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: Col. H. Godwin-Austen's comments on the variety of languages; the prevalence of goitres; symbolic patterns on cloths and shields; treatment of the dead
medium: notes
person: Godwin-Austen/ Col. H.
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1881
refnum: given at a meeting of the Anthropological Institute, 1881
text: Colonel H. Godwin-Austen said that it was very remarkable to note in the Naga Hills the very short distances that have to be traversed, where the language is so changed that these village communities can scarcely understand each other. No doubt the constant state of hostility with their neighbours in which they live heads to this state of things, and the speaker could testify to all that the author had said as to the difficulties caused intentionally by the interpreters whom we have to employ, and who often are the cause of hostile attitude by the exaggerated reports they spread. He remarked that goitre is a disease equally local in the north-west Himalayas as in the Naga Hills, where it is often found in one valley affecting the greater number of the population, while it is quite absent in another valley close by. The patterns of the cloths being distinctive of the different clans, the speaker mentioned that it is still more interesting to state that the devices on their shields are also well known, and by which they distinguish friend from foe at long distances, and are veritable coats of arms. The placing of broken gourds on tombs is no doubt symbolical of death, and they are always placed with the mouth downwards. In the West Khasi Hills, on the tombs of women and girls, the cotton spindle she has wound are hung on the sides broken in half. The Lalus, a small clan in the North Jaintia Hills, place their dead in open coffins, raised several feet above the ground, which are left in this position after the dead body is taken out and burnt close by. The similarity of the pendant piece of wood hung from the waist, as shown in the drawing of the girl of the village of Chopnu to what the speaker had seen on a Buddhist sculpture in the valley of Kashmir is remarkable. He obtained one at the village of Bijbihara on the Jhelum, which (82) had just been dug out, and which he afterwards gave to the Museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta.