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: biological and social fatherhood in Wanchu and Thendu groups
medium: books
ethnicgroup: WanchuKonyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York82:4
text: The comparative indifference to a child's biological paternity was understandable among the Konyaks of Wakching, where status differences were not of great importance. However, a similar attitude prevailed among the people of the Thendu group, and even the Wanchus, whose powerful chiefs form a highly privileged group, maintained that not only girls of commoner status but also the daughters of "great" chiefs engaged or married to a chief of another village were free to indulge in casual love affairs in their natal village; a pregnancy resulting from extramarital intercourse was not considered a cause for divorce or the breaking of an engagement which linked two chiefly families. My stay among it Wanchus in 1962 was too brief for the collection of many case histories, but the fact that my informants emphasized the embarrassment caused by the pregnancy of a chief's daughter who was neither married nor betrothed confirms that the pregnancy of high-born girls who were betrothed was considered less unfortunate. Little attention appeared to have been paid to the likelihood that premarital or extramarital love affairs of girls of great chiefs clan would lead, through the birth of natural offspring, to a diminishment of the purity of the chiefly line. The "social" paternity assured by a suitable marriage overruled the question of "biological" paternity, which was conveniently ignored.