Nagaland has a rich diversity of ethnic groups, languages, religions, climates and landscapes. The land is home to around 16 recognised tribes. Each tribe has its own customs, dialect, festival and dress. Majority of the population lives in small, isolated villages and practice their own rituals and traditions. The culture of Nagaland is very rich, ranging from their art and craft which include weaving, basketry, woodcarving, pottery, metal work, jewellery and beadwork to their folk dances and music, all of which are gradually gaining worldwide recognition due to its unique style.
Art and craft
All forms of art and craft in Nagaland are very intricately made and beautiful to look at. Handicraft Products such as cane and bamboo product making is one of the prime occupations of the tribal of Nagaland and used to make household items, furniture, accessories and musical instruments. Basket making is an important feature of the Naga people. The cane baskets of Khonoma village are particularly well known for their intricate weaves. Weaving is an ancient craft of the tribal of Nagaland. The Naga women weave colourful shawls, bags and jackets. The art of weaving is mostly popular amongst the female in Nagaland.
The food of Nagaland is rich in its own ways. Rice, pork, bamboo shoot and Naga chilli are among the widely consumed food in Nagaland. Pork meat with bamboo shoot, smoked Pork Stew, and chutney prepared with naga chilli or ‘bhut jolokia’ are the most common Naga dishes.
Music and Dance
Naga folk songs are both romantic and historical, with songs narrating entire stories of famous ancestors and incidents. There are also seasonal songs which describe various activities done in a the agricultural season. The tribes living in the remote corners of Nagaland have their inherent tradition of music, which express their melodious diversity. Some popular Zeliang folk songs are: Heliamleu, Hereileu, Neuleu and Hekialeu.
There are several rhythmic instruments that aptly accompany the Nagaland music. The area’s folk music is dominated by string instruments like the Tati (single string fiddle) and Theku among the Chakhesangs and Angami Nagas, Asem (drum with animal skin masked upon carved wood) and Jemji (Horn made using mithun horn). Indigenous musical instruments extensively used by the people are bamboo mouth organs, cup violins, bamboo flutes, trumpets, and log drums.
Music and dance play a huge part in Naga culture and any event won’t conclude without a folk dance. The people of Nagaland believe in togetherness hence all their dances are presented in groups. The major folk dances of Nagaland include Modse, Butterfly Dance, Aaluyattu, Changai Dance, Kuki Dance, Leshalaptu, Khamba Lim, Mayur Dance, Rengma, Seecha and Kukui Kucho, Shankai and Moyashai etc, however, the prominent ones are War Dance and Zeliang Dance.
The men in Nagaland perform War Dance with an outburst cry and humming tune. It can be said, this dance form mocks war scenario by involving dangerous war movements. A single wrong step could ruin an entire act, it’s martial and athletic style requires a performer to whirl his legs while keeping the body in an upward posture. The artistic dance of the Zeliang Naga tribe, Zeliang dance is predominantly performed by men but this tribe allows their women to partake in as well. Nothing too instrumental but with only beating of the drum in a synchronized melody along with leg movement makes men and women merge together forming a circle, chanting a chorus. This chanting, clapping and shouting of words, thumping of feet, gracefully endowed with traditional headgear and clothes inspires every member of the group and the spectators as well. Chang Lo or Sua Lua is a traditional dance of the Chang tribe of Nagaland state which is similar to the Zeliang dance. The folk dances of the tribes of Nagaland can be witnessed in their auspicious festivals such as Moatsu, Tuluni etc.
Festivals of Nagaland
Nagaland is famous for its numerous seasonal fairs and festivals. All the tribes celebrate their own distinct festivals with dance and music. The most important festivals celebrated in the state include Sekrenyi, Moatsu Mong, Suhkruhnye, Yemshe, Metumniu among others. These festivals are celebrated by different tribal groups. The ritual of one tribal group differs from the other. Hornbill festival celebrated in Nagaland is one of the most important festivals in the state, and has a footfall from all over the world.
Dress and Ornaments
The traditional costumes worn in Nagaland are given a lot of weight by the inhabitants of the state, as they feel that costumes are what identifies them and separates them from the rest of the crowd. The dresses that people wear here are colourful and vibrant. An important item which the people of Nagaland adorn is a shawl. The beautiful shawls are the most popular clothing item and are uniquely designed for every tribe. The naga people also place a lot of emphasis on ornaments. For the Naga, ornaments are about more than mere decoration; they help form the identity of the individual and the tribe. The men wear strong metal ornaments for self defence. Cane or brass rings are worn below the knees to provide strength in climbing hills. Women wear necklaces of polished hexagonal cornelian beads and for the wealthy, red pebbles. Most ornaments and motifs have a specific and powerful symbolic meaning and the right to wear them is strictly governed. Naga ornaments are indeed very well crafted and resonate with the primal quality of an ancient, tribal culture.
The rich tribal culture of Nagaland is evident from its name, the land of tribes. Nagaland accommodates a large number of tribes counting to as much as 66 in number which has been residing in this state since olden times. The Naga people are known for their hospitality and kindness. These tribes are still very much rooted to their old practices. The number of naga tribes in Nagaland include Angami, Rengma, Memei, Maramei, Zeliangrong, Kuki, Chakhesang, Pochury, Ao, Konyak, Phom, Khiamngan, Chang, Yimchunger, Sangtam, Lotha, Sumi and Rongmei.
In order to promote and preserve this diverse and enriching culture of the Nagas, ethnic tourism has been promoted in the region so that people from far and wide can come visit the state and learn about their history and culture. Village tourism has been promoted, which involves living among the local people, having their food and learning about their ways of life. The yearly celebrated Hornbill festival draws a large number of tourists every year.
The Naga tribes surely carry a fascinating story for it is a fusion of legacies of centuries old. Their cultural ancestry and sanctity can be clearly observed from the attires that they drape. The Naga tribes are a sight of delight for photographers for they give out awesomely superb pictorial outputs. The amalgamation of western culture into these Naga traditions has given its existence even more vibrancy.
Content By- Atlanta Priyadarsini