All You Need To Know About The Naga Tribes – Part 1
As you’ll quickly discover when you visit Nagaland, the state is home to 16 tribes, and most of the two million inhabitants are members of one or the other of them. To an outsider, telling the difference between the different tribes can be tough, so our resident blogger Rupert Winchester put together all you need to know!
It probably won’t help much with identification per se; the best way to find out which tribe a person is a member of is simply to ask them: they’re all very proud of their heritage.
In the past, it was possible to identify a member of a tribe by simply looking at the shawl of the wearer, and tell his social status and the number of ritual feasts he had performed. Nowadays this identification isn’t as easy, as Naga elders don’t force the young to adhere to the tradition.
The Angami are one of the largest tribal groups in Nagaland, numbering some 200,000, and probably the tribe you’ll see most of in the Kohima area. The Angami were traditionally warriors, and the men spent the majority of their time in warfare with hostile villages and taking the heads of opponents. Nowadays they farm – mainly terraced rice cultivation – and rear livestock. Although more than 98% of the Angami are Christian, they are one of the last Naga tribes having an animist population as well, who practice a religion known as Pfutsana. There are thought to be around 1,000 people practicing this set of religious beliefs.
The Angami wear a black shawl divided into horizontal panels by woven bands of colour, with thick bold embroidered animal motifs.
#2. Ao Naga
The Ao are another very large tribe, thought to number some 230,000. They were the first Naga tribe to embrace Christianity, in 1872, and, alongside this, they also became exposed to Western education. In the process the Aos became what is considered to be a pioneering tribe in many fields. They are well known for their multiple vivid harvest festivals every year.
The Chakhesangs were formerly known as the Eastern Angamis, until they separated from the Angami Nagas, and they are now recognized as a separate tribe. The tribe is basically divided into two groups known as Chokri and Khezha with a third minor group called the Zhamai. The Chakhesang tribes are mainly found in the Phek district of Nagaland, although some can be found in Manipur.
A small tribe, numbering only some 16,000. The word Chang is said to have been derived the word chognu, meaning banyan tree, after a mythical banyan tree that grew at the now-abandoned Changsang village where the tribe originally hailed from. Some Changs claim the Ao as their ancestors, and they have very similar folklore. A Chang shawl requires all the zig-zag lines to fall uniformly, or else the warrior wearing it may die prematurely.
Kachari women in their traditional attire
The Dimasa are a fairly large tribe, who number approximately 110,000. Dimasa mythology says that they are the children of Bangla Raja (the Earthquake God) and the great divine bird Arikhidima. Dimapur, home to the nearest airport and railhead to Kohima, is the ancient capital of the Kachari, whose rule existed before the 13th century AD. The ruins that are scattered in and around the town are evidence of a culture that probably had a touch of Hinduism, but were predominantly Non-Aryans. Ancient Dimasa tradition maintains that 60,000 lunar months ago, they left their ancestral land when it suffered a severe drought, and settled in Dimapur.
The Khiamniungan are mainly found in the Tuensang district of Nagaland, and over the border in Myanmar. The origin of the Khiamniungansis is uncertain. There are no written records of their history before the days of the British Raj, and the only source of information about their ancestors are oral traditions in form of folktales and myths. One popular myth suggests Khiamniungan means “source of great waters” – the place from where the early ancestors of Khiamniungan are said to have emerged. Unlike other Naga tribes, the advent of Christianity had little impact on the Khiamniungan for many years, due to their remote location.
We hope you have all you need to about the Naga tribes!
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