Ancient India

“VIBRANT SHADES OF HORNBILL FESTIVAL – The Tales of Nagaland” (Part 2)

Dear friends,…. To me, one of the most beautiful things about travel is the fact that every day is different. There are no routines, no set rules, or no expectations. You can do what you want, whenever you please. One of the things you love the most is the freedom that travel and this lifestyle gives us. Travel breaks down routines, monotony and brings back some adventure, excitement, and exploration to people’s lives. Experiencing Hornbill festival was one such journey, with so much astonishing and cherishing moments. So, if you haven’t read out its 1st Part, please click on this link, “VIBRANT SHADES OF HORNBILL FESTIVAL – The Tales of Nagaland” (Part 1) to make sure that, you have completely gone through it. Otherwise, you will lose the continuation to this 2nd Chapter……

19th Hornbill Festival copy 6

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

Hornbill festival was conceptualized to showcase Naga culture, traditional and contemporary, in the spirit of unity and diversity. The first part was all about Nagaland, Nagas, Hornbill festival, the cultural extravaganzas and some other interesting displays and competitions like traditional fire making, bamboo stilt race, pineapple eating, Korean cultural shows, etc. This 2nd and final part will continue from there and look into the remaining 8 amazing tribes and few other entertaining cultural displays, so that, you will get a perfect image of why this festival stands for and what it gives to a traveler….

Contents of Part 2

  • Exploring the cultural extravaganzas of 19th Hornbill festival 2018 (Includes the remaining 8 tribes of Nagaland)
  • Other interesting traditions, competitions and art performances in Hornbill festival 
  • Second World War Cemetery, Kohima – An emotional display
  • Night Carnival in Kohima

Exploring the Cultural Extravaganzas of 19th Hornbill Festival 2018 – Nagaland

The first part ended with describing the ethnicity and cultural moments of Kuki tribe of Nagaland. So, our next one is…..

10. Lotha Nagas

DSC_1409 Lotha Morung.

Into the Lotha Chumpho (Morung)

Lotha is the name of a major Naga tribe inhabiting the Wokha district of Nagaland, India. According to the theory mentioned by Hokishe Sema, the Lothas started moving out from the Eastern part of China, passing through Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma en route. After many long years of movement, they reached a place called Khezakhenoma located between Manipur and Chakhesang (the present-day Phek), where they settled for a short period of time. From Khezakhenoma they moved towards the present day settlement of the Lothas i.e. Wokha where they finally settled. There is just another theory that  Lothas migrated from Manchuria, passing through the foothills of the Himalayas and reached Manipur via Burma. From Manipur, they moved out and settled at the present day place.

DSC_2084 Lotha Chumpho Tribe.

The Lotha Tribe of Nagaland

Lotha ancestors lived in a place called Lenka, situated east of the Naga territory (modern Nagaland). During the course of migration the Lothas split into two groups. The first group, after reaching the Brahmaputra Valley, settled there while the second group went towards the mountainous region of the present day Nagaland.

DSC_1894 Lotha Chumpho morung.

Lotha Chumpho or Youth dormitory of Lotha Nagas

The Lothas, Sangtams, Rengmas and the Sumis have a common ancestor and had dwelled mutually as one in their past. But at some stage in their course of migration from Lenka, the Sangtams decided to go separate ways from a place called Mao. The Lothas, along with the other Naga tribes, reached the present-day Kohima and settled at a place called Lezama. This is the place where the Semas (Sumi tribe) parted with the other Naga tribes and the Lothas with the Rengmas settled at a hill called Themoketsa (the Lothas called this place Honoyonton). Here the Rengmas parted ways from the Lothas. One group of Lothas went towards Doyang, passing through villages like Shaki and Phiro. The other group moved towards the hilly region of the present Wokha and settled at a place called Longchum near the Niroyo village.

Local traditions mention that the Rengmas and the Lothas were once part of a single tribe. There are also oral records of a mighty struggle between the combined Rengma villages, and the Lotha village of Phiro.

DSC_2513 Lotha tribal lady leaving the arena after showing Otsok Etssi.

A Lotha lady in her traditional attire

Wokha is the traditional home of the Lotha tribe. Lothas are renowned for their colorful dances and folk songs. The male members wear shawls indicating their social status. The prestigious social shawl for women is Opvuram and Longpensu for men.

Like many Nagas, the Lothas practiced headhunting in the older days. After the arrival of Christianity, they gave up this practice. Though the majority of the Lothas are Baptist, there exist a moderate amount of other forms of Christianity like the Catholics. Catholics are concentrated more in Wokha than in other parts of Nagaland.

War Skill Exercise by Lothas copy

War Skill Exercise of Lotha Nagas from those headhunting days…

Tokhü Emong and Pikhuchak are the main festivals celebrated amidst much pomp and splendor. Tokhü Emong is celebrated on November 7, as the harvest festival of the Lothas. With the harvest done and the granaries full, the people now take a respite from the toils and sweat and settle down to enjoy the fruits of one’s hard labour. It stretches over to 9 days.

During this festival, the entire village takes part in the celebration. Every household have food and drinks prepared for the feast. Friends, families neighbors are invited to each other’s house and this continues for 9 days. The main features of the feast are community songs, dances, feast, fun and frolic. Everyone attires themselves in their beautiful traditional dresses and costumes according to their social status. There is an air of gaiety and kindheartedness everywhere. Gifts of food and drinks are exchanged during the Festival. Among friends, the number of cooked meat given denotes the depth of friendship and ties. For example, if one man offers 12 pieces of meat to his friend, it shows that he treasures his friendship, it is reciprocated, and he is also offered 12 pieces of meat, it means that the friendship is valued from both sides. In this case, should any disaster or misfortunes strikes either one of them, both of them will stand by each other no matter what. Thus a friendship of loyalty and fidelity was pledged. In case of mere acquaintances or platonic ones, only 6 pieces of meat are exchanged.

Victory Dance of Lotha Nagas copy

Ekhyo Shari or Victory dance is performed after raiding neighboring villages and attaining victory. During this dance, the whole village participate in it and display their headhunting trophies.

Tokhü -Emong is also a festival of thanks giving, sharing and reconciliation but the most beautiful aspect of this festival is that past rancours are forgiven, new ties are formed and bonds of closer intimacy are formed. It is the Priest who gives the signal for the start of the festival. He accompanied by aides (Yinga) along with baskets goes round the village collecting unhusked rice from every home when offering is made. The priest takes a handful of it, showers prayers and it is only after this that he puts the contribution in his basket. The belief was that the more generous the contribution, the more yield one would get during harvest but if any one refuses to contribute, he would lead a pauper’s life. So none would dare to refuse contribution for fear of that. A portion of the collection is used to buy a pig and the rest is used for making rice-beer. The pig is killed and cut and is distributed to the contributors. The ritual is considered as contributing factor to general prosperity.

DSC_3831 Naga Hill Oranges.

Naga Hill Oranges from Lotha Morung

DSC_3835 Cooked Silkworm from Lotha morung.

Cooked Silkworm from Lotha Morung

Before the commencement of the festival, if any stranger happens to be in the village, he gets two options; to leave the village (past beyond the village gate) before sunset or to stay there in the village until the festival is over. He however, enjoys the warm hospitality of the villagers. This festival also provide the occasion to offer prayers for the departed souls. The family who lost any member during the year performs his/her last rites. The people remain in the village till the last rites are performed. It is also the time for renovating the village gate, cleaning wells and repairing houses. Wild cries of Joy-echo over the green hills and narrow valleys. One feels as if the stones have been given tongue to say ‘Oh farmers, tender your fields with love and care’.

Lothas demonstrated an indigenous game called Ejupta (cock fight), a traditional game that is played on all occasions. It tests the grit, power and agility.The participants stand within a circle, hop on one leg, and try to push opponents out of the circle or make them fall….

DSC_3181 Lotha tribe showing their Indigenous game - Cock fight or Ejupta.

“Ejupta” or Cock fight of Lotha Nagas

Ejupta or Cock fight copy

Members of the Lotha community competing in Ejupta (cock fight). It is an indigenous game played on community occasions by the Naga tribes. In this game, each of the competitors hold one leg, and hop to try to shoulder out their opponents from a given area or dislodge them. In olden days the cock fight was fought by categories of age.

The Lothatribes live mostly on hill – tops and on slopes forming small and isolated villages. Most of these villages are located at remote and far away from the towns and therefore, the people mostly depend on the natural resources from the nearby forests for their livelihood such as food, clothes, shelters including the uses of medicinal herbs for treatments of different diseases and ailments. Generally, the traditional knowledge of medicinal herb is confined to local medicine men. However, some secret of medicinal virtues can be obtained from them through close contact. The medicine men have practiced and developed this knowledge of the uses of medicinal herbs though their age long trial and error methods and passed on orally from one generation to another.

11. Phom Nagas

DSC_2091 Phom Tribe.

Phom Tribe of Nagaland

The very word “Naga” is used to this day to refer to a person by the Namsang villagers of the Phom Naga. When Namsang villagers of Phom Naga tribe introduced themselves as “Naga” to Ahoms since there was no tribe name during that time, the Ahoms thought it as of their tribe’s name. Ever since, the Ahoms started calling Naga to all the bordering hilly people of present Nagaland. But later, this name Naga was widely propagated by Britishers as they penetrated deep inside the Naga country.

DSC_3033 Roll calling - Phom Tribe.

Phom Nagas presenting their War Cry during roll calling session in the main arena

Phom is a Naga tribe from Nagaland, India. Their traditional territory lies between the territories of Konyak in the north-east, the Ao in the west and the Chang in the south. Yongnyah is the largest Phom village. Believe that their ancestors migrated to Yingli Ongshang (a mountainous hill in Longleng district).

DSC_1840 Phom warrior portrait.

A Phom Naga Warrior

The origin of the name ‘Phom’ is obscure. There are many opinions regarding the origin of its name. Some say that the name is derived from a beautiful lady named ‘Bhumla’ which means ‘the lady of the clouds’. Legend says that she and her husband had many offsprings and their descendants were called ‘Phom’. Some say that the name was given by the English after the word ‘Bhum’ which means ‘cloud’. They gave this name because the ‘Phom’ area was mostly covered by clouds especially during winter. Hence, the attribution as “the land of clouds”. Mount Yingnyiüshang in the south-eastern part of the district bordering Tuensang with an approximate height of 2500 meters above sea level is the highest peak in Longleng district. Yingnyu mount is identified as biodiversity hotspot: it hosts species-rich tropical rain forest and supports diverse flora and fauna.

DSC_1875 Phom Portrait.

A beautiful Phom Naga lady in her traditional attire

Other narrative says that the name ‘Phom’ came from the word ‘Bham’ which means rubber tree or Banyan tree given by the British when they visited the Phom area and found the Banyan tree in every main entrance of the Phom villages. When asked about the name of the tree, the natives replied that it was called ‘Bham’. Thus, the name ‘Phom’ came into existence.

DSC_1852 Phom Couple.

The art of weaving and knitting are known to Phoms. They make colorful dresses for themselves. The dresses of each village are different in color and designs. Phom males dress themselves differently from females. They wear shawl called NytJm or HenU and cap known as Humiu athan. They wear feathers of hornbill on their heads called Wangshau and necklace made of wild boar’s teeth called 28 Meilapha. Their earrings are called Shokchu and armlet is called Meinyupha. They wear a special belt known as ShtJngmung. The dress of Phom females consists of a cloth that is worn around waist known as ShiJnang, Shakha, and Mukho. Lakshong is a shawl that is wrapped around the breast. Their hair clips are called Mukhen langnyu.

DSC_3291 Tribal ornaments of Phom tribe.

Traditional ornaments of Phom Nagas. The necklace and earrings worn by females are same as those of men.

A Phom village is divided into Sectors or Khels. A village is divided into two to five Khels. In a village, the three head are elected to perform the actions of administrations. They are, Ngongpa, Methupa, and Chinlong. Chinlong, looks after the land disputes both inside and outside the village and also all types of criminal cases. Methupa, is appointed to see after the sacrificial duties in a village. Ngongpa, is the one who takes part in the worship ceremonies.

DSC_1870 Phom Portrait.

An elder in his traditional attire from the Phom village. They wear a thin strip of cloth to cover the front part of body below the waist called Kaplak. They also take with them the ‘Dao’ (sword) known as Yanlu and spear called Ngo.

Pang is the dormitory where the young boys stay together before the marriage like other Naga tribes. Each village has its own dormitories. Morungs can be said to be those training centers where the youths are trained for their future lives. And also they learn their culture at those training centers: like folk songs, folk tales, and folk dances, manner of living, arts and crafts, techniques of war etc.

DSC_1890 Phom morung.

Pang or Morung of Phom Nagas

In the Phom community the property is equally distributed among the male members or brothers. Female members have no right to inherit the family property but the father can give some property to his daughter in the form of gift. If there is no male child in a family then the property is inherited by other male member of the same clan.

Agriculture is the traditional occupation of the Phoms, and the tribe practices jhum cultivation. The Phoms also have a tradition of pottery, bamboo work and spinning. Like the Konyaks and the Chang, they used to expose the dead bodies on raised platforms instead of burying them.

DSC_1842 Phom Portrait.

Another Portrait of a Phom Lady

Religion is called Ngaipu Nanglem in Phom and it means ‘the way of faith or belief. All the aspects of lives are related to the system of belief and religion for the Phoms. Phoms believed in the worship of nature before Christianity. They had the faith in the power of moon, sun and other natural powers. But with the introduction of Christianity in 1929 their way of belief had changed.

DSC_2150 Phom tribe performing a folk song with dance - Yinghyu Shangi Apai Homgmu Yubu Nyih.

Phom tribe performing a folk song with dance – Yinghyu Shangi Apai Homgmu Yubu Nyih

DSC_2153 Phom tribe performing a folk song with dance - Yinghyu Shangi Apai Homgmu Yubu Nyih.

“Yinghyu Shangi Apai Homgmu Yubu Nyih” is about their descending from Mount Yingnyu. Its describing the migration of Phom Nagas from Mount Yingnyu (Beginning of their ancestral line).

The Phoms have 4 major festivals, the most important of which is Monyu. The others are Moha, Bongvum and Paangmo. Monyiu is the greatest among them and is celebrated from April 1 to 6 every year. Traditionally it is a 12-day festival, which marks the end of winter and onset of summer. The festival involves community feasting, dancing, singing and social work (such as repairs and construction of bridges). During the festival, the men present their married daughters or sisters with pure rice beer and special food to show their affection and respect. Overall preparation is done for the festivities. Households participate in collection of wrapping leaves and bamboos (Shongten-Laiphen).

Brewing of rice beer, (Aiha Okshok) – feasting, dancing and merry-making are their important activities in those days. The second day is for compulsory brewing of all kinds of rice beer. (Chingi Okshok) General festivity and arrival of guests from neighbouring villages. (Paangmohah) – Parties of men wear colorful costumes and indulge in drinking, dancing and celebrating with friends. Elders feast by exchanging pure rice beer and meat. The young villagers feast together at the outskirts of the village. One or two days before the festival, its arrival is signaled by beating log drums with a distinct tune called Lan Nyangshem. The priests or the village elders predict whether the festival would bring a blessing or a curse.

DSC_3340 Phom tribe performing a folk song and dance - Monyu Dhonghpu Asho

Women folk from Phom tribe performing a folk song and dance – Monyu Dhonghpu Asho

Monyu is the biggest festival which is celebrated in the month April every year. It is a festival that showers love on daughters and sisters with men competing to host the best feast for their daughters and sisters. The song and dance is an invitation to the friends and peer groups to come and participate and share the blessings of Phom daughters.

Phom Nagas also prepared a folk song about the magnificent Hornbill festival, describing its culture, colours and enthusiasm – ‘Oohang Moo Menvih-Ei Yahpu’ ….

DSC_3601 A folk song by Phom tribe as a tribute to Hornbill festival.

‘Oohang Moo Menvih-Ei Yahpu’ (a tribute to HORNBILL Festival) performed by Phom tribe

DSC_3599 A folk song by Phom tribe as a tribute to Hornbill festival.‘Oohang Moo Menvih-Ei Yahpu’ (a tribute to Hornbill Festival) was performed by Phom tribe.

‘Oohang Moo Menvih-Ei Yahpu’ by Phom tribe. It is a folk song of expression of genuine love for hornbill festival, the ‘festival of festivals’.

‘Pang Ongei Menvih lokpu’  is another folk song with dance associated to the agricultural life of Phom Nagas….

DSC_4075 Phom tribe performing Pang Ongei Menvih Lokpu - Song with dance.

Phom Nagas performing Pang Ongei Menvih lokpu – a folk song related with the agrarian life of Phom community. This folk song with dance is performed during post harvesting seasons.

DSC_4085 Phom tribe performing Pang Ongei Menvih Lokpu - Song with dance.

Phom Nagas performing Pang Ongei Menvih lokpu- This folk song represents the thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest.

DSC_4097 Phom tribe performing Pang Ongei Menvih Lokpu - Song with dance.

Dancing Phom Warrior – A moment from the folk song, Pang Ongei Menvih lokpu by Phom Nagas

Another significant occasion for the Phom Nagas is the celebration of “Phom Day” on June 6 every year commemorating the Peace Making Day that was signed in June 6, 1952 marking an end to all head hunting practices and enmity among the Phom Nagas.

12. Pochury Tribe of Nagaland

DSC_1464 Pochury and Chakhesang morungs.

Into the Pochury Morung

Pochury is a Naga tribe of Nagaland, India. The tribe’s native territory is located in the eastern part of the Phek district, centered on the Meluri town (166 km from the state capital Kohima). Pochury identity is of relatively recent origin. It is a composite tribe formed by three Naga communities: Kupo, Kuchu and Khuri. The word Pochury is an acronym formed by the names of three native villages of these tribes: Sapo, Kechuri and Khury. According to the Pochuri legends, these villages fought battles against each others, but united into a single tribe after their elders negotiated peace. Besides the three main communities, migrants belonging to the Sangtam and Rengma tribes have also been absorbed in the Pochury group.

DSC_2096 Pochury Tribe.

Pochury Tribe of Nagaland

According to the tribe’s elders, the Pochurys are the earliest inhabitants of the region around Meluri. A local legend states that their ancestors lived in Yikhrii (Old Phor) a place near the present-day Phor Town. The legend states that they sprang out of the soil the place called Zhiipfiikwi. Another legend also states that they emerged from the earth near the present-day Akhgwo village. The British administration classified the three Pochury communities as sub-tribes of other Naga tribes, describing them as “Eastern Sangtam” or “Eastern Rengma”.  After independence of India, the Pochurys campaigned to be recognized as a separate tribe. The Census of India recognized the Pochury as a separate scheduled tribe for the first time in 1991.

The exonyms used by other tribes for the Pochury include: Sozomi, used by Chokhri and Kheza Nagas, Shantary, used by Sangtam Nagas, and Nyushury, used by Rengma Nagas. In 1947 Christianity was first introduced to Shatiiza Village by Evangelist R.Sarie from Chakesang community.  In 1959, the first modern school was opened in Meluri. In 1965, the Pochury territory was linked by road to the big towns like Kohima and Dimapur. Subsequently, the Meluri village developed into a town. Electricity reached Meluri in 1975.

DSC_1806 Pochury Tribe practising a folk dance.

A practice session of the Pochury Nagas

Historically, the Pochurys were dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry. Hunting, forest produce and fishing were the major subsidiary occupations. The Pochurys mainly practiced jhum cultivation (slash-and-burn). Limited terrace cultivation was practiced by those living in the basins of Tizu and Chichi rivers. The staple food of the Pochury was (and is) rice. All Pochuries, including children, would drink rice beer in large quantities. For cattle trading, mithun and other cattle were procured from Burma. The trade was based on barter system, which worked well because the different villages specialized in different areas. By the British period, an iron piece (Ato) was being used as a currency; two atos could buy a mithun.

Each village was administered by a Miizaluo (village council), comprising 6-7 elders from different clans. The senior offices were hereditary to clans, but not families. The village chief (Kajiwa) came from the Tsuori clan. The office of the first reaper (Nyimzariku Shephie) was held by a woman.

DSC_1463 Pochury morung.

A traditional Pochury Morung with headhunting trophies and wooden frescos in the front.

The Pochury society has been monogamous since the advent of Christianity. Earlier, both monogamy (Kumunyule) and polygamy (Amoso) were permitted, with polygamy limited to the rich men. Men with two wives often had two separate households. Both neolocal and patrilocal residences were common. The traditional dowry included a spade, a basket, a spear, personal clothes and food. The bride price custom was practiced in all villages except Meluri, Lephori and Tuphruri; the bride price usually included cattle, such as mithun or buffalo.

Pochury people speak the Pochury language, which has seven different dialects. The dialects includes Miiluori, Phorii, Yisi, Apoksha, Phongkhungri, Samburi (Sangtam) and Kuki. Miiluori is sometimes considered as separate language. The Phor-Yisi speakers constitute the majority of the Pochury population. Now-a-days, Pochury comprises various groups such as; Meluri-Lephori group, Phor-Yisi group, Lüruri group and Akhegwo group.

DSC_2968 Inside Pochury Morung.

Inside the Pochury Morung – Traditional household items including agricultural equipments, dress and ornaments and weapons like spears are displayed.

The status of women was generally equal to that of men. However, in case of a divorce, the wife was granted only one-fourth of her own property, the rest being kept by the husband. In case the wife was involved in a serious crime such as theft or adultery, she had to relinquish all rights over her property. Adoption was allowed, and the adopted children had same rights as the natural heirs.

Earlier, the newborn children were named after their ancestors by the elder relatives; now, biblical names are common. The traditional Amotsikosi ceremony for the newborns also involved shaving of head. The Akonakowe ceremony (ear piercing) was performed when the child reached the age of five. Adolescence rituals were common, but have been abandoned completely now.

DSC_2967 Indian Bison Skull. (Pochury Morung)

One of the Headhunting trophies displayed in front of Pochury Morung

As a Patriarchal form of society, all the properties were inherited by the male child. Since Pochury society is a Patriarchal society woman does not have any right to inherit any property of her father which were passed down by her father’s forefathers. Even if there is no male child in the family, the relative of the man will inherit the entire property. A rich parent gifts their girl child with both movable and immovable properties which are bought or earned by them.

Anale, the traditional Pochury religion, involved spirit worship. The important spirits included the sky-dwelling Mukhu-Mutha and Phierony. The village chief was also the senior most priest, and performed all the important sacrifices. Sierhutho and Tassiatho, the eldest men from the Ngoru and Nyuwiri clans respectively, also had priest-like roles. The medicine men and sorcerers were also present in the society.

DSC_2040 Pochury tribe demonstrated “Arüne küne” performed during the monsoon season when heavy rains continue unabated for days together.

Pochury tribe demonstrating “Arüne küne” ritual, which is performed during the monsoon season when heavy rains continue unabated for days together. The purpose of pictograms carried by the community, is to get blessings from their Sun God and to have clear skies for a bountiful harvest.

Lets see a folk dance, Athso Theserie, from Pochury tribe…..

DSC_1678 Pochury tribe performing Athso Theserie (folk dance).

Athso Theserie by Pochury tribe – In this dance, the performers leap up high and stamp on the ground, signifying their strength, flexibility and alertness which they employ to fight their enemies during times of war.

DSC_1679 Pochury tribe performing Athso Theserie (folk dance).

Athso Theserie by Pochury tribe – A folk dance performed during festivals and merry making times.

Christmas has been an important festival since their conversion to Christianity. “Yeshii” (in phorii) commonly known as “Yemshe” is an annual traditional festival celebrated by all the Pochuri communities. A combination of their different festivals, it is celebrated on 5 October. Other major Pochuri festivals include Nazu (celebrated for ten days in February).

DSC_3766 Pochury tribe performing a folk song Techrihohoy.

Pochury troupe lifting their Daos, while singing a folk song – Techrihohoy

Yemshe is the festival for blessing the upcoming harvest. All the Pochuries celebrate this festival with great pomp and gaiety anticipating a good harvest. As the time approaches, the village spokesman announces the arrival of Yemshe. Then, the village youth cleanse the whole village, footpaths, wells and fields and construct baskets making-cum-resting places. Necessary materials used in rituals are fastened to the main post of the entrance house. Engaged couples (fiance & fiancee) renew their relationship with exchange of food or wine and eat together. Hence, this festival has great important and it is an enjoyable moment, especially for the young people and farmers in general. This is known as the Big Yemshe. The Small Yemshe, like big Yemshe, is also celebrated with rituals. The purification of the house, a ritual feast has to be hosted by a rich family.

The family hosting the Purification Feast, has to provide wine to all families of the village. The family has to host dance party of his (head of the family) age-group, men and women in the village and in Khel wise as well. Feast is given to the dancers, and meat is distributed to all his age-group friends. All the host’s clansmen/nephews make new bamboo mugs. All the old Mugs are collected from every house and kept in the host’s family for drinking wine. Only paddy rice is arranged (not millet, maize etc.) and distributed to all the houses by the host and later the cooked rice is again collected and redistributed to all the families in the village.

Hapie Hapie is a folk dance, performed during these social gatherings and festivals…..

Hapie Hapie By Pochury Nagas copy

In this dance, the men folk jump high on the ground with daos in their hands and spreading the right legs as a sign of strength and flexibility.

All the clansmen take one Mithun and a Chicken to a river on the way to the Jhum field and feast. They construct a resting shed there for the host of the Purification Feast. It is believed that in the second life, those who have not hosted the Purification Feast cannot sigh with a deep breath as ‘Ewhi’, but can only say ‘Korowhi’ and those who have not performed the Resting Shed Feast they can only say ‘Owhi’.

For reserving of frogs, one axe each for three rivers is given to the villagers as frogs in these three rivers are reserved. This is followed by giving out a big feast to all the village elders. After that, it is announced in the village that frogs are reserved by the host of Purification or Yemshe Festival and no other should go to these rivers to catch it.

After wine and food is arranged, the master of the festival asks his villagers to fetch him pine-wood and he gives a big feast to his villagers. Men takes 6 pieces of meat while women takes only 5 pieces. All the clansmen carry well-prepared food and wine and go to the reserved rivers and make bridges/ladders for frogs catchers to enable them to go to any part of the river. At the same time, they eat and drink and enjoy on their own. This is a part of many games they play.

One such indigenous game played by Pochury Nagas is – The “Advobvu Akhanyo“…..

Advobvu Akhanyo - An indigenous game copy

Pochury tribe demonstrating an indigenous game called Advobvu Akhanyo. In this game, players in two groups tie shawls round their waists and try to pull each other down. The game is played in the winter and early spring.

Coming back to the Yemshe festival, a chicken is kept in a cage on a selected tree on the way to the field. After that a selected group goes to that spot with dried frogs where chickens were kept and have a feast there. Every household has to perform this ritual. Even the poorest family has to perform this ritual by roasting Brinjal instead of frogs and chicken.

It is traditionally believed that the most fertile lands were under the control of devils. Sacrificial rituals also therefore have to be performed according to the fertility of the land. For the most fertile land a mithun has to be sacrificed, then a pig and for the less fertile land a chicken has to be sacrificed in the field. Two big gourds of wine is carried, one for halfway and the other for sacrificial consumption. While coming back from their fields a particular group does not mix up with another group. So, a mithun group, pig group and chicken group shall come back home separately. Likewise, wine is also taken separately.

“Eho! Ehho”, is one another folk dance, displayed by Pochury community during these festive days…..

DSC_3914 Pochury tribe performing Eho! Ehho folk dance.

Eho! Ehho a meritorious dance, performed by the Pochury tribe during important occasions. This dance is performed by the men folks with high social status. The song eulogizes the brave deeds of warriors and the movements portray the combative tactics used in defeating the enemy, it is performed during feast of the merit.

The final feast is the last celebration of Yemshe festival.After all the arrangements like collection of green vegetables, meat etc. and performances of rituals are completed, the master selects 6 supervisors; two for washing ginger, four to supervise the butchers for preparation of the feast for the whole village. All young and old will come and help the host in preparation of the feast. In this feast, mithun, pigs and chicken are slaughtered. If there is no mithun three pigs substitute a mithun. Womenfolk pound rice and cook while the menfolk is busy for meat, and other difficult jobs. By sundown, all villagers, from youngest to the oldest come together to attend the great feast. Few quantities of all sorts of food stuff and rice grains etc. is shared and offered to the dead souls as farewell gifts and greetings of the Yemshe Feast.

13. Rengma Nagas

DSC_1372 Rengma women practicing Tefu Kethyu Lu (cotton spinning song)

Rengma Nagas

Rengma Nagas are one of the major tribes living in the state of Nagaland and Assam. Rengmas are known and admired by their neighboring tribes as gentle and humble people. Oral tradition has it said that in the olden days, Rengmas were known for their bravery and were the champion warriors. There is also a traditional belief of some neighboring tribes of Rengmas, that marrying the Rengma girls would bring good fortune and prosperity in a family. Like the other Naga tribes, Rengma people are considered to have descended from the Mongoloid racial stock.

DSC_1379 Portrait of Rengma couples.

Rengma couple in their traditional attire

According to the local traditions, the Rengmas and the Lothas (or Lhotas) were once part of a single tribe. There are also oral records of a mighty struggle between the combined Rengma villages, and the Lotha village of Phiro. There are records of the Rengmas’ conflict with the Angami Nagas. Slavery used to be a practice among the Rengmas, and the slaves were known by the names Menugetenyu and Itsakesa. By the time the British arrived in the Naga region, the slavery was a declining practice, and no Rengma appears to have been a slave during this time. In Assam, the Rengma tribals are found in the Karbi-Anglong, then Mikir Hills. The Rengmas migrated to the then Mikir Hills in the early part of 1800.

DSC_1374 Rengma Portrait

Rengma warrior guarding the morung with his indigenous weapon ‘Dao’

The Rengmas claim that they are native or aborigines of Karbi-Anglong. Karbi oral history claim that they immigrated from the Yunnan region of China in ancient times. The Rengmas have come under pressure from militant factions, a hidden policy adopted by people against tribals’ interest and unity, and have retaliated by forming their own counter-militancy groupings, leading to ethnic killings and polarization in Karbi-Anglong, and the plight of both Karbis and Rengmas to relief camps. Parallel to the Rengmas, the Kukis, who have an anti-Naga tendency in the last few decades, also have militant groups active in Karbi-Anglong fighting for the rights of their tribe.

DSC_1404 Rengma Morung

Rengma Morung

There are the four theories put forward by different people to explain the origin of the word “Rengma.” Among these theories, Remme/ Rengme theory is generally accepted by Rengmas today as the most plausible theory.

According to ‘Remme Theory,’ it was the British who gave the name ‘Rengma’ to ‘Nzonyu’.  It is told that once the Ahom King, Purandar Singha was invited by a British officer for a meeting, but instead he sent Keyhunphukon/Keyhan, the Chief of Nzonyu as his representative. King Singha asked Keyhan to dress in full warrior’s attire to meet the British officer. Keyhan did as the King ordered and went to see the British officer, he was then said to be dumbfounded by Keyhan’s appearance and asked his interpreter what is a nightmare ghost in Keyhan’s language/dialect. Keyhan said, “Remme or Rengme,” then the British officer quickly noted in his diary “Rengma”. Later when Keyhan was leaving, he heard the British referring him as “Rengma”. From this time on the name ‘Rengma’ was given to all the people of Keyhan’s tribe.

DSC_1776 Rengma Portrait.

The traditional Rengma clothing consists of various types of clothes, which are indicative of the status and position of the weavers. A man who has not been able to offer a great feast, or has never killed an enemy, may wear an ordinary type of cloth called Rhikho. Rhikho is a white cloth with four narrow black bands. The number of black bands varies with the age of the wearer. Moyet tsu is another ordinary type of cloth, worn by the young men. It is a dark blue cloth with a very broad median band, and embroidered with a thin zigzag pattern in red at the edges.

DSC_1692 Rengma tribe performing Tefu Kethyu Lu (Cotton spinning song).

Rengma cultural troupe displaying their Cotton Spinning techniques with a folk song called “Tefu Kethyu Lu

Rengma Nagas are divided into two groups: the Eastern Rengmas, and the Western Rengmas. They are experts in terrace cultivation. They grow paddy through Jhum cultivation and wet cultivation. Besides paddy staple crops, seasonal crops and fruits are also grown.

DSC_3619 Rengma tribe showing their traditional art of tilling agri fields - Lokegvu Lu.

Rengma tribe coming to the arena for demonstrating their Tilling process in agri fields

DSC_3623 Rengma tribe showing their traditional art of tilling agri fields - Lokegvu Lu.

Rengma tribe showing their traditional art of tilling agri fields – Lokegvu Lu. Folk songs are always a part of agricultural field works among the Nagas. Lokegvu Lu is one such folk song sung during the tilling process to ease up their work loads by Rengmas.

DSC_3625 Rengma tribe showing their traditional art of tilling agri fields - Lokegvu Lu.

Lokegvu Lu – A folk song sung during the tilling up of soil in agri fields by Rengmas. They use wooden ploughing tools for this process.

Traditionally, Rengma tribes are worshippers of supernatural beings.The Supreme god is known as ‘Teronyu’. ‘Nyensug’ and ‘Nyensugi’ are the next important God and Goddesses who are worshipped for household wealth. Now most of the Rengma tribes are Christians. Before converting to Christianity they were all animists. The ancient Rengma tribes believed in the immortality of the soul and life here after.

DSC_2960 Rengma Portrait

Another Rengma couple. Alungtsu is a cloth for well-to-do men, who have not yet offered a great feast. Teri Phiketsu is a shawl, which requires the wearer to perform the head hunting ceremony. Rengmas make yellow dye from the flowers of a tree, and also practice painting on clothes.

DSC_2702 Rengma Women performing their cultural dance - Ngada Dance

A close up shot of Rengma women during a cultural performance in the main arena, to look into their traditional dressing style.

DSC_3091 Nyuhonyu Kehulu - A lullaby song performing by Rengma Women.

Rengmas presenting a lullaby folksong called Nyuhonyu Kehu Lu – a lullaby sung when putting their babies to sleep.

Rengma tribals bury their dead, and place the spear and the shield of the deceased in the grave. The funeral ceremonies end with lamentations and feasting.

The harvest festival of the Rengmas is called Ngada. It is the eight-day Ngada festival that marks the end of the agricultural season. Ngada is celebrated just after the harvest, towards the end of November. The village high priest (Phesengu) announces the date of commencement of the festival.

DSC_4038 Rengma women demonstrating the Seed Sowing Game - Nsti Keshu Lu.

Rengma women demonstrating the Seed Sowing song – “Nsti Keshu Lu

The schedule of the Ngada festival is as follows: Preparation of rice-beer and collection of banana leaves from the forest. Women visit the graves of their deceased relatives, and place rice-beer wrapped in banana leaves on the graves. The Nagas believe that the souls of the deceased visit their relatives during Ngadah, and rice beer is a symbolic offering to the souls. The rice-beer is then tasted by the eldest member of the household, followed by others. Early in the morning, the male members gather at their respective morungs or dormitories (known as Rensi), early in the morning. They come with their own rice beer and meat, and have a meal. The women do not take part in the morung feast. In the noon, all the male members go around the village with their ceremonial and warrior fineries. They are followed by women, who carry rice-beer in mugs and bitter gourd containers, to offer them drinks. The male members visit all the houses in a procession, singing songs related to Ngada. Each visited house offers something as a token of their appreciation. People visit houses of other villagers, and eat and drink. People collect firewood, banana leaves and vegetables for the feast, from the forest. A grand feast is arranged, and whole village feasts on the collection from the fifth day. Ngada dance by Rengma Nagas is so popular during these festive days and i can show you, some of its moments…..

For Rengmas, Ngada is the mother of all festivals. According to their beliefs, the mother of each festival has to taste the newly harvested grains before any human does that. The whole community of Rengmas, dressed up in their best traditional attire to participate in this Ngada dance……

Ngada Dance of Rengmas

Ngada Dance of Rengmas consisted with folk song singing, chanting, yelling and giving out ferocious war cries. This whole activities happen as a result of their delight, excitement and happiness. Specialized dancers will take part in this dance as it requires perfect skills to showcase different dance movements like stamping on the ground, jumping, zig-zag movements, holding and waving each others hands with synchronizing rhythms. In this dance, the festivity, loudness and smartness of an individual is tested.The dresses, ornaments, shawls, weapons and crowns ornated with hornbill feathers describe the status and wealth of an individual in the Rengma society. The decorated crown with hornbill feathers symbolizes victory.

According to the traditional Rengma belief, the souls of those who died in the previous year leave the village after the grand feast, and go to the land of the dead. The end of the festival is marked with three rites: an agreement with the fire in order to avoid fire accidents, an agreement with rats to avoid destruction of crops or household goods, and a rite to expel the evil spirits.

14. Sangtam Nagas

Sangtams are tribals from Mongoloid stalk. They are the inhabitants of Nagaland and predominantly found in Kiphire and Tuensang districts of Nagaland. Kiphire is the district for the Sangtams. Kiphire district was bifurcated from Tuensang district on 24th of January 2004. It is bounded by Tuensang district on the North, Phek district on the South, Myanmar on the East and Zunheboto district in the West. Saramati (3,841 m), highest peak in Nagaland, is located in this district.

DSC_2107 Sangtam Tribe.

Sangtam Nagas

The first belief is that Sangtam has come from the word, ‘Singtang’ which means ‘floor’. The Sangtams lived in houses on raised platforms which they called Singtang. When they were asked about their identity, they felt it proper to identify themselves by the pattern of the houses in which they live. Since that time onwards, they came to be known as Singtang, which later on was changed into Sangtam.

A popular tradition of Sangtam believes that the word Sangtam has been derived from the Ao word ‘Satem’ which means ‘freely’ or ‘spacious’. It is said that in ancient times both the Aos and the Sangtams lived together in Chungliyimti (from which the Aos claimed their origin from the six stones). Later on the Aos felt too congested for them to live in together. So when the Aos, who were the ancient occupants of the present Northern Sangtam area, migrated to the present Ao land, they wished the remaining group to live freely ‘Satem’ in the land. As such the Sangtams were called ‘Satem’ which later on was changed to Sangtam.

DSC_2380 Sangtam Portrait.

Sangtam Naga Warrior

Sangtam has six distinct clans. They are: Thongrü, Jingrü, Langdithrongrü, Rüdythongrü, Mongzarü and Anarü. Inter-marriage between these six clans is permitted but marriages within the same clan are not allowed. Before the advent of Christianity the Sangtams, practiced the bride-price system i.e. demands of price for the bride. The price was paid to the girl’s parents. The price was paid depending upon the position and status of the girl’s parents. If they are from a rich family the price was paid with one or two mithun, pigs or cows. This system of bride-price was practiced as they believed that it would strengthen the marriage from divorce, because if the divorce is from the bride’s side, her parents had to return the entire price along with other expenses. But if the divorce was from the groom’s side, the price was forfeited. But with the advent of Christianity, the practice of bride-price is not practiced any more.

DSC_3840 Sangtam Morung.

Traditional Sangtam Naga Morung. Supong, is a typical Naga shawl worn by the Sangtam tribe. This is supposed to be used by rich people. The shawl on a black base has four grey bands at the top and another four bands of the same colour at the bottom.

Before the advent of Christianity, the Sangtams believed in the existence of Supreme Being who controls the whole system of the living and the non-living beings and exhibits everything in one way or the other. Sangtams believed in the mysterious powers associated with nature like moon, sun, stones, river, lakes etc and natural forces like storm, fire and other natural calamities. They believed in a number of spirits and supernatural forces associated with the cycle of life. The social setup of the Sangtam is patrilineal and patriarchal as other Naga societies. Monogamy is the general rule and clan exogamy is strictly maintained.

DSC_3555 Thsumuthe folk dance performing by Sangtam tribe.

A moment from the folk dance (Thsumuthe) performance of Sangtam Nagas

With the majority of the people living in the rural villages, agriculture remains the main occupation of the Sangtams. In spite of favourable climatic condition and fertile soil, primitive method of jhum cultivation is still extensively practiced. In spite of the government’s efforts, the agricultural techniques adopted by the farmers are still semiprimitive and pre-industrial. They cultivate maize, millet and barley. Cash crops like potato, soybean and different kinds of local beans are also grown. A local bean called Kholar is very popular in the district and is found in plenty. Domesticated animals include pig, fowl, goat, cow and buffaloes.

DSC_3123 Sangtam tribe performing their Rice Pounding Song - Furu Thsuk Khisong.

Sangtam Nagas demonstrating their Rice Pounding folk song – Furu Thsuk Khisong. This sing is sung during rice pounding sessions in villages, mainly to ease up their work load pressures without affecting its speed and perfection.

The Sangtams have about twelve festivals spreading over the calendar year. Most of the festivals are concerned with food production, blessing and prosperity. Amongmong is the most important festival of the Sangtam. The people worship the god of the house and the three cooking stones. Its object is to bring good health, harvest and prosperity.

Amongmong which means “togetherness forever” is fervently observed on the first week of September every year and is stretch over a period of six days. The figure “6” bears great significance among the Sangtam tribe. For example, when a head hunter brings an enemy’s head he is undefiled and observed penance for 6 days, a male baby is Christened on the 6th day and if a man dies, the deceased’s family mourn for six days. Each day of the festival has its own significance. The first day is called “Singkihthsa”. This day is marked by closing of all transaction relating to the purchase of domestic animals such as pig, cow and mithun and roping them. They also engage themselves in collection of fire wood and vegetables. On the second day the roped domestic animals are killed. After setting aside some portion for the feast, the meat is distributed among the members called “Athirü” (female) and “Akingrü” (male).

‘Hooto Hooto’ is a special tye of folk dance with song performed by Sangtam Nagas during this Amongmong festival. Lets see, what it is?….

Hooto Hooto by Sangtam Nagas copy

Hooto Hooto, is performed only by men folk during the Amongmong festival. The men folk perform various dance steps to show their physical strength and flexibility. While dancing, they hold each others hands and sing ‘Hooto Hooto’ in rhythmatic tones.

The third day of Amongmong festival is called Müsüyangtap. On this day the three cooking stones are worshipped by each and every member of the household. In the early morning the oldest women of the household perform the rituals by placing rice (sticky rice) and meat on the top of the three stones and pouring rice beer on these stones believing that the god of household (Lijaba) exist in these stones. Until the ritual is completed, no member of the house is allowed to taste food and even the domesticated animals are not fed. On these three days villagers neither go to the field nor outside the village as according to their belief this action will bring calamities and also damage the crops. The whole day is devoted to drinking of rice beers, dancing and merry making. Ethnic dance forms like ‘Buffalo Leg Jump dance’, ‘Thsumuthe dance’ etc are performed during these festive times….

Buffalo Leg Jump Dance of Sangtam Nagas copy

Sangtam cultural troupe presenting Buffalo leg jump (folk dance), a dance performed by imitating the jumping leg of the buffalo or Mithun.  It is performed by both men and women hold each others hands, and is characterized by brisk dance steps, and rapid hand movement.

The fourth day of Amongmong is called Kikha langpi. On this day all the male members of the village give a face-lift to the village. Paths leading to the fields, inter-village roads, village wells and springs are cleaned and cleared. On returning home every grown up male members will contribute meat and rice beer and feast together in the house of thevillage Priest. On this day the wife of the house put chillies, ginger and cotton in green leaves called “tsidong” and put them in the field or outside the village as according to the belief this action would ward off calamities and prevent damage of crops.

The fifth day is called Shilang wüba. On this day the villagers visit their relatives, friends and neighbouring villages. They feast together and exchange gifts in the form of meat.

 

During the performance of Thsumuthe dance, people come out in their best traditional attire to the open field and join the dancers with enthusiasm beyond any comparison. Thsumuthe dance is practiced by Sangtam tribe to train their warriors in avoiding the traps of enemies during a warfare….

Thsumuthe folk dance performing by Sangtam tribe copy

Thsumuthe Dance, performing by Sangtam tribe. It is a dance where the stepping is crucial and the distance between the feet and the ground is kept as compared to other dance forms. The steps of this dance rise higher, when compared to other dances in Sangtam tribe. It is mainly performed to train their warriors, in jumping away, from the traps of enemies during a warfare

The last day of Amongmong festival is called Akatisingkithsa. Harvesting starts from this day. The Sangtams celebrate the Amongmong festival to please their god to receive blessings of good health and harvest.

15. Sumi Ki Nagas

Sumi is one among the major tribes in Nagaland. The Sumis are commonly known to the outsiders as the Semas, a term which was popularized by J.H.Hutton, a British colonial administrator in the Naga Hills who wrote the land mark monograph “The Sema Nagas” in 1921. However, most of the Sumi scholars unanimously attest that the word ‘Sumi’ has been derived from two terms ‘Tuku- mi’ and ‘Swu- mi’ which is the two great phrateries of the Sumi tribe. Earlier the Sumi Nagas occupied an area under Zunheboto district spread out on clusters of hillocks but through migration, today, Sumis are found in different parts of Nagaland i.e., Eastern area, Western area, Northern area and also under Upper Assam. This is because; Sumi Nagas as compared to other Naga tribes, are more prone in migrating. No one can exactly point the fact as to when have the Sumis settled in the original inhabitant place, Zunheboto District.

DSC_1346 Sumi Practicing war dance - Aphilo Kuwo

Sumi Nagas practising their war dance in front of their morung

The etymology of the word Sumi is enshrouded in myriad of theories and speculations. However, Sumis are commonly known to the outsiders as the Semas, a term which was popularized. But there are different legends on the term Sema thus, according to one legend, Semas were originally known as ‘Semia’ which means ‘Lagging behind in walking’. This might be because Sumis came after tribes like Aos, Lothas and Rengmas in the process of migration. Another version says that the word Sema is derived from Angami ‘Semia’. ‘Se’ means ‘Three’ and ‘Mia’ means ‘People’, the term referring to the third brother’s generation having a close connection with the Khezakenoma legend of Angamis, and Sumis being brothers. For a very long time the term Sema was used until the 24th of September 1992, when at the initiative of the Sumi Hoho (the apex tribal body of the Sumis), the Home Department Government of Nagaland issued an administrative order that henceforth the term ‘Sumi’ would replace the term ‘Sema’. However, some still continue to use the term ‘Sema’ and this usage is not uncommon even today.

DSC_3299 Portrait of Sumi Ki lady.

A Sumi Naga lady in her traditional costume. The dress of the Sumi woman consists principally of a short petticoat, which does not reach to the knees, wrapped round the waist and kept in place by a bead girdle. Over the top of the petticoat is worn a string of cowries as a belt, and under it a broad girdle of yellow beads extending well below the hips, so broad as to suggest that this was originally the piece-de-resistance of the costume and that the petticoat underneath it is a more recent addition, particularly as weaving seems only to be a recently introduced art among Semas, and the beads alone without any petticoat are worn by little girls.

One of the origin story shared by Sumis is, about the two brothers Ishe and Holoho who were considered sons of Hollohon the youngest of the three brothers from Khezakenoma. Since Ishe and Holoho were brothers, they performed the same Gennas or rites on all occasions and maintained the same taboos which became difficult for them to help each other especially during the death of a person and marriage. Their people could not even marry each other as it is a taboo for brother’s children to intermarry so the two brothers decided to part ways. When they partedways, Ishe the elder brother’s generation came to be known as Tukumi and followed the ‘Tuku Chine’ i.e. ‘Tuku’ rites and the generation of Holoho the younger brother came to be known as Sumi who took up ‘Su Chine’ i.e. ‘Su’ rites. That is why Sumis have two types of rites performed in any occasion. ‘TukuChine’ or ‘Tuku’ rites are said to be simpler than that of the ‘Suchine’ or ‘Su’ rites.

DSC_1360 - Sumi Ki's Totem Pole

Traditional Totem Pole of Sumi Ki Nagas

The Sumis during the process of migration have been influenced by as well as absorbed other tribe’s culture. This is noticeable especially with the dialect that is closely related to Kheza. Then there is Swema or Semi village retaining Sumi as its domestic dialect but has adopted the Angami dress and is surrounded by Angami Naga tribes on all sides. The Sumis of Lazami and some villages in the Doyang valley have a fairly strong mixture of Angami and in some cases Rengma blood. As a result, their dialect and customs have been influenced so much that makes them noticeably different from the other Sumis. There is an admixture of Sangtam and Ao blood among the northern Sumis and a considerable mixture of Tukomi Sangtam to the east, while on the north- east corner Chang and Yachumi blood have been introduced.

DSC_2874 Sumi Ki tribe coming to the arena for showing Ami Kukula - Fire making.

Sumi Naga Warrior with his Dao and Spear

Sumis who still follow the customary law of Chieftainship along with the modern system of operationalization and functioning of administration indicates change and continuity. Socially, Sumis have witnessed change in the different social institutions like the family, marriage, kinship system, replacement of the morung a traditional system of learning to the present day formal educational institutions etc. In the religious aspect, interpretations of the world gave way to scientific and rational explanations. With the coming of Christianity the animistic life of the Sumi Nagas also saw changes discarding many cultural aspects of life connected to animism such as, head hunting, feasts of merit and certain rituals.

Sumi villages quite invariably, are found nearby natural water sources, preferably a running stream. Immediately after selection, the notional or symbolic village boundary is drawn or demarcated by landmarking it with some natural geographical features like rivers, mountain ranges, valleys or using stones.

DSC_1361 - Sumi Ki's Morung

Morung of Sumi Nagas. In Sumi, the youth dormitory for both boys and girls is called ‘Achebo’ meaning room in general. Nagas are unique in having separate dormitories for both boys and girls. Among the Sumi Nagas, the boy’s dormitory is called ‘Tupuki’ or ‘Apuki’ and the girls ‘Iliki’. This ‘Morung’ was a centre for learning every aspect of their traditional customs or ways of life. Physically, the girl’s dormitory is non-existent. The Sumi girls in fact are accommodated in the house of an elderly woman, preferably a widow, where they sleep at night.

Chieftainship, ‘Kukami’ was hereditary among the Sumis. Therefore traditionally only the sons of the Chief or the Chief’s brothers and paternal uncles could inherit the status of a chief. Today the contrasting fact is that, this hereditary Chieftainship is found only in rural areas and not in the urban towns and cities even among the Sumis. Chief is usually called ‘Ato Kukau’ which means the ‘main ruler’. He maintains his position not just through his hereditary rights but also through his personal qualities as a person of great social standing and wealth. One source of this condition is to be found in the exclusion from the Chieftainship of a man whose hereditary claim is incontestable but whose personal unfitness disqualifies him.

DSC_2963 Inside Sumi Ki Morung - Heritage wooden and bamboo made artefacts.

Inside the morung of Sumi Nagas – Indigenous household items like Amgho (A shield used for working in agri lands), Atsuko (Rice bear strainer), Ahughi (container for carrying rice beer) etc are displayed.

Sumi Nagas, follow their age- old method of terracing and irrigation in which the hill slopes are turned into terrace fields. The terraces are irrigated through channels which carry water from streams or torrents some distance away and may even feed many other fields on the way. Harvesting is usually done in the month of October or early part of November depending on the ripening of the paddy. It is reaped with sickle and then grains are separated from the stalk either thrashed by sticks or stamping by feet. Ownership of terraced land is strictly individual.

DSC_2964 Inside Sumi Ki Morung - Heritage wooden and bamboo made artefacts.

Inside the morung of Sumi Nagas – Household items such as Ayephu (A mat made from cane and bamboo, used for drying grains), Akhozhe (made of bamboo for drying chillies and vegetables), Apighi (made from cane for winnowing rice and grains) etc are displayed.

DSC_2965 Inside Sumi Ki Morung - Heritage wooden and bamboo made artefacts.

Inside the morung of Sumi Nagas – Ancient Aboshu, used for pounding rice and grains in Sumi villages by women folk.

The characteristic feature of Sumi tribe is the practice of ‘Ame Kuchu’ (taking of bride- price). Traditionally ‘Ame’ or ‘Price’ was taken or paid for a girl’s chaste life and also had economic and social significance however, in the change scenario this practice only portrays altogether a different picture and it is more of a show of one’s family’s wealth and competition than its original meaning.

DSC_2999 Top Side of Sumi Ki Morung - Decorations of the finals at top extreme ends.

The characteristic feature of a Sumi morung – Artistic finals made from cane and bamboo stripes, placed at the top inorder to attain blessings from their gods and avoid evil spirits.

The Sumis were said to have revered mainly three distinct deities of which the first is the ‘Alhou’ or ‘Timilhou’ which means the creator or the creator of men. Here ‘Timi’ means ‘men’ and ‘Alhou’ or ‘Lhou’ means ‘creator’. Secondly there was the spirits of the sky called the ‘Kungumi’. Here ‘Kungu’ means above and ‘mi’ means people and thus, it was believed that the ‘Kungumi’ dwelled up aloft but far from aloof and thus they kept in touch with men on earth. The third kind of spirits revered by the Sumis was the ‘Tughami’, the spirits said to be most in touch with men. ‘Tugha’ means jungle or wild and thus, the Tughami is a jungle men but generally referred to as the spirits of the wild.

Fire making is an important part of every tribal culture. For Nagas, it is their main act of survival in the high altitude villages. “Ami Kukula” is the traditional fire making process of Sumi Ki Nagas…..

Ami Kukula - Fire making by Sumis copy

Ami Kukula – Traditional fire making by Sumi Nagas. Here, Sumis use fine dried wood, finely stripped bamboo (string), dried twigs, leaves and materials which can be easily burned. Dried wood and dried twigs are placed under the foot and hold the ends of bamboo string (strip) in each hand, then pulls the thin bamboo strip back forth until the friction ignites the wood. This is how forefathers learn to make fire. During forefather’s time, this is practiced and done as fire is a necessity.

In a world where wildlife existence is being endangered, this tribal people creatively conserve wildlife and forest by practicing unconventional way of fishing. This gives them enough fishes to consume as well as it protects and conserves the environment. In many of the Naga villages those rivers which once ran free of chemical contamination are now all affected. The cycle of water creatures are damaged. The use of electric current as a fishing technique has killed and crippled millions of water organisms thriving in the river. But we human beings paralyze them all just to catch that fish for one meal. How greedy we are! There’s no cure for foolishness. May be we have to eliminate those fools forever to save our planet and other living organisms.

In the midst of this environmental chaos, Sumi Naga villages come together to conserve their precious rivers by organizing Community Fishing with some indigenous techniques, twice in a year. On that day, everyone – local or non local- is welcome to participate in the fishing. Heights of generosity! Humanity Lives! In this way, this highly threatened river is saved from the cruel treatment of humans against living organisms in water

Most interestingly in community fishing event, villagers will collect and accumulate the bark of one particular tree (mainly, Sau tree or Pontham VaakaAlbizia chinensis, sometimes Siris treeAlbizia lebbeck is also used) . Every adult man in the family has to have one roll of that bark to crush to dissolve in the river water in the community fishing event. Before crushing the barks to dissolve in the river water, they would arrange wooden log benches (to place these barks) and place them in the middle of the river in the row to use it as something like a cutting board to crush those barks.

DSC_3727 Community Fishing by Sumi Ki tribe. Bark of a particular tree wood is placed on a bench above flowing river and continuously crushing it.

Community fishing technique by Sumi Nagas – The village leaders give the clear instructions and significance of the event, and after that church pastor invoked God almighty to bless everyone who had come there (present day ritual). All the menfolk begin to beat the bark hard while all children and womenfolk view them from the sides singing the traditional songs, and now the liquid the bark produces turns the crystal river water into yellow.The crushed bark produce its own liquid which will make the fishes, may be other organisms also, lose their senses for about 2-3 hours. In this condition, they cannot run as fast as normal fishes. They become sub-conscious like a drunken man. In this way, the fishermen can catch them easily. But those fishes or living organisms which have escaped from the catch in the river will be back to their senses without any getting harmed to their metabolism.

DSC_3723 Community Fishing by Sumi Ki tribe. Bark of a particular tree wood is placed on a bench above flowing river and continuously crushing it.

Community fishing technique by Sumi Nagas – Children, boys and girls, men and women, grandpas and grandmas – all take part in this fishing event. It looks more like a sports or festival rather than hunting fishes for survival. In those ancient days, community fishing was an act of survival. But it has changed much more in to a festival for Sumi Nagas, in now-a-days.

Lets look into one of the traditional games played by Sumi youths in their villages….

Sumi cultural troupe demonstrating ‘Akhetsu Kukakeu’ (Top spinning game), a traditional game played by the community, where each player takes turns trying to spin a top for the longest duration and also strike the spinning top of other competitors.

DSC_3046 Sumi Ki tribe performing their Top Spinning Game - Akhetsu Kukakeu.

Akhetsu Kukakeu – Top spinning game of Sumi Nagas

DSC_3051 Sumi Ki tribe performing their Top Spinning Game - Akhetsu Kukakeu.

Sumi Nagas playing their Top spinning game – Akhetsu Kukakeu

War dance or Aphilo Kuwo is one of the most important cultural dances of the Sümi usually performed during feasts of merit and after a great head-hunting victory in the days of old. Only those who had taken heads or at least speared an enemy could wear these colourful dancing gear. Each piece of jewellery and cloth worn for this dance has a meaning and every piece has to be earned. It is genna to wear this attire without gaining the required achievements, it symbolizes victory at war like the laurel wreaths worn by victors in ancient Greece as symbols of victory.

Aphilo Kuwo - War Dance of Sumi Nagas copy

The story behind the origin of this war dance is interesting. The dance is not of earthly origin but was learned from the Sky People or sky spirits according to legend. This story can be traced back to Chisholimi village in southern Sumi area to a man named Rotoki whose only daughter Eli was taken up to the sky by Kungumi (Kungu=Sky, mi=people) and she married a Kungumi. There are different versions of this story but all stories mention the Sky people, some tells about Kungumi descending from a red burning star to take a wife from Earth. The leader (Atou) leading the dance: dancers will follow his commands for foot-tapping, change in steps and when to stop. They sing the ‘ho-e-ho-e-ho-o-ho-o‘ song as they dance. Spears and Azhtaqo (Daos) are kept in a circle as they began their dance. The oldest member in this dancing team will wear Akinisupha (cotton ear decoration).

Tuluni (July 8) is a festival of great significance for the Sumi. This festival is marked with feasts as the occasion occurs in the bountiful season of the year. Drinking rice beer indispensably forms as part of the feasts. Rice beer is served in a goblet made of bamboo or made from the leaf of plantain. This drink is called Tuluni which gives the festival its name. Tuluni is also called “Anni” the word of which denotes the season of plentiful crops. This midyear festival is a time of communal harmony and merry-making for the Sumi community. Slaughtering of pigs, cows and mithun is an important feature of this festival.

During this festival, the betrothed exchange basketful of gifts with meals. The fiance is invited to a grand dinner at the fiancee’s residence. Even siblings of the families of both the bride and groom exchange dinner and packed food and meats – wrapped the traditional way in plantain leaves. It was a time of joy even for servants and housekeepers in the olden days. On this day they were fed extra generously with good food and meat.

The practice of working in groups is common for the Sumi agriculture farmers, and Tuluni is a special time for them because they get to rest and celebrate the completion of a farming season of hard work in their paddy fields. For this festival, the farmer groups (also called Aloji) pool in money or other resources together to exchange/buy pigs and cows to be slaughtered for the special day. The meat is equally divided among themselves and some portion is kept aside for the group feast. In the midst of the feast, group leaders get extra offers of meat by way of feeding them by others. Each working group consists of 20 to 30 in number which includes several women, too.

The betrothed are settled at this period. The fervours of the feast is synchronized with a chain of folk songs and ballads. In modern times, friends and members from other tribes and communities are invited to attend the feast and are entertained with a variety of traditional songs and dances, they are also served with sumptuous authentic Sumi cuisine of smoked pork and axone with local herbs and vegetables. Saying about the Sumi dances, there is an interesting one, with exciting dance movements, sometimes funny and thrilling too…. “Babu Shiha Salam Salam”

Babu Shiha Salam Salam by Sumi Nagas copy 1

Sumi community performing folk dance with song “Babu Shiha Salam Salam” which is a mixture of an indigenous game and unique folk dance that originated in Yemishe village during the British rule in Nagaland. It was particularly performed by the village community to welcome and honor the British officials.

Ahuna (November 14) is a traditional post-harvest festival of the Sumis. Ahuna signifies the celebration of the season’s harvest in Thanksgiving, while invoking the spirit of good fortune in the New Year. On this occasion, the entire community prepares and feasts on the first meal of rice drawn from the season’s harvest cooked in bamboo segments. The receptacles for cooking or serving on this occasion are freshly made, curved or cut, from locally available resources prolific and abundant in the countryside. In general, Sumis accept the festival of Tuluni as the most grand and important one.

Sumis do not have the system of slavery but in practice, looking into the general characteristics of slavery system the types of slavery found among Sumis is the bonded slavery based on debt and slavery by descent. Because a person pledges himself against a loan that requires a repayment and is passed on from generation to generation with children required to pay off their parent’s debt. Today, the Sumis, adopting Christian faith brought about change in the mindset of the people and even those who had slaves were freed. This type of slavery is also the most widely spread form of slavery in the world.

16. Yimchunger Nagas

The Yimchunger Nagas are one of the most economically backward among the Naga tribes inhabiting the remote Tuensang district of Nagaland bordering Myanmar. The word Yimchunger means “the ones who have reached their place of choice“. It is rendered various ways, including: Yimchungru, Yimchungru-Naga, Yimchungre, Yanchunger, Yimchungrü. They are also known as the Yachumi (also Yatsumi or Yachimi), which is a Sema-influenced name. The actual word is Yimkhiungru. The Khiamniungans call Mongtsohai. The Chang’s call them, Yamshong. While the Sangtam call them as Yachungre.

DSC_2119 Yimchunger Tribe.

Yimchunger Nagas

According to the Yimchunger tradition, the tribe emerged at a village called Moru and then came to Jure (or Chiru) village. The Yimchungers and the Khiamungans are believed to have migrated to the present-day Nagaland from Upper Burma as one group, in one wave. They separated into two groups at the Moru village. The Yimchunger Tribe, like any other Naga Tribe has no written record of its origin or history. The people did not have any script of their own. Thus, the Yimchungers may have evolved from some lost tribes, wandering from place to place and finally settled in present day locations. However, on the basis of narrated historical accounts handed down from generation to generation, the origin of the Yimchungers is believed to be from Thailand. The present Yimchungers were not known by any name as a tribe. They lived mostly a nomadic life spending hardly one or two generation at a certain place of settlement as a village for want of more land for cultivation to meet the growing need of food and other means of sustenance. At other times, the entire population was compelled to abandon their village and shift to a safer place to avoid plague and epidemic diseases or as victims of constant head hunting amongst the neighboring villages etc.

DSC_2983 Yimchunger Women relaxing in the morning.

Yimchunger Women in front of their morung. The traditional dress of the Yimchungers includes colorful cane-made headgear decorated with hair and bird feathers. In Yimchungers’ both male and female have numerous traditional dresses decorated with every hue and colours. Rongkhim – It is one of the most attractive  shawl worn by Yimchunger Naga tribe. The shawl is in red and black with narrow grey bands at the two edges. This shawl is mainly worn by warriors of great renown.

The route of migration of the Yimchungers from Thailand came through Burma (Myanmar), then from Burma to Moru (in India) and from Moru to Chiru, from Chiru to Longyang to Thunyim kiulong (literally Thunyim means fifty and Kiulong means village) – thus village of fifty (within the Indian territory). Thereafter from Thunyim kiulong to Tuphung kiulong (near Bokphur village) and from Tuphung kiulong to Thsunkioso village (presently Thonoknyu village). Then from Thsunkioso to Kemiphu – on the banks of Thurak ke or popularly known as the Zungki river. Thereafter, from Kemiphu to Tukhea Khup village (below the present Wapher or Wungphung village on the banks of the Zungki river). At each place of settlements only a portion of the group set out in search of a better place with more natural resources they needed in their day today life, leaving behind the remaining population at such places as permanent citizens of that village.

DSC_1823 Yimchunger morung.

Into the Yimchunger Morung

While they were settled at Tukhea Khup, one day a group of these people while on fishing trip at the confluence of the Yayi river and the Zungki (Thurak ke) river, they discovered a burnt charcoal and partly burnt firewood floating down from the Yayi river. This discovery made them more curious of other human settlement towards the source of Yayi river. Accordingly, a large portion of the people set out on their expedition towards the farther upstream along the Yayi river in search of other human settlement. Finally, they arrived at a place where they found some signs of some other human activities, like clearing of jungle/forest for cultivation etc. Having now found signs of the existence of other human humans in and around this place, they named it Yimkhiungto – meaning “found it“. With the passage of time this place got the name Yimkhiung or Yimchung and the residents were known as Yimchungru or Yimkhiungru and the village now stands as Yimchung Awun meaning Yimchung Old (popularly known as Y. Awun village till today).

DSC_1826 Yimchunger morung.

Yimchunger Morung or Khiangyam

Prior to the establishment of Yimchung Awun village there was no known name of the group as a community or as a Tribe. At each place of the series of settlements not the entire population was on the move; it was only those strong and able people who dared to face any new adversary that might lay waiting as this nomads continued to move on from place to place after several years of residing at a place and even for two to three generations at certain place, in search of virgin soil to meet the needs of their ever growing population. At any place of their settlement, the duration of their settlement could be any where between 10 to 50 years at the most. Thus, it was at the Yimchung Awun village the settlers came to be called the Yimkhiungrus. The name Yimchungru or Yimchunger is a mispronounced word for Yimkhiungru or Yimkhiunger which ought to be as it is – which literally means “the finders”.

DSC_1828 Wooden sculpture of a Yimchunger tribal warrior.

As i said earlier, in every morung of Nagas, the middle portion of front side is decorated with a wooden sculpture of their ancestral warriors. Based on their belief that the ancestors will guard these morungs and give blessings to the village youths.

In those ancient days, each village had a distinct administrative entity not subjected to any other authority and each individual village having a sovereign entity under the governance of the ‘Kiulongthsuru‘ (meaning the founder of the village who would be regarded as the Headman aided by village elders to assist him in the village administration. Each village, big or small had equal respect as far as their rights and privileges were concerned. There was hardly any concept of community as a tribe beyond one’s village territory. Hence, headhunting for trophy and glory ruled the land and people. But, with the advent and coming of Christianity into the Yimchungru land, modern civilization and the consciousness to live united and in harmony as one people, one community dawned upon the Yimchungrus.

During the head hunting days, there was no organized and established government or the institutions unlike the modern days. There were no tribal sentiments or tribal organizations as well. It is imperative to state that the names of the tribe that we hear today are a recent creation and so also their organizations. Every village had their own Chief, who was the monarch-head of that particular village. Until and unless a treaty or a friendly meeting was concluded, one village would probably treat the other villages as enemy and vice versa.

Khuyih King-Achihkhi by Yimchungers copy

Khuyih King-Achihkhi game is played by the Women folk of Yimchunger villages. In this game, each individual needs to hold a pebble on five different positions of the body (like on hands, between knees, on the feet etc) and carry that pebble up to a particular distance from the starting point. Then she has to thrown that pebble into the bamboo pole fixed at the other. The participants get points, if they hit the pole on each chance.

The institution of the family is the nucleus of the Yimchunger Naga society, consisting of husband, wife and their offsprings. ‘Yambuk’ is the Yimchunger term that refers to the family unit consisting of father, mother and children. The traditional family had the simple practice of the children leaving the parents after his marriage and move to a house of their own. It is common in the villages that in cases when the married couple is not capable of having a house of their own they share the living space under the same roof with the parents while a separate kitchen is maintained. It is an attached fact that in the normal way of counting the families is done by counting the number of kitchens.

However, of late during the later part of the 1950’s, with the advent of Christianity in Nagaland and more particular in Yimchunger area, the people began to convert themselves into Christians and gradually head hunting culture began to be abandoned with the passage of time. In fact, till the early part of 1960’s, Yimchunger people practiced head hunting culture and thus it may be unambiguously inferred that the Yimchungers were the last among the Nagas to have abandoned head hunting practices. The Missionaries, Pastors, and Preachers who undertook a humble initiative in propagating the spirit of Christianity were from the Sumi and Ao tribes.

Strong ties to cultural identity in the form of their love and passion for agriculture are reflected in the hymns and beats of songs devoted to the craft.The musical instruments of the Yimchungers include simple log drums, trumpets and flutes, similar to that of the Angamis. Most of the folk songs of Yimchunger tribe are related with their efforts in agri lands.

The people are basically agriculturists. They were dependent on the produce of the land. So it was natural that the villages were set up with sufficient land to cultivate. The forest area beyond the village vicinity was considered for the large scale cultivation, especially for jhum cultivation. Jhum/shifting cultivation has been the major form of agriculture among the Yimchungers as in the case of the majority of hill-Naga tribes.

DSC_1949 Yimchunger women performing a folk song - Kheangberu Khun.

Yimchunger community singing a folk song “kheangberu khun”, generally sung during Tsungkamnio festival in the second week of January. This song is based on their excitement and happiness after a bountiful harvest.

DSC_1945 Yimchunger women performing a folk song - Kheangberu Khun.

kheangberu khun is a celebration folk song performed during the post harvesting season. That is, when all the grains and other agricultural produce are harvested and stored in the granaries.

Yimchunger families are patriarchal in nature similar to other Naga tribes. Family is the focal point of relationship among the Yimchungers. Besides this family-biological relationship, strong social relationships are born out of marriage between clans. This greater family is called, ‘Petsührü’, meaning the familial relationship in the wider context. There is a sense of equality of status prevalent in the traditional format of the Yimchunger Nagas. The term Mihtsürü, means people in the ordinary sense. However the actual word meaning is ‘equal doers.’

DSC_2943 Yimchunger tribe performing a folk dance - Aneo Jikhi (Tilling of soil and sowing seeds)

“Aneo Jikhi” by Yimchunger women is another folk song sung during tilling up sessions in their agri fields. The aim of this song is to energize each worker and speed up their tilling  process.

Wochak-Khun Dung is another folk song sung during the seed sowing sessions in their cultivating lands….

DSC_3056 Yimchunger women performing a folk song- Wochak-Khun Dung (sung during tilling of soil in agri fields)

Yimchunger women presenting the folk song Wochak-Khun Dung while demonstrating their seed sowing sessions in the main arena. The song ‘Oh he’ is sung after all seeds are sown.

DSC_3058 Yimchunger women performing a folk song- Wochak-Khun Dung (sung during tilling of soil and feast times in agri fields)

After every seed sowing sessions, a grand feast is offered to these women groups, who had participated in the sowing process. This feast is prepared by, rest of the villagers.

The Yimchunger Nagas commonly practice monogamous marriage. However second or third marriage is not uncommon. The Yimchungers are strict with the law of exogamy. The marriage is not permitted between the two who belong to the same clan. A marriage between the two who belong to the same clan is punishable and it is often punished with ousting from the village and debarring them from all rights of the citizen of the village.

The key moments of life for Yimchungrü are birth, naming of the new-born, marriage, death, funeral, making new houses and villages, blessing of new houses, cutting of the new field, sowing new seeds, sickness, disaster, hunting, festivals and wars. These occasions are marked with special acts such as, a sacrifice, divination, prayer, community singing, dancing, fellowship meal, etc.

Khinu Akhiuk Choki Khun by Yimchungers

Khinu Akhiuk Choki Khun is a popular song from the Yimchunger community, which is sung during the Metumnio festival. This song is performed by the women folk. While singing this song, they get arranged in circles, hold each others hands on their shoulders and perform some simple dancing steps.

Metumnio is the traditional five-day harvest festival of the Yimchunger tribe although regarded as a solemn festival. It is celebrated after the millet crop is harvested, usually in the second week of August. The word ‘Me’ means soul ‘tüm’ means wrap ‘nio’ means festival. Thus, the literal translation and meaning of Metümnio is correlated to bidding good bye to the souls departed during the past one year. The ceremonies are inaugurated by the village elder Khiungpu. The ceremonies of five-day festivals include: Shito of 1st day, Communal cleaning of the village, repair of village roads.  Zhihdo of 2nd day, Repair of the paths leading to the fields, clearing up of intrusive landslides. Zumdo of 3rd day, Repair of inter-village roads. Khihresuk of 4th day, Cleaning of water points and springs. Shiresuk of the final day, Cleaning and worship of agricultural tools. An important element of Metumnio is the welcome ceremony for the new born babies of the past one year. As a symbol of acceptance of the new members to the tribal family and the world at large, the infants are offered a bowl of rice with six pieces of meat for male child and five pieces for female child. The numbers are significant and are indicative of the belief that a male child has six souls and a female has five souls.

The Yimchungers pray for the souls of those who would die in the year. They invite friends home and exchange gifts. The festival is marked by engagements between the young boys and girls. The Yimchungers believe that males have six souls while females have five souls.

Yimchunger cultural troupe performing “Limri Shokhi Khun”. It is a song & dance related to caterpillar. The people dance and sing the Himro himro song and move against one another as the caterpillar on the move.

DSC_3989 Yimchunger tribe performing a folk song with dance - Limri Shokhi Knun.

Yimchunger Nagas performing “Limri Shokhi Khun”

DSC_3985 Yimchunger tribe performing a folk song with dance - Limri Shokhi Knun.

In Limri Shokhi Khun, The people dance and sing the Himro himro song and move against one another as the caterpillar on the move.

Government of Nagaland has been instrumental in providing the proper tools and venues for the Yimchungers to properly showcase their traditions, culture, and craft with tourists. Over the last decade, an explosion of tourism in the region has catapulted attempts at preserving the culture of the relevant tribes. The Yimchungers have been at the forefront of preserving culture in the region due to their dedicated festivals aided in part by the Naga State. Because of this, Yimchungers are one of the main contributors to the Hornbill Festival with their harvesting demonstrations.

17. Zeliang Nagas

DSC_1919 Zeliang Portrait.

Zeliang Naga

Zeliangrong people are one of the major indigenous Naga communities living in the tri-junction of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland in India. The term “Zeliangrong” refers to the Zeme, Liangmai and Rongmei Naga tribes combined together. Earlier, the term also covered the Inpui tribe. The proper noun Zeliangrong does not denote a tribe but, rather, a union of tribes or, rather, the apex tribe of three aforementioned tribes (Zeme Naga, Liangmai Naga, Rongmei Naga). The Zeliangrong worships the Supreme God Haipou Tingkao Ragwang and other sylval Gods. But most of them got converted to Christianity due to its wave during the 1950’s. The descendants of Hoi of Makuilongdi (Makhel) were divided and were made peripheral appendages to three political entities – Manipur, Naga hills (Nagaland) and the Dima Hasao (Northern Kachar) of Assam.

The Zeliangrong may be classified as an ethno-cultural entity. The Zeliangrong belong to the larger Southern Mongoloid population and their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family of languages. The ethnonym ‘Zeliangrong’ is traced back to the three kindred brothers. The three brothers are the Zeme (dwellers of the warmer) or Mejahme (lower region), Liangmai (men of the North) the original Northerner; on the other hand the term Rongmei (people settled in the south) and finally Inpui (Puimei). The word Zeliangrong was first coined on 15 February 1947 at Keishamthong Imphal. The terminology Zeliangrong was coined in coherence with the solidarity movement after India’s independence. The Zeme, Liangmei and Rongmei dominates the demography in the districts of Peren in Nagaland, Tamenglong in Manipur, Haflong and other parts of Dima Hasao in Assam. Not to forget the parts of the Barak Valley, Kohima-the capital of Nagaland, Dimapur-the commercial hub of Nagaland, Loktak, Bishnupur and also Imphal-the capital of Manipur comes under the fold of Zeliangrong people.

DSC_3754 Zeliang performing a folk song while demonstrating the tilling of Agri fields.

Zeliang Nagas performing a folk song in their traditional attire, during Hornbill festival. Zeliangrong people use many natural objects deriving from feather, cotton, pith, teeth, horn, shells, bones, etc  for making dress and ornaments. This is for the love of originality and the long ingrained custom that the tribals had chosen their ornaments, so that they are in keeping with their costume, no matter how simple or colourful it may be. The tribal ornaments are simple but notable for its uniqueness. Regarding the ornament of Zeliangrong people, the girls wear glass beads ornaments on the arms till they are married.

In Zeliangrong society, the wearing of ornament begins at the time of birth of a child. On the birthday itself, the baby is fastened with a black thread locally called Khim round the neck, ankle, wrists and waist with ritual. This act symbolizes the beginning of wearing ornaments in the life cycle of an individual.

DSC_1915 Zeliang Portrait.

Tanina, a lower garment is believed to be the oldest cloth used by the Zeliangrong people. They wore this garment to cover the private parts from puberty period onwards. It is considerably warm in use because of the compact weaving of the fiber of the cloth, which is obtained from a kind of creeper plant locally recognized as Taningken. This type of fiber was the only one known to be used in the ancient times. The Zeliangrong male ties a cloth round his waist, the end of which hangs down in front to conceal his privities, otherwise he is quite naked.

The Zeliangrong have always struggled against the “big and small” imperialism both foreign and local. The Meitei expansionism, the British colonialism and local fights against the Angamis, Kacharis and Kukis have been well known.  They revolted with fierce force against the British under the leadership of young and mystic leader Jadonang and continued by his disciple, the fiery and charismatic girl Gaidinliu-later to be renowned as Rani Gaidinliu. The Zeliangrong Revolt took a new turn with Gaidinliu taking charge after the execution of Jadonang by the British. The new struggle was violent and forceful though her soldiers used robust weaponry like daos and spears against the then British run Assam Rifles.

DSC_3807 Zeliang Morung.

Into the Zeliang Morung or Rehangki – The Zeliangrong Naga’s social life was deeply rooted in the family, village and the morung. In fact, the value of public social life was stronger than the individuals within the society. The joint family system was practiced widely not because of the scarcity of land but due to their love and respect for their parents and elders. It is a patriarchal society and obedience to the father, the head of the family is expected from each member of the family. The society is interwoven by strong clans system. Marriages taking place within the same clan is strictly prohibited. It is incest and a taboo. If unwanted marriage in the same clan is taken, strict ordeal of customary rituals is to be observed in order to sanctify them, then and then only, they will be accepted in the society again.

DSC_1762 Zeliang morung.

In olden days in each Zeliangrong village there will always be two dormitories (club-house or morung), some three or four depending on the size of the village population. The boys’ or male’s dormitory or morung is called ”Khangchur or Hangseoki” and the giris or females, called the “Kailiu or Liuchiu or Leoseoki”.

Agriculture was their main occupation. Economically, they were self sufficient people and begging was unknown and practically nil. There is no record of the Zeliangrong having raided on surrounding Kachari or Kuki villages, though they fought freely with one another.

Zeliangrong Naga society is a patrilineal society. The youngest son has the right to inherit the lion’s share of his father’s properties both movable and immovable. He is also responsible to repay all the debts of his father. All other brothers have a very less share. In some village daughters normally do not have a share in the inheritance even in the absence of male child of the family. In such cases male relative will inherit all properties and will also be responsible to look after the daughters until they all are matured. However, daughters also received lots of gifts and present from their parents and have also rights entitled to various customary gifts from their brothers, family and relatives.

DSC_1914 Zeliang tribe leaving the seats for their performance.

Zeliang Naga carrying their special musical drum ( wood hollowed drum with
animal skin) for a cultural performance in the main arena.

In case of marriages, monogamy is practiced. Polygamy is very rare. The society does not permit polygamy but in some cases, polygamy is practiced and condoned. As for example, if a woman is barren she cannot stop her husband from marrying another woman. Polyandry, is however unknown. A woman marrying more than one man at a
time is unheard of in the Zeliangrong society.

The art of song and dance is an important aspect of Zeliangrong tradition. While working in the field, cooking, carrying load, the lips of the people can be seen rhythmically vibrating with songs. There is no written literature of music and art of dance. But the songs, which have been composed over a thousand years ago by expert musicians like Guiremang, Kariukiu, Asiyang and Hiluwang etc, are still sung being sung. Dance is always accompanied by song. The songs vary according to festival, work, war, and sacrifice etc. for all the occasions to be sung individually or in groups. Music and dance are associated with religion according to the cycle of their natural agricultural life. The Zeliangrong have very rich folk traditional songs and music, they used wood hollowed drum with animals’ skin, horn of the mithun or common bull, cymbal, gong, flute, and stringed instruments.

Zeliang tribe demonstrating their victory dance “Rehoi lim” usually performed in the olden times by men over the age of 15 years symbolizing victory over enemies or big animals. It symbolizes their victory over enemies or big animals which was considered as an equal trophy.

DSC_1928 Zeliang tribe performing their Victory Dance - Rehoi Lim.

Rehoi Lim of Zeliang tribe – This dance is recognized as an artistic dance. It is a male oriented dance form, however, the Zeliang tribe allows women participants also. The performance begins with the group entering in the arena in a slow and graceful manner, taking their position in a geometric shape such as a circular formation. They then begin their foot tapping to gain rhythm. The participants are adorned in metal ornaments to add vigor to the dance.

DSC_1930 Zeliang tribe performing their Victory Dance - Rehoi Lim.

Zeliang tribe performing their victory dance – Rehoi Lim; ‘Lim’ means dance.

Man learns different forms of movement from the birds, animals and insects. They perform both ritual and festival dances. The following dances of Zeliang Nagas prove this theory very much. So, lets see and enjoy those dance forms imitating nature and wildlife…..

Herie Lim by Zeliangs copy

Zeliang troupe performing the Hornbill Dance or Herie Lim, which is a tribute to the great Hornbill bird of Nagaland. The grand Hornbill bird is regarded as the symbol of valor, faithfulness and noble disposition. So, this dance is much admired for its majestic movements and instinctive alertness, which are adopted from the Hornbill bird.

Heka Lim of Zeliangs copy

Zeliang cultural troupe demonstrating Heka lim or fish dance, which attempts to capture the nature and movement of fishes during its hatching season.

Zeliang community displaying Awaina Lim or Amur Falcon Dance, a dance that depicts the happy and merry making movements of the Amur Falcon bird….

Awaina Lim by Zeliangs copy

The Awaina Lim (Amur Falcon Dance) of the Zeliang tribe depicts the happy, merry making movements of the Amur Falcons which visit Nagaland, during September and October months. The interesting fact is that, five years ago, hundreds of thousands of migrating Amur Falcons were being slaughtered annually in northeast India. Today, they are celebrated in this state, by creating an annual Amur Falcon Dance festival.

Tinggeune Lim by Zeliangs copy

The Zeliang troupe performing the Tinggeune Lim or Honey Bee Dance. As the queen bee moves out of the old hive in search of a new place, the colony of the worker bees show great loyalty and commitment in protecting their queen. This dance imitates the protective nature of the worker bees.

Hega festival is one of the most important and the biggest festivals among the Zeliang community. It falls in the month of February 10-15 every year. It is the festival invoking the almighty God to shower his blessings upon his people with richness, luck and courage. It is also a festival of joy, rest and get-together. On this day people pray to almighty God for protection and guidance. On this festival young couples are united for their future.

First day (Hega Teu Dap) : On this day, all the killing of animal for festival are done in every household and those who have no such animal either buy or share with other member. On this day itself the eldest of the family call all his grandsons and daughters for a common meal to his house. Here they share special songs.

Second day (Herie Kap) : On the second day of the festival, the gatekeeper of the main gate will have a special and separate prayer invoking the protection of the almighty to the villagers and to shower his blessings. After the prayer, he would go to a jungle and offer special prayers asking god to show him the right tree for the sacrifice. When it is shown, the youth will cut it and shape it into a hornbill and put it up in the main gate with some decorations. In the evening, the elders and the boys will make noise (Nro) and go up and down the whole village for two or three times and at the end they will try to pierce the heart of the wooden hornbill. If they manage it then it is good luck.

Third Day (Tsing Rak) : On this day, early in the morning, the brides will gather all the girls from her Khel. They will go to the jungle to cut firewood for the evening. This firewood is split into small pieces and the bark is also taken out. The firewood will be fresh only. In the meantime, the elders and youth from the Khel will go to jungle and cut a big tree which is shaped, then.  After which,  colour is put on the two wooden pieces showing the purity and virginity of the bride. In the evening, the bride will carry the two wooden pieces which signify her life. With this two heavy wooden pieces (ten to twelve in height) the bride will start from the gate and the rest of the girls and boys will carry the firewood and follow the bride to the girls Morung. On this night, the bridegroom will provide food and drinks to the girls in the Girl’s Morung.

DSC_3755 Zeliang performing a folk song while demonstrating the tilling of Agri fields.

A Zeliang Naga singing their folk song with so much dedication

Fourth Day (Rodi) : The fourth day and the last day of the festival are the most important days. In the morning, the boy will prepare a place for long jump and wrestling (a place which is set apart by their (forefathers). In the evening, all the villagers will gather at the particular place where long jump and wresting takes place. The men and boys will make noise (Nro) and go up and down the village for 3 times. After this they will come to the jumping place and make noised two time again (invoking god to bless the villagers for their work). Then, (Nro) the long jump will take place and after that the wrestling.

The winner of long jump will have to give in kind or in cash to the village high priest. Then there will be singing together with the bride up and down the village. The songs are of love praise and farewell to the bride and the bridegroom, especially to the bride, because she can never take part again in dance or in such practice. At night the bride visit each household encouraging them, boys and girls to take part in the dance. For the elders (men), she will prepare special soup from meat and give them for their health and strength to participate in the dance.

Last Day (Koksui) : It is the last and most important and exciting day of the festival. Here you will see early in the morning, people putting on their traditional dress getting ready for the dance. The bride, together with some of her friends, would go round the village and give bath to those who are unwilling to join the dance.

For the bride, it is the last day of dance in her life (a girl married cannot join the dance again). This dance can be performed only by virgin girls. For boys and men, whether they are married or not, they can dance all through their life. The dances are performed in the evening with different steps and meaning. All the dancers will go around the whole village singing and dancing, at some place they would play games and sing songs together with the bride and bridegroom.

From the first day of the festival a new fire is lit by the eldest from each Khel and these elders have to take only pork throughout the festival. Also, during the festival, no male should sleep with his wife for fear of losing good luck and courage especially in hunting. On the sixth day, elders put off the new fire and celebrate. But the rest of the villagers can start their work from that day onwards, with all the blessing and luck from their Almighty God.

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With this, Its time to conclude my experiences with the 17 tribes of Nagaland. The moments seen above, were actually, from the morungs and cultural sessions displayed in Naga heritage village at Kisama. From a traveler’s perspective, i think, these vibrant shades can really excite the wandering souls in our bodies. So much colours!….. so much diverisities!….. Truely, its a ‘wow’ experience for our hearts.

Other interesting traditions, competitions and art performances from Hornbill festival 2018 :

1. Tug-of-War Competition between the Nagas

Tug-of-War is a sport that pits two teams against each other in a test of strength: teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull. The Tug-of-War event is indigenously played by all Naga tribes since the olden days. It focuses on strength, stamina and strategy.  The seventeen tribes of Nagaland participated in this competition.

Tug-of-War Contest

In the final match which lasted for more than 20 minutes, Khiamnuingans overpowered the Ao tribe in the third round to take the title. The champion Khiamnuingans received a cash prize of Rs. 20,000 while the runners up received Rs.10,000.

2. Akikiti or Kick Fight by Sumi Nagas

Akikiti is a form of a vicious martial art where soles of the feet are used as the only weapon and defence. It was initially played as an amusement game for men and also used to settle disputes between two parties or individuals whenever it arises but now it can be categorized as athletics.From far away, it would seem like the sport has hugely taken its inspiration from various different forms of combat sports and mixed martial arts. Akikiti is strictly restricted to kicking and has quite a strict set of rules.

Akikiti or Kick Fight by Sumi Nagas

The basic rule of Akikiti is that using of the hands leads to a foul. The sport is played between two players and is divided into three rounds with each round generally lasting between 3-4 minutes. When in full flow, it is quite an exhilarating sport to witness with kicks flying around at a lightning speed, which will surely set your pulses racing. The last person standing after surviving a barrage of kicks is declared as the eventual winner after a show of great strength and agility.

With the vision of promoting and reviving, Akikiti is played every year during Thuluni festival of Sumi Nagas in the month of November at Pughoboto.

3. Naga King Chilly Eating Competition

Naga King Chilly or Bhut jolokia, also known as ghost pepper, ghost chili and ghost jolokia, is an interspecific hybrid chili pepper cultivated in the Northeast Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. It is a hybrid of Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens and is closely related to the Naga Morich of Nagaland and Bangladesh.

In 2007, Guinness World Records certified that the ghost pepper was the world’s hottest chili pepper, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The Naga King chilly is rated at more than 1 million Scoville heat units (SHUs). However, the ghost chili was shortly superseded by the Infinity chili in 2011, followed by the Naga Viper, the Trinidad moruga scorpion in 2012 and the Carolina Reaper on 2013.

Naga Chilly Eating Contest

Naga King Chilly Eating Competition was organized and sponsored by the Nagaland’s department of Horticulture. A total of 12 participants, including four from the “Tourist Category”, took part in the competition. Akho from Phek district emerged as winner of the Naga King Chilly eating competition after consuming 5 chillies in 20 seconds. Tapan from Guwahati, who ate 6 chillies in the competition, was declared winner of the Tourist Category.

4. Ejupta or Cock Fight Contest by Nagas

Ejupta or Cock Fight, a traditional game that is played on all important occasions by Lotha Nagas. The participants stand within a circle, hop on one leg, and try to push opponents out of the circle or make them fall. “Cock fight” as the game ascribes, imitates the fight between two cocks. It symbolizes strength, agility and courage. While characteristics, similarly required of a warrior are displayed, the moment leading up the duel between the two cocks is showcased.

Cock fight contest

Boteh Konyak emerged as the winner and received a cash prize of Rs 7000 along with certificate. Seikholet from Kuki community stood in second and received Rs. 5000. Chinglei from Phom community bagged the fourth place to get Rs. 3000.

That’s all the entertainments from Naga heritage village at Kisama. The above shown events were so unique and enthralling for eyes of every tourists visiting this Naga heritage village. But, a journey to witness the Hornbill festival will never gets complete, if you haven’t spend some emotional moments in the infamous Second World War Cemetery, situated in the centre region of Kohima town.

Second World War Cemetery, Kohima – An emotional display

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Second World War Cemetery and surrounding Kohima town

The Battles of Kohima (fought from 4th April to 22 June 1944) and Imphal (fought from 8 March to 3 July 1944) were recently voted as the ‘Greatest ever battles involving the British army’.The Japanese Imperial army’s  advance into India was halted at Kohima in April 1944 and Garrison Hill, a long wooded spur on a high ridge west of the village, was the scene of perhaps the most bitter fighting of the whole Burma campaign when a small Commonwealth force held out against repeated attacks by a Japanese Division. It is also known as the ‘Stalingrad of The East’. The fiercest hand to hand fighting took place in the garden of the Deputy Commissioner’s bungalow, around the tennis court, but the heaviest casualties on both sides occurred after relieving forces reached the Garrison and the Japanese were driven off the ridge, so re-opening the road to Imphal. KOHIMA WAR CEMETERY lies on the battle ground of Garrison Hill. No trace remains of the bungalow, which was destroyed in the fighting, but white concrete lines mark and preserve permanently the historic tennis court.

Kohima War Cemetery 1

“Looking through the nameplates on the graves, I imagined how it would be to die in a strange and foreign land visited by unknown people- miles and miles away from home”

No trace remains of the bungalow, which was destroyed in the fighting, but white concrete lines mark and preserve permanently the historic tennis court. The cemetery now contains 1,420 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War and 1 non-war burial. At the highest point in the cemetery stands the KOHIMA CREMATION MEMORIAL commemorating 917 Hindu and Sikh soldiers whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith. At the lower end of the cemetery, near the entrance, is a memorial to the 2nd Division. It bears the inscription;- “When you go home Tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, We gave our today”. This epitaph is one of the most profound epitaphs to have come out of the Second World War and is a fitting prelude to those who gave up their life for a noble cause, so far away from home. This popular inscription evokes many nostalgic thoughts about life and its brevity. This epitaph is credited to John Maxwell Edmonds, an English Classicist who is also known to have written a few more epitaphs for the First World War in 1916. This inscription has now become one of the most popular inscriptions all around the world. Only a rose or a small bright flower stood nearby to give company to the forlorn graves. The cemetery also contains a memorial to the 2nd Battalion, the Dorsetshire Regiment and a number of other regimental memorials have been erected on and near Garrison Hill. The cemetery was designed by Colin St. Claire Oakes.

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Map of the Second World War Cemetery at Kohima town

Similar to the 1st part, the final moments, that i needed to share with you, are those Night Carnival scenes from Kohima town…..

Night Carnival in Kohima Town

If the traveler in you, is interested in, shopping and merrymaking along with the street entertainment events, road side food stalls, handicrafts and ethnic delicacies, then, this night carnival will really excites you. I saw many girls and boys, who were wandering around the night bazaar wearing colourful masks and some of them had also painted their faces.

Night Carnival scenes in Kohima

The carnival has also become a breeding ground for budding entrepreneurs and artisans. Over the years the Kohima Night Carnival has become an important social and cultural event which continues to gain regional significance. The carnival’s success story is due to the enthusiastic participation of the local populace and the active support of foreign tourists visiting Nagaland. If your itinerary is well packed and there is only little time you feel like spending in this carnival, do pencil in some time to relish the Naga cuisines. Try the various preparations of pork and beef and wash it down with some tasty rice beer. And for adventurous eaters, there are preparations of snails, worms and various insects.

Nagaland is still hung in my mind as a dream. For any traveler, Hornbill festival is like living a long nurtured dream with so much wonderful moments. It’s like closing your eyes and be lost to the camaraderie and joy of the Naga people and opening your eyes to get astounded by the sheer amount of vibrant shades and sights of this magnificent festival. The festival itinerary is beautifully set. Tribal dances amaze you with passionate and throbbing songs, the reds and blues and greens of tribal dress, with beatific tribal war masks, explode into a commanding unison, as they present their traditional dances. If anyone asks me,….. Really, what is Hornbilll festival???…..   I will say…….

“The most young and sizzling festival of North East. Hornbill Festival, the festival of festivals is one of those rare events which can add a variety of enthusiasm to your holidays. Prepare your first week of December to witness this enthralling festival of so much vibrant shades. The entire Kohima city seems to evacuate their houses and flood on the streets, making it appear like a Festival rampage”

*******************************The End*******************************

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3 replies »

  1. I don’t know how you can gather so much information in such detail. Great colourful pictures too. When exactly is this festival takes place and are there excellent accommodations for tourists?

    Like

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