Tribal Jewellery Shopping In Nagaland
Shop for authentic Naga tribal jewellery as you attend the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland with TUTC. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know before going on a shopping spree…
Think Nagaland and the word “exotic” springs to mind. And rightly so! The state is home to more than 200 tribes and sub-tribes, each unique in its customs, traditions and attire. Especially interesting is their jewellery, crafted by hand and symbolic of the land’s ancient heritage.
Beads, feathers, brass, bronze, shells, claws, wood, glass, bone, precious stone, boar tusk and ivory—all sorts of materials and textures transform into stunning adornments in the skilled hands of tribal craftsmen. Typically, Naga jewellery is big, bold and heavy, with a rich and earthy colour palette.
Both men and women love to deck themselves with bright, colourful jewellery. In fact, spotting a Naga person who does not wear jewellery is as likely as spotting an eskimo in the Arctic, without an anorak. But because each piece and design has a deep-rooted cultural or practical significance, the Naga people always take proper care to wear their jewels as per tradition.
Men wear necklaces made of boar tusks and deer teeth to show valour and hunting skills. They also wind quirky brass rings over the knees to help them climb trees with ease. Women don’t hunt, so instead of animal products, they prefer to deck themselves with beautiful beads. Women of certain tribes such as the Ao Naga, wear exclusive carnelian necklaces that symbolise their high status.
The Naga love for colour reflects in their jewellery. Red, yellow, black and white take center stage in both jewellery and clothing. A typical Naga necklace has multiple beaded strands held together by wrapped threads, small sheep horn, or knitted string. The hook of the necklace is generally carved from a horn or bone, or a button made from a small bead or coin. Colourful glass beads are strung on cords and clasped by coins. It is not unusual to see their ears pierced with bamboo or bone. They also wear several armlets or one chunky bracelet made of ivory or brass.
Where To Buy?
For most of us, a Naga-style piece would make an interesting accessory. Today, you can buy “authentic” Naga jewellery online. But we suggest you go shopping in Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. Head to Mao Bazar, or try the Government-run Handicrafts and Handloom Emporium. Just 12 kilometres from Kohima is the Kisama Heritage Village, where you can buy some of the best local ornaments and clothing. Dimapur, a two-hour drive from Kohima, is also a good place to buy traditional jewellery and Naga souvenirs.
But the real charm of owning a heritage Naga piece is in learning its story. For instance, the warrior tribe of Konyaks will greet you with inked faces and skull-shaped brass necklaces. You could be told, quite cheerfully, that each of the skulls on that necklace was earned by hunting one head during war!
For more interesting insights on the Nagas, attend the annual Hornbill Festival in the first week of December with TUTC You can even shop for some really interesting pieces at the festival.
Here’s a glimpse into the other experiences TUTC has to offer…