Culture of Nagaland – Exploring the Fascinating Tradition, Art, Music, Food and Festivals

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Culture of Nagaland
Image – Roderick Eime/Flickr

The 7 sisters of India are a priceless gift to the Indian subcontinent. With beautiful valleys, rolling hills, thundering waterfalls, and pacifying flora, the entire North-eastern part of India is known for its stellar natural beauty and the invaluable natural resources that it shelters.

Nagaland, likewise, is a gem waiting to be unearthed. Famously known as ‘The Land of Tribes‘, Nagaland has developed a striking yet mysterious image in our minds. Learning about a new culture is always a thrilling activity; the new knowledge and stories that we gain are immeasurable, don’t you agree? And although there are parts and regions of Nagaland of which even scientists are unaware, let us try to understand the culture and traditions in place, in this mysterious land.

Culture of Nagaland
Image/Wikimedia

Nagaland, as you probably are aware, is a mountainous state in the Northeastern part of India. The diversity found in this region is particularly staggering due to the large number of tribes that inhibit a major part of the state. It is said that each tribe in Nagaland has its own set of beliefs and customs which are exclusive to them. Every tribe also celebrates its festivals which, consequently, gave birth to the term ‘Land of Festivals’. Therefore, it is no wonder that the exuberance of Nagaland largely lies in its people. According to statistics, there are about 66 tribes and sub-tribes in Nagaland, out of which most are known to practice Christianity. Hinduism, Jainism, and other religions, while are prevalent are present in minorities.

Background of the Nagas

Culture of Nagaland-Head Hunting
Skulls collected while Head-Hunting as trophies/David Stanley/Flickr

The serene and welcoming demeanor of the tribes of Nagaland is contrasted by their strong and athletic background. Almost all of the tribes are famous for their rigid code of conduct and tribal traditions. These ancient warriors highly value loyalty and physical prowess. In the earlier times, several tribes would raid other villages and head-hunting was a common sport (although most of these traditions are now abolished).

Religion in Nagaland

Nagaland- Religion
Image/Pixahive

According to statistics, there are about 66 tribes and sub-tribes in Nagaland, out of which most are known to practice Christianity. Hinduism, Jainism, and other religions, while prevalent, is present in minorities.

Architecture in Nagaland

Nagaland-Architecture
Image/Carsten ten Brink/Flickr

Being situated in difficult terrain with severe cold, the Nagas have to improvise to make the perfect shelter for themselves. Even today, these people make use of the vernacular style of architecture to suit the needs of the weather. They do this by inculcating sturdy natural resources like wood, thatch, timber, and bamboo in their houses. Technically speaking, the use of Sema architecture is particularly extensive in Nagaland. This essentially consists of houses built in a rectangular fashion with high and sloping rooftops. This method is particularly useful in keeping the cold out.

Food Culture of Nagaland

Nagaland-Food
Image/Wikimedia

The cuisine of Nagaland is probably one of the most unique cuisines in India. With a ton of spices, a boatload of delicious meat and a multitude of herbs to accompany, the cuisine of Nagaland is a pleasant surprise for us. This cuisine is distinctly known for steaming their food instead of frying. They use fish or pork meat in almost all of their dishes which provides them an excellent source of protein. Some common dishes consumed in Nagaland include smoked pork, Silkworm larvae, and snails along with a side of pork. A true non-vegetarian’s paradise, indeed!

Festivities in Nagaland

Nagaland-Festivals
Image/Wikimedia

Nagaland has been associated with celebrations for the longest time. The zeal and enthusiasm that you’ll find here, I doubt you’ll notice elsewhere. With a reverent culture of guest hospitality and a joyous environment, Nagaland has a vast treasury of diversity bringing forward a plethora of remarkable festivities and fairs. Apart from celebrating generic festivals such as Christmas, tribal festivals such as Bushu, Moatsu Mong, and Yemshe are considered to be especially popular amongst the locals. Read more about Festivals of Nagaland Here

Language of Nagaland

Rita Willaert
Image – Rita Willaert/Flickr

There are numerous languages spoken in Nagaland. Although the majority of the people converse in Nagamese, each region in this diverse state is blessed with its language. Like many other languages spoken in Nagaland, Nagamese too does not have a written script. Moreover, there is high use of Sanskrit words in their local dialects as well. Although English is the official state language, it is only spoken in educated circles. Hindi is uncommon and less prevalent.

Matrimonial Culture in Nagaland

Nagaland-Wedding
Image/Wikimedia

Moving on to another important aspect of the Nagas which form a dominant part of their identity is the marriage culture. All over India, every region has its ways to celebrate the union of two souls and Nagaland is no different. Although somewhat diverse, the marriage customs in Nagaland are highly interesting and each tribe has its rituals to follow. For instance, the members of the Angami tribe announce the fate of the couple by strangling the neck of a fowl. The posture in which the dead bird lies is said to mirror the fate of the couple. Therefore, if the bird lies in an inauspicious posture, the marriage would not be accepted and vice-versa.

Another splendid example is the Mongsen tribe. The customs of this tribe stipulate that after getting engaged to one another, the bride and groom are sent on a trading expedition to a distant land. If and only the couple return on time with a considerable profit in hand, the marriage is sanctioned. In another tribe, the groom is expected to pay a price for the bride. A reverse-dowry, if you will. (Unlike the dowry system in the other parts of India) The number of such elaborate customs in the matrimonial part of Nagaland’s culture runs up to thousands.

Traditional Dress of Nagaland

Traditional-Dress-of-Nagaland-Woman
Image – Wikimedia

We’ve all seen several images and perceptions of what the tribal folk looks like in movies. And while most of them are highly presumptuous, usually none of them are accurate. The tribes of Nagaland take great pride in their identity. The way they dress, carry themselves, and even their traditional dance screams of a distinctive style which most of us, unfortunately, are unaware of. The Nagas specifically are regarded for portraying their lineage through their attire.

Nagaland-Traditional Dress
Image/Wikimedia

The Naga men wear beautiful red headgear. The conical headgear is studded with the canine teeth of a boar and the feathers of a Hornbill. Also, the famous shawl that the members of a tribe don are indicative of the person’s social status in the society. In addition to this, the bright tattoos and jewelry that they wear mark them apart from each other. If you think that this is impressive, wait till you read about the folk dance and music of this magnificent state.

The Folk Dances and Music of Nagaland

Nagaland-Folk Dances
Image/Wikimedia

Music and dance are tightly embedded in the culture of Nagaland. Witnessing the folk dances of these indigenous tribes is an opportunity of a lifetime; and if you ever get the chance, I suggest you do not miss it. The folk dances of Nagaland are performed in large groups. They expertly synchronize the dance with the folk music/song of the tribe and make the performance a showstopper. The use of various instruments such as Mouth Organ, Flute, Drums, and others are extensively seen throughout the performance. The joyous music accompanied by the energetic and graceful movements of the dancers is highly contagious. There is no doubt that you’ll strive to savor every moment of the day. After all, the zeal and enthusiasm of these tribal dancers are not seen often.

Art and Craft of Nagaland

Image/Ann Porteus/Flickr

Most of the population in Nagaland are cultivators, however, their craftsmanship is no less spectacular. If you visit Nagaland, make sure that you get your hands on the exquisite jewelry and metalwork found there. The state is known for its iron and brass ornaments such as anklets, armlets, and earrings. They also make use of colorful beads to make the most superb neckpieces. Apart from this, if you’re someone who isn’t moved by mainstream fashion, worry not! The tribes in Nagaland produce the most alluring and unique shoulder bags, shawls, and dresses to suit your fashion needs. Each year, numerous tourists are awestruck by these crafts and get several of these for themselves or as souvenirs. You’re sure to be impressed by such delicate craftsmanship!

One cannot stress enough how fabulous Nagaland is. A dream come true for nature lovers and a blessing in disguise for the traveler, Nagaland has a reputation as a remarkable destination for a grand friend’s trip or even for a refreshing solo trip. A rejuvenating experience such as this one is truly hard to find, and with all that this state has to provide, you’ll enjoy every second of your time.

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