The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Twenty. With Pangsha's Enemies
caption: warriors dance in Panso; ceremonial dress
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Kalyo Kengyu
location: Panso
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: The great dance in honour of the victors is soon to begin, and a wonderfully colourful crowd gathers on the open space outside the village. The men stand in a long row, stretching from our camp down the slope, and start the dance with slow, measured movements. They wear full ceremonial dress -- you might be tempted to describe it as full war-dress, but the Nagas never risk their costly feathers and ornaments in a raid. They treasure them for the glory of the dance. They have conical hats of red and yellow plaited cane, tufted with flaming red goat's hair, and surmounted with two white hornbill feathers striped with black. Warriors who have themselves captured heads are permitted to load their hats with shining mithan horns and hold their hats in place with chin-straps set with tiger claws. Cowrie shells are embroidered on most of the dark blue cloths and the small aprons reaching from the belt to the knee. The broad belt is set with white seeds, and supports a wooden sheath at the back, which takes the long dao when it is not in use. In fact, their ceremonial dress is very like that of the Changs, except that, in addition, they wear leggings of bearskin which not only protect the legs against panji but complete the harmony of the costume.
text: In one straight line they move together, slip-step right and slip-step left, and the song they sing, now and during the whole dance, is always the same, and consists of a monotonous rhythmical baaing with a little bark on a high shrill note, only slightly different from the work-song that we had heard in the morning. Sometimes they jump into the air, with both feet together and closed knees, managing this with a precision that would honour a troup of chorus girls, and then once more they relapse into the tediousness of the slip-steps and the bending of the knees. There are none of those temperamental outbursts that characterize the dances of the Konyaks.
text: Now and again, without leaving the line, the dancers will stop, (160) and several spectators, hurrying up with bamboo jugs full of rice-beer, will quench their thirst in a most original fashion. A tube stands in each vessel, and the dancers in turn suck up rice-beer without even touching the vessel. Often the dance begins before all have received their full share, and the men bearing the rice-beer will go a little way with them so that the dance is not interrupted.