Nagaland is a vibrant hill state Located in the extreme North Eastern End of India, bounded by Myanmar in the East; Assam in the West; Arunachal Pradesh and a part of Assam in the North with Manipur in the south.It offers rich incomparable traditional and cultural heritage.The Distinctive character and identify of each tribe in terms of Tradition, custom, language and dresses is clearly discernible to the visitors. The State of Nagaland was formally inaugurated on December 1st, 1963, as the 16th State of the Indian Union. It is bounded by Assam in the West, Myanmar (Burma) on the east, Arunachal Pradesh and part of Assam on the North and Manipur in the South. The State consists of seven Administrative Districts, inhabited by 16 major tribes along with other sub-tribes. Each tribe is distinct in character from the other in terms of customs, language and dress.It is a land of folklore passed down the generations through word of mouth. Here, music is an integral part of life; folk songs eugolising ancestors, the brave deeds of warriors and traditional heroes; poetic love songs immortalising ancient tragic love stories; Gospel songs that touch your soul (should you have a religious bend of mind) or the modern tunes rendered exquisitely to set your feet a-tapping.Each of the 16 odd tribes and sub-tribes that dwell in this exotic hill State can easily be distinguished by the colourful and intricately designed cosumes, jewellery and beads that they adorn. The present generation of Nagas have ventured into fashion designing in a big way, reproducing fabrics that represent the ancestral motifs blended with modern appeal. Indeed, it is a beautiful mix of the past with the present…… a paradise for those who are into fashion designing. This is an affluent fashion station of the East.The traditional ceremonial attire of each tribe is in itself, an awe inspiring sight to behold; the multicoloured spears and daos decorated with dyed goats hair, the headgear made of finely woven bamboo interlaced with orchid stems, adorned with boar's teeth and hornbill's feathers, elephant tusk armlets….. You name it! In days of yore every warrior had to earn each of these items through acts of valour, to wear them.Nature could not have been kinder to Nagaland, sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of the East; the exquisitely picturesque landscapes, the vibrantly colourful sunrise and sunset, lush and verdant flora….. this is a land that represents unimaginable beauty, moulded perfectly for a breath taking experience.Its people belong to the Indo-Mongoloid stock, whose ancestors lived off nature's abundant gifts, blessed with sturdy formidable dispositions. Above all, the people here are warmhearted and extremely hospitable ! You will feel it in the air !Nagaland is blessed with salubrious climate throughout the year and one can visit it anytime. If one is looking for a quiet getaway, from the hustle and bustle of city life, it provides the right ambience; as life here is laidback and slow - providing a tension free life.For the adventurous and the intrepid, Nagaland is an ideal place for trekking, rock climbing, jungle camping and offers limitless exploration possibilities in its lush and verdant sub-tropical rain forests which are also a treasure trove of a plethora of medicinal plants.Nagas, by nature, are lovers of fun and frolic and here life is one long festival.The Nagas with their joie de vivre, dance and songs are a part and parcel of all their festivities. Most of their dances are performed with a robust rythm NAGALAND is a land of festivals. All the tribes celebrate their distinct seasonal festivals with a pageantry of colour and a feast of music.All the tribes have their own festivals which they hold so dear. They regard their festivals sacrosanct and participation in celebration is compulsory. They celebrate their distinct seasonal festivals with a pageantry of coulour and a feast of music.Most of these festivals revolve round agriculture, it being the main-stay of Naga society. Over 85% population of Nagaland is directly dependent on agriculture and lives in a thousand and odd villages situated on high hill tops or slopes overlooking verdant valleys humming with murmuring streams. In this blissful setting Nagas enjoy the blessing of Nature with rare gusto striking the onlookers with awe and admiration. In most of the places agriculture consists of monocrop.Although some religious and spiritual sentiments are inter woven into secular rites and rituals, the pre- dominant theme of the festivals is offering of prayers to a Supreme Being having different names in different Naga dialects. At these festivals, the spirit of Gods are propitiated with sacrifices by the Village Shaman for a bountiful harvest either before the sowing or on the eve of harvest.
Art and Craft of the Nagas
The Nagas have a rich tradition of art and craft rooted in a lifestyle that has always been harmony with the environment they live in. Skilled tribal craftsman and artisans have always been the pillars of a tribal society that had, for many centuries, been self-sufficient. They lent their skills to creating items of utility as well those with ritualistic and aesthetic value. To quote Dr. Verrier Elwin; “they have made their own cloth, their won hats and rain-coats; they have prepared their own medicines, their own cooking-vessels, their own substitutes for crockery …. “ Skilled craftsmen were employees to carve splendid village gates, house posts and Morungs in Naga villages. Fine storage baskets, wicker drinking vessels and containers were woven by craftsmen whose skills had been inherited from generations of skilled craftsmen.
It was these craftsmen, weavers and artisans who foraged the forest in search of wood, barks, dyes and other resources that were utilized to carve out fine works of art and weave colorful clothes that distinguished each Naga tribe.
The various crafts and art that were known to the early Nagas and are still carried out to this day are;
1) Basketry :
Naga storage and carry baskets women from fine strips of cane and bamboo are well known and sought after for their utility as well as aesthetic value. The cane baskets of Khonoma village are particularly well know for their intricate weaves. The cane baskets and containers woven by the Khiamngan weavers in the Tuensang District are also known for their fineness and delicacy of work that gives it a lace-like appearance. Headgears and mats are also woven from fine bamboo and cane strips. In the recent years, entrepreneurs have utilized the skills of these craftsmen to weave beautiful cane furniture that are being marketed in the local as well as outside market.
aga women are excellent weavers and the colorful shawls, bags and jackets woven by them are extremely popular. The ‘backstrap’ or the loin loom is commonly used for weaving, although, in recent years the fly shuttle loom has become popular with the weavers. Each tribe uses distinguishing colors and motifs that are often based on tribal folklore. Earlier, natural dyes extracted from barks, roots and plants were used for dyeing cotton yarn and woven fabrics. In addition, woven cloth was embellished with beads, cowrie shells and goats hair to denote the wealth and status of the weaver. Body cloth symbolizing Feast-giving and Head-taking added to the variety of clothes woven on the backstrap loom.
The art of weaving is still popular amongst the Naga women, especially in the rural areas and the woven products of Nagaland have found its way into the National as well as International marker.
3) Woodcarving :
Nagas are excellent woodcarvers. Making using of simple rudimentary tools and implements such as the local dao, hand drill and chisel, skilled craftsmen produce great works of art that local adorn village gates and house posts as well as objects of utility like the common wooden dish. One of the finest specimen that epitomizes the skill of the Naga craftsman is to be found at Shangnyu village in Mon District. The work of art at Shangnyu consists of a massive wooden panel that has carvings depicting objects of art as well as those of ritual and utility value.
Woodcraft has now been commercialized and craftsmen have been able to use their traditional skills to generate income for themselves. The Diezephe Craft village in Dimapur District is a good example of a cragft concentrated village where the major sourse of income is from woodcraft.
4) Pottery :
Pottery was known to the early Nagas and was mostly done by the womenfolk. The pots made were generally very simple and importance was given to its functional value rather than aesthetics. Tseminyu and Ungma village were well known for pottery by aluminum and steel vessels have long replaced the simple clay pots.
5) Metal work : Iron tin and brass were used to produce weapons as well items of utility and ornaments. The Konyak blacksmiths were famous for their works in the early days and their products were in great demand in the plains of Assam. To this day, the local dao, spears, chisels, ornaments and other items of utility are still made by local blacksmith whose skills are highly valued in society.
In addition, jewellery and beadwork is also popular with local craftsmen. Naga festivals are a testimony to the fascination and love the Naga tribesmen have for art and craft. The color and beauty of the traditional attires symbolize the wealth and status of the wearer as well as the skill of the maker. The abundance of raw material, the splendid environment and the inherent skills of the people have all played a role in generating a rich history of art and craft in Nagaland. The resurgence of art and craft in recent times has enable the traditional craftsman and artisan to earn as he creates.