The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : Return to the Naked Nagas (1939;1976)

caption: Chapter One. The Naga Hills
caption: description of the inside a Naga house
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Angami
location: Cheswezumi
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Eventually an old man in the red cloth of a gaonbura appeared and invited me with signs and gestures to come into his house. It was so dark inside that at first I could see absolutely nothing. Naga houses have no windows and it takes some time to get used to the blackness, before the rows of huge store-baskets and various pieces of household furniture take shape. I sat down on a long bench, carved from a single piece of wood and furnished with holes for pounding the rice. My host cleaned a small gourd, in which he offered me rice-beer. Our conversation was definitely limited. We smiled at each other and murmured some words, which, however, remained equally unintelligible to us both. Even had I been fluent in Assamese it would have made little difference, for the Eastern Angamis come so seldom in touch with outsiders that very few of them know any language but their own. The beer was good, and according to custom, I accepted another gourdful. But I was not through with this one round. I had hardly taken leave of my old man, with many gestures of (10) thanks, when a neighbour of my host pulled me into his house. There the whole ceremony was repeated. On returning to the bungalow, the villagers brought me a cock as a present. It is a Naga custom to honour distinguished visitors with gifts of chickens and the refusal of such a gift would be a serious insult.