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: Rengmah 'tails'; dress
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: RengmahSehmahLhota
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1881
refnum: given at a meeting of the Anthropological Institute, 1881
text: The Rengmahs are particularly noticeable for the peculiar tail which they alone, I believe, of all tribes wear. It is of wood, about a foot and a half long, curved upwards, broad at the base and tapering to the tip. Rows of white seeds are fastened longitudinally on the tail, and front it hang long tufts of black and scarlet hair. The broad part of the tail is fitted to the small of the black, and is suspended from the shoulders by a broad prettily embroidered belt ( white, red, and black); a small cloth tied tightly round the waist further secures the tail. This tail is used in fight to signify defiance; they turn tails towards the enemy, and by hopping rapidly on each leg impart the defiant wag to the tail. " Turning tail" with them means the reverse of what it does with us. This tribe, as also many others, wears, as a waist cloth only, a small flap, the inner end of which is drawn tightly up between the legs and secured at the back to the waistbelt. Some of these flaps are dark blue ornamented with cowries, in stars or stripes, others are white with broad red patches, or white with fine red lines: indeed this small garment varies in size, colour, and ornamentation with almost every village, certainly with every tribe. Some tribes go perfectly naked; one tribe we found close to the Sehmahs, and it is a curious fact that these naked people are not found in a group by themselves, but scattered about among the other tribes; thus we find a village of naked Nagas surrounded by decently clad people, and pass through several villages before coming again upon the naked folk. It is very seldom indeed that any women are seen in a state of complete nudity, and generally they are decently clad, much as the Angami woman already described. Some tribes, as Rengmahs, Lhotas, Haitigorias, &c., supplement their waist cloths by an apron about a foot square, profusely ornamented with cowries; other tribes those in the hills adjoining the districts of Sibsagor and Jaipur, wear a long (65) bright blue cloth, very much embroidered with red cotton, and decorated with beads, the inevitable cowries, &c. Very few, however, of the non-kilted tribes quite come up to the Angami in general appearance, when fully equipped in his war-paint: no decorations, though frequently more elaborate, seem so clean or handsome.