Northeast India, has a unique culture and tradition with different tribes coexisting together. Among them are Nagas having a unique history as headhunters, who were also the last community in India to cast aside headhunting and embracing Christianity.
Naga is a vaguely defined umbrella term for several tribes of North-east India and Upper Burma (Myanmar). Out of 66 Naga tribes, Nagaland homes to 16 with 14 different spoken languages and 17 dialects. Nagamese is the most spoken and English as its official language.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any authentic written records about its history and migration, as it was heavily based on oral culture, passing from one generation to another. Moreover, there is very little teaching tradition and folklore in the school curriculum, which has unintentionally led to the gradual decline of interest among the younger generation.
One of the forgotten sacred traditions was, for a child to be considered as a man and to marry a high-status woman, one must hunt for heads as a ritual. As of now, these practices are abandoned with the introduction of Christianity by Missionaries.
“Early Christian missionaries saw everything traditional as antichrist and prohibited it, from traditional songs to hairstyle to rice beer,” said Tuisem Ngakang, Former assistant professor, Hindu College (DU). Most of the ritual music associated with events like rice-pounding, house building is lost. With the advancement of technology and, western influence, the Nagas are slowly absorbing the foreign culture and their lifestyle
Notably, the Korean wave (Hallyu), which gained so much popularity, is heavily influencing the minds of the youths, but they can’t be blamed altogether as the younger generation will only know what they are taught. Interestingly, coping with western culture has helped the Nagas to improve the quality of life by broadening their mindset, which has made Nagaland as one of the safest places for women in India.
Nagaland government’s advisor for tourism, art, and culture, Mr. H Khehovi Yepthomi, has admitted nothing much has been done to preserve the tradition and the Naga folklore. Some of the steps initiated by the government were to identify cultural heritage sites and to document the oral tradition. Along with organizing the mini Hornbill festivals throughout the state. The Hornbill festival boasts one of the largest music festivals in the country, providing platforms for aspiring artists, while also helping the state to preserve the culture and tradition of the state.
However, its tradition and custom are gradually disappearing. Although the initiatives have been taken to preserve, the society based on oral tradition has posed a challenge for the present since the old ones are slowly fading away.
Written by: Ashutosh Roy, The North-Eastern Chronicle