North East India is home to over 200 (Two hundred) tribes. Each tribal community have their own distinct culture and traditions. They speak different languages, have different religious practices, wear clothes with distinct patterns and also have different ways of celebrating. These celebrations form a part of their festivals where these communities performs colorful dances, showcase their traditional cuisines and source of livelihood like their agrarian practices and their handlooms and handicrafts.
The State of Nagaland which plays host to the ‘Festival of Festivals ~ the Hornbill Festival’, every year in December is home to over 16 major tribes. The people of Nagaland primarily call themselves ‘Nagas’. Naga is a vaguely defined umbrella term for several tribes in North-East India and Upper Burma. The glorious past and history of the Naga people have proven them as fierce warriors. Since time immemorial, Nagas have fought their enemies and also other tribes to defend themselves and their clan. Loyalty is in their blood. The Nagas are people of nature and the primitive style of living is still intact. The Tribes of Nagaland conglomerate every year at the Hornbill Festival to showcase their rich heritage and cultural practices.
Below is a list of the principal Naga Tribes of Nagaland ~
- The Angami Tribe
- The Ao Tribe
- The Konyak Tribe
- The Sumi Naga Tribe
- The Pochuri Tribe
- The Nocte Tribe
- The Phom Tribe
- The Liangmai Tribe
- The Chang Tribe
- The Rongmei Tribe
Certain Naga Tribes practiced Head hunting in the early years. Head Hunting would involve separating men from their women before, during and after coming back from an expedition. The women, as a cultural practice, would encourage men to undertake head-hunting as a prerequisite to marriage. The men would go on an expedition against other tribes or neighbouring kingdoms, and kill to score number of heads they were able to hunt. A successful head hunter would be conferred a right to ornaments. The practice of head hunting was banned in 19th century India, and is no longer practiced among Naga people. The Konyak Tribes of Nagaland were the principal Head hunting tribes and the history of this practice are clearly shown in the elaborate Tattoos across their bodies.
Jungleideas welcomes you to India’s North East to witness the rich Culture and Heritage of the Naga Tribes at the ‘Festival of Festivals ~ the Hornbill Festival’ ~ Kisama Heritage Village, Kohima, the State of Nagaland, Incredible India!
More information on the Tribes of Nagaland are mentioned below ~
Main Festival: Sekrenyi
Period: February: 25-27
The population of the Angami Naga is about 12 lakhs and they are based in Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. They are distributed in 4 regions in the South-Angamis are located on the foothills of Mt. Japfü, on the west they are on the west of Kohima, and the northern Angamis are located on the north of Kohima and the Chakro Angamis including mostly small villages around Dimapur. The Angamis are famous for their wood and cane craft, making furniture, weaving shawls and powerful machetes. They are fond of music and dance, their simple acoustic and percussionery music plays an important role in their rituals and festivals. Angami women practice pottery at their houses, they are expert in making baskets. Pork with bamboo shoots is a very common delicacy among them. Animism is a faith among the tribe. Their folklore are passed on to generations orally, and they speak Tenyidie which is the most common language.
The festival of the Angami tribe is celebrated in the month of February and falls on the 25th day of the Angami month of Kezei. It is a festival of purification with feasting and singing. The most interesting part of the Sekrenyi Festival is the thekra hie. The thekra hie is a part of the festival when the young people of the village sit together and sing traditional songs throughout the day.
Main Festival: Ngada
Period: November: 27
Rengmas generally accept that their forefathers migrated from China during the Qin dynasty (221-207 B.C), as is held by other Naga tribes like Angamis, Lothas, Semas, and Chakhesangs. This migration account from China is well-accepted among the mentioned Naga tribes even today. It is believed that Rengmas along with other mentioned Naga tribes migrated from China, pushed towards South-East Asia across the Yunnan mountain ranges and settled down on the upper Burma region. Then after some time, they migrated towards North West direction and reached Makerenyu (Imphal Valley, Manipur), and finally landed at Khinzonyu (Khezakenoma). Khezakenoma is also known as the point of dispersal, where they (Rengmas, Angami, Lothas, and Semas) rerouted toward different directions and settled down as they are in the present times. Rengmas are known and admired by their neighbouring tribes as gentle and humble people. Oral tradition has it said that in the olden days, Rengmas were known for their bravery and were the champion warrior. There is also a traditional belief of some neighbouring tribes of Rengmas, that marrying the Rengma girls would bring good fortune and prosperity in a family.
The Rengmas celebrate eight days of Ngadah festival towards the end of November, just after harvest. It is the festival of thanksgiving and rejoicing. This festival also marks the end of the agricultural year. The Village High Priest (Phensengu) announces the date of commencement of the festival at the top of his voice, so that the villagers can prepare themselves for the festival.
Main Festival: Moatsü
Period: May 1 to 3
Legend says that Ao’s sprung from ‘Langtrok’ which means six stones. They crossed river Dikhu leaving others behind and were then known to be as “Aor’ or ‘Ao’ which means going or gone. Ao’s are the fraction of the Naga Tribe in particular who took to Christianity very first among their fellow tribes, which made them exposed to Western education. They are from the Indo-Mongoloid race and their language is a branch of Sino-Tibetan dialect. They speak Chungli, Mongsen and Changki. Their historical evidence is totally on oral traditions, customs, habits, and tribal monograms. Aos observe Moatsü Mong after the sowing is done and the mother earth begins to show the sign of fertility. The festival marked by vigorous songs and dances, merrymaking and fun is now observed only for three days from 1 to 3 May. The natural customary practice of the fore-fathers was competing in making the best rice beer and rearing the best possible pigs and cows to be slaughtered during the festival. The womenfolk would weave the best of traditional garments and adorn themselves with all their fineries. They would join the men folk in dancing, eating and drinking and composing warrior’s song. Singing songs in praise of the lover and the village as a whole was done and the older men folk would encourage the young people to be bold and heroic to defend and protect them from enemies as head-hunting was practiced during the time of fore-fathers.
Main Festival: Aoling
Period: April 13
The Konyak Nagas are recognised by their tattoos, which they have over their face and hands, the facial tattoos are earned for taking an enemy’s head. They have the largest population among the Nagas and can be found in Myanmar, Tirap and Changlang district of Arunachal. They are known for their ferociousness and love for warfare. They often attacked nearby villages and take the heads of the opposing warriors as trophies to hang in the Morong, ‘a communal house’. The number of heads indicates the power of a warrior and the tribe becomes a collective totem. They maintain a much disciplined community life and strict duties and responsibilities for every individual.
The entire Konyak community in Nagaland, observes Aoleang Monyu in the first week of Aoleang lee (April) every year since time immemorial. Aoleang is observed after completing of sowing seeds in the new fields and also to mark the end of the old year and to welcome the New Year beginning with spring when a riot of flowers at every hue start to bloom.
It is a time to ask Almighty God for a bountiful harvest of crops in that very year. The Aoleang Monyu is spread over six days. Each day has separate name and different significances: (1) Hoi Lai Yah Nyih (2) Yin Pho Nyih (3) Yin Mok Shek Nyih (4) Lingnyu Nyih (5) Lingha Nyihand (6) Lingshan Nyih.
For their food Yam is used all throughout the year, a tuberous root of a climbing vine. Konyaks use 20 varieties of Yam. The Konyaks practice slash and burnt cultivation, rice was never enough to feed the family, the whole year through. Yam is used to supplement rice to keep the family surviving, fit and healthy.
Main Festival: Tuluni
Period: July 8
The most united and aggressive among the Nagas and inhabiting in the Zunheboto district is the Sumi Nagas. Since times immemorial, other Nagas have feared the Sumi. Sumi are known to be very simple and honest. Before the advent of Christian Missionaries in their region they used to practice Headhunting. Their ancient god is the nature.
Tuluni is a festival of great significance. This festival is marked with feast as the occasion occurs in the bountiful season of the year. Drinking rice – beer indispensably forms a part of the feast. Rice – beer is served in goblet made with the leaf of plantain. This wine is called TULUNI. Therefore, consumption of the wine is called “TULUNI”. Tuluni is also called “ANNI” the word of which denotes the season of plentiful crops. This mid – year (JULY) festival is the greatest and most fervent moment for the Sumi Community of Nagaland. During this festival, the betrothed exchange basketful of gifts with meals. The fiancé is invited to a grand dinner at the fiancé’s residence. Even siblings of the families of both the bride and groom exchange dinner and packed food and meat.
‘Ahuna’ which is celebrated on the 14th of November Post Harvest festival is for thanksgiving and invoking the ancient spirits for good fortune, where the first meal of Rice is cooked in Bamboo segments.