The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Three. An Orgy in Stone
caption: fertility feasts and memorials at Dimapur
medium: books
location: Dimapur
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: As the jungle thinned, the path opened out on to a large space, where well over fifty gigantic stone monuments stood against an orange evening sky. Some were cracked and some were chipped, but others remained in almost unharmed splendour. An orgy of fertility symbols in stone had long outlived the fall of a mighty empire. More than half of the monoliths represented phalli surpassing in realism any of the stone lingam of the Hindu god Shiva, and between them stood colossal forked stones in the shape of the letter V -- the symbol of the female complement. The tallest stone phallus is well over twenty feet high, and five men with arms outstretched could scarcely encircle it. Most of the monoliths are decorated with reliefs: peacocks, the royal heraldic animal of Kachar, parrots, buffaloes, and various kinds of plants. On one of the stones the image of a human head on a pole is clearly distinguishable. It would seem that the Kacharis of those days practised a custom prevalent among some of the Naga tribes -- that of hoisting the heads of their enemies on tall poles of bamboo.
text: It is difficult to understand the full implication of so many enormous symbols of human fertility. What can have given birth to the idea of adorning a city with colossal representations of the male and female generative organs? In the whole of India there is no parallel to the monuments of Dimapur, and their meaning would probably remain obscure for ever, had we no knowledge of the megalithic rites of the Nagas, the immediate neighbours of the Kacharis. For they not only set up rough unworked menhirs during their feasts of merit, but also wooden forked posts and carved wooden phalli. It is this conformity of shape which excludes any doubt as to the relationship between the wooden monuments of the Nagas and the stone monoliths of the Kacharis.
text: The phalli and forked stone monuments of the kings of Kachar are evidently the memorials of great sacrificial feasts, when the blood of hecatombs of bulls and buffaloes flooded the sacred place. The character of these feasts as fertility rites is more clearly pronounced among the Kacharis than in the megalithic ceremonial of the Nagas. But the perpetuation of the rite stands in both very much (27) to the fore. Houses, and even palaces, may be built of wood or bamboo, but stone must immortalize the monuments of the sacrificial feasts through the changing face of time and with them the fertilizing power of the rite. The Kachari religion at the time of Dimapur's greatness appears to have resembled in many respects the religions found today among the Tibeto-Burman hill tribes. Hinduism had not yet conquered the valley of Assam, though its influence is noticeable in the art of Dimapur.