Longwa - The Frontier Village

 
The Village
The Village

The Church dominates the village landscape.

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Longhouses
Longhouses

These unusually long houses pepper the landscape. These are used for get-togethers and meals.

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A Longhouse
A Longhouse
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Morung
Morung

A Morung is a communal house where the tribesmen gather, traditionally for learning and before war. These are the vestiges of a disappearing culture.

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Doorway
Doorway

The doorway depicts a traditional tale. The part where the man threatens the tiger for saying 'hi' to his lady is easy to understand. As for the rest, perhaps Egyptians hieroglyphs are easier understood.

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Mithun Horns
Mithun Horns

Mithuns are large semi-domesticated bovines reared in most parts of the North East for food and, I guess, horns.

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Wooded carvings
Wooded carvings

This hand crafted wooded plaque depicts another tale. Maybe the tiger said 'hi' to the pig's wife too!

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Log Drum
Log Drum

The log drums, carved out of a single tree, were used for public announcements in the village. There are different beats for different occasions like announcing approaching enemies, festivities, deaths etc.

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Frontyard Grave
Frontyard Grave

The dead are sometimes buried right at the entrance gate of the home. Shirts, lamps and flowers are offered to keep them company for the long lonely journey.

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Woodcutter
Woodcutter

Wood is the primary fuel for cooking, heating and light.

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The Catapult Guy
The Catapult Guy

Hunts birds, rabbits and photographers.

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Smiles in the Village
Smiles in the Village
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Smiles in the Village
Smiles in the Village

The pig is still annoyed with the tiger!

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Smiles in the Village
Smiles in the Village
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Masks
Masks

The Konyaks have a great hand for crafts. Most of their crafts involve wood, bamboo, chisel and their dau (medium sized sword).

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Handcraft
Handcraft
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At the Angh's house
At the Angh's house

A person at the Angh's (village head) house sporting the triple head neck piece. The triple head necklace made of bell metal is sported by most tribesmen as a reminder of the tribe's headhunting days.

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Headbearers
Headbearers

Ants are not the only livings things that can carry many times their own weight. The Konyak women carrying fire wood collected from the jungles.

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Headbearer
Headbearer

Where does the hat go when the head is occupied?

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Headbearer
Headbearer

Where does the vanity bag go when the hands are occupied?

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The Village

The picturesque village sits on the border of India and Myanmar with the Church dominating the landscape. A striking feature of the village the number of unusually long houses. These long houses are for get-togethers and meals. The people generally sleep in smaller houses outside the long house.

The Legacy of the Headhunters

In the days of yore, Lonwga had a reputation. It was the village of the headhunters. The fierce warriors would decapitate their enemies and tresspassers and display the heads in the Morungs (communal houses) or, rarely, their homes. While such headhunting did happen during open wars, most headhunting was done by way of guerrilla warfare. The Konyak warriors would hide in trees or among bushes and then pounce upon their enemies.

 

Choba Wangnao, who is about 80 years of age, is one of the last about dozen of surviving head hunters. He recounts the fascinating tales of his headhunting days. In times of war or conflict the Angh, the tribe headsman, would call for warriors. It was a matter of great pride to volunteer as a warrior. Before going on the first war or headhunting expedition, the warrior would be decorated with facial and body tatoos. The tatoos were done with wooden sticks and vegetable pigment. Tatoos on the neck signified the number of kills.

The fallen enemy is decapitated and his head is placed in the wooden racks in the Morung. Once properly dried and cured, they would adorn the walls of the Morung and bring pride and glory to the tribe.

After embracing Christianity and becoming a part of India, the headhunters finally hung up their swords and changed their ways of life. The last headhunting happened sometime in the 1960s. The Dire Straits song 'The Telegraph Road' illustrates the change strikingly well.

Then came the churches, then came the schools
Then came the lawyers, and then came the rules

Then came the trains and the trucks with their loads
And the dirty old track was the telegraph road

Choba Wangnao
Choba Wangnao

At nearly 80 years of age, Choba Wangnao is on the the last half a dozen or so surviving headhunters. His traditional hat is made of bamboo, bear skin and wild boar tusk.

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Tattoos
Tattoos

The facial and body tattoos, done on a warrior before his first expedition, are made with wooden sticks and vegetable pigmentation. Even after all these years Choba winces remembering the pain of getting the tattoo done.

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Choba Wangnao
Choba Wangnao

Choba is very friendly and loves to talk about the good old headhunting days. However, his smile says that those days are long past.

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The Fix
The Fix

About a century back the British introduced opium to most of the tribes of the region as a means of weakening them. And it worked.

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Brothers in arms
Brothers in arms
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Loading and Load Shedding
Loading and Load Shedding

Pillar carving depicting a woman with baskets on head and a man with axe in one hand and skull in another. 'Woman loading, men load shedding'

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Angh
Angh

The former Angh passed away in 2015 and his son took over.

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The Angh's Courtyard
The Angh's Courtyard

The court of the late Angh (the tribe headsman) with the throne, and shields. In the days of yore, fallen enemies would be laid in such a court.

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Headunting Deity
Headunting Deity
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Motifs
Motifs

The headhunting motifs are all pervasive. This one's on the pillar of the house.

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Motifs
Motifs

Wooden Plaque

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Mithun Skull and Horns
Mithun Skull and Horns

Mithuns are large semi-domesticated bovines reared in most parts of the North East for food and, I guess, horns.

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Assorted Skulls
Assorted Skulls
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The Occult
The Occult

Bird claw charm hanging from roof.

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Longwa, a village situated on the Indo-Myanmar border, is inhabited by the Konyak tribe of Nagaland. The Konyaks are fierce warriors and hunters. There were the legendary headhunters of the North East India. They would attack enemy tribes and trespassers and take the heads of falllen enemies as trophies to display in their Morungs (a communal house).

However, their lives changed in the middle of the last century – religion and national identity happened. They became a part of independent India and also embraced Christianity. Toeing the lines of law and religion they changed their ways of life. The trophy heads were given a proper burial and so were the headhunting ways of life. The last head hunting happened sometime in the 1960s.

The Konyaks are expert hunters and craftsmen. They crafted their own guns after they observed the British hunting with guns. Nowadays, they hunt the animals in their forest, rear hens and pigs and grow rice, vegetables and spices. With relatively high levels of education amongst the new generation, many have headed out in the service of the church and the nation.  

There is still no electricity in the village. A few mobile phones work thanks to the towers of the neighboring Assam Rifles paramilitary camp. Untouched by the temptations of tablets and cable television, the youth have made football their second religion. While the old still fondly talk of the headhunting days, the Longwa of nowadays is very friendly and welcoming.

 
 

The Produce of the Land

The modern Konyaks rear hens and pigs and grow rice, vegetables and spices. They grow a very piquant variety of pepper that is highly prized in the region for its taste. They also hunt deer and wild boars in the nearby jungles.

The Hearth
The Hearth

The hearth is where the family gathers for conversations & tea, heat & food. Meat and firewood are kept in the rack above the fire for drying or curing.

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Conversations & Tea
Conversations & Tea
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Tea
Tea

The tea pot is on the fire for virtually all the waking hours of the family.

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Maize & Corn
Maize & Corn

Maize & cord are locally cultivated and left to dry by hanging on the ceilings.

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The Day's Hunt
The Day's Hunt

A deer has just been brought in.

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The Day's Hunt
The Day's Hunt

The meat is strung together with bamboo strings so that it can be hung above the fire for preservation.

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The Sty
The Sty
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Chit-chat & Slaughter
Chit-chat & Slaughter
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Curing
Curing

Meats hung for curing. Such pieces of meat can be spotted on the roofs of most kitchens.

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Curing
Curing
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Curing
Curing
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Rustic Popcorn
Rustic Popcorn

The corn seeds are thrown into a bamboo basket with some red hot coals. A few shakes and popcorn is ready.

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The Opium Den

The British were very harried with the fierce tribes of the region, the Konyaks in particular. In a bid to divert their energies, they introduced Chinese opium in the region. While they did not really succeeded in taming the fierceness of the people, opium smoking stuck on as a habit. Though the youth have mostly shunned opium, the village elders love to have their regular fix in the evenings. Sitting by the fire the folk smoke their opium while sipping tea and discuss village politics, agriculture and football.

The Fix
The Fix

The village folk discuss village politics, agriculture and football as they take their long drags on their bamboo pipes.

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The Fix
The Fix
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The Stuff
The Stuff

The stuff is first heated with water to activate the psychoactive compounds.

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Mixology
Mixology

The concentrate is mixec with dried tree leaves so that it can be smoked.

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Tea
Tea

Tea is constantly kept brewing in a bamboo hollow. Due to the reaction with bamboo the tea does not get bitter in spite of boiling for long.

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Conversations & Ecstacy
Conversations & Ecstacy
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The Forntier Issue

The Konyaks are spread throught the states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. At least thats how it is in modern times. Till the middle of the twentieth century The Konyak kingdom was straddled across these regions. With the independence of India and Myanmar the kingdom was split into different countries and states. The Konyaks, and the people of Nagaland in general, never took this lightly and most have not accepted it to this day. Time and again groups rose against the government demanding the unification of the former territories. One such outfit, the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), went on to form a parallel Government identifying their territory as Government of the People's Republic of Nagaland. Incidentally, the commander-in-chief of the army of NSCN is a Konyak. An old calendar is perhaps the most non controversial way to illustrate the conflict.

The Border
The Border

Nagaland (India) is to the left of the concrete marker while Myanmar lies to the right.

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Straddled
Straddled

The thickly populated village is Longwa while the other part is in Myanmar.

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Angh of Both Worlds
Angh of Both Worlds

Billboard depicting the Angh (tribe headsman) holding two tigers signifying his authority over his regions in both India and Myanmar.

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End of Indian Roads
End of Indian Roads

"Border restrained us. Otherwise we would have gone much beyond"

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The Border Road
The Border Road
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GPRN Calendar
GPRN Calendar

General Khole Konyak is the commander-in-chief of the outfit.

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GPRN Calendar
GPRN Calendar

The Nagas have not been able to forgive the division of their land even after half a century.

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GPRN Calendar
GPRN Calendar
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GPRN Calendar
GPRN Calendar
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GPRN Calendar
GPRN Calendar
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Football - The Second Religion

While the major religion of Nagaland is Baptist Christianity, football is apty the close second. And that's not saying it lightly. Football strategy meets in youth gatherings, prayers meetings before discussing football and church yards used as football grounds more than illustrate the point. In Longwa, where tablets and cable television have not yet set foot, the youth have channelized their  complete energies into football. 

Church and Football Post
Church and Football Post

Goal post in front of the church. Hence proved.

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Helipad
Helipad

Helipad with a steep drop on all sides! Serves a a fine ground for the Konyak lads.

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Helipad
Helipad
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There's a Young Club in Town
There's a Young Club in Town
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The Club Flag Flutters High
The Club Flag Flutters High
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The Humble Pavillion
The Humble Pavillion
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Strategies
Strategies

The local team lost the days match. Hence the long faces. For the next few hours the coach gives a pep talk and they discuss strategies for the next game.

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Say a Little Prayer
Say a Little Prayer

The discussions always begin and end with a small prayer.

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