The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Four. Religious Beliefs and Practices
caption: Gawang unusually linked to the moral order, punishes immorality
medium: books
ethnicgroup: KonyakWanchu
location: Wakching
date: 1962
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York100:5
text: An unusual feature of the beliefs concerning Gawang was the idea that he cared for the moral conduct of men and fulfilled the role of a guardian of the moral order. When I first worked among the Konyaks, I had no experience of other Indian tribes and was not particularly surprised by this aspect of Gawang, but later observations among numerous Indian tribes, including tribes in the eastern Himalayas who resembled Nagas in many respects, made me realize the exceptional nature of a tribal deity so closely linked with the moral order. I even suspected that I might have misinterpreted some of the data relating to Gawang. When in 1962 I spent some time in the villages of the Wanchu group, I paid special attention to this problem and found there a belief in Zangbau ("Sky-Earth"), who was clearly the same deity as Gawang. He too was believed to punish liars and men committing evil deeds by causing their premature death. This tallied exactly with the views expressed by many of my Konyak informants regarding Gawang's concern for human morality. They had often told me that Gawang could see and hear everything human beings did, and that he was angered by breaches of the moral order. This applied even to trivial offenses. Once I asked a young man of chiefly clan whether he, like other boys, would eat from one dish with the girls of commoner status who were his companions in the work on the fields. "Of course, I would like to eat with them too," he replied, "but Gawang sees it." In deference to Gawang he hesitated to break the taboo on eating with girls of lower rank.