The Forteen tribes of Nagaland are Angami Naga, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, Yimchungrü, and Zeliang, of which the Konyaks, Angamis, Aos, Lothas, and Sumis are the largest Naga tribes. Tribe and clan traditions and loyalties play an important part in the life of Nagas. Weaving is a traditional art handed down through generations in Nagaland. Each of the tribe has its own unique designs and colours, producing shawls, shoulder bags, decorative spears, table mats, wood carvings, and bamboo works. Naga Tribal dances of the Nagas give an insight into the inborn Naga reticence of the Naga people. War dances and other dances belonging to distinctive Naga tribes are a major art form in Nagaland.
Christianity is the predominant religion of Nagaland. The state’s population is 1.988 million, out of which 90.02% are Christians. The census of 2001 recorded the state’s Christian population at 1,790,349, making it, with Meghalaya and Mizoram, one of the three Christian-majority states in India and the only state where Christians form 90% of the population. The state has a very high church attendance rate in both urban and rural areas. Huge churches dominate the skylines of Kohima, Dimapur, and Mokokchung. Roman Catholics, Revivalists, and Pentecostals are the other Christian denomination numbers. Catholics are found in significant numbers in parts of Wokha district as also in the urban areas of Kohima and Dimapur.
Hinduism and Islam are minority religions in state, at 7.7% and 1.8% of the population respectively. A small minority, less than 0.3%, still practice the traditional religions, and are mainly concentrated in Peren and the eastern districts.
Every tribe of Nagaland have their own unique language. Nagas speak 60 different dialects belonging to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. The traditional languages do not have any script of their own. The Christian missionaries used Roman script for these languages.
Nagaland is a land of festivals. All the tribes celebrate their distinct seasonal festivals with a pageantry of colour and a feast of music. All the tribes have their own festivals which they hold so dear. They regard their festivals sacrosanct and participation in celebration is compulsory. They celebrate their distinct seasonal festivals with a pageantry of coulour and a feast of music. Most of these festivals revolve round agriculture, it being the main-stay of Naga society. Over 85% population of Nagaland is directly dependent on agriculture and lives in a thousand and odd villages situated on high hill tops or slopes overlooking verdant valleys humming with murmuring streams. In this blissful setting Nagas enjoy the blessing of Nature with rare gusto striking the onlookers with awe and admiration. In most of the places agriculture consists of monocrop.
Although some religious and spiritual sentiments are inter woven into secular rites and rituals, the pre- dominant theme of the festivals is offering of prayers to a Supreme Being having different names in different Naga dialects. At these festivals, the spirit of Gods are propitiated with sacrifices by the Village Shaman for a bountiful harvest either before the sowing or on the eve of harvest.
Art and Crafts
The Nagas have a rich tradition of art and craft rooted in a lifestyle that has always been harmony with the environment they live in. Skilled tribal craftsman and artisans have always been the pillars of a tribal society that had, for many centuries, been self-sufficient. They lent their skills to creating items of utility as well those with ritualistic and aesthetic value. To quote Dr. Verrier Elwin; “they have made their own cloth, their won hats and rain-coats; they have prepared their own medicines, their own cooking-vessels, their own substitutes for crockery”. Skilled craftsmen were employees to carve splendid village gates, house posts and Morungs in Naga villages. Fine storage baskets, wicker drinking vessels and containers were woven by craftsmen whose skills had been inherited from generations of skilled craftsmen.
It was these craftsmen, weavers and artisans who foraged the forest in search of wood, barks, dyes and other resources that were utilized to carve out fine works of art and weave colorful clothes that distinguished each Naga tribe.