When I see tribes of the North-East of India, I cannot help shoot those who sport tattoos and other adornments. They are unique with none like them.
The Konyaks have been tattooing their bodies all through their history. However, this practice slowly when out of favour coinciding with conversion of much of their society to Christianity over the past century. One can still see such tattoos, especially facial ones, only amongst the older generation. It may be a matter of not more than 20 years before the last of the tattooed Konyaks are lost to this world. Some facts about Konyak tattoos:
* Both men and women would get their first tattoos around the age of 12 at the onset of puberty.
* For boys, tattoos indicated they had come of age to be a member of the ‘Morung’, a kind of a men’s club. All villages have imposing hut like structures called Morungs where the menfolk assemble and socialise.
* After a successful headhunting expedition, men would get tattoos as a mark of valour, giving them the status of true warriors. The bravest of them would be called a ‘Naomei’ and allowed distinctive figures of human forms depending on the number of heads taken by him.
* Girls would get tattoos on their calf while still unmarried and one on their thighs after moving into their husband’s house. To be followed by another on their upper thigh after the birth of their first child, and then successively on their chest, navel, arms and hands.
* Tattooing was also a mark of one’s status and clan; for Konyaks, tattooing was a kind of a rite of passage.