Aroma of Naga Culture

(l to r) Zeliang girl wearing her traditional shawl, Naga wood carving, Sumi tribe members

“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

The people of Nagaland are generally known as Nagas and they constitute several groups of tribals occupying the North Eastern part of India and north-western Burma. These conglomerations of tribes mostly have identical culture and traditions and form the majority ethnic group in the Indian states of Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.

The people of Nagaland get the name ‘Naga’ from the Burmese word ‘Naka’ which means people who perforate their ears to adorn themselves with big wooden plugs and other ornaments. Basically, their origin is of the Indo-Mongoloid family and these tribes of the hilly region are characterized physically by medium height, very low facial index with straight hair and eyes different from that of the Mongolian form.

The culture of Nagaland can be best expressed as follows:


Chakesang tribe

The Nagas belong to several tribal communities which in turn are further divided into a number of sub-tribal sections all of whom are believed to have derived from the Indo-Mongoloid family. One of the most unique features of these ethnic groups is that they all wish to live in rural areas following their culture and traditions rather than moving to urban areas.

The Nagas show diversity in all their features whether it be language, festivals or the customs and traditions followed by the different ethnic groups of the state. One of the common languages spoken by them is Nagamese and a majority of them are Christians. Records confirm that ethnicity has played a major role in developing the social structure of the people. Most of the Nagas follow Christianity as their major religion which has helped in providing a common platform for the people in spite of the presence of various ethnic communities.

A Morung belonging to the Pochury tribe.


The culture of the Nagas varies from one tribal community to another. The houses are usually built on the top of hills enclosed by stone walls and heavy wooden gates with deep ditches dug around the wall.

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C. Joseph
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C. Joseph

C. Joseph is as a counsellor in St Joseph’s College, Jakhama in Nagaland. He has written a number of articles and has produced several music albums in English and Tamil.