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The Tangkhul Nagas

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The meaning and derivation of the word”Nagas” has long been disputed. There have been several attempts made by anthropologists and historians to trace out the origin of this word.
In the 2nd century A.D. Ptolemy, the famous Greek geographer of Egypt, in his Ancient Geography refers to a group of people known as “Nangalogae”.Nangalogae (Nanga Log) means in Sanskrit Naked people. The Nagas have their legends tracing their origins to various places. The Tangkhul and Maos trace their origins to various places to Makhen (Makel) presently situated in the North district of Manipur, India.Rengmas however claim that they come out from a hole presently situated in East Khezakehoma in Nagaland, India, Aos from stone in the West beyond the Debhu River in Assam, India.Maring from Burma, Zeliangrong in Western Manipur, from a mythical cave known as Taobhie, and Angamis somewhere from East.
Mr.T.Luikham of Ukhrul maintained that Nagas came from Mongolia crossing the Himalayas, and as far as Indonesia and finally settled in Nagaland (Nagalim).He said folk songs often spoke of the people coming out the caves. The North Eastern Tribal people have migrated from other part of Australia and Asia.Infact, it is shown that the majorities of mountain people are of Indo-Mongoloid origin and have been propagated with the Indo-Chinese or the Tibeto-Burman racial stocks.
Different views have also been given by various historians and authors. But in fact, no one could trace the unique history of the Naga’s genesis.
The evidence of the origin of the Tangkhul Nagas was given by T.C.Hodson who recorded that Hundung is the center of their dispersion. And he stories declared that they sprang as immigrants from the village of Maikhel Tunggam ( a village which is the traditional home of the common ancestors of Quassi-Angami in Mao group).Another means of proving given by T.C.Hudson was that when the Shan invaded Assam in 1220 A.D.the Nagas were already there to resist their advance.(T.C.Hudson “The Naga tribes of Manipur London”1911)Above all, the Nagas generally agreed that they belong to Mongoloid race.Unfortunately,the history of the Tangkhul Nagas were not written in the early days. Still then, history can be read and understood through oral conversation, songs and cultures of the people. Indeed most historical scholars have quoted that the Nagas belong to Mongoloid race who came from the East and this have been agreed by all the Tangkhul Nagas.
Tangkhul Nagas are very ancient people, the most ancient Maharaj (king) of Manipur like Samalung, Morthao, Ayangba and Luitongba are all Tangkhul names. In this case these people who reigned the kingdom of Manipur were from the same origin. Thus the Tangkhul Nagas had their own custom and culture since thousands of years.[Fr.,will it be better if I write ‘since time immemorial.]


Nagalim (the land inhabited by Nagas) is situated in the midst of the World’s most populous nations namely, China, Myanmar (Burma) and India. It is located in between 93-3* to 42-2* longitude North East and 24-4* to 28-2* latitude North East. To quote the unique boundaries of the Tangkhul Nagas is very difficult. The area is about 6,000 ft.above the sea level.


In most cases, the Tangkhul people are smart and good looking. Skin colors of the people are light and dark bown, with blue-black eyes and usually have black hair, they are of medium height and are mostly slim.Generally, people are strongly built.
The nature of the Tangkhul people are simple, free and loyal, brave and reliable, sincere and generous, friendly and humorous, straight forward and self reliant, hard working and adventurous.V.Elwin,Nagaland,1961 wrote; ”They are fine people of whom their country is proud, strong and self reliant with the free and independent outlook characteristics of highlanders everywhere good to look at with an unerring instinct for color and design, friendly and cheerful with a keen sense of humour gifted with splendid dances and a love of song”.


Weaving is a part in woman’s life in the Eastern region in general and Tangkhuls in particular. Weaving is closely associated with the self and soul. Despite tedious hours she spends with the back strap loin loom which take time and concentrated she considers it as her prized possession. Dress and ornaments of the Tangkhul Nagas is fantastic and fabulous. The people are artistic and imaginative, different designs and style have been made with bright colours.Usually the Tangkhul shawls are of black and red stripes. The village headman has a distinctively large and costly shawl. Common people too have a special for festivals and special occasions. The Tangkhul Necklace (Kongsang has 10-18) strings of cowries beads and precious stones with different colors and is usually very costly and essential for weddings.The expensive dresses and ornaments are usually worn by rich bride in her wedding.The Tangkhul war dress consist of spear, head gears, bangles, breast plate, armlets, stocking made of bamboo, war tail, horns, shield, bows and arrows and a Dao. Dresses of Tangkhuls are Haora,Leirum,Thanggang,Chonkhom,Khuilang,Raivat Kachon,Kahang Malao,Phangyai,Yangrey Kashan,Chonkhom Kashan,Kahang Kashan and others.


The weapons of the Tangkhul Nagas are very primitive. They consist of bows, poisoned and non-poisoned arrows, spears, dao, fire arms, sickle, hoe, spade, knife and others.


The Tangkhul are basically agriculturists, but they do run small scale industries in the village level. Industry consist of weaving,pottery,blacksmithy,salt manufacturies,wood and stone works, leather works,carving,wine brewing, basket making and other handicrafts. The Tangkhuls employ three methods of paddy cultivation namely; jhuming, terracing and wet cultivation. Rice is the main food. Other crops and vegetables are chilli,cotton,tobacco,corn,oranges,lemons,plums,brinjals and other fruits.Hunting,fishing,trapping birds are also practiced.

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