The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Five. Heathens and Baptists
caption: importance of rice-beer in Naga culture; missions attempt to prevent the use of alcohol
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Ao
location: Chantongia
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: One of the main obstacles to any participation of Christians in village feasts is the American Baptist Mission's rigid enforcement of teetotalism. To the Ao a feast without rice-beer is unthinkable, for what wine is to the Italian and whisky to the Scotsman, rice-beer is to the Naga. It refreshes him on hot days, encourages him to carry the heavy harvest baskets many hundreds of feet up the steep mountains to the village, loosens his tongue, and makes him merry when, on feast days, he sits with his friends round the fire. But he has to forswear it directly he is baptized. Drinkers of rice-beer, the Baptists teach, will burn in hell fire for ever, and the Naga not knowing that since the oldest times wine and beer have been drunk throughout Christendom, eschews his cherished national drink. But although the spirit is willing, the flesh is often weak, and not all converts find it easy to remain true to their resolution; many drink secretly and with a bad conscience.