(Last Updated on : 10/04/2012)
Naga tribes of Nagaland appear to belong to a race which resided in south-west China. While it`s main body migrated to Burma and Malaysia to Indonesian islands, it had sent a side stream into the hills of Assam. Naga is a generic term which is applied to several clusters of tribal groups inhabiting the states of Nagaland, Manipur
, South-eastern Arunachal Pradesh
and eastern Assam
, in the North Eastern region of India. The largest Naga populations with sixteen distinct sub-tribes are found in Nagaland. They are Ao, Angami, Chakhesang, Chang, Chirr, Khahmnungan, Konyak, Lotha, Makware, Phom, Rengma, Sema, Tikhir, Yimchunger and Zeliang.
Origin of Naga tribes
The word `Naga` is used for tribes living in Nagaland and in some parts of Assam.
On the basis of language Nagas can be classified as a cross breed of Tibeto-Chinese, Burmese and Aryan. Many Naga languages show Austric linguistic characteristics. The Naga tribes were roughly classified into four categories - the Southern Nagas, the Western Nagas, the Central Nagas and the Eastern Nagas.
The Naga also belongs to the Indo mongoloid race. The Naga groups share common cultural features like the youth dormitory system, house pattern, disposal of dead, betel chewing habit, marriage pattern, life cycle rituals, traditional political organisation and clan system.
Society of Naga Tribes
Nagas build their villages on hill tops. Naga village has been regarded as a small republic as every Naga village has existed as an independent village state or a small republic. The Naga built their granaries around their villages. The youth dormitory is known as Morung among the Nagas. It is an important centre around which the Naga folklore flourished. It is equally important as a residential and training centre for traditional art. Boy`s dormitory is known as Ikhuichi and Iloichi is the name for dormitory of the girls.
Joint family is the traditional form though nuclear family has become a new trend.
Agriculture is the main system which regulates the soil practice of the Naga tribes. Shifting cultivation and terrace cultivation are practiced. Agriculture is the main occupation of the Nagas. The practice of jhumming is done in two ways-first for paddy cultivation and second for growing vegetable like millet, maize, oil seeds, , chilies, pumpkin, Gourd, potato, brinjal, mustard, cucumber, beans, ginger and garlic. They also collect honey, resin, seeds, barks from the jungle and sell them in the market.
The Nagas also produce a variety of wooden articles such as utensils, rice pounding tables, smoking pipes, musical instruments, cups and plates of various shapes and size. They engage in elaborate wood carvings for decorating their Morung. Nagas excel in making baskets and mats. They make earthen pots by hand alone. One of the major contributions of the Christian Church has been to liberate the Nagas from the fear of evil spirits and evils of head hunting and continuous warfare.
Religious Life of Naga tribes
The Nagas followed their traditional practices until they converted to Christianity
. The traditional Nagas believed in various malevolent and benevolent spirits. They are polytheist or animist. By offering gifts and sacrifices these spirits are worshipped. The traditional religion of the Nagas is entirely social and individual in character. It is practical and revolves round the needs of the people. The Nagas do not care so much for life after death.
Classification of Naga Folk-lore
The Naga folk-lore may be classified according to the area of the diffusion
(i) The folk-literature which are shared by more than one tribe.
(ii) Folk-lore of the particular tribe.
(iii)Village based Folk-lore.
Festival of Naga Tribes
Their festivals are related with their religion which is associated with their economic vocations, social and cultural ethos. They celebrate festivals in relation with different stages of agricultural activity. Gan Ngai is a post harvesting festival. This festival is also known as festival of lights. In this festival, a farewell feast is celebrated for the spirit of those people who died in the previous year. Rih-Ngai is a war festival held for purifying village. Nanu is children`s ear boring festival. The ears of all children who were born during previous year in the village are pierced on this day. Gantham is a spring festival where they worship all the deities by offering animals. Napko or Napao is celebrated by the villagers as a whole. Ginkimei is a religious festival which is celebrated to please the goddess of wealth.
The Nagas are known for their dance and songs. The Naga have been able to preserve their culture language, identity, traditions and customs through these songs and dances.