long raised platforms where the saleswomen sit with their commodities about them. Comparatively dry between each platform is a path way for the purchasers about 8 feet broad. The Bazar begins to assemble daily at 4-5 o/c & the last of the market women are not off until 8.30. It is a curious sight, the different commodities have their respective places. The fish, the sugar, rice, cloths & ornaments of brass are all kept separate & the only men selling are those of Indian cloths &c. Burmese, Sylhetias, Nagas & Kookis with a stray Sikh make up the motley crowd of buyers. There are a few Sikhs in the Raja's service men lured on by the hope of gaining good appointments to whom the Raja has lent money & got them well into his toils, they can never leave the valley. On getting in found Thomson & Butler just finishing dinner & got my own & a bottle of beer for the dak from Samagooding has brought in beer as well as letters. Had bed spread in the dining room for the ground was too wet to permit of the tent being pitched & it saved the men extra trouble after their long days walk & they have their own suppers to cook on the top of all they have gone through.