The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

printed - tour diary of the Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills for the year 1870-1872 (John Butler) volume two

caption: visit to old Naga fort at Khonoma; description of fight there against the British which appears to Butler to have been badly fought by the British; Merhma clan fields; remarkable terrace cultivation; Butler tries without success to get Merhma and Semoma clans to make peace
medium: tours
person: Pelhu/ of Khonoma
date: 16.3.187212.1850
person: Butler/ John
date: 22.11.1870-17.2.1873
note: inaccurate spelling in the original text
text: 16th March, Saturday. We got up very early this morning and ascending the high hill behind Khonomah, visited the site of the old Fort that the Nagas erected there in December 1850. Two of the Merhmah clan who accompanied us, I discovered, had been engaged against us in the fight that took place there, so we got them to tell us all about it and had great fun listening to their vivid and graphic description of the whole affair which I must confess, if all I have heard today is true, appears to have been terribly mismanaged on our part. Our loss is stated by the Nagas to have been "tremendous" whilst their own is given as only "one man killed". The official report, if I remember right, gives our own loss to have been something like 30 altogether whilst no mention whatever is made of the Nagas' loss. It is extraordinary to me why when the Fort was commanded by another hill in rear which could easily have been occupied by a flank march from Mozemah, the whole force should have gone straight at it, on its most difficult approach. However it is not a pleasant task to criticize the acts of others at any time and less so on this occasion so I will say no more on that head.
text: After visiting the old Fort or rather the site on which it used to stand, we went through the Merhma fields where all the lads and lasses were out at work, and were much pleased to observe the good humour with which every one of them seemed to be working, tilling up the ground with joyous song and echoing shout notwithstanding each man having his shield and spears close at hand ready for action in case the Semoma clans might attempt to attack them. I have so often dilated up on the Terrace cultivation in these Hills I scarcely like to say anything more regarding it, and yet the bit we walked down today was really such a splendid specimen. I cannot refrain from again drawing attention to the wonderful skill and labour that has been employed by these savages in turning the whole valley at the head of the Zubja into one long almost uninterrupted succession of terraces which will now soon be verdant with rich rice. I may add there was nothing that I saw in Kashmere (although I visited every portion of that lovely country) that could at all compare with this bit.
text: After breakfast or rather tiffin, for it was past 1 p.m. when we got back from our morning stroll, I paid, according to previous arrangement, a long visit to Pelhu and the other chiefs of the Merhma clan who had all assembled to meet me. We had a very long talk together, the substance of which was that the Merhmah clan were quite ready to obey any order I might give them even to paying me a regular revenue and keeping the peace towards all men, but it was quite impossible that they could do the latter and make peace with the Semoma men voluntarily and of their own accord.
text: On enquiring into the affairs regarding Rallutomah, I was surprised to learn that the Munniporries had accepted Rs.20 to say no more about it. However in the absence of the Political Agent, I thought it inadvisable to enter further into the matter.
text: I next visited the Semomah clan with whom I had to under go much the same kind of ordeal I had had with the Merhma men for like them the Semoma assured me they were quite ready to do anything except make peace, and so I was compelled to my great sorrow to let things [19] take their course and I suppose many days will not pass before I hear of the death of another victim to this cursed Vendetta. Both clans, I may add, gave me a hearty welcome and each presented us with the usual offerings of spears, fowls, rice, a pig, etc., and did all that lay in their power to make us enjoy our visit.
text: On the way, I must not omit to record the fact of our having seen some frozen snow this morning for the first time. It occurred whilst we were descending from the old Fort previously alluded to, when our notice was drawn to something white glistening in a ravine far away overhead which we at first took to be a waterfall, but on enquiry it turned out to be the last of the snow that had fallen there a month or two ago. Having heard nothing of the movements of the Political Agent, I presume he is still fully occupied in Lushai Land and so our intended meeting on the frontier will have to be postponed sine die.