The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - 'Notes on the Wild Tribes Inhabiting the So-Called Naga Hills, on our North-East Frontier of India', by Col. R.G. Woodthorpe, 1881

caption: thoughts on an after-life
medium: notes
person: Holcombe/ Lt.Butler
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1881
refnum: given at a meeting of the Anthropological Institute, 1881
text: The Nagas in general have very vague ideas of religion or of a future state. Many never think at all about either; probably others again among the Angamis believe that if they have acted up to their received standard of a good life, and have abstained from eating flesh, after death their spirits would fly away into the realms above, and become stars. Others among the non-kilted tribes, Lieutenant Holcombe tell us, "believe that in heaven they will have cultivation, houses, and work; the poor will be better off they think: a rajah will remain as such in a future state, and although they have a name for God, they do not seem to worship a supreme being". The custom, the universal custom, of decorating graves or tombs with the deceased's wearing apparel and weapons, also with drinking vessels, &c., would seem to prove that there is among all the tribes an underlying current of conscious or unconscious belief in a future state. Certain it is that their belief in the existence after death of the freed spirit is not uncommon, if not general. Captain Butler mentions seeing a grave by the roadside several miles away from any village, and on inquiry found that it had been purposely placed there half-way between the village in which the deceased had been born and that in which he had passed the latter portion of his life, and where he had died. This was done to enable his spirit to revisit either.