Nagaland is a small federal State of India located in the subcontinent’s North-Eastern Region (or ‘NER province’). The State lies between the parallels of 98 degree and 96 degree East Longitude and 26.6 degree and 27.4 degree latitude north of the Equator.
The State has an area of 16,579 kilometers and a population of approximately 1,980,602 (nineteen lakhs eighty thousand six hundred two) according to the year-2011 Census of the Government of India.
The State was established on December 1, 1963 and is the 16th State of India. The State has 11 districts: Kohima, Dimapur and Kiphire, Longleng, Mon, Mokokchung, Peren, Phek, Tuensang, Wokha and Zunheboto district. Kohima is the capital of Nagaland. Dimapur is the commercial center of the State.
Language of the Naga tribes
There are currently 16 Naga tribes classified a “major tribes” besides several other classified as sub-tribes. One of the most striking aspects of the Naga people is their linguistic variety: Every Naga tribe has its own, distinct dialect. Some of the major dialects are Angami Naga, Ao Naga, Chakhesang Naga, Kyong Naga, Rengma Naga and Sumi Naga. This ‘variety’ can be found even among the linguistic traditions of the sub-tribes. In fact even among the sub-tribes, their dialects are distinctly different.
The only common medium of communication, particularly in the rural areas, is a coarse Creole called “Nagamese.” Nagamese is a mixture of Hindi, Assamese (language of Assam, a neighboring State) and phonetic variances of the Naga tribes’ own dialects. The Creole is generally ridiculed by the English-educated population.
English is the official language of Nagaland. English is widely spoken among the educated and urbane populations of Nagaland, particularly amongst the youth. The rate of literacy of the State is about 80.11%, one of the highest literacy rates in India. The State is also often considered a “mine” of English-speaking corporate workforce in the country.
‘Nagas’, or the Naga people, the natives of Nagaland, predominantly follow the Christian faith with “99%” of the population being classified as ‘Christian.’ Baptist and Catholicism are the two chief Christian systems they follow. There are also, however, a few communities that still practice indigenous forms of worship such as animism.
Before the arrival of the British and American missionaries in the early 1800s, the Naga tribes were a martial head-hunting warrior community. They were fiercely independent and were constantly at war with each other; traditional narratives say that conflict was not only a common occurance between communities but even between villages of the same community.
A peculiar aspect of the Nagas’ martial heritage is the practice of ‘head-hunting’ – cutting off enemies’ heads to take home as trophies. The heads of slain enemies were displayed as trophies in the warrior’s hut; it was considered a sign of honor and courage and greatly enhanced the prestige of the warrior within his community. With the advent of Christianity in the 1800s and modern education, the practice of head-hunting has been eradicated completely.