The Konyak Tribe : an Overview
“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 Naked Nagas, Haimendorf.
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. He is still alive, aged 82.(+)
The Konyak society is mostly patriarchal. The entry of women in the re-construction of society has been very recent. In the changing scenerio, 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 organisation 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 deprieved 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.”