The Mojo Of Nagaland Culture - Cultural Diversity of Nagaland

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A land of tribes, Nagaland is an abode amongst the hills yet to be explored. The picturesque state has stellar landscapes, beautiful tea gardens, high mountains, and vibrant culture.

What is Naga Culture Known For?

Nagaland exquisitely rich in flora and fauna and is a habitat to some of the dandiest plants and animals, not leaving behind the beautiful birds to which this place is home. Owing to its diversity in birds, Nagaland is referred to as, The Falcon Capital of The World. Nagaland supports a flamboyant tribal culture which leaves anybody visiting the place amazed and dazzled.

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The Long-living Tribes: The Essence of Naga Culture and Tradition

Nagaland has an ancient history of tribes whose count sums to be as much as 66 including the sub-tribes. Out of these, 16 are considered as major tribes. With a difference in language, all tribes have a similar leafy dress code, eating habits and traditional laws. Nagas are mostly Christians. The state is regarded as the most Baptist state in the world as 75% of it is dominated by them. Soft-heartedness and hospitality of Nagas leave anyone visiting the place astounded. They have a zest for life and are very exuberant when it comes to celebrating festivals or any other day of equal significance.

Warrior Background of Nagaland People

Tribe traditions and loyalties play an important role in Naga society. They have a strong warrior background; they used to make armed raids to the nearby villages. Once a prevalent ritual, Head Hunting has now become obsolete. In this ritual, the warring tribes used to take the heads of their enemies in order to establish triumph.

Traditional Dress of Nagaland

These tribes carry certain folklores depicting the gallant acts of their ancestors. Their costumes aptly display the ancestral lineage. The design of shawl denotes the social status of the wearer. The attire worn by the males include a conical red headgear decorated with Hornbill's black and white feathers and wild boar's canine teeth. Also, one cannot overlook the necklaces, the bangles and the tattoos which are reminiscent of the old age wars and sacrifices.

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The blend of western culture with the ancient relics has made this tribal culture of Nagaland more resonant. 

Religions in Nagaland

The nearly 2 Million population of Nagaland has an 88% of Christian occupancy according to the 2011 census. Nagaland is one of the three states with a Christian-majority in India followed by Mizoram and Meghalaya. 75% of the total population is Baptist, making it the only predominantly Baptist State in the World and the most Baptist State in the World followed by Mississippi at 55% and Texas at 51%. Most of the Catholic concentration lies in the Phek, Wokha and Kohima Districts and also the urban areas of Dimapur. Hinduism, Islam and Jainism forms the Minority Religions of Nagaland along with smaller percentages of Sikhism, Naga Folk Religions and others.

Marriage Culture

The Nagas follow some atypical traditions when it comes to marriage. Any relationship between a boy and a girl within the same community is considered as a social evil. The Angami tribal members tend to strangle a fowl and decide the fate of the couple on the basis of the posture which the fowl adopts while dying. The match is immediately broken if the fowl adopts an inauspicious posture.

In Mongsen tribal community, the couples are engaged and are sent on a trading expedition. If this expedition turns out to be profitable then the marriage is fixed for them otherwise they are declared unfit for each other.

There are many other practices which vary from tribe to tribe such as, in some communities pre-nuptial relations are allowed but not beyond a certain limit while some consider it as a taboo. In some communities, the groom has to pay a price for the girl in the form of a dowry and hence in those communities the girls are given a lot of care and regard. In some other communities like Sema, Lothas and  Changs a man can have multiple wives at the same time.

Art and Craft

Though the main occupation of the Nagaland people is irrigation, they have been blessed with dexterity, especially the women. The ordinary metals such as iron, brass and tin are used to make exquisite jewellery in the form of armlets, neckbands, bangles and much more. Beads are also used to make beautiful necklaces.

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The Nagas have carried their traditional art of weaving by knitting unique colours and designs producing shawls, shoulder bags, table mats, etc which reflect the integrity and soul of their ancient dynamics. The present generation has stepped into the fashion industry producing the fabrics that represent the amalgamation of ancestral motifs and modern appeal. The tourists get mesmerised by such a beautiful display of handicrafts and tend to buy a lot of souvenirs. The craft is not just limited to fabric and metals, wooden carvings and bamboo works are also an essential part of the craft of these people.

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Folk Dance and Music of Nagaland

Owing to the joie de vivre nature of Nagas, dance and music are an essential part of their culture. The tribal dance and music will set your feet tapping. The dance is generally performed in groups on the folk songs perfectly synchronised with music through various musical instruments such as Asem (drums), Tati, Mouth Organ, Bamboo Flute, etc. The tribal dance becomes more extravagant by the virtue of the colourful and unique traditional costumes and jewellery. The folk songs narrate the stories of bravery, romance and historic incidents. Certainly, this place has some fantastic taste in dance and music which tourists tend to cherish. 

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Festivals of Nagaland

There is an essence of celebration in the air throughout the year in Nagaland. The diversity of tribes in the region leads to a yearlong ambience of joy through various fairs and festivities organised from time to time. Some of the most important festivals celebrated by different tribal groups are Suhkruhnye, Yemshe, Sekrenyi, Moatsu Mong, Bushu and many others. The general festivals such as Christmas, New Year, etc are also celebrated in accordance to the tribal festivals.

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The Hornbill Festival

Marked as the festival of festivals, it is organised by the state government to encourage the interaction among the various tribes and preserve the heritage and traditions of Nagaland. It was started in 200 and turned out to be a huge success and is thus celebrated every year in the first week of December. Earlier it was celebrated for first seven days of December but due to its huge popularity, it is now celebrated for 10 days. People from overseas come to relish the breathtaking celebrations of this festival. Various activities such as Naga wrestling, archery, beauty contest, Naga king chilli eating contest, musical concerts are held along with local people displaying their craft and selling the wooden carvings, food, herbal medicines. Colourful performances are held and this place turns into the most happening place on earth for these ten days.

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Nagaland Food

The soft and sweet spoken Nagaland people do not mind spiciness in their food. The kitchen in every household of Nagaland has some good deal of spices stored. Even the ginger used by the people in this region is different from the regular one. The spiciness and aroma which their ginger comprises are hard to find elsewhere. Nagaland is the home of Bhut Jolokia, one of the spiciest chillies in the world.

The people here prefer steaming their food to frying. All the tribes have distinct cuisines which use meat, fish and fermented products extensively. The locally grown herbs, ghost peppers, ginger and garlic are used a lot in almost all the dishes.

Smoked pork cooked with fermented soya bean is the dish of state cherished along with rice and chutney called Tathu. The other common dishes are snails cooked with pork and silkworm larvae, Naga curry made with crushed potato and tomato. 

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Nagaland might be small when measured geographically but culturally it has many flavours endowed. The traditions, fairs, festivals, art and craft of the various tribes are full of vibrant colours and energy. The zest with which people live here is inspirational. One must make the Nagaland people as their host and cherish the culture at par along with the stellar geography of the place.

This post was published by Ankit Oberoi

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