Kingdom of Headhunters - Mon, Nagaland


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The Konyak Tribe

“The Konyak performs no rites or ceremonies till the sowing begins. He realises that the cutting of the jungle and the proper clearing of the fields depends only on the efficiency of man. Why should he trouble the Gods? But when the seed is entrusted to the earth, where hundred of dangers may threaten the crops, the Konyak turns to the Gods and solicits protection with offerings and prayers”.

The word ‘Konyak’ is derived from ‘Kaonyak which means ‘blackhead’ or ‘human’. The connotation is that the look of human appears black with head black. The Konyak land is situated in the north eastern part of Nagaland. The land is a mountainous region with rich products of natural forest. The climate of the land is temperate. The days are warm but nights are cold. Most of the Konyak villages are situated on the mountain top.

There is no written record or script that the scholars can go through to trace the history of the Konyak people. So we have to depend mostly on myths and legends. We believe that our ancestors had come from the place called Longhong, hill of stones. We also believe that our forefathers might have come from South East Asia. The historians say that the Konyak might have come across the Patkai mountain range and reached the Konyak land. They then settled at Chinglong Wangdonghong, the present Chinglong village site near the river Aoying and Yengmun known as Longpheng- Phinyu-Hong. In course of time, they spread themselves in the adjoining areas.

The very social system of the Konyak is dependent on the hereditary Kingship or Wangship. They make it a point that every village must have a Wang who will have the authority on the village administration. In the entire district of Mon, there are as many as seven chief Aungs(Wangs). The Villages are (1)Chui (2) Mon (3)Shengha Chingnyu (4) Longwa (5) Shangnyu (6) Jaboka and (7) Tangnyu. In addition to reigning their respective villages, they have to control some satellite villages. Of these satellite villages, 54 villages are in Arunachal Pradesh. It is worth mentioning that the Wangkhao Govt.College is situated in Chui village and the college was named after the Aung Wangkhao Konyak.

The Konyak society is mostly patriarchal. The entry of women in the re-construction of society has been very recent. In the changing scenario, the role of women in Konyak tribe was marked. They have engaged themselves in the uplift of the status of women for the first time through the organization called KNSU in 1986. Till 1992 the numbers of graduates among women was only 2 and by now the number is nearly 60. An Angh can marry more than one woman but only the son of the queen can become the Angh after father’s death. The other wives are concubines and so their children are deprived of Anghship.

Three features are very prominent among the Konyak.We can discuss these in the following way :

(1) Head -hunting : This custom of killing enemy and bringing the head was indicative of courage and pride in the past. The belief among our forefathers was that some magical power was there in the human skull. In the past, a heroic reception was accorded to a worrior who entered the village with the captured head of the enemy. The village-folk, men and women used to offer ceremonical reception to the hero. The skull was tied in the log drum and dance and merry-making continued throughout the night. A ceremonical fanfare was customary in the recent past. The young men and women in their respective morungs enjoyed such occasions in festival and merry-making. I quote from Haimendorf in his book The Naked Nagas : “The main importance of taking a head is not the glory of the war but the gain of the magical forces inherent in the skull”. The hang-over from such practice is noticed even now. You will sometimes find a man wearing brass heads round his neck. This practice is now as extinct as the dodo in Mauritius.

(2) Tattooing : This is a kind of permanent dying. The skin of the body was perforated and some designs were drawn on the different parts of the body specially on the face, chin or bosom. The design-making was painful but the men and women in the past accepted it for it was something like a status symbol. But nowadays such practice is not any more found among the School and College children.

(3) The system of Morung : The word ‘Morung’ is Assamese in origin and it means ‘bachelor’s dormitories. According to Mr. Peal “The morung is a survival of the communal house from which private dwellings split off” and the purpose of the dormitory was, according to Mr. Shakespear ‘to prevent incest’. With the attainment of a particular age, of the boys and girls were sent to these institutes and they remained there till adulthood or till marriage. The youngfolk were trained in discipline, war--fare and art of dealing with an emergency. With the changing time, the importance of such institutes is losing ground but they still exist in a lesser extent.

The most important festival among the Konyak is AolingMonyu which is celebrated in spring season and the occasion is related to the sowing of seeds. The feastival starts on 1st April and continues till the 6th April. Another festival called LaoLongmo is celebrated in August after the harvest.

Christianity entered in this area as late as in 1932. Under the benign influence of Christianity, there came a change in the mindset of the Konyak. Today 95% of the Konyak are Christians. The Konyak are hospitable, laborious and lovers of games and funs. KHALAP or the black tea is their favourite. They are expert in cane-craftsmanship. Other than Nagamese, the lingua-franca among different clans of the Konyak is the Wakching dialect. The present generation, however, has an inclination towards English which is the medium of instruction in School and college. The Konyak are intelligent and the spirit of give and take makes their life smooth, viable and inter-dependent. Here I quote from Haimendorf in order to emphasise the co-operative life of our people “A great house can be built in two or three days, for all clansmen and friends lend a hand, and are paid on completion by a lavish entertainment with much food and rice-beer..the Konyaks are born right -birds and they only begin really to wake up at midnight ..... to him the hours in the girls club are not wasted time and enjoyment is worth more than any material gain.”

Lets meet the remaining last Head-hunters...



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How demonetization affects a solo backpacker… who can better known than me.. I was not even sure what would be the next day’s plan… Thinking all these Partha da and me reached straight from Mokukchung (Nagaland)in Moranhat at Sandeep’s place..The journey was extremely tired..Sandeep’s hospitality was excellent.. Just another home away from home ..I was 90% sure that very next day I am catching a flight to Bangalore from Dibrugarh :D.. Sandeep has arranged everything for next day’s travel to one of my dream place.. The only problem was Money .. Somehow we filled the tank of Sandeep’s car using my Credit card.. Partha da arranged some cash for me that was enough to survive for next 3 days … So we were on..

During drink and dine Partha da as usual started saying strongly Dos and Donts while in Mon district.. Trust me Dos were too less and the queue of Donts were never ending.. According to him the entire route have many many camps of terrorists of NSCN .. Strict instruction given that no matter whoever would stop us on the way specially from Tizit to Mon noway we would going to stop.. Once arriving Mon we would take some rest.. Enough words to make me scared :D

Time to bid Partha da Bye and we retired early as we had to start early next day..




We started at sharp 7 AM after heavy breakfast ..We were on bad patches of road and reached Sonari which is just 27KM from Moranhat another small town which was another gateway to Nagaland..We were passing through numerous team gardens of Assam..And we reached Tizit town just 18 km from Sonari.. that is the border of Assam and Nagaland.. Just an old bridge crossing will take to Nagaland..

We were driving on the worst roads of Nagaland.. road condition was just pathetic.. We remembered Partha da’s words and never stopped at any place ..That was a fine Sunday so people were heading to churches with their best attires ..We were thinking even all those bad terrorists must be going to Churches so we can safely reach Mon ;) The view all around were spectacular.. We reached Mon at 12 in the noon ..Mon is just 80KM from Sonari.. so just imagine the condition of road..

The map


Journey started

We were on Patkai hills






Sandeep and his machines









Mon Town


Still long to go







Sandeep has a banker friend and he was supposed to give me some cash.. and yes there was a ATM I immediately tried my luck but I was unlucky.. He rested sometime in his quarter received some cash from him.. Got lot of information specially on security from him.. and Partha da was not at all wrong.. and The road from Mon to Longwa is more dangerous than the road we travelled :D In fact before 3 days there was a gun firing and couple of security personnel along with few terrorists .. Scary again is not it ;) It was not at all fun game .. we are on the way where battle can start at any moment infact anything can happen...




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During drink and dine Partha da as usual started saying strongly Dos and Donts while in Mon district.. Trust me Dos were too less and the queue of Donts were never ending.. According to him the entire route have many many camps of terrorists of NSCN .. Strict instruction given that no matter whoever would stop us on the way specially from Tizit to Mon noway we would going to stop.. Once arriving Mon we would take some rest.. Enough words to make me scared :D
I am feeling much safe with Pakistan's Bomb Blasts now !