The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Twenty-four. The World Beyond
caption: Lemang the were-tiger
medium: books
person: Lemang/ of KonganApong/ of Wanching
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Yungya Wanching Dikhu R.
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Among the Nagas this is a well-known phenomenon, and Shopong himself tells me how his soul leaves his sleeping body and enters the body of a tiger; how he joins the other tigers at night in some far-distant place; and how at any hour of the day he knows exactly the whereabouts of his tiger. Lemang pretends his tiger is no ordinary tiger, for he says he does not kill man. In his youth he hunted animals, but now he has grown too old, and so the other tigers bring him food in the evening, but he never shows himself to men, for he is afraid of being shot.
text: There are many people who from personal experience can tell in Government service were frightened by a tiger moving noiselessly through the jungle near Namsang, but they missed when they fired, and the tiger immediately disappeared. Arriving at Kongan next day, Lemang greeted them at the village gate with the question: "Why did you shoot at me last night? You only missed me by a hair's breadth.
text: According to Konyak belief, the death of the tiger would have caused Lemang himself to die within a few days. If one of these animals is even wounded, a similar wound is believed to appear on the corresponding spot on the man's body. Mills told me of many were-tigers among the Aos who actually did die suddenly a few days after their tigers had been killed.
text: An incident which greatly strengthened Lemang's reputation occurred while I was in Wakching. Thirty silver rupees, brass-discs and an embroidered apron were stolen from the house of Apong, the dobashi of Wanching. All investigations proved fruitless and so at last he went to Kongan to consult Lemang. The old man told him at once that he knew of the thief. In the shape of a tiger, roaming about in the valley of the Dikhu, he had seen two Yungya boys coming from the direction of Wanching. They had wrapped up a stone in an apron and thrown it into the Dikhu with the words:
text: "As this apron shall never again come to the surface, so shall our deed remain forever hidden." Apong had only to go to Yungya and ask the boys whether they had seen a tiger by the Dikhu.
text: And then Apong remembered that there had been three Yungya people in Wanching the day of the theft, and he set out at once for their village. There he met the boys, and confronted them with Lemang's accusation. Shattered by such supernatural knowledge, they confessed to the crime and all its details. They had actually seen a tiger by the Dikhu that day.
text: However, there are sceptics even among the Nagas, and one of the gaonbura of Namsang-Sumniching, when I spoke of Lemang and other seers, only remarked depreciatingly: "How is it that a man can sleep here and his soul can wander about? That is a swindle. These seers see nothing more in their dreams than other people, but of course it is pleasant to pocket rupees. Lemang earns two rupees here, and three rupees there. Naturally he likes to tell the people all sorts of lies."