The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - extracts on Nagas from 'Assam Administration Report'

caption: Nagas on the Lakhimpur frontier
caption: Nagas on the Lakhimpur and Sibsagar Frontier
caption: Section 2. Relations with Tributary States and Frontier Affairs
caption: visit by Deputy Commissioner
caption: dispute over village site
caption: religion and custom
caption: salt; poppy cultivation
medium: reports
date: 1900
date: 1901
text: The Namsangias and Borduarias had disputes as usual, but did not actually come to blows. The Deputy Commissioner visited their villages in March, and recorded the following note:
text: These two tribes are out nearest neighbours on the Jaipur side. They are closely related, and were originally, no doubt, one people. Now, however, they are on anything but good terms. The Borduarias are considerably the more powerful, but each has too wholesome a respect for the other power to indulge in open warfare. For a long time the Namsangias had to recognise the superiority of the Borduarias, and when an animal was killed by the former, the rib was given to the latter. This custom has now been discontinued, and the chief reason of the constant feuds is that the Borduarias still wish to be acknowledged as the paramount tribe, while the Namsangias claim equality.
text: Both tribes are independent, but for all practical purposes they are controlled by, and obey the orders of . the Deputy Commissioner. They speak Assamese; they have embraced the Hindu faith, and they trade largely with the plains. For some years any heavy jungle-clearing on new grants or roads had been done by these Nagas. To prohibit their visiting the plains would be a very heavy punishment. Then the Borduaria Raja holds two hundred 'bighas' of rent-free land near Jaipur, while the Namsangia Raja is paid Rs. 450 a year on account of the Hukanjuri seed garden, which belongs to the Jaipur tea estate. Thus, either Raja can very easily be punished, if necessity arises, and , as a matter of fact, the Namsangia Raja's subsidy for one year was recently withheld, because he did not come in when ordered to do so.
text: The last dispute between the tribes has been over a village site. The site is a hill, three or four miles from the Borduarias' village, and seven or eight from the present Namsangia village. It was at one time occupied by the Namsangias, who removed to their present village 15 or 16 years ago. The hill remained unoccupied until last year, when a colony of Borduarias came and took possession of it. The Namsangias complained to me, and I promised to visit their villages and settle the matter, if possible. I have just returned, and found it impossible to interfere. The hill is closer to the Borduaria than it is to the Namsangia village, and the Namsangias having abandoned it for so many years cannot claim it now. Besides, so long as the tribes are independent, we cannot interfere in such matters. All we insist on is that our territory shall be respected, and the roads from the two villages down to the Inner Line. An agreement to this effect was signed last year by the heads of the two tribes, and should be literally enforced. With inter-tribal warfare in the hills beyond we have at present nothing to do. I halted a day in the Borduaria village, and examined it with some care. The village proper contains some two hundred houses, and on each of the outlying spurs is a group of houses, which serves as an advanced post. The Borduarias assured me that they could themselves put a thousand warriors in the field, and they are allied with other villages and tribes such as the Kaimai, the Paniduarias, the Palongias, etc. The Borduarias assured me that they could themselves put a thousand warriors in the field, and they are in alliance with the Namsangias. I am not aware on what information the strength of these Nagas, as given in Mackenzie's North-East Frontier, is based, but doubt the accuracy of the figures. Time did not permit my visiting any other villages, and without doing so, no definate information can be had.
text: As regards religion, custom, and means of livelihood, the Borduarias and Namsangias can be taken together. They are Hindus now, adherents of one of the Sibsagar Gosains. According to their own story, they have been Hindus from the earliest times, but in reality their conversion is probably of recent date. All enquiries on this subject proved fruitless. On out way down from the Borduaria village, we passed two separate spots, which Bor Dangariyas (friendly spirits) were believed to inhabit, and each Naga of our party piously threw his twig or leaf on the heaps that marked the places. Some of the other tribes are wholly or partly Hinduised, but on this point reports varied considerably.
text: The manufacture of salt is carried on to a very considerable extent. In the course of my tour I saw 15 or 16 primitive stills, and was informed that there are several others. The method of manufacture is as follows:
text: Wells have been sunk at various placed and lined with hollow tree trunks. From these water with a slightly saline taste is baled out and stored in rough bamboo vessels. Each well has close by one or more rude furnaces of baked clay, open at the top. The furnace is charged with fuel, the bamboo vessels are placed side by side across the opening, and a fire is maintained till the process of evaporation is complete and only salt crystals are left in the vessels. This salt the Nagas use, and trade both among themselves and the people in the plains.
text: The poppy is cultivated further back in the hills. I saw none in the course of my tour, but was shown several poppy heads from which the juice had been extracted. It is possible that a certain amount of hill opium finds its way into our territories.
text: The people are most interesting, and I regret that time did not permit of my making a longer stay among them, or learning more than a few obvious facts about them.