Peoples and religions
The collective term “Naga” covers around 30 different ethnic groups of Tibeto-Burmese origin in the mountains of the far north-east of India and the north-west of Myanmar, formerly Burma. The humorous and deeply religious people have a rich culture of handicrafts, unique folklore, dances and music. Poetic love songs, gospel and modern songs go hand in hand. While their appearance, language and customs may vary considerably, the Naga groups share basic beliefs, cultural traditions and social practices. Due to their remote and inaccessible environment and many political turmoils – their territory was closed to foreigners for 65 years – the Naga have preserved many old traditions, even though missionaries have converted almost the entire population from animist beliefs to Christianity. But even though most Nagas profess Christianity, the original animistic culture of mankind is still present here. The Nagas see themselves as images of nature. Their musical forms of expression serve to “praise the universe, the flora and fauna and everything that exists on earth”. They believe in the value of striving for harmony and that humans, animals and everything that exists are equal. People also believe in life after death, which is why ancestor worship and animism play an important role. A rather small proportion of the current population in Nagaland is of Hindu faith (around 7.8%), and less than 2% are Muslims.
The original peoples can be roughly divided into a northern, a central and a southern group, although the transitions are fluid. The main groups are the Konyak, the Khiamniungan and Yimchunger as well as the Ao, Sema and Angami. The tribes differ in language, settlement area, traditions and government structure. The Angami, Lotha, Rengma and Ao are democratically organized. The Angami elect their chief on the basis of his wealth, appearance and diplomatic skills. Nevertheless, decisions are made in consultation with all the villagers. Among the Semas, on the other hand, the chief is determined by bloodline. The chief looks after the welfare of the villagers, distributes land, helps financially, offers protection and arranges weddings. The villagers revere the chief as a father for whom they work and fight. Among the Semas, it was traditional for the eldest son to found his own village outside his father’s territory, which led to a regional, relatively wide spread of this people. Among the Aos, the village is governed by a council of elders. Each village is democratic and independent. The Konyak chiefs are considered sacred and are called “Ahngs”, which means “beginning of everything”. They are both autocrats and democrats, wear richly decorated clothes and are highly respected and revered by the villagers. The Konyaks believe that they are direct descendants of Moses. Biblical names such as Mosa, Kaisa and Aron are widespread among the people. The Konyaks are known for their tattooed faces, their blackened teeth and their headhunting past.
The wedding traditions of the tribes are also very different. What they have in common, however, is that all Nagas forbid marriage within the same clan. The only exception here are the Konyak chiefs, who are considered so sacred that their main wife must come from the same clan.
The traditional occupations of women from all tribes include collecting wood, fetching water, cooking, brewing rice beer, working in the fields and weaving. Among the Angamis, by the way, it is normal for a young woman to have a lover, whereas the Semas take great care of their young women so that a generous dowry can be demanded. The Aos have a relatively liberal attitude, while sexual intercourse before marriage is common among the Konyaks.
Over the centuries, the proud and warlike Nagas with a history of headhunting have developed unique cultural characteristics. They find expression in their legends, their martial arts, their exotic headdresses, their tattooed faces (among the Konyaks) as well as in their rich music, dance and poetry culture.
More than 80% of Nagaland’s population live in small, isolated villages as agricultural subsistence farmers, hunters and gatherers.
Flora and Fauna
National parks & nature reserves
Khonoma Nature Conservation Tragopan Sanctuary
Not far from Kohima, this nature reserve with its 25 square kilometers of protected area provides habitat for numerous bird species (tragopan) and many interesting and rare plant species.
Fakim Wildlife Sanctuary
This small nature reserve in the eastern mountains near Myanmar offers a rich subtropical plant diversity, created thanks to heavy rainfall in June and July.
Rangapahar Reserve Forest
A wide variety of bird species can be observed in this 20-hectare area (myna, cuckoo, parrots, sunbird, parkeet, robin, quail, woodpeckers, hornbill, swift hawk, crows). Monkeys, tigers, deer, porcupines and squirrels are also native to the area.
Ghosu Bird Sanctuary
In the district of Zunheboto in the Sumi Nagas’ country, the villagers maintain a bird sanctuary with populations of over 20 endangered bird species.
About 70% of the population work in agriculture. The majority farm exclusively for self-sufficiency: Rice, millet, maize and pulses are among the main products. Sugar cane, potatoes, coffee, cardamom, tea, pineapple and rapeseed are also cultivated. Rice cultivation for self-sufficiency takes up by far the largest share of the agricultural area, accounting for 80%. One of the larger companies in Nagaland is the sugar mill in Dimapur with a capacity of 1000 tons per day. There are also numerous small and medium-sized enterprises in the areas of bamboo and rattan processing, handicrafts, the paper and textile industry and tourism.