Sinlung /
15 May 2012

Headhunter Hospitality: A Tribal Homestay in Nagaland

Hanging out with the opium-smoking, formerly headhunting, mobile phone-toting Konyak people in northeast India

By Divya Dugar 
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The real deal

Headhunting has been banned for decades, but the old Konyak warriors are nostalgic for their fighting days. Warriors can be spotted by the tattoos they gained from taking a head, as well as necklaces of brass head pendants; one brass head for each real one taken.

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King of Konyaks

The Angh (right) is head of 75 Konyak villages in India and Burma. His house lies directly on top of the Burmese border. "Half of my house is in India and the other part in Burma, so I switch all the time between the two countries."

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Lady of ink

The Chatai of Nyahnyu (right) and her mother-in-law grinding rice. "I wonder when I will tattoo men's faces again," says the queen who is the only one permitted to make tattoos.

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Gun-loving Christians


An elderly Konyak Naga showing off his gun before going for Sunday mass. More than 90 percent of indigenous tribes in Nagaland have converted to Christianity.

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Beads and the Bible


Princess Nahtei (right) with her assistant Phetpot wearing traditional beads. The princess attends Bible lessons as a devout Christian.

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Past life


An elderly Konyak: "My grandson finds my facial tattoos funny and wonders when he can have them, but those times are gone now."

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Poppy pleasure


The Konyak suffer from a big opium addiction that began in the days of British colonialism. At any time of the day, Konyak can be found sucking from bamboo pipes in their longhouses.

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Axe-proud


A former headhunter, proud of his past, posing with his axe: "I have cut enemies' heads with this axe and I will always keep it with me."

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Rustic digs

Traditional housing in Nyahnyu.

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Old school threads

Men in traditional attire, decorated with tusks of wild boar, conch shells, trimmed goat hair and feathers from various birds.

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The next generation


Konyak kids fooling around with a gun. It's probably a game of "headhunters and robbers."

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