The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Six. Death in the Rain
caption: wrenching head from body of corpse and cleaning of skull
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: When I went to the village on the sixth day after the funeral, I was told that the head was to be wrenched from the body. However, I decided that I could dispense with this bit of the ceremony, and was satisfied with hearing a description of how the old women of the dead man's family cleaned the skull and removed the rotting parts of the brain. Chinyak's beautiful white skull, housed in a sandstone urn, was placed by a path on the outskirts of the village, to be fed for three years with food and rice-beer on all feast (62) days. The fate of the corpse, or rather the bones, is not of great importance. They gradually fall to the ground, and are either forgotten among the undergrowth that soon covers them, or are dragged out and gnawed by one of the village pigs. The inevitable destructibility of all flesh could scarcely be better demonstrated! It is only small babies who are disposed of in another way. They find airy resting places among the birds' nests high up in the branches of strong trees.