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: from Yangfai to Okha; dress; demonstration of head-taking; non-use of money so salt used to trade
medium: tours
location: Yangfai Sohan R. Phomching (Ponching) Siphang Dikhu R. Yungphong (Chamba) Yangching (Yangtung) Yangnyu R. (Yangmun R.) Ukha (Okha)
date: 18.3.1876-20.3.1876
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1875-1876
text: 40. On the 18th, we passed through Yangfai, a large village which received us well, and Longbu, a small Hatigoria village, and encamped on the Sohan River, a pleasant little stream with good open ground on either bank. At Yangfai we noticed a curious custom, the meaning of which I could not find out: large pieces of wood, cut and the white face turned outwards, are joined, so as to resemble a bird with outstretched wings, and placed in the branches of several of the trees near the village, and have the appearance at a little distance of huge white birds beginning to take flight. Early next morning we went on to Ponching, and remained there about two hours, while the fellows collected some rice. At this village and Siphang the men tie up their cloths in a most picturesque manner: they are knotted over one shoulder and cover the body, leaving the arms free; they fall to within about six inches of the knew and are tied round the waist by the belt which carries the wooden dao-sheath. The whole has the appearance of a Roman tunic. The tattooing here on the men's chests is the same as that at Chihu. From a point east of Siphang we looked down into the valley of the Yangmun, and I was dismayed to find how much further south that I had expected the valley of this branch of the Dikhu extended. We saw that it would be impossible, with the again unfortunately dull and hazy weather, which obscured all details, compelling us to confine our sketching to the ground immediately about us, to survey the whole of the valley. However, we determined to cross the river to some large villages, and do what we could from there before going into Tablung. We halted that night on a small stream, and on the 20th proceeded on to Chamba. On the way we met a few men going on a trading excursion, who, the moment they saw us, threw everything down, and went yelling back to the village. We were therefore not surprised a little further on to meet a small body of armed Nagas, some of whom were endeavouring to conceal themselves in the long grass on the right of the path. After a little while, they became convinced that we were not animated by any hostile feelings towards them, and preceded us to the village. They gave us some rice, and the headman, again donning his "war-paint", and bringing some long panjies, proceeded to plant them in a large circle round him; he then took a small hoe in his hand, and, stooping, gave us a representation of some jhooming operations, looking to the right and left round his shield the while; suddenly, he dropped his hoe, uttered a war-cry, and drawing his dao commenced to dance and brandish it, then running up to an imaginary foe, engaged him in combat, was victorious, cut off his head, and returned to his cultivating, till another imaginary enemy appeared, of whom he again disposed in the same satisfactory manner. The bystanders pointed to a village to the south, and we were given by signs to understand that that village was at war with them, and, being a strong one, was always harassing them during their labours in the field; and that the headman's performance was not only an illustration of the risk at which they raised each seer of rice, but was also intended as an elaborate apology for not having more to give us. They did not understand money, except as an ornament to be affixed to the waist-belt, so we gave them some salt, a commodity highly prized by them. Leaving them with many reciprocal signs of delight at having made each other's acquaintance, we passed on through Yangtung, and halted on the River Yangmun, which flows through a beautiful open valley with broad reaches of sand and stones, and large spaces of level land on either bank. It is joined by numerous large streams, which come steeply down from the watershed, dividing its huge spurs, whose almost precipitous sides send down most of the water which falls on them to swell the streams below. From the hill near Yangtung we saw beneath us, in a clear field on the left bank of the river, a large gaily-dressed body of warriors, escorting some women with loads; on seeing us, after many demonstrations of defiance, and dances up and down the field by each of the warriors in turn, they prudently retired to the other side. Higher up the stream was another large party of Nagas from Okha, to which village we intended to march next day. These men were encamped on the river engaged in fishing. They also retired on seeing us, and took up a position on a small eminence overlooking the reach on which we pitched our tents, and, as our lines were being run up, set up a long rolling war-cry, but made no further hostile demonstrations that night.