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: shields; belief that moisture could repel bullets; weapons: bows and arrows
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: RengmahSehmahLhota
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1881
refnum: given at a meeting of the Anthropological Institute, 1881
text: Among the other tribes the shields are smaller and less decorated than the Angami's, and among the tribes immediately adjoining the Angamis they are made of plaited bamboo, unadorned generally. A curious circumstance came under our notice on one occasion. We had been attacked by night, but had driven off our assailants, and burned their village which was hard by our camp. We remained in that camp for some days, till peace was concluded, but before that occurred we had to repel a second attack, this time by day, and I noticed that most of our assailants had fastened pieces of the stem of the plantain, or banana tree, to the exterior of their shields. A Khasia orderly I had with me explained that this had been done in accordance with an idea prevalent among his own people, and probably among most of the hill tribes ignorant of the exact nature of fire-arms, that a bullet is a piece of fire, whose effect can be counteracted by causing it to pass through a wet substance. Hence these shields of plantain stalks which contain a very large amount of moisture. How fatal this error, several Nagas proved. The spears and daos among the Rengmahs, Sehmahs, &c., are very similar in appearance and size to those of the Angamis, some slight peculiarity in the shape of the spear occasionally indicating the tribe using it. We find among these non-kilted tribes very good bows and cross-bows of bamboo, carrying long iron-headed arrows, which are seldom poisoned. A Naga once told Lieutenant Holcombe that it was not at all the correct thing to use a poisoned arrow, unless, indeed, it was fired at a woman.