Thursday, September 24, 2009

Naga, the Warriors of the Hills

The Naga Warriors at their New Year Festival

The People

The legendary people, Nagas have being dwelt since hundreds years in Myanmar geographically the northwestern hilly region and along the India border. In fact, they live in both Myanmar and the Nagaland of India sides. According to the statistical records, there are more than 150,000 Nagas in Myanmar a composition of 49 more major tribal groups and many sub-tribes in estimation. The well known tribal groups are made up of more than twenty different peoples, amongst which are the Angamis, the Aos, the Konyaks, the Semas and others. Since recent years, many Nagas have moved to Chindwin River Vally (Patkoi and Seramayri Mountain Ranges) around the Sagaing Division and Chin State.

In fact, the term originally "Naga" is disputed as the Nagas did not describe themselves for many years. Some anthropologists said it derives from Sanskrit meaning "naked people" or "mountain men". Apparently the name was given by the people of the plains and later by the British colonials.

The Culture

Like many hundred years ago, there are not many changes in their daily lifestyles and community as practically sharing in hunting, agricultural and animal husbandry lifestyles although each and every tribe has developed in individual costumes, weaving, headgear, bodies and facial tattoos and many other individualized ornaments and weapons. Their tradition, beliefs and customary are strongly related to the other tribal people of Borneo (Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan - Indonesia) and Philippines.

It is difficult to give a very specific view of Naga culture, as there are differences and similarities between the groups belonging to it, as well as aspects shared with other cultures in nearby regions. The researcher Von Fürer-Haimendorf wrote, "In a world of rapidly improving communications and the resulting leveling of local differences, there is no room for archaic, isolated societies. Their once vigorous and widely varying cultures must gradually disappear before the impact of one of the great modern civilizations" in his research in the beginning of 1960s. Although there were being increased the trading with the plains, missionaries, colonialists and the impact of new technologies, the Naga still retain a lot of their traditional characteristic features. Until now, some of them are genuine in cultural aspect.

Nagas are derived from Tibeto-Burman and many of their languages are belong to Tibeto-Burman languages. Their music and dances are spectacular especially their martial and war dances. All dances are together with the songs and war yelling by the dances themselves. Their instruments are various kind of drums, bamboo flutes, bamboo mouth organs and cup violins.

Headhunting Practice

In the past of their exiting history including, their Headhunting practice especially among enemies make the Naga people legendary in a way however notorious i.e good example is an existence of such people in Myanmar-China border, Wa (Wa were still practicing headhunting until 1970s however unlike Nagas).
"The people around the world know that the forefathers of the present Naga people were head hunters. Head hunting meant that man killed his enemy, cut off his victim’s head, and carried home the head as a victor’s trophy."

Nagas keep the skulls in a skull house and each of Naga man has to contribute for the collection. These kind of spiritual houses are easily can be found in most of Naga villages. There is nothing more glorious for an adult Naga than victory in battle by bringing home the head of his victim. Nowadays they abandon the tradition due to the missionaries and supports of central government however it is believed to have been known some Nagas of the isolated Myanmar still practicing headhunting.

The Festival

Annually, in January, many different kinds of Naga tribes come together to celebrate Kaing Bi (Naga New Year) after harvesting their crops as welcoming for the next season. In this festival, traditionally to make discussion among them sharing their experiences of previous years and the ways to overcome the difficulties. Ancient times, the festival was held different groups and villages by villages but nowadays the central committee of Naga Tribal Culture choose one celebration site each other and to be held on January 15 (i.e Layshee and Laha alternately which are major Naga towns in Sagaing Division). Another reason of the festival is reunion of friends and relatives. Formerly it was a private celebration; it is now open to the public.

It could widely be said that Nagas are brave, straight forward, hardworking, honest and with a high standard of integrity. Every of an adult male Naga is practically a warrior. The Nagas have very strong sense of self respect. However they are also well noticed for their striking characteristic of hospitality and cheerfulness.

- Wiki Encyclopedia
- the Encyclopedia Britannica
- Myanmar Explore
- Webindi
- Absolutestronomy
- Unescocat
- Everyculture
- Ancient Naga Headhunters by T.Penzu
- Personal notes

- Credit goes to AFP
- Flickr
- Webindi
- Moe Aung


Nyi Nyi said...

It can be a thick book talking about Naga however you can brief in perfect. Nice capture!! Interesting!! Go On!!

Anonymous said...

try to post on the rituals of the Nagas giving explanation on what is the meaning and why it is done.

Anonymous said...

try to post on the rituals of the Nagas giving explanation on what is the meaning and why it is done.


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