~ Samiksha Khobragade
Have you heard that joke about how all of our parents reached school? They claim to have walked 12 kilometres, swam through a river guarded by crocodiles, and then did fifteen summersaults to reach their schools? Jokes aside, kids walk across many hills and mountains to get to their schools in this state of India. A large chunk of its terrain is hilly and mountainous proving that such a place does exist. Welcome to Nagaland.
Image Source: Here
Nagaland: What makes it Unique?
Let’s start with the name. “Naga” is a word in the Burmese language that means “people with earrings”. Some also say that it means pierced noses. Although these derivations are controversial, we can say that this beautiful state has many tribes of people living together or living close by. It has sixteen main tribes and a total of sixty-six tributary tribes. All these tribes have their own culture, which we will dive into later.
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All these different tribes have their language. The closer these tribes are living; geographically, the more similar would be their language. Similarly, the farther away these tribes are living, the more these languages differ. And if you, for a second, started to believe that they are rural and backward, think again. A state with an 83% literacy rate is not a state to be considered backwards in any sense.
The origin of their name is a little controversial since people mistake their tribal culture and their kindness for backwardness, which cannot be farther from the truth. Moreover, they speak English very well and fluently as they need a common language for everyday administrative tasks. An average Nagaland person can speak up to five languages, Hindi, as they watch Bollywood films sometimes, and they love it, English, a couple of tribal languages and some broken Assamese languages, which they speak commonly with each other.
Nagaland is a hilly, mountainous state. It shares its boundaries with Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. It also has an international border with Burma to the east. Also, it has an agriculture-based economy.
Moreover, most of their festivals are based on the agricultural traditions of their respective tribes. This state receives heavy rainfall, and so floods are pretty regular here. Therefore, they build their houses at heights to protect them from surges.
You might find it interesting that the main form of transportation for the state is via road. They have a highway running from Dimapur to Kohima and connecting to Imphal in Manipur. Further, they have an airport in Dimapur which then can connect to the rest of the country. There are very few railway stations in the state. It is due to its hilly terrains and lack of proactive government initiatives to urbanize this state.
Tribal Culture and History
Image: Kachari Ruins: Ahom invasion in 13th century
The culture of Nagaland is rich with many languages, arts, and tribal traditions. The historical records of the people living in the state show that they lived in this region before the Ahoms controlled the area in the 13th century. Before the arrival of European control in India, they had been raided and at war with Burmese for centuries. Therefore these tribes had become very protective of their culture and traditions. In Nagaland, two aspects of their people would stand out.
First, they are the most kind-hearted and sweet people you will ever meet. They don’t have ill will against anyone, and their kindness will win your heart. Secondly, they each have very individual cultures. Living together in harmony within tribes has not led to some amalgamation of different tribes forming one single tribe. Instead, they celebrate their festivals, follow their own rules and live by them. For example, the Angami tribal members are rigorous and do not allow girls and boys to have any relationship before marriage. In comparison, some other tribes are very open about the same and do not consider relationships taboo.
Image Source: Nagaland Food
The people of Nagaland are not the ones to enjoy lots of spice in their food. This will be very well noticeable when you visit the state and try their food. So it’s surprising that the world’s most spicy chilli is found there, known as Naga Jolokia. They are meat-loving people and enjoy pork, beef and fish extensively. Their cuisine usually includes rice and does not include any roti or wheat. The herbs of their choice are typically grown locally and have a hint of ginger of a different variety not found in other parts of the country.
The Culture And Festivals of Nagaland
The tribes of the state follow their different festivals. Most of these festivals are found to be close to agriculture and irrigation. And since Nagaland is the most Baptist state globally, with over 85 per cent of its population Christian, they also celebrate Christian festivals with the same zest and enthusiasm.
The government of Nagaland came up with the grand Hornbill Festival to bring the cultures of every tribe of the state under one spectacular event. The festival aims at creating more harmony and bringing all tribes together. It is named after the bird Hornbill, which has a description in each of the tribes’ mythology and culture. The festival is a week-long celebration of many art exhibitions, dance forms, traditional archery, Nagaland wrestling, beauty contests, fashion shows etc. It is conducted in the first week between 1st and 10th December every year in Naga Heritage Village, Kisama, 12kms from Kohima.
What should you do when Visiting Nagaland Next Time?
The most urban cities in the state, Dimapur and capital city Kohima would be the cities to begin your journey with. Although the cities are densely populated compared to the rest, the landscape and natural beauty of the state is not tarnished by urbanization. The city is well connected to the other towns and valleys and is perfect for fans of historical monuments and nature.
The Kachari ruins of the Ahom invasion in the 13th century make for great sightseeing in the city. The Dzukou valley is a favourite among trekkers and has the most beautiful view of the valley. Diphupar is another excellent place to visit. It showcases amongst itself many tribes such as Lotha, Sumi, Sangtam, Ao, Chakhesang, Pouchury, Rengma, Zeliang and Angami. Other tourist spots include Green Park, Nagaland Science Centre, Medziphema, Chumukedima village.
Kohima: Image Source
What you must know and remember about Nagaland
Since Nagaland lacks specific educational opportunities, many people migrate to other states such as Maharashtra, Delhi etc., for better opportunities. Usually, they migrate temporarily because they have grown to love and be accustomed to their state. When you meet anyone from the state, remember that they are new to the city, which is a very different experience for them. Welcome them with all your heart and make them comfortable. Ask them about their culture and discourage anyone who tries to ridicule their uniqueness. It should be met with brotherhood and inclusivity.
Also Read: The Hidden Rich MultiCultural Gems of Villages in India