The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : 'Konyak Nagas' by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, (1969)

caption: Chapter Two. The Social Structure and its Units
caption: history of chiefship disputes in Thendu villages , succession of Angs
medium: books
person: AuwangKiwang
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Sangnyu (Hangnyu) Pomau Tang
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York54:4
text: The installation of a foreign lineage of chiefs as rulers of a village did not always provide permanent political stability, and Konyak history contains many examples of chiefs who failed to gain the loyalty of their new subjects. The following occurrence involving several Thendu villages in the vicinity of Wakching illustrates the difficulties involved in changing the leadership of a village.
text: When some fifty years ago the chief of Hangnyu, a village northeast of Wakching, died, a dispute arose over the succession. By right his eldest son, Auwang, should have become chief, but he was so young that his father's brother tried to displace him. The quarrel within the chiefly family endured so long that the other men of chiefly clan and the village elders approached the powerful Ang of Chi, asking him to second one of his brothers as Ang of Hangnyu. The Ang of Chi, however, was too shrewd a statesman to accede to this request. He pointed out that the ruling house of Hangnyu was not extinct and that to add a new chief to the two existing claimants would only aggravate the situation. The people of Hangnyu, however, anxious to set their affairs in order, sent a message to the paramount chief of Pomau, a large village northwest of Niaunu, and he, less cautious than the Ang of Chi, seconded his ambitious brother Kiwang to the chiefdom of Hangnyu.
text: At first all went well for the new Ang of Hangnyu. He led his subjects successfully against the neighboring village of Tang, and this raid gained Hangnyu a large number of heads, but a few years later his luck began to turn. Kiwang's wife, a daughter of the chiefly house of Mon, died, and so did her only son. Though Kiwang had numerous other children from wives of lower status, none of them were eligible to succeed him, and, thus, there was once more speculation as to the succession of the chieftainship of Hangnyu. This misfortune was followed by a series of poor harvests, which so depleted the wealth of the village that Kiwang found it difficult to provide the necessary sacrificial animals for the celebration of the seasonal rites. Moreover, Tang warriors, reversing the fortunes of war, ambushed a party of Hangnyu people and captured nine heads.
text: The villagers blamed Kiwang for these misfortunes, for just as the magical virtue of a sacred chief was believed to benefit his subjects, so the ill-luck of a community was ascribed to a decline in the chief's power. The sons of the former chief of Hangnyu, now grown to manhood, took advantage of the discomfiture of the man whom they considered a usurper. They instigated the villagers to ignore his orders, to pay only scanty tribute, and to neglect the work on his fields. Finally, they challenged Kiwang's authority by ostentatiously taking possession of the right hind leg of a buffalo sacrificed at the rebuilding of a morung, a share considered traditionally the prerogative of the village chief.
text: Kiwang felt that his days in Hangnyu were numbered, and sent messengers secretly to his brother, the powerful Ang of Pomau, asking whether he should withdraw from Hangnyu or whether he could depend on the support of his kinsmen to maintain his position. The Ang of Pomau counseled patience. He could not openly interfere in a village lying outside his domain, but he promised to invite the arrogant Ang sons to a feast in Pomau and to have them murdered. The plot was, however, betrayed, only one of the Ang sons accepted the invitation and he went to Pomau with a large escort of warriors, who took care never to let their weapons out of their hands. Immediately on their return to Hangnyu, the rightful heir to the chieftainship ousted Kiwang and banished him from the village.
text: However, the story did not end there. With Kiwang, many followers and servants had come to Hangnyu. They had acquired fields and built houses, and their sons and daughters had grown up in Hangnyu. Were they now to return as landless refugees to Pomau? No, they had made their homes in Hangnyu and wanted to remain Hangnyu people. "Well, if you are Hangnyu men why don't you fetch us a few heads from Pomau?" Though spoken mockingly, these words were taken seriously by four of Kiwang's onetime followers. On a moonless night they crept into Pomau and killed an unsuspecting couple sleeping on the veranda of a granary; but hardly had they severed the heads of the luckless lovers when a sentry gave the alarm, and the Pomau warriors set out in pursuit of the raiders. Only one escaped; two were overtaken and killed, and the fourth fled into the forest and climbed a high tree in the hope of putting his pursuers off the scent. In the morning the Pomau warriors discovered him, and surrounded the tree, but the situation was tricky. In the darkness of night, they had reacted to the attack by killing two men of whose identity they were ignorant. In the light of day they found, however, that the fugitive in the tree was one of their own kinsmen. Though his crime, which violated the most sacred bonds of village solidarity, had to be punished, their hands were tied by the taboo forbidding the shedding of the blood of a covillager. For the followers of Kiwang belonged to the chiefly clan of Pomau, and though they had emigrated to Hangnyu, they counted as Pomau men.
text: There was only one way to end the unprecedented situation. The Ang of Pomau himself had to intervene, for his status allowed him to disregard taboos with impunity, and his magical power was so great that not even the killing of a man of his own village could harm him. So the old Ang climbed into a neighboring tree and shot the offender with his muzzle-loader.