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 7. Lower Naga Group. (1) The Nagas west of the Doyang River
caption: government: no chiefs; village spokesman's office no hereditary; council of elders; feuding between clans; village melees
medium: articles
location: Diyung R. (Doyang R.) Kopili
person: Dalton/ E.T.
date: 1872
text: Of the Naga tribes between the Doyang and Kopili Rivers, we have a comprehensive account in Major Steward's very interesting Notes on Kachar, published in the Journal Asiatic Society, Bengal, No. 7, for 1855. It appears from it that their polity is very different from that of the Naga tribes East of the Doyang. West of that river they acknowledge no chiefs. They appoint, as spokesman of the village, some elder who has the reputation of superior wisdom, or, perhaps, more frequently, the influence of wealth, but they give him no real power, and are not bound by anything he says. The office is not hereditary, nor always held for life. A council of elders sometimes sits to decide disputes, but no one is bound to attend to their award. Disputes between people of the same clan become feuds and lead to intestine wars, but the very great misery that this entails on the community acts as a deterrent. Passions are repressed by fear of the consequences of giving them vent, and order is thus generally maintained from the very absence of any rule or legitimate power to enforce it. It is, however, found necessary to give the fighting propensities of the people full vent once or twice in the year. A meeting is appointed at a convenient time and place, and a general melee takes place, every one fighting but using no weapons, except those with which nature had provided him.