Bordering Myanmar in the northeast India, the mountainous state of Nagaland is known for its diverse indigenous tribes, festivals and culture. Read on to learn more about the beautiful state and its beautiful tribes and people.
Call them the fighters, soldiers or the headhunters, Nagas can be called the strongest people living in northeast India. It is difficult to trace their origin though the word ‘Naga’ could have originated from the Burmese word ‘Nagka’ which means people with pierced earlobes. Today it covers number of tribes that reside in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
History proves that they are great warriors who always fought to defend themselves and their clan. Nagas are warm hearted people, progressive in nature with primitive style of living still intact. The predominant religion of Nagaland is Christianity; Nagaland was Christianized in the 19th century by the well-known American missionary, Edward Clark. As far as the dialect is concerned each tribe has a different language. However, the Nagaland Assembly proclaimed English as the official language of Nagaland and it is the medium for education in Nagaland.
There is a lot of mystery around the people, their tribes and practices. Each tribe has its own attire, beaded jewelries and signature hat. They celebrate festivals all through the year which is a good way to know their deep rooted culture. It is interesting to explore and learn about the different tribes and their unique cultures. A visit to Nagaland can never be complete without exploring the beautiful tribes of Nagaland.
Tribes of Nagaland
There are 16 major tribes in Nagaland. Each tribe is unique in character with its own distinct customs, language and dress. Historically, Naga tribes celebrated feasting and head hunting.
The Angamis are a major Naga ethnic group settled in Kohima and Dimapur Districts. They are hill people depending basically on cultivation and livestock-rearing. They are traditional warriors known for terraced wet-rice cultivation. They are also known for the Sekrenyi celebrations every February.
You can distinguish Konyak Naga by their pierced ears and tattoos. They have tattoos all over their faces, hands, chests, arms and calves. Facial tattoos were earned for taking an enemy’s head. They have certain unique practices that set them apart from other nagas; they are known for iron-smelting, brass-works, and gunpowder-making and wood sculptures. The Konyaks were the last among the Naga tribes to accept Christianity.
One of the major Naga tribes of Nagaland, Aos were the first Naga tribe to embrace Christianity. They are well known for multiple harvest festivals held each year. They have a rich tradition of clothing; The Ao Naga warrior shawl is called Mangkotepsu. This is exclusively worn by the men folk.
Former ‘Eastern Angamis’ the Chakhesangs are now recognized as a separate tribe. Most of the villages of this tribe fall within Phek district of Nagaland. The tribe is basically divided into two groups known as Chokri and Khezha. Their festivals are based on agricultural cycle and Sukrunye is their most important festival.
According to oral tradition, the Changs emerged from a place called Changsangmongko, and later settled at Changsang. Another theory says that the Chang migrated to present-day Nagaland from the east, and therefore call themselves Chang (“Eastern” in the local dialect).
The Dimasa people (or Dima-basa, and also called Dimasa-Kachari) are an indigenous ethno-linguistic community presently inhabiting Assam and Nagaland states in Northeastern India. Agriculture is the principal occupation and main source of livelihood of the Diamsa Kacharis. Their important festival is Bushu which is celebrated after the completion of harvest.
Khiamniungan is one of the major Naga tribes, mainly found in the Noklak district of Nagaland, India and the adjoining areas of Burma. According to a popular myth, Khiamniungan means ‘source of great waters’ – the place from where the early ancestors of Khiamniungan are said to have originated. Unlike several other Naga tribes, the advent of Christianity had little impact on the Khiamniungan for a long time, due to their remote location.
The Kukis constitute one of several hill tribes within India, Bangladesh, and Burma. It was the arrival of missionaries and introduction to English education that that exposed the Kuki people to the modern era.
The Phom are a Naga group settled between the Konyak in the north-east, the Ao in the west and the Chang in the south. While Christianity has had an impact on Phom society, it has remained largely traditional due to limited contact with other outsiders. Agriculture is the traditional occupation of the Phoms, and the tribe practices jhum cultivation. The Phoms also have a tradition of pottery, bamboo work and spinning.
Zeliang Naga Tribes is one of the dominant tribe of Nagaland mainly found in Kohima district, with rich indigenous knowledge systems and have minimum impact of present day modernization. Their primary language is Zeme.
Yimchunger is a Naga tribe whose traditional territory includes Tuensang and Kiphire districts in Nagaland state of India, and western areas of Burma. The Yimchunger Tribe, like any other Naga Tribe has no written record of its origin or history. Maybe wandering from place to place they settled in their present location. However, going by narrated accounts the origin is believed to be from Thailand.
The Sangtams are one of the major tribes in Nagaland living in the Tuensang and Kiphire districts of Nagaland. They have retained their traditional beliefs in spite of embracing Christianity; Sangtams celebrate twelve different festivals, all of which are affiliated with their traditional culture and religion. Like many other tribal groups in Northeast India, they practice jhum, or shifting cultivation.
Lotha is the name of a major Naga tribe inhabiting the Wokha district of Nagaland. Lothas are known for their colorful dances and folk songs. The male members wear shawls indicating their social status. The prestigious social shawl for women is Opvuram and Longpensu for men. Like many Nagas, the Lothas practiced headhunting in the older days and later they they gave up this practice after the arrival of Christianity,
The ‘Sumi Naga’ is one of the major Naga peoples in Nagaland who mainly inhabit Zunheboto district. However, many have spread and are now living in a few more districts within Nagaland. Like most other Naga tribe, they were also headhunters before the arrival of the Christian missionaries and their subsequent conversion to Christianity. The Sumis celebrate many festivals which have been carried down from generations.
The Pochury identity is of relatively recent origin. It is a composite tribe formed by three Naga communities: Kupo, Kuchu and Khuri. Agriculture and animal husbandry continue to the main occupations, but many Pochurys have taken up other jobs. Many farming families are now above the Subsistence level due to scientific techniques, irrigation channels, government subsidies and new crops.
Like other Naga tribes, there are few written historical records of Rengmas. Slavery used to be a practice among the Rengmas, but by the time the British arrived in the Naga region, the slavery was a declining practice. Gentle and humble people, in olden days they were known for their bravery and were the champion warrior. There is an interesting belief that marrying the Rengma girls would bring good fortune and prosperity in a family.