My two consecutive visits to Nagaland were not only adventurous but so intriguing and marvelous. By now I had visited Nagaland three times and every time I visited I learned something new and experienced something different. It was a long cherished dream to visit The Hornbill Festival the annual festival of Nagaland which I changed into reality last year, 2022.
During that time I visited Khonoma whose fame spread far and wide as India’s first green village. But what fascinated me the most were the stories of the head hunters of Nagaland. And when I got a chance to visit one such house in Khonoma village in Nagaland I was overwhelmed.
The Nagas are well known for their valor and courage and as a display of their bravery it was quite common to hang the severed heads of their enemies or animals which they hunted down. Any dispute between the villages resulted in ripping off their victims’ heads. Inter-village battles were a regular affair for these Nagas.
Headhunting was practiced by almost all the major tribes of Nagaland like the Lothas, the Rengmas, the Angamis, the Konyaks, the Aos, the Semas, and a lot more.
Another major aspect of the Naga lifestyle was animal hunting. It was not only considered sacred but an integral part of their social and cultural life. When we are talking about hunting one major tribe of Nagaland, the Angami tribe was attributed the title of the fiercest hunters. They basically depended on agriculture and farming and also hunting as a source of food.
They valued their land and also made great use of their knowledge of the natural resources available around them. They believed in animism and were nature worshippers. Most of their rites and rituals included animal sacrifices. And not just that they depended on hunting for food.
Only men participated in hunting and used to hunt in groups. Before the introduction of guns, they used spears, machetes, and bamboo to make sharp weapons for hunting. The Angami Nagas believed in the existence of Supernatural powers in the nature around them. So they associated a lot of taboos and beliefs with practicing hunting.
But now the scenario has changed as hunting is so longer allowed in Khonoma or any other place in Nagaland. They have stepped towards a more sustainable environment and the conservation of their ecosystem is now their primary goal.
On my last two visits to Nagaland, I got a chance to visit the house of a hunter in Khonoma. My guide told me valourous stories of how the whole generation of men in that family were hunters. When I visited the house I was awestruck to see the huge display of animal heads hung outside the house.
There were heads of monkeys, Mithun, buffaloe, etc. Most of these are quite in a perishable state and since hunting is no more practiced and supported not many measures have been taken in preserving them.
The old man who stays in that house was also a hunter but now due to age, he can’t hear properly. When I saw him old and feeble I wondered what he was like when he was in his prime.
We went inside the house and saw pictures of his father with a gun and a lot of different types of accessories used by the Angami Naga. They used to hang the heads of their kill as a display of their strength and bravery.
When we are talking about headhunting, The Konyak tribes of Nagaland were known to practice it during the 1960s. I was much intrigued to visit the Konyak Morung during my last visit to the Hornbill Festival. But unfortunately, the Konyaks didn’t participate last time.
The Konyaks are one of the bravest warriors and were known for beheading their rivals during any village conflicts. They used to bring the severed heads as trophies in bamboo baskets specifically designed for the purpose and hung outside the houses.
While we were exploring Khonoma our guide was kind enough to take us to visit his uncle and aunt’s house who stayed in the same village. We received the such warm hospitality and we also got to taste some locally brewed rice beer and puffed rice. There may be a lot of stories about the bravery and ferocity of the Nagas but their hospitality is also really appreciable. Sharing some more pictures. Hope you liked reading the blog. Do share with your freinds.