Nagaland is a state in Northeast India. It borders the state of Assam to the west, Arunachal Pradesh and part of Assam to the north, Burma to the east, and Manipur to the south. The state capital is Kohima, and the largest city is Dimapur. It has an area of 16,579 square kilometres (6,401 sq mi) with a population of 1,980,602 per the 2011 Census of India, making it one of the smallest states of India.
The state is inhabited by 16 tribes — Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Kachari, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Kuki, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, Yimchunger, and Zeme-Liangmai (Zeliang) Each tribe is unique in character with its own distinct customs, language and dress.
Two threads common to all are language and religion. English is in predominant use. Nagaland is one of three states in India where the population is mostly Christian.
Nagaland became the 16th state of India on 1 December 1963. Agriculture is the most important economic activity and the principal crops include rice, corn, millets, pulses, tobacco, oilseeds, sugarcane, potatoes, and fibres. Other significant economic activity includes forestry, tourism, insurance, real estate, and miscellaneous cottage industries.
The state has experienced insurgency as well as inter-ethnic conflict since the 1950s. The violence and insecurity have long limited Nagaland’s economic development, because it had to commit its scarce resources on law, order, and security. In the last 15 years, the state has seen less violence and annual economic growth rates nearing 10% on a compounded basis: one of the fastest in the region.
The state is mostly mountainous except those areas bordering Assam valley which comprises 9% of the total area of the state. Mount Saramati is the highest peak at 3,840 metres and its range forms a natural barrier between Nagaland and Burma. It lies between the parallels of 98 and 96 degrees east longitude and 26.6 and 27.4 degrees latitude north. The state is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna.
The ancient history of the Nagas is unclear. Tribes migrated at different times, each settling in the northeastern part of present India and establishing their respective sovereign mountain terrains and village-states. There are no records of whether they came from the northern Mongolian region, southeast Asia or southwest China, except that their origins are from the east of India and that historic records show the present-day Naga people settled before the arrival of the Ahoms in 1228 AD.
The origin of the word ‘Naga’ is also unclear. A popularly accepted, but controversial, view is that it originated from the Burmese word ‘naka’ or ‘naga’, meaning people with earrings. Others suggest it means pierced noses. Both naka and naga are pronounced the same way in Burmese. The ancient name of Nagaland is ‘Nakanchi’ or ‘Naganchi’, derived from the Naga language.
Before the arrival of European colonialism in South Asia, there had been many wars, persecution and raids from Burma on Naga tribes, Meitei people and others in India’s northeast. The invaders came for “head hunting” and to seek wealth and captives from these tribes and ethnic groups. When the British inquired Burmese guides about the people living in northern Himalayas, they were told ‘Naka’. This was recorded as ‘Naga’ and has been in use thereafter.
With the arrival of British East India Company in the early 19th century, followed by the British Raj, Britain expanded its domain over entire South Asia including the Naga Hills. The first Europeans to enter the hills were Captains Jenkins and Pemberton in 1832. The early contact with the Naga tribes were of suspicion and conflict. The colonial interests in Assam, such as tea estates and other trading posts suffered from raids from tribes who were known for their bravery and “head hunting” practices. To put an end to these raids, the British troops recorded 10 military expeditions between 1839 and 1850. In February 1851, at the bloody battle at Kikrüma, people died on the British and the Kikrüma Naga tribe side; in days after the battle, intertribal warfare followed that led to more bloodshed. After that war, the British first adopted a policy of respect and non-interference with Naga tribes. This policy failed.
Over 1851 to 1865, Naga tribes continued to raid the British in Assam. The British India Government, fresh from the shocks of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, reviewed its governance structure throughout South Asia including its northeastern region. In 1866, the British India administration reached the historic step in Nagaland’s modern history, by establishing a post at Samaguting with the explicit goal of ending intertribal warfare and tribal raids on property and personnel. In 1869, Captain Butler was appointed to lead and consolidate the British presence in the Nagaland Hills. In 1878, the headquarters were transferred to Kohima — creating a city that remains an important centre of administration, commerce and culture for Nagaland.
On 4 October 1879, GH Damant (M.A.C.S), a British political agent, went to Khonoma with troops, where he was shot dead with 35 of his team. Kohima was next attacked and the stockade looted. This violence led to a determined effort by the British Raj to return and respond. The subsequent defeat of Khonoma marked the end of serious and persistent hostility in the Naga Hills.
Between 1880 and 1922, the British administration consolidated their position over a large area of the Naga Hills and integrated it into its Assam operations. The British administration enforced the rupee as the currency for economic activity and a system of structured tribal government that was very different than historic social governance practices. These developments triggered profound social changes among the Naga people.
A British India 1940 map showing Nagaland and Kohima City as part of Assam.
In parallel, since mid-19th century, Christian missionaries from the United States and Europe, stationed in India, reached into Nagaland and neighbouring states, playing their role in converting Nagaland’s Naga tribes from Animism to Christianity.
In 1944, the Indian National Army with the help of Japanese Army, led by Netaji Subhashchandra Bose, invading through Burma, attempted to free India through Kohima. The population was evacuated. British India soldiers defended the area of Kohima and were relieved by British in June 1944, having lost many of their original force. Indian National Army lost half their numbers, many through starvation, and were forced to withdraw through Burma .
National wakening yet eventual road to statehood within India
In 1929, a Memorandum was submitted to the Simon Statutory Commission, requesting that the Nagas be exempt from reforms and new taxes proposed in British India, should be left alone to determine their own future. This Naga Memorandum stated,
Before the British Government conquered our country in 1879-80, we were living in a state of intermittent warfare with the Assamese of the Assam valley to the North and West of our country and Manipuris to the South. They never conquered us nor were we subjected to their rules. On the other hand, we were always a terror to these people. Our country within the administered area consists of more than eight regions quite different from one another, with quite different languages which cannot be understood by each other, and there are more regions outside the administered area which are not known at present. We have no unity among us and it is only the British Government that is holding us together now. Our education is poor. (…) Our country is poor and it does not pay for any administration. Therefore if it is continued to be placed under Reformed Scheme, we are afraid new and heavy taxes will have to be imposed on us, and when we cannot pay, then all lands have to be sold and in long run we shall have no share in the land of our birth and life will not be worth living then. Though our land at present is within the British territory, Government have always recognized our private rights in it, but if we are forced to enter the council the majority of whose number is sure to belong to other districts, we also have much fear the introduction of foreign laws and customs to supersede our own customary laws which we now enjoy.
— Naga Memorandum to Simon Commission, British India, 1929
From 1929 to 1935, the understanding of sovereignty by Nagas was ‘self-rule’ based on traditional territorial definition. From 1935 to 1945, Nagas were merely asking for autonomy within Assam. In response to the Naga memorandum to Simon Commission, the British House of Commons decreed that the Naga Hills ought to be kept outside the purview of the New Constitution; the Government of India Act, 1935 and ordered Naga areas as Excluded Area; meaning outside the administration of British India government. There after from 1 April 1937, it was brought under the direct administration of the Crown through Her Majesty’s representative; the Governor of Assam province.
The Naga Memorandum submitted by the Naga Club (which later became the Naga National Council) to the Simon Commission explicitly stated, ‘to leave us alone to determine ourselves as in ancient times.’ In February 1946, the Naga Club officially took shape into a unified Naga National Council in Wokha. In June 1946, the Naga National Council submitted a four-point memorandum to officials discussing the independence of India from British colonial rule. The memorandum strongly protested against the grouping of Assam with Bengal and asserted that Naga Hills should be constitutionally included in an autonomous Assam, in a free India, with local autonomy, due safeguards and separate electorate for the Naga tribes.]
Jawaharlal Nehru replied to the memorandum and welcomed the Nagas to join the Union of India promising local autonomy and safeguards. On 9 April 1946, the Naga National Council (NNC) submitted a memorandum to the British Cabinet Mission during its visit to Delhi. The crux of the memorandum stated that: “Naga future would not be bound by any arbitrary decision of the British Government and no recommendation would be accepted without consultation”.
In June 1946, the NNC submitted a four-point memorandum signed by T. Sakhrie; the then Secretary of NNC, to the still-visiting British Cabinet Mission. The memorandum stated that: 1. The NNC stands for the solidarity of all Naga tribes, including those in un-administered areas; 2. The Council protests against the grouping of Assam with Bengal; 3. The Naga Hills should be constitutionally included in an autonomous Assam, in a free India, with local autonomy and due safeguards for the interests of the Nagas; 4. The Naga tribes should have a separate electorate.
On 1 August 1946, Nehru, President of the Indian National Congress Party in his reply to the memorandum, appealed to the Nagas to join the Union of India promising local autonomy and safeguards in a wide-ranging areas of administration. It was after 1946 only that the Nagas had asserted their inalienable right to be a separate nation and an absolute right to live independently.
After the independence of India in 1947, the area remained a part of the province of Assam. Nationalist activities arose amongst a section of the Nagas. Phizo-led Naga National Council and demanded a political union of their ancestral and native groups. The movement led to a series of violent incidents, that damaged government and civil infrastructure, attacked government officials and civilians. The union government sent the Indian Army in 1955, to restore order. In 1957, an agreement was reached between Naga leaders and the Indian government, creating a single separate region of the Naga Hills. The Tuensang frontier was united with this single political region, Naga Hills Tuensang Area (NHTA),and it became a Union territory directly administered by the Central government with a large degree of autonomy. This was not satisfactory to the tribes, however, and agitation with violence increased across the state – including attacks on army and government institutions, banks, as well as non-payment of taxes. In July 1960, following discussion between Prime Minister Nehru and the leaders of the Naga People Convention (NPC), a 16-point agreement was arrived at whereby the Government of India recognized the formation of Nagaland as a full-fledged state within the Union of India.
Accordingly, the territory was placed under the Nagaland Transitional Provisions Regulation, 1961 which provided for an Interim body consisting of 45 members to be elected by tribes according to the customs, traditions and usage of the respective tribes. Subsequently, Nagaland attained statehood with the enactment of the state of Nagaland Act in 1962 by the Parliament. The interim body was dissolved on 30 November 1963 and the state of Nagaland was formally inaugurated on 1 December 1963 and Kohima was declared as the state capital. After elections in January 1964, the first democratically elected Nagaland Legislative Assembly was constituted on 11 February 1964.
The rebel activity continued, in the form of banditry and attacks, motivated more by tribal rivalry and personal vendetta than by political aspiration. Cease-fires were announced and negotiations continued, but this did little to stop the violence. In March 1975, direct presidential rule was imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the state. In November 1975, the leaders of largest rebellion groups agreed to lay down their arms and accept the Indian constitution, a small group did not agree and continued their insurgent activity. The Nagaland Baptist Church Council played an important role by initiating peace efforts in 1960s. This took concrete and positive shape during its Convention in early 1964. It formed the Nagaland Peace Council in 1972. However, these efforts have not completely ended the inter-factional violence. In 2012, the state’s leaders approached Indian central government to seek a political means for a lasting peace within the state.
Over the 5-year period of 2009 to 2013, between 0 and 11 civilians died per year in Nagaland from rebellion related activity (or less than 1 death per 100,000 people), and between 3 and 55 militants deaths per year in inter-factional killings (or between 0 and 3 deaths per 100,000 people). The world’s average annual death rate from intentional violence, in recent years, has been 7.9 per 100,000 people. The most recent Nagaland Legislative Assembly election took place on 23 February 2013 to elect the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from each of the 60 Assembly Constituencies in the state. Nagaland People’s Front was elected to power with 37 seats.]
Battle of Kohima
In 1944 during World War II, along with Manipur, British and Indian troops in Nagaland successfully repelled Japanese troops in Battle of Kohima. The battle was fought from 4 April to 22 June 1944 from the town of Kohima, coordinated with action from Imphal, Manipur.
There is the World War II Cemetery, and the War Museum, in honour of those who lost their lives during World War II during the fighting between British Empire and Japanese troops. Nearly 4,000 British Empire troops lost their lives, along with 3,000 Japanese. Many of those who lost their lives were Naga people, particularly of Angami tribe. Near the memorial is the Kohima Cathedral, on Aradura hill, built with funds from the families and friends of deceased Japanese soldiers. Prayers are held in Kohima for peace and in memory of the fallen of both sides of the battle.
About one-sixth of Nagaland is covered by tropical and sub-tropical evergreen forests—including palms, bamboo, rattan as well as timber and mahogany forests. While some forest areas have been cleared for jhum cultivation, many scrub forests, high grass, reeds; secondary dogs, pangolins, porcupines, elephants, leopards, bears, many species of monkeys, sambar, harts, oxen, and buffaloes thrive across the state’s forests. The great Indian hornbill is one of the most famous birds found in the state. Blyth’s tragopan, a vulnerable species of pheasant, is the state bird of Nagaland. It is sighted in Mount Japfü and Dzükou Valley of Kohima district, Satoi range in Zunheboto district and Pfütsero in Phek district. Of the mere 2500 tragopans sighted in the world, Dzükou valley is the natural habitat of more than 1,000.
The state is also known as the “falcon capital of the world.” Rhododendron is the state flower. The state has at least four species which is endemic to the state. Mithun (a semi domesticated gaur) found only in the north-eastern states of India, is the state animal of Nagaland and has been adopted as the official seal of the Government of Nagaland. It is ritually the most valued species in the state. To conserve and protect this animal in the northeast, the National Research Centre on Mithun (NRCM) was established by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in 1988
Tourism experts contend that the state’s uniqueness and strategic location in northeast India give Nagaland an advantage in tapping into the tourism sector for economic growth. The state has been extremely successful in promoting the Hornbill Festival, which attracts Indian and foreign tourists alike. The key thrusts of Nagaland’s tourism are its rich culture, showcasing of history and wildlife. Tourism infrastructure is rapidly improving and experts contend this is no longer an issue as was in the past. Local initiatives and tourism pioneers are now beginning to promote a socially responsible tourism model involving participation of the councils, village elders, the church and the youth.
Nagaland is known in India as the land of festivals. The diversity of people and tribes, each with their own culture and heritage, creates a year-long atmosphere of celebrations. In addition, the state celebrates all the Christian festivities. Traditional tribe-related festivals revolve round agriculture, as a vast majority of the population of Nagaland is directly dependent on agriculture. Some of the significant festivals for each major tribe are:
|Ao||Moatsu, Tsungremong||May, August|
|Chakhesang||Tsukhenyie, Sekrenyi||April/May, January|
|Chang||Kundanglem, Nuknyu Lem||April, July|
|Dimasa Kachari||Bushu Jiba,||January, April|
|Khiamniungan||Miu Festival, Tsokum||May, October|
|Konyak||Aoleang Monyu, Lao-ong Mo||April, September|
|Kuki||Mimkut, Chavang kut||January, November|
|Phom||Monyu, Moha, Bongvum||April, May, October|
|Sumi||Ahuna, Tuluni||November, July|
|Yimchungru||Metumniu, Tsungkamniu||August, January|
|Zeliang||Hega, Langsimyi/Chaga Gadi, and Mileinyi||February, October, March|
Hornbill Festival of Nagaland
Hornbil Festival, Kohima
Hornbill Festival was launched by the Government of Nagaland in December 2000 to encourage intertribal interaction and to promote cultural heritage of the state. Organized by the State Tourism Department and Art & Culture Department. Hornbill Festival showcases a mélange of cultural displays under one roof. This festival takes place between 1 and 10 December every year.
It is held at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama which is about 12 km from Kohima. All the tribes of Nagaland take part in this festival. The aim of the festival is to revive and protect the rich culture of Nagaland and display its history, culture and traditions.
The festival is named after the hornbill bird, which is displayed in folklores in most of the states tribes. The week-long festival unites Nagaland and people enjoy the colourful performances, crafts, sports, food fairs, games and ceremonies. Traditional arts which include paintings, wood carvings, and sculptures are on display. Festival highlights include traditional Naga Morungs rxhibition and sale of arts and crafts, food stalls, herbal medicine stalls, shows and sales, cultural medley – songs and dances, fashion shows, beauty contest, traditional archery, naga wrestling, indigenous games and musical concerts. Additional attractions include the Konyak fire eating demonstration, pork-fat eating competitions, the Hornbill Literature Festival (including the Hutton Lectures), Hornbill Global Film Fest, Hornbill Ball, Choral Panorama, North East India Drum Ensemble, Naga king chilli eating competition, Hornbill National Rock Contest, Hornbill International Motor Rally and WW-II Vintage Car Rally .