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: village fortifications; gates; lookouts; morung; carvings; log-drum; posts
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: HatigoriaDupdoriaAssiringia
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1881
refnum: given at a meeting of the Anthropological Institute, 1881
text: The villages, as a rule, occupy the most commanding points along the ridges, and the approaches to them are exceedingly pretty. Broad roads, bordered with grass and low shrubs lead up through avenues of fine trees to the main entrance, which is generally very strongly guarded by two or three panjied ditches running right across the ridge and stockaded on the inner bank. The stockades are strongly built of a double line of posts supporting a wall of interlaced bamboo, and are capable of offering a good resistance. The outermost ditch is generally about 200 or 300 yards from the village, the second being situated between it and the one surrounding the village. The gate through the stockade of this last ditch into the village is cut out of one huge block, and is frequently 4 or 5 feet broad and 6 feet high. A large gable roof is constructed over it, giving it a great resemblance to our old lychgates. Look-outs are built commanding the entrances, and in some cases little huts are constructed in large trees outside the most advanced stockades (69) on the main roads, communications being preserved with the interior by means of long ladders and causeways. Passing through the gate into the village we find ourselves before the "morang", or bachelor's house, a large and most peculiar looking building, appearing to be all roof, which springs from a small back gabled wall of bamboo about 5 feet high, and 6 or 7 feet broad. The ridge rises rapidly from this to the front, till it attains a height from the ground of 25 or 30 feet, the eaves resting on the ground on either side. The front is closed in with a semicircular wall of thatch, a small door about 4 feet high giving admittance to the building, which, as this is generally the only opening, is necessarily somewhat dark. As the eye gets accustomed to the gloom, though, we find that the house is divided into two parts by a low wall formed of a log of wood over which a thick bamboo mat is stretched. One-half of the house has a matted floor, and is provided with a hearth and planked sleeping places round it, and here the young men live; but the other half is unfloored and is intended for the reception of casual visitors dropping in for a chat. We also make out that the principal uprights are carved with large figures of men, elephants, tigers, and lizards &c., roughly painted with black, white, and a reddish brown. Arranged round the walls are skulls of men and animals, and skilful (70) imitations of them made by cutting and painting old gourds. The ridge of the "morang" projects a few feet in front and is ornamented with small straw figures of men and tufts of straw. Outside each "morang" is a large platform of logs of wood on which the young men and their friends sit and smoke through the day, and hard by is an open shed, in which stands the big drum, formed out of the trunk of a huge tree hollowed out, and elaborately carved and painted in front, after the manner of the figure-head of a ship: it is furnished at the other end with a straight tail. The drum is raised from the ground on logs of wood. It is sounded by letting a heavy piece of wood fall against it, and by beating it with double headed clubs. This drum calls the villagers together for war, or is beaten on festive occasions and gives forth a deep booming sound. Sometimes when an attack is expected from some neighbouring village, the drum is beaten at intervals throughout the night, in the hope that if the attacking party is on the way to the village it will, on hearing the drum sounding, consider that the villagers are on the alert and return home. In large villages there are two and even three "morangs" with their neighbouring drums. The other houses in the village are large and long, the front part resting on the ground, the back, as usual, being supported on bamboo piles, with platforms at the back and sides, in which many of the household duties are performed. There is a large open verandah in front, and the interior is divided into two or three rooms. The Hatigoria houses are the largest and best built, and are arranged most regularly, and closely adjacent on either side of long streets. The front gables project considerably, those of opposite houses nearly meeting over the roadway. In front of the houses are rows of skulls, and in one or two of the front of the verandahs we notice rows of curiously carved and painted posts about 3 feet high. These, we are told, are put up on the occasion of the owner of the house giving a big feast, and thereby proclaiming himself a man of substance. A village contains from 200 to 500 houses.