The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - extracts from 'Descriptive Ethnography of Bengal' on Nagas by E.T. Dalton

caption: Section 6. The Nagas of Upper Asam
caption: burials: miniature houses for the dead; boat-shaped coffins; funeral; American missionaries
medium: articles
person: Robinson
location: Deko R. Dihung R. Namsang
person: Dalton/ E.T.
date: 1872
text: The approaches to the village are often carefully planted with mangoe and jack trees and bamboos, and under the shade of these groves are miniature houses which contain or cover the bones of their dead. At least it was the custom of the Nagas of the interior between the Deko and Dihing rivers, thus finally to dispose of them.
text: The bodies are first placed in wooden coffins like boats, and exposed suspended to trees outside the village till completely desiccated; then the obsequies take place. If the deceased was a person of consideration, two buffaloes, several pigs, and a great number of fowls are killed. The friends from all the neighbouring villages, equipped in their war dress, arrive, and bearing gongs and drums proceed to the place where the remains are laid. Each man carries a shield, a spear, and a dao or battle axe.
text: They then sing and dance, the burden of the song is a defiance of the demon of death that has taken their friend; they address him as if he were an enemy who, in their own fashion, had treacherously made away with their clansman, the chorus brandishing their weapons and repeating yes! yes! at the end of each denunciation. Music, dancing, and feasting, are continued all night and all next day. Then a large company of young women come and completely cover the remains with leaves and flowers, after which they are disposed of according to the custom of the tribe.
text: The above is taken from a description by an American Missionary of a funeral he witnessed in Namsang (See Robinson's "Assam", quoting "Baptist Missionary Magazine".), or some other of the eastern border villages: and at the close of the ceremony the bones were burnt. In the more remote villages the bones are preserved in the little houses I have alluded to above, or buried.