The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Two. Feasts Of Merit
caption: description of Khonoma fortress
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Angami
location: Khonoma
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Khonoma stands on the crest of a ridge, a natural fortress; on all sides the slopes fall away steeply. Stone steps lead up the hill to the gateway in the strong stone wall. The solid wooden door, painted in red, white and black with symbols of wealth and fertility -- mithan heads, drinking-horns, hornbill feathers and suns -- is an effective defence against any Naga weapon, for no dao could split the thick wood.
text: The high stone structures built between the houses in the form of truncated pyramids distinguish Khonoma from all other villages. Like mighty towers they rise above the village, glorifying the clans who built them, with what must have been an infinite amount of (22) labour. The Nagas, unlike many other primitive peoples, expend much trouble on things of little practical use, merely to enhance the social prestige of the individual or the community. Many generations ago stone circles, enclosed by squared stone blocks, were built for such reasons in Khonoma. They were erected by men of fabulous wealth, as the highest stage in the series of the Feasts of Merit; today they serve as dancing places and the village elders sit on the stone blocks watching the performance. "The elders, however, sat on smoothed stones in the sacred circle," runs a line in Homer's Iliad. In the Naga Hills Homeric times remained alive and a megalithic culture which in Europe belonged to the late Stone Age continued to flourish among the Angamis.