The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Nine. The Girls' Club of Punkhung
caption: discussion of marriage customs
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Punkhung
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Towards evening the girls with their baskets full of vegetables returned from the fields, and came and sat down near the fire. Among them was the chief's daughter, covered with jewels, and wearing only a narrow skirt. By chance we spoke of the marriage customs, and I unwarily inquired the bride price of a chief's daughter. Hardly had Chingai translated my question, than the whole circle burst into unrestrained laughter, and the giggling girls cast glances at the daughter of the Ang, who covered her face with her hands in embarrassment. Someone remarked that the white Sahib might want to marry the daughter of the house and was inquiring after the price. I knew that the Konyaks love to spin out such a joke, shaking with laughter for a long time, so I described at great length the spears, dao, bronze gongs, cloths, and other valuables that I had already collected: a great treasure, that I would willingly hand over to the chief for his daughter. She was actually a very pretty girl, though the custom of blackening the teeth gives rather a grim expression to the smile of all these beauties. Chingai confided to me later that the girl had a liaison with a married man and that, much to the anger of her father, she was expecting a child. Now all the hopes of the old Ang of marrying his daughter to a chief's son from another village were shattered, and it was difficult to find a fairly honourable way out of this embarrassing situation, for the girl's lover, not being of chiefly rank, could have only one wife. However, when I came back to Punkhung five months later, I heard that the lover, in compliance with the chief's wishes, had divorced his wife and was going to marry the chief's daughter. Not a very distinguished fate, certainly, for the daughter of an Ang, even though he is only of "small Ang class."