The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Three. Phases of Life
caption: marriage alliances of chiefs; song reflecting attitude to premarital sex
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Niaunyu (Niaunu)
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York75:4
text: Though in Thendu villages there was probably less promiscuity among the unmarried than in Wakching, and many marriages of chiefs' daughters were contracted as political alliances and arranged by the parents, girls were not expected to remain virgins until they were married. A song, which I recorded in Niaunu in 1962, reflects the attitude of young people to premarital love affairs. It is an alternating chant, sung by boys and girls on the occasion of the nocturnal visits paid by a group of boys to a house where their girlfriends had collected. In an abbreviated form it runs as follows:
text: Boys; We have come to your house to sing,
Tell us frankly whether you want us as your lovers;
Do not tease us, by saying one thing,
And doing another.
text: Girls: Alas, we can only love you for a few months,
For we are betrothed to our cousins (literally "mother's brother's sons")
And it would be wicked to break the engagement.
text: Boys: We do not want io be your lovers
For a short time only;
We want io have you for all time
As our wives.
text: Girls: We cannot be your wives,
Our parents would be cross with us
If we did so.
text: Boys: We have offered to become your husbands,
But you want only temporary lovers;
So we shall go to other girls' houses.
text: Girls: Well, go ahead and make love to them.
If you can get other girls,
We too can get other lovers.
text: Boys: At first you talked very sweetly,
But now you have turned us down
And we feel very bitter.
We will not waste our time with you,
But go in search of other girls.
text: Girls: We did not know that you wanted to marry us,
We thought you only wanted to love us.
You never told us what was in your mind.
We were quite willing to make love to you
For a few months, but we cannot be your wives.
For we are already betrothed to our cousins
And they would feel bad if we broke the engagement.
Our mother's brother would beat us,
And we are afraid of him.
text: Boys: Be it so. We love you all too much,
And if you do not want to marry us,
Let us be your lovers for some time.
text: This song shows clearly that love affairs not leading to marriage were normal experiences in a girl's life, even though she might have been betrothed to a cross-cousin. The song highlights a girl's willingness to enjoy such premarital adventures without committing herself to a more permanent union, and suggests that young men were keener on marriage than were the girls.