Exhibit of the Week
Due to spread of covid-19 pandemic the museums throughout the world are closed but identifying different innovative ways to remain connected to their visitors. Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (National Museum of Mankind) has also taken up many new initiatives to face the challenges posed by this pandemic. In one such step it is coming up with a new series entitled ‘Exhibit of the Week’ to showcase its collection from all over India. Under this series, The Nagas’ Head hunting trophy of the Konyak Naga Tribe from Nagaland, India was displayed in the audience as the 03rd Exhibit of the June, 2020 through Facebook.
Headhunting was prevalent among the Naga Tribes of Nagaland as a tradition until the first half of the 20th century. The remnants of this tradition can still be seen in various art and craft traditions among the different Naga tribes who have preserved them as a mark of social status.
The human skull had a special place in the Konyak Naga culture since it was related to masculinity, and most importantly, with the tattoo tradition. A person could tattoo his body only when he has taken a human head, which was considered an ultimate form of social status. The Konyak Naga preservation of human skull was of two types. First, skulls of relatives were preserved since they believe that the soul of a person resides in the skull after the death of a person; secondly, the skulls of enemies were displayed in their youth dormitory called Morung as a sign of bravery and achievement.
This object is a pride possession of a Naga warrior collected from the Changlangshu village in Nagaland, who took the head of a person from the Phom tribe in 1895. Changlangshu is a large Upper Konyak village in Mon district, Nagaland. The village was known for its famous warriors who waged war with other communities and villages. The skull has a hole in the frontal bone, possibly the permanent mark of a wound created by the spikes of a pointed dart or an arrow. The skull is transformed as a trophy by decorating with the horns of Buffalo. It is tied with cane twisting across the nasal and orbital cavity. The handle of this trophy is prepared with a cross-frame of bamboo props.
Note: The information given above is also substantiated by a Naga scholar Dr. G. Kanato Chophy.
Visitors can see this object from home through the Facebook site of the museum.