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TERRIBLE TRADITIONS – Finger Cutting of Dani Tribe, New Guinea

Dani Tribe - Fingurs Cutting Tradition

The Dani (or Ndani) tribe, inhabitants of the fertile lands of the Baliem Valley in the Western New Guinea, follows a weird tradition. When a loved one in the family passes away, the nearest relatives of the dead, aside from the inevitable emotional grief, cut off the upper part of their finger or sometimes multiple fingers. This is meant to be a way of displaying their grief and gloom at funeral ceremonies. Apart from amputation, they also smeared their faces with ashes and clay, as an expression of sorrow and misery. It is their way of showing their grief for the deceased.

Dani Tribe - Fingurs Cutting

The amputation is done by first tying a piece of string tightly around the finger or fingers for about thirty minutes, to stop the flow of blood. A relative of the mourner then snips off the top half of the finger, or fingers.  The open sores are then cauterized, both to prevent bleeding and in order to form a new-calloused fingertips. However, the severed finger piece or pieces are burned in the ashes of the funeral fire and the ash is preserved in a place sacred to the family.

This custom, one of the world’s most bizarre cultural practices, was performed as a means to satisfy ancestral ghosts. Though the practice has been banned in recent years, many older women of the Dani tribe are quick to show their mutilated hands to tourists and the photographers to earn money.

Dani Tribe - Fingurs Cutting tradition and earns money from photographers by showing it to them

Dibyendu Banerjee
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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