The Naga peoples originated in Southeast Asia and are distributed all along the India/Myanmar border. However, in Nagaland they form a majority everywhere except Dimapur. For centuries some 20 headhunting Naga tribes valiantly fought off any intruders. In between they kept busy by fighting each other and developing mutually unintelligible languages. Today inter-tribe communication uses a ‘neutral’ lingua franca called Nagamese (a sort of market Assamese). Major Naga groups include the developed Angami and Rengma of Kohima district, the Lotha of Wokha district (locally famed for their cooking) and the Konyak of Mon district, whose villages have the most striking traditional architecture. For festivals, Naga women wear a hand-woven shawl that’s distinctive for each subtribe, while the men dust off their old warrior wear, loin cloth and all.
It’s festival Nagaland that most tourists imagine when booking a Nagaland tour. And Kohima’s December Hornbill Festival easily justifies the trip. At other times (except perhaps in rural Mon district), some visitors find the contrasting lack of spectacle to be a disappointment. But if you lower your expectations from those National Geographic images, there’s still lots of interest in meeting a people whose culture, in the words of one Indian journalist, has been through ‘1000 years in a lifetime’.
See www.nagalandtourism.com for information.