By Eri Loey
If someone ask to me “Which tribe is the most unique in Myanmar?”, my answer will be “Naga People” surely. Everything about the Naga people is untouched and unspoiled. Although the term Naga is not well known, some says it may be derived from the Sanskrit words (Hindu) for “Naked”. The Naga tribe includes many sub tribes: Lhota, Sema, Tangkhul , Konyak and Angami .They live in the hill range along the border of far eastern India and northwestern Myanmar. Nagas are also former head hunters. There is the popular happening in World War II, they were recruited by the British to fight the Japanese. For the Naga people, it is the irreplaceable chronicle along the history.
The most of Naga people live on the borders of India- Myanmar. The other percent of Naga people is living spread around Sagaing region, Myanmar. They also can be found in Pansaung, Khantee, Lashee, Lahee, and Nangyon of Sgaing Region.
How they live and wear?
They usually live in one storied buildings on the ground. It is roughly 10 to 20 meters long and 6 to 12 meters wide, it has a dirt floor and three compartments separated by blank partitions: a room where rice and other household goods are stored, a room with the beds, and a one-meter-wide booth that extends the entire width of the house, which is where alcohol tanks are stored.
Naga men usually wear traditional jackets, traditional trousers and bamboo headbands that look like an extended peacock tail that were traditionally are made of bear hair, feathers, the tusks of wild boar and tufts of human hair. Necklaces and bracelets are made with funnel-shaped beads, shells, animal teeth and claws and precious and semi-precious stones. Naga women usually wear traditional dress with quarter naked and headband.
What kind of religion they believe in?
Although most of the Naga people are Christians, they also believe in their traditional religion.
They believe in spirits, local goddesses and supernatural forces. Spirts are associated with both living thing and non-living thing and most are regarded as either gods or souls of extinct people. Naga people prefer to regard their goddesses as good and bad qualities than dividing into good and bad spirits.
They usually believe in the creator god, the giver of sudden death, the god of fruitfulness, the malicious god, the husband and wife gods who were dwarfs, the god of tigers.
Which languages they speak?
Nagas speak languages and dialects that are part of Tibeto-Burman family. Most of the Naga languages belong to the Kuki-Chin Subgroup of the Kuki-Naga Group of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages. They also speak English because of their Christian schooling.
The most unique ceremonies of Naga
The most popular ceremonies of Naga tribe are called “Gennas”. They are connected with the agricultural calendar and special ones are arranged for the meetings between their tribes, war dances, head hunting, rainmaking, hunting and the creation of a new village door.
Gennas usually involve animal sacrifices, offering of skin to the spirits, wearing of ceremonial garments, singing, dancing and the termination of work and prohibitions on contacts with strangers. During hunting dances dancers hold swords and spears and dance in a circle in an effort to drive away evil spirits.
The Naga new year festival is held on January 14 and 15. The happiest thing to celebrate Naga New Year Festival is to enjoy the feast of the gone year and to welcome a better year of harvest.
A Naga Funeral
Naga people usually buried the death body in a ceremony arranged by male relatives along a village path or in front of his house. The body of a man is buried with a live chicken, a fire stick and spear in a coffin covered with a white cloth. The most unique way for a seed called “Gadozi” is to be placed between the teeth of the body. It means an offering the coin to a devil in the afterlife and meant to pay the ferryman.
The body of a woman is buried with beads, a reaping hook and a young chicken and the in a coffin covered with flat stones and “Gadzosi” seed between the teeth is essential for both genders. A carrying basket, rice seeds, millet, other grains, rice beer and drinking cup are usually placed on the stones.
Naga people assume the souls of good people will join the sky god called “Ukenpenofu” and the souls of the bad people go through eight existences below the earth.
How they marry in their traditional way?
There are two kinds of marriage: ceremonial and non-ceremonial. Ceremonial is preferred and is a symbol of status and wealth. It includes the service of marriage brokers, reading of foreboding and the negotiation of a marriage-price.
Angami Nagas do not allow polygamy, widows are permitted to remarry and divorce is allowed. Among the Lhota, polygamy is allowed, with a husband taking up to three. Men allow their brothers or other male relatives to live together with their wives if a man is gone for a long period of time. The Sema are also allowed polygamy. Their men are allowed to have up to seven wives.
This is how Naga people survive in their unique traditional way. I suggest that you won’t regret to explore Naga people in Myanmar surely. You can start your trip from Yangon-Mandalay-HomeMaLinn by flight and goes to Htamantee by bus and continue to Pansaung, Khantee, Lashee, Lahee, and Nangyoon. The beauty of Naga townships and Naga people in Myanmar will be welcoming you.