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Nagaland - Tribes

The multiplicity of tribes, within such a limited space, could be due to the fact that the Naga ancestors migrated to the present location in different groups and they remained confined to their ridges and mountainous terrain. This, subsequently, resulted in their unique characteristic of appearing to be both one people and many tribes, displaying both unity and diversity in their customs, traditions, attire and political systems.

Spirits that roam the jungle and villages, the fertility of mother earth; social bonding among communities, purification and rejuvenation are the main elements that form the souls of the festivals of the Naga people. Each tribe that inhabit the land has its own custom and this translates into a festival. The first festival in Nagaland takes place in January and the last December - no matter what the season is, some festival is always round the corner.

The State is replete with festivities throughout the year, as all tribes celebrate their own festivals with a pageantry of colour, music and dance. A common feature is that the festivals revolve around agriculture, the mainstay of Naga economy. These festivals hark back to times prior to the advent of Christianity. The predominant theme of the festivals is offering prayers to the Supreme Being, known by different names in different Naga tribal languages.

The Hornbill festival is a showcase of the entire Naga culture. It is an annual ten day feature that takes place from 1-10 December. It has become a mega event not just for the 16 tribes of Ngaland, but also the remaining seven Northeast Indian states to showcase the best of their cultural elements. It is a mammoth task for a tourist to cover all the Northeastern states at once, hence this festival provides the ideal platform for getting a glimpse of the eight sisters of India.

The traditional ceremonial attire of each tribe is in itself, an awe inspiring sight to behold; the multicolored spears and daos decorated with dyed goat's hair, the headgear made of finely woven bamboo interlaced with orchid stems, adorned with boar's teeth and hornbill's feathers, elephant tusk armlets. 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 colorful sunrise and sunset, lush and verdant flora, this is a land that represents unimaginable beauty, moulded perfectly for a breath taking experience.


The festival of the Angami tribe is celebrated in the month of February and falls on the 25th day of the Angami month of Kezei. It is a festival of purification with feasting and singing. The most interesting part of the Sekrenyi Festival is the thekra hie. The thekra hie is a part of the festival when the young people of the village sit together and sing traditional songs throughout the day.

In 1921 the Angami were reported as the largest Naga tribe in the Naga Hills District, where they also occupied the greatest area. According to information of that date, they are situated in an area bounded on the north by a line running from a point slightly south of where the Dayang (Diyung) River enters the plains, through the peaks of Thevukepu above Themoketsa (most southerly of the Rengma villages) and Mutuhu (on the edge of the Sema country), to the confluence of the Loi and Tizu Rivers between Kivekhu and Chipokitema. Eastward from this point to the Barail range the border of Angami ter­ ritory generally coincides with the eastern boundary of the Naga Hills District. On the south the Angamis are bounded by the Barail range and the Diphu River, and on the west by the Nambar forest.

Angami villages are built on summits of hills or ridges. Previous to annexation they were elaborately fortified with huge carved gates. Still remaining are pitfalls, deep ditches once filled with panjis, and tortuous approaches under high banks with masses of prickly creepers overhead. Clans, of which there were formerly two to eight per village, have residence areas separated by massive stone walls, which also encircle some of the Angami villages.

Numerous monoliths are found in and around the Angami villages, erected at gennas when individuals have feasted the community. Such stones are erected in so-called stone-dragging or stone-pulling ceremonies by the clans or villages of the persons performing the gennas. A man who has performed the stone-pulling ceremony may use wooden shingles instead of thatch on his house.


The Aos observe Moatsü Mong after the sowing is done and the mother earth begins to show the sign of fertility. The festival marked by vigorous songs and dances, merrymaking and fun is now observed only for three days from 1 to 3 May. The natural customary practice of the fore-fathers was competing in making the best rice beer and rearing the best possible pigs and cows to be slaughtered during the festival. The womenfolk would weave the best of traditional garments and adorn themselves with all their fineries. They would join the men folk in dancing, eating and drinking and composing warrior’s song. Singing songs in praise of the lover and the village as a whole was done and the older men folk would encourage the young people to be bold and heroic to defend and protect them from enemies as head-hunting was practiced during the time of fore-fathers.

The Ao Nagas occupy a portion of the Naga Hills bounded by the Dikhu River on the southeast, the plains on the northwest, by Konyak tribal territory on the east, and by the country of the Sema and Lhota Nagas on the southwest. Formerly they occupied Sema.territory up the Wokha-Bhandari bridle path in what is presently Lhota country. The Ao country is pleasant, with unbroken ranges sloping gently toward moderate streams. Fertile land is ample and protected from Assamese immigrants by a heavy forest belt lying between the foothills and the plains.

The great Ao villages are located at the highest points on the long, straight ranges which are the conspicuous features of Ao country. The valleys are uninhabited. In former times there were gates at each end of each village, with hugh doors made of single planks ornamented with carved circles. Setting up a new gate was once an occasion for displaying a trophy head, carried through the gate in triumph. In the peaceful period of recent years these gates have been allowed to rot and fall away. Lookout platforms are located beside the gates, with vines trained over them to conceal the gate guards.

The social status and achievements of each house owner can be read precisely from structural and ornamental features of his house. While details differ from village to village, those acquainted with local customs and symbolism can readily tell what feasts of merit the owner has given and as well as his position in the local status hierarchy. Normally the front portion of the house reveals status, each feast of merit entitling the owner to further extend the eaves to a semi-circular apse supported in front by a carved post.

Christian influence is said to have devastated Ao traditions. Christian tribal converts have been for- bidden to join in tribal storytelli.ng and singing, customs handed down for many generations. Feasts of merit have been forbidden, and a traditional mechanism for distributing wealth and food thereby destroyed. Girls with mission educations are said to find it difficult to settle down to village life, thus being the more likely to fall into loose and idle ways.


Tsukhenye Festival is an important festival for the Chakhesang. Earlier it was usually celebrated at the end of the 3rd lunar month of March. But now it is being observed on 6th May. A new year of activities begins with the arrival of spring. All sports and games and other youth activities which began after the harvest will cease with the closing of the festival. The festival last for four days. On the first morning, the village priest will offer sacrifice with the first rooster that crowed that morning, Also, early that morning, all male folks come to a designated well ( where only male folks are allowed ) and purify themselves by bathing. After the bath is performed they invoke the Almighty for strength, long life, good harvest and other. Sukrenye is the most important festival and is celebrated on 15the January. During the festival the boys and girls are sanctified through religious ceremonies and rituals. As a matter of fact, “SUKRENYE” covers eleven days starting from “NYEDE” and within the five days including “NYEDE” necessary preparations are made for the rest of six day of festival period.

Chakhesang is the name adopted in 1946 by a composite Naga group comprised of two Southern Angami groups (the Chakru and Khezha), a group of Sangtam people, and two Rengma villages lying east of Kohima and north of Manipur. The Chang Nagas are sometimes called the Mozung tribe. They are located across the Dikhu to the east of the Ao country, and are principally concentrated at Tuensang. Most other Chang villages are believed to have been derived from this community.

The Chang were des­ cribed as among the most warlike of the Naga tribes, second only to the Sema. In the past they appear to have invaded Phom, Ao and Konyak territory, and to have taken over the Ao villages of Hoksam, Longla and Litam.


Naknyülüm is celebrated by the Chang tribe in the month of July. On this day there are exchanges of gifts and food items amongst friends and relatives. Meat, wine and freshly packed bread are abundantly used. Games like Top spinning, tug – of – war, high jump, long jump, climbing of oiled pole and jumping and grapping big lumps of well cooked meat hung in rows along a bamboo rope are played. The womenfolk play on the Kongkhim. They too compete with each other with the instruments. Men and women, young and old, all engage themselves in feasting and merrymaking the whole day but do not indulge in dancing.

The Chang Nagas are sometimes called the Mozung tribe. They are located across the Dikhu to the east of the Ao country, and are principally concentrated at Tuensang. Most other Chang villages are believed to have been derived from this community. The Chang claim close kinship with the Yachumi Nagas. One authority has suggested they have racial affinity with the Singpho.

The principal clans of the Chang Nagas are the Chongpo, Ung, Lumao, Kangcho and Kudamji. The Chongpo clan is subdivided into the Shangdi, Hangwang, Hagiyung, Ungpong and Maava. Political structure resembles that of the Sema in the presence of an all-powerful chief in each village, but differs in that Chang chiefs do not have the monopoly on land found among the Serna.

The belt worn by the Chang is distinctive, being 4 to 6 inches wide and trimmed with cowrie shells and red dyed dog hair. Tattoo patterns are typically symmetrical, with leaves or fronds rising from a single base. The Chang had a superstitious awe of tigers and pythons, and it was taboo for a "true" Chang to touch either. Members of the Chongpo clan were said to be were-tigers.

The Chang were described as among the most warlike of the Naga tribes, second only to the Sema. In the past they appear to have invaded Phom, Ao and Konyak territory, and to have taken over the Ao villages of Hoksam, Longla and Litam


The Kacharis celebrates a number of festivals in a year. Among them the most important one is Bushu or Bushu Jiba which is widely celebrated by the Dimasa kacharis The Bushu is basically a post harvest festival and usually falls in the month of January every year after the hard earned grains of paddy are harvested, thrashed and stored in the granaries. Although the exact date and place of the festival is not generally fixed, people see to it that it is celebrated when there is moonlight in the nights because it is believed to be auspicious. Recently, the people have decided to celebrate the festival in the last week of January.

The term Kacha Nagas refers collectively to several tribes or tribal divisions, principally com­ posed of Zemi, Lyeng (or Lyengma, Liangmi), Kabui and Maruong people. Reports indicate that these four group have been closely allied and have acted as a political unit for some years. Originally the Kacha Nagas were located around Mekroma, but subsequent migrations led them across the Barail Range, mainly in the directions of Tehema and Khonoma. More recently their reported locations have been the Naga Hills District, Manipur, and along the Barak River as far south as the North Cachar Hills.

The Zemi, Lyeng and Maruong are located inside the former Naga Hills District to the south of the Angami Nagas, by whom they have been greatly influenced. The Zemi in particular have long been virtually subject to the Angami community of Khonoma. Languages of these Kacha divisions are distinct from the Angami tongue, how­ ever, as well as from each other. Closer alliance between these Kacha groups and the Kabui of Manipur than with other Naga tribes is indicated by more advanced development of dancing and singing among them and greater prominence of the morung system as a feature of Kacha tribal organization.

The Zemi first appeared in the Barail Range from the northeast and settled in the mountains south of the Kachari headquarters at Maibong, where they lived under Kachari rule for many years. With the fall of the Kachari Kingdom in the 16th century, the warlike Angami raided Zemi country and exacted tribute. Weaker Zemi vil­ lages in the north and east moved westward, passing through the already crowded Barail Range and later colonizing the rolling hills beyond the Diyung Valley. Control was disputed between Kachari and Manipuri rulers, but the hill people acknowledged the authority of neither.


The Miu festival is held in the first week of May every year. One of the main significances of this festival is to build cordial relations and to forge close-knit relations between the maternal uncle and his sister’s off springs i.e. nephews and nieces. It is during this festival that the maternal uncle offers a very special prayer by invoking the supernatural Deity to grant good health, prosperous life and power over enemy to his nephews and nieces.

The Kalyo Kengyu are the present-day Khiamniungan. The Kalyo-Kengyu Nagas are referred to as the Bosorr by the Sema people, Aaoshed by the Chang, and Para by the Burmese. The name Kalyo-Kengyu means "men who live in stone houses," their dwellings typically having slate roofs. Formerly the Kalyo-Kengyu were well known as metalsmiths, producing fine spear heads and daos. The typical costume is reported to include red cane helmets and leggings, with handwoven chaddars or shawls of indigo dyed cloth decorated with squares embroidered in red dyed dog hair. In the past the Kalyo-Kengyu manufac­ tured ornaments, cane helments, gauntlets and leggings for surrounding tribes. The Kalyo-Kengyu occupy territory which was virtually unadministered and unsurveyed by the 1960s. CIA reported in August 1963 that "current information is meager and no definitive study of the tribe has been made".


The entire Konyak community in Nagaland, observes Aoleang Monyu in the first week of Aoleang lee (April) every year since time immemorial. Aoleang is observed after completing of sowing seeds in the new fields and also to mark the end of the old year and to welcome the new year beginning with spring when a riot of flowers at every hue start to bloom. It is a time to ask Almighty God for a bountiful harvest of crops in that very year. The Aoleang Monyu is spread over six days. Each day has separate name and different significances : (1) Hoi Lai Yah Nyih (2) Yin Pho Nyih (3) Yin Mok Shek Nyih (4) Lingnyu Nyih (5) Lingha Nyihand (6) Lingshan Nyih.

The Konyak tribe appeared to be one of the largest of the main Naga groups. They are situated to the northeast of the Ao and Chang Nagas in the areas between the Dikhu and Disang Rivers, to the north of the Patkai Range, and south along the Patkai Range to the east of the territories occupied by the Phom and Chang tribes. The people known as the Eastern Konyaks occupy the Tamlu region and the area. northeast of the Dikhu, and extend along the borders of Sibsager and the Lakhimpur districts to the Patkais, east of the Phom and the Chang.

The Konyak are reported to have two main divisions, that known as the Shamnyuyungmang being the more democratic, the other being ruled by autocratic chiefs. Until recently the Konyak were among the tribes known as Naked Nagas. The men wore tight belts of cane or the bark of the agar tree which reduced their waists to small size. The hair was worn in a long tail wound in a knot at the back of the head and held with a pin of wood or bone. Architecture of the Konyak morung is distinctive, featuring poles projecting through a straw-thatched roof and great posts carved with figures of men, tigers, snakes and monkeys.


Mimkut is the harvest festival of the Kukis. Kukis of Nagaland celebrate this festival on 17th Kuki month of Tolbol (January) every year. The celebration lasts one week. Besides Mimkuut, Kukis celebrate Chapphou Kuut Chavang Kuut as well as other smaller festivals.It is believed that Mimkuut and other festivals, came into being from the fact that in order to appease Thilha (Demon) the people sacrifice and at the same time they also believed in the existence of a Supreme God whom they call “Chung Pathen” (Heavenly God). To get the blessings of such gods the village Medicine man (Thempu) would sacrifice fowls to propitiate the spirit of the Demon-god by performing a series of rituals and prayer.

The British and waves of Kuki immigrants arrived simultaneously in the 19th century, the latter colonizing in Zemi territory and other areas in the hills and lowlands. Intense rivalry for possession of land developed. In 1918 the Kuki people rebelled against the British. In 1928 the Kabui, Zemi and Lyeng members of the Kacha Naga, who had many grudges against the Kuki, planned a full-scale massacre of them, but were prevented by the British. In 1931 the Kuki aided the British in subduing the Kacha.

The area of the State of Manipur is approximately 8,000 square miles, of which 7,000 is hill territory inhabited by Naga and Kuki tribes. The Meithei, who occupy the valley area, are of Naga extraction. A line drawn along the Kubo Valley road via Aimole and joined to the Cachar road which traverses the western hills from Bisnupur in Manipur to Jiri Ghat on the western boundary of the state, separates the Naga area from that of the Kukis, but includes a few small Kabui villages which lie south of Nongba. Naga villages lie north of this line, Kuki settlements to the south. Kuki com­ munities are also found in the former Naga Hills District in the vicinity of Henema, and as far to the northeast as the vicinity of Melome and Lapvome. The Kuki are in fact scattered in practically every part of Manipur except Mao, and refer to themselves as "birds of the air" who nest in a different place each year.


Tokhü Emong is the harvest festival of the Lothas. With the harvest done and the granaries full, the people now take a respite from the toils and sweat and settle down to enjoy the fruits of one’s hard labour. Tokhü Emong is celebrated on 7th November, every year. During this festival, the entire village takes part in the celebration. Every household have food and drink prepared for the feast. Friends, families, neighbours are invited to each other’s house and this continues for days. The main features of the feast are community songs, dances, feast, fun and frolic.

The Lhota Nagas occupy the scenic drainage area of the middle and lower Dayang River and its tributaries, down to the point where it enters the plains. The Dayang, unfordable most of the year, divides the tribe into two sections. Lhota on the left bank are known as the Ndrung, those on the right bank as the Liye. Noteworthy climatic extremes are represented in Lhota territory, ranging from frost zones in the high spurs of Wokha Hill to the unbearable heat radiated from the sandstone in the malaria-ridden foothills bordering the plains.

The main body of the Lhota Nagas may have a southern origin in common with the Sangtams, perhaps in the Chindwin valley of Burma. Many Lhota villages hold grants of land in the plains, originally given by the Ahom Rajas with the understanding that the Lhota would not take Ahom heads. There is no record of fighting between the Lhota and Assamese since the 17th century.

In 1875, a Captain Butler, in charge of a survey party, was ambushed and killed by tribesmen of the village of Pangti. The Lakhuti villagers, who were settling an old score with the Pangtis, their traditional enemies, had deceived them into this treachery, assuring them they would join the attack. As a result, Pangti was burned by the British, and in 1878 a stockade was established at Wokha and all Ndrung villages of the Lhota were annexed. The remaining Lhota settlements were annexed in 1889.

Warfare between Lhota villages was rare, and intra-tribal head hunting was against ancient Lhota law. During the northward migration of the Lhota there was considerable conflict with the Ao Nagas, however, who once held a greater part of what is now Lhota country north of the present bridle path from Wokha to the plains. During these conflicts entire Ao villages were expelled, and today the Ao are still referred to as uri ("enemy") by the Lhota.

A Lhota man's wealth and social status are known by the number of gennas he has performed. Stone­dragging is one such ceremony which brings status. The full series is twenty-five, a feat few attain, and the first genna is at the dragging of one stone. The genna is a public feast given for the whole village. Men of the village, some in full dancing dress, go for the stone, which may be several miles from the village, and make a bamboo frame on which the stone is lashed with vines and creepers. The stone is then taken up and carried to the front of the sponsor's house, where it is installed with elaborate rites. Each genna entitles a man to wear clothing of a particular sort, woven by his womenfolk.

Lhota temperament is generally described as reserved. In common with most Nagas, they believe that illness or misfortune will fall on one who is laughed at or is the object of derision. Standards of morality differ from village to village. Unlike Ao and Sema husbands who openly boast of philandering and immorality, Lhota men are said to be relatively faithful.

One noteworthy respect in which the Lhota differed from other Naga tribes as of two generations ago was their readiness to commit suicide for seemingly trivial reasons. Examples reported as typi­ cal include a man who hanged hims lf because he owed a small village fine. Joint suicides by poison, resulting from frustrated love affairs, were said to be the most common form.


The Monyu festival is celebrated on the month of April every year soon after the sowing season beginning from 1st to 6th April. Monyu is the time to bid farewell to the ongoing year and herald the dawn of the New Year. A day or two prior to the festival the green signal of the dawn of festival is made by beating log drums with a distinct tune synchronized purposely for the event, traditionally named “LAN NYANGSHEM”. The main feature of the Monyu is the occasion when the male members of the family show love and renewal of affectionate feelings towards their married daughters or sisters by presenting them the purest of the rice beer and specially prepared food. Such conduct reflects the general status of the Phom women that “they are respected and honored”.

The tribe appears confined to four villages: Hukpang, Pongching, Ourangkong and Mongnyu The Phom people have close cultural ties with the Chang Nagas. Men of the Phom tribe are indistinguishable from the Chang in dress and similar in tattooing. Phom women have tattoos on the legs but not the face, and wear beads which differ from those of the Chang.


October is the month of festivity which every Pochury anxiously awaits, every year to celebrate their greatest festival Yimshe. Yimshe is the festival of welcoming the new harvest and blessing. All the Pochuries, young and old, rich and poor, celebrate this festival with great pomp and gaiety anticipating a good harvest which they deserve after a year’s hard labour under scorching sun and merciless rain. Yimshe is observed only on the 5th October keeping in tune with the final days of the traditional observance of the festival.

In Kohima, hundreds of enthusiastic Pochury people, both young and old gathered at ‘The Heritage’ in Kohima on Oct 7, 2013 to celebrate Yemshe festival, the festival of the Pochury community, where Nagaland Parliamentary Secretary Veterinary and Husbandry Yitachu and retired Director, Printing and Stationary S Katiry joined the festival as the chief guest and guest of honor respectively. One of the elder of Pochury tribe, S Akho Leyri spoke on the significance of the festival as Yemshe is celebrated anticipating new bountiful harvest of one year’s hard labour under scorching sun and merciless rain and is celebrated for 22 days in olden times and only after the last day which is the greatest day of the festival which is also called ‘sanctification day’, all kinds of harvest begins. Yemshe literally means ‘Aroma of the house’, ‘Yem-House and she-aroma’, which means the aroma of the food that comes out of the house.

The Pochury identity is of relatively recent origin. It is a composite tribe formed by three Naga communities: Kupo, Kuchu and Khuri. The word Pochury is an acronym formed by the names of three villages of these tribes: Sapo, Kechuri and Khury. April 21 is set aside as Pochury Day in commemoration of the recognition of Pochury tribe in 1990. The people of Pochury celebrated the first anniversary of Pochury Day at Meluri on April 21 after Government of Nagaland made formal announcement of the recognition of Pochury as the 16th tribe of Nagaland on April 19, 1990.

The demand for recognition of Pochury as a separate tribe was approved by the cabinet when Congress party was in power headed by Dr. SC Jamir as the chief minister of Nagaland. Then, TCK Lotha was the home secretary from whose office the order of recognition was issued.


The Rengmas celebrate eight days of Ngadah festival towards the end of November, just after harvest. It is the festival of thanksgiving and rejoicing. This festival also marks the end of the agricultural year. The Village High Priest (Phensengu) announces the date of commencement of the festival at the top of his voice, so that the villagers can prepare themselves for the festival.

Until comparatively recent times the Rengma and Lhota peoples were one tribe, unified by joint migra­ tion. Today they retain many cultural parallels but are separate tribes, the Lhota living to the north of the Rengma. The majority of the Rengma proper occupy a small triangle north of the Angami country.

The Rengma are among the smallest of the main Naga tribes. There are two principal divisions. The larger concentration is the Western Rengma, who inhabit spurs of the long ridge running northeast from Nidzukru Hill to Wokha Hill. Around 1830 a portion of this Western Rengma group migrated to the Mikir Hills, where they are now distributed in several dozen villages which in 1937 totalled roughly 700 households. The Western Rengma are in turn divided into two sections. These speak different languages and differ considerably in customs. They occupy 12 villages, all except Chosinyu being on spurs of Therugu Hill.

The other main division of the tribe is the Eastern Rengma, who are among the people known as Naked Nagas. This group separated from the Northern (Ntenyi) section of the Western Rengma many generations ago, and has since lived in three communities isolated by impenetrable mountains and hostile Naga neighbors.

The Rengma are characterized as full of contradictions, being dour but often wildly excitable, brave yet liable to panic, inhospitable to strangers but firm friends. They are said to be addicted to squabbling, argument and wild quarreling, and to develop bitter hatred despite capacity for warm friendship. In sexual p tterns some groups are extremely strict, others far more liberal. The Rengma are also described as sensitive and high strung; an angry word one day may bring tears of remorse the next morning. They are an extremely superstitious people, believing in black magic, magical powers and the existence of were-tigers.


The Sangtams have about 12 festivals spreading over the calendars year including some special functions. Expect certain gennas, all the festivals are concerned with food production, blessing and prosperity. MONGMONG is one of the most important festival of the Sangtam. The predominant theme of the festival is the worship of the god of the house and the three cooking stone in the fireplace.

At one time this tribe extended down the eastern border of the territory occupied by the Ao and Sema Nagas, from the Chang country to that of the Tangkhul and Eastern Rengma peoples. The Sema country has now been separated into two divisions by the northward movement of the Semas and the western shift of the Yachumi villages.

The Tukomi Sangtam once extended west to the Tizu Valley but have now mixed with Sema Nagas moving east­ ward. The Semas have quickly gained control of Sangtam villages which they have penetrated. The Lophomi group are said to resemble the Ao Nagas but to dress like the Chang.


Tuluni is a festival of great significance. This festival is marked with feast as the occasion occurs in the bountiful season of the year. Drinking rice – beer indispensably forms a part of the feast. Rice – beer is served in goblet made with the leaf of plantain. This wine is called TULUNI. Therefore, consumption of the wine is called “TULUNI”. Tuluni is also called “ANNI” the word of which denotes the season of plentiful crops. This mid – year (JULY) festival is the greatest and most fervent moment for the Sumi Community of Nagaland. During this festival, the betrothed exchange basketful of gifts with meals. The fiancé is invited to a grand dinner at the fiancé’s residence. Even siblings of the families of both the bride and groom exchange dinner and packed food and meat.

Sumi-Sema is spoken in Central and Southern Nagaland. The major settlements of Sumi are in Zunheboto, Kohima, Mokokchung, and Tuensang districts of Nagaland. It is also spoken in seven villages in Tinsukia district of Assam. The total population of Sumi is 1,03,529 (Census of India, 2001). The language is also known as Sema, Simi, and Sumi. The language may be classified as Angami-Pochuri subgroup of the Tibeto-Burman family.

The Sema Nagas are located northeast of the Angami country and number approximately 48,000. In broad terms they occupy the watershed area dividing Assam from Burma. In former times the Sema were said to have exacted taxes on all products being carried through their villages to or from the Burma border. Reports earlier in the 20th century indicate that the Sema are mainly distributed in the valleys of three large rivers and in the mountain ranges and plateaus which separate these. Most westerly of the three is the Dayang River, which rises at Japvo in the Angami country, flows north into the Sema area, then turns west and south and emerges from the hills through the territory of the Lhota Nagas. Thereafter it joins the Dhansiri, and eventually the Brahmaputra. The Dayang is referred to by the Semas as the Tapu. The two other main rivers of the Sema country are the Tizu (or Tuzu) and the Tita (or Tutsa), which rise in the north and northeast of the area and flow south into the Lanier, reaching the sea via the Ti-Ho, the Chindwin and the Irrawaddy.

The Sema people are said to be generous and hospitable, but fatalistic and frequently improvident. They are characterized as impulsive, generally cheerful, and seldom depressed for long periods. They are also des­ cribed as plucky and daring, capable of great endurance, and savage on provocation.

Allegiance to the tribe rather than the village is stronger among the Sema than other Naga tribes. It is also reported that due to traditional obedience to chiefs the Sema accept discipline and order more readily than their neighbors. While there have been no extensive studies of the Sema since Hutton's key work in 1921, it is believed that Sema culture has been slow to change and that rule by autocratic hereditary chiefs persists today, at least in more remote areas.


The Yimchungers celebrate METUMNIU festival from 4-8 of August every year after the harvest of millet. This festival is connected with the prayers for the soul of the departed souls. It is a sentimental ceremony for those dear ones who left for their heavenly abode during the year. An elder known as “KHEANPURU”, after due prayers, inaugurates the festival. The festival is spread over 5 days and has separate for the days. Viz.. SHITO, ZHIHTO, ZUMTO, KHEHRESUK and SHERESUK.

The Yachumi are located at the head of the Tita Valley bordering the Chang Nagas, with the Sema on the west and the Sangtam on two other sides. The Sema people dominate the Yachumi villages closest to them, and are reported to extract tribute from them.


The Hega festival is one of the most important and the biggest festival among the Zeliang community. It falls in the month of February every year. It is the festival invoking the almighty God to shower his blessings upon his people with richness, luck and courage. It is also a festival of joy, rest and get-together.On this day people pray to almighty God for protection and guidance. On this festival young couples are united for their future. This is announced earlier and all the preparation are done before-hand. The festival begins with a variety of programs and merrymaking.

The Zeliang Nagas are apparently a mixed group of Zemi, Liangmai and other Naga people. Zeme is a sub tribe of the Zeliangrong Nagas which mostly inhabit in Nagaland, Manipur and parts of North Cachar Hills in Assam. By geographical accident many tribesmen of the Zemi [Zeme] Nagas are located in North Cachar, a division made part of the Silchar District due to its proximity. British civil officers in Silchar received no training in handling Naga problems, however, The Zemi, pushed off their original lands by Angami Nagas and Kuki immigrants, appealed to the Government for larger tracts. Not understanding the cycle of jhum cultivation, in which land is often left fallow for a number of years, the Silchar govern­ ment considered Zemi demands unreasonable, and all lands not under active cultivation were given to the Kuki. In­ cluded were the lands of the Impoi and Gareolowa groups. The result was bitter hostility between the Zemi and Kuki tribes.

The solution attempted by the government was introduction of the Angami method of wet rice cultiva­ tion, but this failed to support the Zemi. Through the years (notably 1920, 1942, 1963) severe famines have been reported in the North Cachar area, and many Zemi have become day-laborers for the Kachari and Kuki people in order to survive.

A large number of Zemi have been pushed into the western plateau across the Barail Range by the hostile Angami Nagas. Those who remain in proximity to the Angami have long been subject to rule by the Angami village of Khonoma. A few Zemi remained in villages around Haflong and on the plains beyond, but the majority now live beyond the Diyung Valley and in the Barail Range. The Mikir people, who live in the thick forests of the Mikir Hills to the north of the Zemi, are the most numerous of the tribal groups in the vicinity of Zemi territory.

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Page last modified: 19-02-2018 18:25:09 ZULU