Introduction – NAGALAND
Nagaland is almost entirely inhabited by the Naga tribes except some Kukis, Kacharis, Garos, Mikris, Benglalees, and Assamese etc. in the plains sector. There are several views expressed by scholars regarding the origin of the word Naga. Some believe that the word Naga has evolved from the Sanskrit word Nagna which means naked. It is so because the Nagas are proverbially known by the paucity of their clothes. Another view is that the word Naga originated from Naga meaning Snake or king of snakes. Mythlogically, princess Ulupi was a Naga Kanya, that is daughter of the king of snakes. Ulupi’s residence is generally identified in the south-west of Nagaland. Since this area was under the Naga raj, the people are known as Naga.
Originally, the Nagas were not known by the names of the tribes as they are known now, but by the name of a group of villages. Gradually they have settled down to the tribe names as are found now, but still then the process of amalgamation or separation is still going on. According to the census report, there are 16 Naga tribes and four non-Naga tribes inhabiting Nagaland. The sixteen Naga tribes include Ao, Konyak, Sema, Chakhesang, Angami, Lotha, Sangtam, Phom, Chang, Kheimungan, Yimchunger, Zeilang, Rengma, Tikhir, Mokware, and Chirr. The four non-Naga tribes include Kuki, Kachari, Garo, Mikir.
Nagaland is a hilly state. The hills are a continuation of the Burma Arc being joined with the Sub-Himalayan ranges in the north and stretching into the hills of Manipur. Forests cover the main part of the land and jungles it is natural that there will be lots of animal life. In fact, there are plenty of birds and animals and reptiles. The birds found are: White vulture, Black partridge, Grey Partridge, Common peafowl, Blue rock pigeon, Spotted dove, Hoopoe, Malabar pied hornbill, Common babbler, Mahratta woodpecker, Koel, Spotted owlet, Great horned owl. Among the animals the most common are: wild boar, barking deer, Himalayan black bear, wild goat, jackal, jungle cat, royal Bengal tiger, wolf, leopard, wild dog, python, stag, elephant, land tortoise and other snakes.
The place being hilly and the expanse of the hills not being very large there are a few rivers, which are quite small in both width and length until they leave the state. No rivers of this state are navigable in any season. In dry season, they become almost dry and in rainy season, they become torrential. Moreover, due to the rocky nature of the terrain and deep valleys navigation is not possible. In the plains of Dimapur a few small boats, which can be counted on fingers, are seen. Those are not for navigation but for catching the fish locally. Fish is available in all these rivers.
Lakes and waterfalls are conspicuous by their absence in Nagaland. There are places where water accumulates during rainy season and dries up in lean season. In Nagaland, there are no waterfalls, of course, many small waterfalls appear during rainy season but they dry up within a short time.
The Nagas are not a composite people. They speak many languages. They differ widely in dress and other cultural traits, as well as in physical features. They belong to Mongoloid stock but yet there are great differences in the details between one tribe and other, as well as between different people of the same tribe. Some are tall, some are short. Some are yellow in complexion and some are even brown. The cultural traditions of the Nagas include features which are common to all the tribes like head hunting, common sleeping house for unmarried men which are taboo to women, a sort of trial marriage, or great freedom of intercourse between the sexes before marriage, disposal of dead on raised platforms, the simple loom for weaving cloth etc.
There is no caste system among the Nagas or anyone of the non-Naga tribes. But each of the Naga tribes is divided into several or as many as twenty clans. Clans are mainly based on forefathers or such other things by which one group of people is differentiated from others. The bigger the tribe, the more is the number of clans. Of late, there has arisen a kind of Gotro or family lineage among almost all the tribes. This has grown out of an important man of that family whose name is used by his progeny as the surname. This has got nothing to do with clan system, but in course of time, such family name may become a clan name. Generally, marriage in the same clan is prohibited but nowadays modern educated young men and women are often violating it.
Life in Nagaland is replete with festivals throughout the year as all the tribes have their own festivals, which they greatly cherish. They regard their festivals sacrosanct and participation in them is compulsory. They celebrate their distinct seasonal festivals with pageantry, colour, music and fanfare. Most of these festivals revolve round agriculture, which is still the mainstay of the Naga society. Over 85% population of Nagaland is directly dependent on agriculture. Naga inhabits the wild, wide-open pastoral countryside. In this bliss setting Naga, savour nature’s bounties with a rare gusto, filling the onlookers with awe and admiration.
Although some religious and spiritual sentiments are inter-woven into secular rites and rituals, the predominant theme of the festivals is offering of prayers to the Supreme Being hailed by different names in diverse naga dialects. At these festivals, the spirits and gods are propitiated with sacrifices by the village Shaman (priest) for a bountiful harvest either before the sowing or before reaping the harvest. All round the year, the people of Nagaland celebrate the festivals. They start with the Chakhesang Sukrunyefestival in January, followed by Kuki Mimkut; Angami Sekrenyi is celebrated in February. The month of April begins with the Konyak Aoling and Phom Monyu festivals in the first week. Ao Moatsu and Khiamniungan Miu festivals are celebrated in May;Sumi Tuluni and Chang Nkanyulum festivals are celebrated in the month of July. In the months of August and September, the Yimchunger Metemneo and Sangtam Mongmong festivals are celebrated. The month of November witnesses the celebration of the Lotha Tokhu Emong and the Rengma Ngada festivals. In the last month the Zeling Nga-Ngai, festival is celebrated with all the pomp and shows this marks the completion of a year and the beginning of the next year.
Shrouded in mystery, greatly awe inspiring till recent times, the territory of Nagaland finds mention in the recent Sanskrit scriptures, wherein it is hailed as ‘Nag Bhumi’- the land of serpents. Due to the extremity of its location, the inhospitable terrain, coupled with profusion of wildlife and vegetation, Nagaland remained for long, almost a virgin territory- where few mortals from the outside world dared to tread. But not so anymore. With the growing awareness and interest in travel and tourism, the thirsty travelers relentlessly search for newer destinations. Consequently, Nagaland is fast emerging as a tourist destination in its own right. Nagaland abounds in serene natural beauty and panoramic views of the hills which infact are the eastern offshoots of the mighty Himalayas.
Four districts of Nagaland have been recently opened up for international visitors. They are Kohima, Dimapur, Wokha and Mokochung. Kohima is the state capital situated at the height of 1495 meters above sea level. It is an enchanting hill station presenting wide panoramic views. The war cemetery is a symbolic memorial raised in honour of the officers and soldiers who sacrificed their lives during World War II. The epitaphs are moving. There are few mountains and peaks in Nagaland, which are worth seeing. TheJapfu peak situated at a height of 3048 mts. above sea level is the second highest peak in Nagaland after Mt. Saramati. Watching sun rise from this peak is memorable. Mt. Tempu is another peak worth visiting. It is at a height of 3000 mts. From this peak, you can have an eye view of the Dzukou valley. The Dzukou valley is at a height of 2433 mts. above sea level. It is a favourite haunt of young trekkers and meditation groups. There are few villages, which can be of interest. The Khonoma village is known for its valour, as its residents had fought a pitched battle against the Britishers who came on an expedition to the Naga Hills in Oct. 1879. Another important village is the Shangnyu village, ruled by the chieftain Angh. It is popular for the wooden monument located in this village, which is believed to have been constructed by the divine angles. Another place, which can be of interest, is Impur. At this place, the early American Baptist Missionaries set up a mission center. It is 18 km from Mokokchung and a pilgrimage center is proposed to be set up here.