The Nagas…!


Kohima_Cathedral Nagaland

The State of Nagaland was formally inaugurated on December 1st, 1963, as the 16th State of the Indian Union. It is bounded by Assam in the West, Myanmar (Burma) on the east, Arunachal Pradesh and part of Assam on the North and Manipur in the South. The State consists of seven Administrative Districts, inhabited by 16 major indegenous communities (offically tribes but since tribe has colonial hangovers, I avoid it) along with other sub-tribes. Each tribe is distinct in character from the other in terms of customs, language and dress.

It is a land of folklore passed down the generations through word of mouth. Here, music is an integral part of life; folk songs eulogizing ancestors, the brave deeds of warriors and traditional heroes; poetic love songs immortalizing ancient tragic love stories; or the modern tunes rendered exquisitely to set your feet a-tapping.

Each of the 16 odd indigenous communities (tribe in colonial sense)  and sub-communities that dwell in this exotic hill State can easily be distinguished by the colorful and intricately designed costumes, jewelry and beads that they adorn. The traditional ceremonial attire of each indigenous coomunity  is in itself, an awe inspiring sight to behold; the multicoloured spears and daos decorated with dyed goats hair, the headgear made of finely woven bamboo interlaced with orchid stems, adorned with boar’s teeth and hornbill’s feathers, elephant tusk armlets….. You name it! In days of yore every warrior had to earn each of these items through acts of valour, to wear them.

Nature could not have been kinder to Nagaland, sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of the East; the exquisitely picturesque landscapes, the vibrantly colourful sunrise and sunset, lush and verdant flora… this is a land that represents unimaginable beauty, molded perfectly for a breath taking experience.

Its people belong to the Indo-Mongoloid stock, whose ancestors lived off nature’s abundant gifts, blessed with sturdy formidable dispositions. Above all, the people here are warmhearted and extremely hospitable! Nagas, by nature, are lovers of fun and frolic and here life is one long festival. In all there are 16 different officially recognized indegenous communities viz Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Khiamniungan, Kuki, Konyak, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sumi, Sangtam, Yimchungru and Zeliang among others.

The Nagas with their joie de vivre, dance and songs are a part and parcel of all their festivities. Most of their dances are performed with a robust rhythm

All the major Naga indegeous coomiunities have their own language. In actual practice, the language, even within one tribal area, varies from village to village. There are about thirty languages. The multiplicity of Naga languages is mainly because of the living condition in the past, when villages were isolated and there was little of friendly inter-communication between them.

Naga languages in the Tibeto-Burman family is divided into three groups; the western sub-group, the central sub-group and the eastern sub-group. The western sub-group comprises Angami, Sema, Rengma and Chakhesang languages; the central sub-group include Ao, Lotha and Phom languages; while the eastern sub-groups is made up of among others, Chang and Konyak languages.

It is interesting to find that some Naga indegenous communities have borrowed Sanskrit words in their Assamese form.

Nagamese is a pidgin/creole used in Nagaland. Since Nagaland is inhabited by people belonging to different Naga indegeeous communities speaking languages, which are mutually unintelligible, Nagamese is the preferred form of communication for all. It is used in the Nagaland Legislature, as a means of explanation in Nagaland schools and in mixed households.. It does not follow any strict rules of grammar and is easy to pick up. Nagamese has no script. The missionaries rendered signal service to the Naga languages. They wrote the first grammar books and compiled vocabularies. The missionaries used the Roman script.

Hindi is well understood in Nagaland – even in the interior areas. The state Assembly, in a resolution adopted on18 September 1967, recommended that English be used for all official purposes within the state of Nagaland indefinitely, and that English be included as one of the languages in the VIII schedule of the constitution. But, only a fraction of the population in the state speak or write English with some degree of accuracy.

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