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: virginity disliked and sexual prowess honoured
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Angami
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: It would seem that hardly one per cent of these first marriages lead to permanent unions. Perhaps it is the fear that the girl may die without sexual experience which is responsible for this strange custom. For nothing appears more deplorable to the Angami than the fate of a luckless, unloved girl in the next world. Virginity wins no halo in the Naga heaven, but is regarded rather as a sin, for has not the deceased failed to fulfil the duties of her earthly life? Just as a girl advertises her new status by growing her hair, the young man boasts of his first love affair by decorating his black loin cloth with three rows of pure white cowrie shells. And whoever succeeds either in seducing a married woman or in carrying on a simultaneous love affair with two sisters, proudly adds a fourth string of cowrie shells to his loin cloth. You cannot help wondering at the consequences of such customs -- what must happen to the marital harmony of Angami couples when the beau of the village struts about with a new and fourth row of cowries on his kilt?