RGS’s Expedition Got Acquainted With the Culture of the Konyaks

Экспедиция Русского географического общества прибыла в штат Нагаленд, Индия. Фото: Леонид Круглов
Экспедиция Русского географического общества прибыла в штат Нагаленд, Индия. Фото: Леонид Круглов

The expedition group of the Russian Geographical Society, which is working in India, left the state of Meghalaya and arrived in Nagaland.

“We have traveled, with difficulty, through a mountain pass on a very bad road,” the head of the expedition, Anton Yurmanov, shares his impressions. “We crossed the state of Assam, where we visited tea plantations and Kaziranga National Park. We planned to arrive in the city of Mon, the administrative center of the district of the same name in the state of Nagaland, but it got dark, and we had to stop in the nearest village inhabited by the representatives of the Konyak people. We immediately noticed a strong contrast in the landscape and culture, compared to the state of Meghalaya."

The state of Nagaland is interesting from a historical point of view. This territory never came under full colonial dependence on the British Empire. It became part of the Republic of India with certain difficulties. The struggle for independence continues at the present time. Thus, the rebels of Nagaland have proclaimed themselves the "Naga Army" and advocate the creation of the People's Republic of Nagalim. Tourist routes open and close, depending on the situation.

“The situation in the area where we plan to work is not the calmest, but it does not frighten us. We have carefully prepared and are confident that we will be able to lay a good foundation for constant research conducted by Russian expeditions," Anton Yurmanov said.

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Штат Нагаленд редко посещается туристами, поэтому здесь всегда можно сделать открытия. Фото: Леонид Круглов
Штат Нагаленд редко посещается туристами, поэтому здесь всегда можно сделать открытия. Фото: Леонид Круглов

The team of the RGS spent the first night in the so-called Big House, which was provided to them by the village headman. This large tent building is a cultural center for local residents and at the same time a guest house for travelers.

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На резных балках в Большом доме изображены животные и люди. Так жители представили духов вождей своего племени. Фото: Леонид Круглов
На резных балках в Большом доме изображены животные и люди. Так жители представили духов вождей своего племени. Фото: Леонид Круглов

“We met with the representatives of the village council. We told them where we came from and what we do. In turn, they assured us that they would ensure the safety of our group. We celebrated Christmas. The night passed quietly,” said the ethnographer of the expedition Daniil Butorin.

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Большой дом, где расположилась экспедиция РГО. Фото: Леонид Круглов
Большой дом, где расположилась экспедиция РГО. Фото: Леонид Круглов

During the next day, the members of the expedition communicated with local residents. They got acquainted with the classic warrior of the Konyak people, who is a long-lived man: his age is about 100 years.

When communicating with this person, you immediately pay attention to the tattoos and ritual decorations that indicate that he fought in the war – most likely in World War II. It was near the city of Kohima in the state of Nagaland that the Japanese troops were stopped in 1944.

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Две деревянные подвески в форме головы символизируют два трофея и указывают на то, что человек совершил подвиги. Фото: Леонид Круглов
Две деревянные подвески в форме головы символизируют два трофея и указывают на то, что человек совершил подвиги. Фото: Леонид Круглов

Also, the members of the RGS’s expedition got acquainted with the young people. It turned out that some of them study in Switzerland and speak excellent English. Each of them is a carrier of the Naga culture and global culture.

“In fact, we were able to observe several generations and, comparing them, we saw how changes took place in this tribe of the Konyak people over time. Of course, this is an amazing ethnographic effect," Daniil Butorin summed up.

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Участники экспедиции РГО общаются с местными жителями. Фото: Леонид Круглов
Участники экспедиции РГО общаются с местными жителями. Фото: Леонид Круглов

Of course, one day is not enough to study such a rich culture. But we hope that we will be able to continue the research in future expeditions.

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Представительница народа коньяк позирует фотографу экспедиции РГО. Фото: Леонид Круглов
Представительница народа коньяк позирует фотографу экспедиции РГО. Фото: Леонид Круглов

About the expedition

The complex expedition of the Russian Geographical Society began on December 27, 2022. Location: Republic of India, Tajura region, states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Nagaland. Main tasks: conducting ecological, biological, geographical, geological, ethnographic (among the Adi, Mishmi, Konyak tribes) research, search activities to identify the crash sites of Allied military aircraft from 1943-1945. Expedition leader: Anton Yurmanov, biogeographer, director of the Youth Work Department of the Russian Geographical Society.

Leonid Kruglov