The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: Chapter three. Second Attack
caption: back to camp at night
medium: books
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: The dark of the porch, with a pig snorting disturbed in its bed of chaff. The open street - cool, marvellous after the fetor inside. The compounder, stalking off in the dark to spend the night with his friend the pastor. Chinaorang, sitting to the jappa, pulling the strap over his head, hauled up by a friend, humping, adjusting his load, and looking round for the others. And then the torches - brought out from a house, the glare lighting the headman carrying them; distributed, two, three, four, perhaps up to a dozen; the whole street bright, alive, flickering between the closed houses; the dogs slinking on the edge of the glow, the rocks seen, the dust pitted and visible, the distance solidifying into a backcloth to our lit stage. We turned, the headmen leading, and set off in single file along the steep path to camp.
text: There is no magic, no beauty, like that of pine-torches at night. The spirit-fed fakes at military tattoos are a mockery. We moved in a red cave of light, black darkness receding ahead and closing behind. The pine-trunks stood like palisades on either side of the road; the wind moved through the night over us and touched cold on our faces, and the Nagas' long, crested shadows rippled along the needle-strewn ground. The torches burned with a rich, deep, smoky glare. The scent of burning resin came from them, pungent and nostril (31) tingling. They dropped fat sparks and gobbets of fire on the road; the needles caught and smouldered till the men following stamped them out. Now lit, now silhouetted, the file moved; the pattern, the ripe, red-orange luxuriance of colour, changing, deepening, shifting always - with every change a new picture, an aesthetic experience so deep as to make one catch the breath; so, in an hour's journey, we reached the camp - and the transcendent gave place to the mundane, to chairs and lamps and an anxious Abung.