The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - 'Report of the Survey Operations in the Naga Hills 1875-1876' by Lt. R.G. Woodthorpe

caption: difficulties in surveying due to mist; elaborately decorated morungs of the Kamahu area; enemy skulls decorated with horns; descriptiong of village layout; widows; bunches of leaves on doorposts to protect house against evil
medium: tours
person: Badgeley
location: Nian Kamahu Yungya (Yangia)
date: 9.2.1876-11.2.1876
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1875-1876
text: 22. We encamped at Nian that afternoon, but the fearful haze which had hung over the hills for the last few days, through which it was impossible make out anything over five miles distant, prevented our doing much work. This haze was especially unfortunate at this time, as I was unable to see the watershed to the east, and hence did not discover, as I should otherwise have done, how far back the valley of the third feeder of the Dikhu extended. Had I seen this, I should have been able to arrange my programme at Wokha with greater accuracy; and, again, some additional labour and time would have been saved later on. The next day (10th) was, if possible, worse, but we moved on to Kamahu, passing through Yangia, which village presented us with a goat. Kamahu consists of three villages, built at short intervals along a narrow ridge; here we began to leave the naked Nagas, only a few of whom are seen in Kamahu. I have not mentioned them here, as they have already been described by Captain Badgley. The morangs (bachelors' houses) of all the villages in this part of the hills are very much more elaborately carved and ornamented than any others, - figures of elephants, deer, tigers, etc., being carved on all the principal uprights, and in some, life-size figures of men and women; the weather-boards are carved with figures of birds and fish, and painted in great detail, with red, black, and white stripes, circles, and dots. The morangs are divided into three partitions - first, the front verandah, enclosed at the sides; second, the body of the house, containing the sleeping apartments and store-rooms on either side of a central passage - each sleeping-room contains four planked beds, arranged in twos like the berths of a ship, on either side of a small fireplace; third, a large room, open to the small back verandah - this contains a fireplace, with a few planks as seats round it: this room is floored with immense hollowed beams. In the back verandah, which has a low circular roof, are hung all the trophies of war and the chase. The big drum is also kept here. A curious custom prevails here, as also in most of the villages lying between Tzela (most western branch of the Dikhu) and the watershed, of decorating the skulls of enemies taken in battle with a pair of horns, either buffalo or mithna [sic], and, failing these, with wooden imitations of them. The houses in this part of the world are like those already often described in my last year's reports, a slight difference only occurring in the ridge, which here is hogbacked instead of straight. The houses in Nian, Kamahu, etc., are very closely packed on each side of long streets, the eaves touching, and the projecting front gable-ends of opposite houses often overlapping each other; the result is that, even in the middle of the brightest day, the streets are wrapped in gloom so great as to make it difficult to distinguish objects in the front verandahs, the few flecks of sunlight which fall upon the roadway here and there only serving to make the darkness greater. In the front verandahs of some of the houses is a small enclosed room containing a bed and a fireplace. When an old women is left a widow, and without a home, her son (or(?) her nearest relative) provides her with this little chamber. In front of the houses in nearly all the villages we passed through during the expedition, large bunches of leaves were tied to the door-posts. I imagined that these were signs of peace; but I find that their object (like the blood on the door-posts and lintel) is to prevent any evil (sickness or devil's visitation) which may accompany strangers to the villages, from entering a house so decorated. Generally, the withered leaves showed that our visit had been expected for some time.