The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Four. Above the Clouds
caption: walking up through corpse platforms, effigies, skulls and coffins
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: The gaonbura came to the bungalow after breakfast, and went with us up to the village. A steep path led through a narrow belt of trees, where green pigeons and bulbuls and the scarlet Burman minivet nest in the high branches. If you raise your eyes from the large smooth stones, put there to benefit the naked soles of the Wakching people, you see on both sides little groups of curious figures, dwarfs, they seem, with pointed caps, who almost creep about the damp earth : conical baskets wrapped in palm leaves stand on top of strange sandstone urns, and from large cavities bleached human skulls grin at the passers-by. So the dead watch in their quiet way over the life of the village, guarding the daily comings and goings of their relatives, and receiving their own share of food and drink during the great festivals. A few steps farther, and we came to where the sun and the rain help to prepare the body to complete nature's cycle. Surrounded by swarms of flies, the open coffins rested here on bamboo platforms, mercifully covered with a few coloured cloths such as are worn on feast days.