The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

printed - Tour Diary of the Deputy Commissioner for 1873 (John Butler) volume three

caption: houses decorated with human heads; Tankhul hairstyle and dress; penis rings
medium: tours
ethnicgroup: Tankhul
location: Thongteng Thonem Talloi (Toloi) Huimi (Humi) Gazifhema (Gaziphemah) Tesophenyu (Tesephema)
date: 26.3.1873
person: Butler
date: 17.2.1873-11.4.1873
note: inaccurate spelling in the original text
text: 26th March. Passing below the two villages of Thongteng and Thonem we pitched our tents in the village of Toloi and on ascending a high peak just above we found ourselves standing once more on the summit of the main watershed and below us to the north-west we say a village situated right on it which one of the Nagas accompanying us said was Humi.
text: Whilst strolling through the village we saw several houses decorated with human heads as indeed I had noticed was the case at the last two villages. The method adopted by these men was to hang the heads up in a row inside the outer hall or verandah of the house whilst at Gaziphemah they were all stuck up on poles with a long spike running right through the skull, and at Tesephema I remember they were suspended from the ends of long bamboos with a short stick thrust through from ear to ear. It is strange that one of the marked peculiarities of each section of all these Naga tribes is the manner in which they dispose of the skulls of their human victims. Another of the marked characteristics dividing one tribe from its neighbour is of course the manner in which the hair is worn. These Tankhuls for instance shave the head on either side and leave a central ridge only very like the crest adorning the head dress of the orthodox clown in a circus at home. The dress of the Tankul males moreover only consists of a coloured scarf tied round the waist with the short ends hanging down in front and a loose cloth thrown over their shoulders with the ring over the foreskins (to which I have already alluded) but it is not at all uncommon to see both the scarf and cloth discarded especially if the weather is at all warm, or any manual labour attempted, as Tankul decency is apparently quite satisfied with the ring along, of which fact we had several opportunities of being witnesses to. This ring by the way is made of all kinds of material, ivory horn, wood, bamboo, cane and even string. The garb of the women is equally primitive for a rather pretty petticoat (sometimes black and while and others red and white with the broad stripes running horizontally) reaching from the hips to above the knee appears to be considered "full dress" . A few tie a narrow scarf over the breasts and sometimes throw a cloth loosely over the shoulders but this appears to be done solely for warmths sake in fact women with less of the pride about them I have never had the pleasure of meeting.