Nagaland: A land with spellbinding culture and its preserver

a land with spellbinding culture and its preserver nagaland

While I sat to write this article, constant monologues were rising inside my mind and questioning myself, how to start and complete the tiny and gripping things, which can help you to portray the beauty of our nature, the diversity of our land, and the loving peoples with their culture in your consciousness. The diversification in culture, customs, habits, and natural vegetation (flora and fauna) is the pride of a land. The thing which makes our country so special in front of the world is its rich diversity, golden history, unity, and cultural beauty.

Mountains and hill stations exhibit heavenly beauty on earth. Northeast India is one of them, an unexplored paradise. There is nothing better than witnessing the natural beauty of India’s Seven Sister States. Each of them is unconditionally breathtaking! The seven sisters consisted of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura.

The state on the lap of mountains, with cascading waterfalls, meandering rivers, and an extraordinary variety of flora and fauna make Nagaland “The Switzerland of the East.” It is gifted with some spellbinding landscape.

A Mountainous state rises from the Brahmaputra valley in Assam to about 610 meters and extends further to the southeast. Mount Saramati is the highest peak, where the Naga Hills merge with the Patkai range, part of the Arakan system, and form the boundary with Myanmar (Burma). All neighboring countries of Nagaland have an incredible frame of nature. Kohima is the capital city, located in the southern part of Nagaland. 

Not only mountains but the rivers are also lying over the land of Nagaland and bathed the soil with its purest fine water. Four major drainage systems are found here: Dhansiri, one of the important tributaries of Brahmaputra River. And the valley also received the water from Dhiphu, Doyang, and Jhanji River.

A valley bestowed with varieties of foliages makes the land eco friendly and becomes a home for many species of flora and fauna with their high multifariousness. 20% of the area is covered by wooded forest. The evergreen tropical and subtropical forest is also found in this area. It is also referred to as the Falcon capital of the world due to its bird’s diversity.

Nagaland is blessed with a mild, salubrious, and favorable climate. Monsoon is enjoyed by them with torrential rainfall. They enjoy summer only for two months. Fog wraps some regions of the state during winter and one of the ideal climates for travelers also. Certain regions are beaten by bitter cold and dry weather. Snow-covered the high altitude of the mountain. The enthusiastic climate of Nagaland makes the region one the best destination for travelers.

The inhabitant of Nagaland is known as “Naga”. They received their name from the Burmese word “NAKA”, which means people of perforated ears to adorn themselves with big wooden plugs and other ornaments. They are not only scattered within Nagaland but also the part of the surrounding seven sisters. 

India with Indigenous tribes, draws a different picture of its cultural frame. Every tribe is indifferent and unique with its culture. Geography and climatic systems are one of the building stones of their culture, rituals, food habit, and dress code. Thus, every tribe of India carried a unique identity and picture in front of the world. Among them, the naga tribe is one of the tribal groups with high traditional values, indigenous beliefs and practices, and eye catching art of sense. Those people are more conscientious and preservers of nature. 

Nagaland is the land of the tribe and shares a long history with a strong warrior background. Generally, it is believed that they belong to the Indo-Mongoloid Family. There is various information about the arrival of Nagas in Naga Hills. But the sources didn’t provide the exact date of their arrival into the hills. Based on their different aspects of culture, a different scholar came up with a different source of information. Such as: 

  • Sir G.A Grierson traced the origin of Nagas to that of the Tibeto- Burmans based on language.
  • Huang Tsang, a Chinese pilgrim, mentioned them as the tribe of east Assam when he visited Assam in 645AD.
  • Having the culture of various occasions Dr. S.K Chatterjee mentioned them as Kirata (Indo-Mongoloids) from the old Sanskrit literature those who were engaged on many occasions.

However in Indian history, after Independence, 1947, Naga territory was a part of Assam. But the political union of Naga tribes began a nationalist movement for a separate secession from the Indian union. After more violations in 1955, a restore order was called out by the Indian Army. At last in 1960 an agreement was signed between the Naga people’s convention and the Indian government, under which it was decided that Nagaland became a constituent state of the Indian Union. In 1963 it achieved its statehood. Indian constitution provides a special status to Nagaland, under the art. 371(a), under which, not only the customary law, social practice, and belief of people of Nagaland but also the resources of the state is verdantly safeguarded from the intervention of the union government and its various policies unless the state assembly decides by resolution.

In the present scenario, the land is a home of sums of 66 tribes including the sub-tribes. Among them, 16 tribes are considered as the major tribes with many unidentified sub-tribes. These conglomerations of tribes make Nagaland a rich state in cultural diversity. Despite differences, they enjoy similar food habits, dress code, and some traditional laws and celebrated the festival with a great brotherhood. They are very soft-hearted and friendly. But they have a distinct spoken language. 

Major Tribes of Nagaland:

The major tribes of Nagaland are Angami, (major Naga tribe, known for terraced wet-rice cultivation), Ao (found north-eastern part of Nagaland), Chakhesang, Chang ( known as ‘Mazung’ in British India), Khemungan, Konyak, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sema, Yimchunger, Poumai, Rongmei, Naga, Maram Naga, Nocte, Pochuri, Tangsa, Tutsa, Zeliang, and Wancho.

major tribes of Nagaland Angami

The Konyak tribe had practiced two rituals, which is unbelievable for us. 

They are mainly defined by their Headhunting practice and their facial tattoos. They mostly reside in the interior of the forest away from the mainland. They had the tradition to rip off the head of their victim of rival tribes. And those who returned with the head would be admired as warriors. They believed that this practice would bring prosperity in the cropping. With this belief, they are also engaged with the rituals of tattooing. Both were intricately linked. After every incursion, to celebrate their victory, a warrior was decorated with diamond or lozenge markings on his face, neck, and then other parts of the body in the color of aubergine. Through the type of tattoo, they conveyed their status, position, stage of life, and achievements in their society. This shows the division of power and position existed in their society. Tattoos marked the stages of the life process. For men, it defined their passage from boyhood to manhood and achievements in battle, and for women, it was a sign of passing from one stage to another. But the British banned headhunting in 1935.

Nagaland Cultures:

Away from the contemporary trend and life with technology, they love to lead their life with their own cultural identity, beliefs, language, festivals, and pride. They are the people of the soil and are struggling every moment to save their cultural pride and present them in front of the global door. They are a valuable asset to our country. They are not only carrying their values but also contributing to the sector of the economy, art and culture, research work in higher studies, and preserving our nature. 

nagaland cultures bamboo handcraft

Their handicraft and art are inseparably woven in the Nagaland cultures. It has significant contributions to our economy. The social-economical life revolves around the use of bamboo. It is the fastest growing and highest-producing plant. Asia’s largest bamboo pavilion that govt. of Nagaland built was in kisama. With bamboo, they formed their traditional architecture, wonderful crafts, and usable tools. They make each part of bamboo useful. The livelihood of many people depends on this sector. Now it is the soul of pulp and paper industries and has enormous demand worldwide.

Festivals of Nagaland:

The festivals of Nagaland is one of the main attractions for its tourism. Indeed, the people out of this region have many things to learn from them, the way these tribes have been conserving their cult and customs and attached with them. Their festivals convey their respect towards nature as a gift of God and towards their life. Spirits, the fertility of soils, social bonding, purification, and rejuvenation are the quintessence of their festival. Nagaland is the land of the festival. From the starting of the year to the ending, they celebrated each season with a festival. 

Hornbill is the most popular festival in Nagaland. It is the festival of festivals for the entire Naga community. In this festival, people are celebrating their unique Naga heritage and tradition, and to revive their culture and promote the richness. It also enhances the state’s tourism brand.

hornbill festival nagaland
Naga tribesman at the Hornbill Festival. Image Credit: Getty Images

Each tribe of Nagaland has its own festival. They are highly enthusiastic, dedicated, and passionate about their festivals. Agriculture is the main occupation of this land. So, they celebrate each phrase of cultivation for promoting their product. These are: Mimkut (by Kuki tribe), Bushu (by Kachari tribe), Tsukhenya festival (by Chakhesang tribe), and Yemshe (by prochury tribe) are the festivals for pre-harvest, harvest, post-harvest, and sowing. 

Along with these festivals, Miu, thanksgiving, and sekrenyi (purification festival) are also celebrated by different tribes in Nagaland. The unique style of folk dancing of each tribe and music with melodious traditional rhythms is the center of the celebration, presented by both men and women. They also prepared a variety of food and rice beer.

Eating Habits of Nagas:

Along with the tradition, customs, and beliefs, the eating habits of Nagas also make them unique among the northeastern region. Nagas love hunting. So, they like to eat the meat of wild animals and prepare them very delightfully. Rice is the staple food. They mostly prefer the meat of dogs, beef, pork, and chicken. According to me the meat of a dog provides them strength and also has medicinal values. They have upheld animist culture. They have great knowledge about the edible and nutritious value of food. Every place has its special ingredients which make their dishes distinct from others. In Nagaland, Bamboo shoots are a special ingredient. 

nagaland cuisine eating habits of nagas
Nagaland Cuisine. Image Credit: Fair Sky Travels

They have some taboo related to their eating habit. They don’t allow a woman to consume the meat of monkeys. And for pregnant women, they are not allowed to have the meat of bear, which consider as a stupid animal. Thutshe, Zutho, and Ruhi are the indigenous drink of them.

Marriage is one of the social institutions of society. It also reflects the moral values. Marriage within the same community is prohibited. Each tribe has different rituals of marriage. Like, in the Angamis tribe, if a boy likes a girl and wants to show a liking then he has to convey it to her father and after that, a friend of the boy is sent to confirm the wishes of the elders. If parents of both sides agree, then they put the matter further for testing. And the girl also has enjoyed the right to break the marriage, if she has some inauspicious dream. The society is patriarchal, where the family is male-dominated.

Nagas are also skillful in handicraft making. They use natural raw materials to make wondrous products. Their handcrafts also depict the tradition, which is demandable in the rest of India and the world. They make their own cloth, utensils, medicines, etc. The famous handicrafts are bamboo work, wood carving, pottery, and blacksmith.

These are some aspects of culture, carrying rich diversity among their oneness!

Through a short journey of Nagaland with my words, it must be believed that the inhabitants of Nagaland are exuberant. They are the preserver of their gifted motherland and its beauty. Their culture depicts their respect and love for nature. In India, “Unity in Diversity” is the ethos. Nagaland is one of the living examples of it. 

Soheli Chanda
Soheli Chanda is a student of Masters in Development at Azim Premji University, Bangalore. She has just completed her graduation on Social Work from the land of Rabindranath Tagore, Visva-Bharati. Travelling is like an energy drink for her. She is viewing her life through the glass of optimism.She is a writer by passion. From her love for writing, she started to create content on this platform. She mainly focuses on history, culture, lifestyle, foods, and travel stories. She believes writing can be a strong weapon to bring a change in society.

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