The Origin of the Naga

         The Nagas inhabit in four states in India and in the Western parts of Myanmar. The Nagas live between Brahmaputra and Chindwin River specifically from 930E to 960E longitudes and 240N to 270N latitudes.

 1) The area is about 100,000 Sq. Km of the Patkai range within the longitudes between 930E and 970E and 231/20 N and 280N latitudes.

  2) According to J.P. Mills, the Nagas live in the area, "bounded by the Hudkawng valley in the north-east, the plains of Brahmaputra valley to the north-west, of Cachar to the south-west and of the Chindwin to the east. In the south, the Manipur valley roughly marks the point of contact between the Naga tribes and the very much more closely interrelated group of Kuki tribes -Thadou, Lushei, Chin, etc,"

  3) In India they are found in Nagaland, four Districts in Manipur, one District in Assam and two Districts in Arunachal Pradesh. In addition to this, many Nagas inhabit in Western parts of Myanmar (Burma). In Myanmar, Nagas are concentrated in the Somrah Tract bordering India, which comes under Kachin state and Saging Sub-division.
The Philologists have grouped Naga languages as belonging to the Tibeto-Burma family. The hypothesis given by a scholar J.P Mills also may be untenable since the Naga tribes traced their origin to southeast and supported by folk-tale and folk songs. One of the Indian authorities of Nagas, Murot Ramunny writes, "The original home of the Nagas, before they reached the areas they now occupy, is rather difficult to ascertain. Different authorities have connected them with headhunters of Malay; the races of the southern seas, while other traces them back even to China.” The origin of the Naga tribes is shrouded in mystery and is encapsulated in folklores and legends. After examining various oral sources, (Sanyu 1996, 5-35) concluded that the Nagas belong to the Mongoloid racial stock and that their original home was in central China. After leaving their original habitat before the Christian era, they took different routs and gradually reached their present habitat. Their migrated took place in several waves and continued for some centuries till the different Nagas tribes came to occupy the place of their present habitat.
The exact number of Naga tribes is not know because they are found not only in Nagaland, but also in the contiguous areas of the Indian states of Manipur, Assam Arunachal Pradesh and also in Burma. Thus, the Nagas inhabited areas, sometimes called Greater Nagaland, and is divided by the state and national boundaries. Another difficulty in determining the exact number of Naga tribes arises because of the process of fusion and fission that has been taking place. Some smaller Naga tribes are absorbed by larger ones and are treated as sub-tribes, while sections of larger tribes, separated by state boundaries sometimes prefer to be treated as distinct tribes.  Nagas also appear to have been distinguished from their neighbouring tribes by practice of ‘head hunting’, religion and superstitions. The country now occupied by Naga tribes was most likely subject to mainly four migrations waves and it is probably that the Konyaks were among the oldest settlers. They are: -

1)  The first immigration was from the direction of Tibet and Nepal, which probably entered via Arunachal Pradesh (formerly known as NEFA), as some of these tribes like Noctes and Akas belong to the same Naga family.    
2)  The second immigration was the Mon Khmer, also called Kol-Mon-Anam; there were tribes of the Indo-China peninsula that is now inhabited by the Nagas from the south. 

3)  The third immigration probably was from the southern China province of Yunan across the valley of Irrawadi and in this movement the Tais, Shan and Ahoms formed a part. This takes back to the first millennium of the Christian era, even Thai, were moving south from or through province (now in south China) and beginning to establish small independent kingdoms in what is now Laos, northern Thailand, the Shan state of the present Union Burma and upper reaches of the Brahmaputra (Dihand) valley of Assam (Assam).             

4)   The fourth immigration was from the Chin- Kuki group who belongs to the Chi tribes of Burma. This migration was the most recent for as late as 1918; they were migrated towards Lushai Hills (now Mizoram) and the district of Churachandpur, south west of Manipur. There are a few Kuki tribes scattered all over the Nagas Hills. The British government stopped this Chin Kuki migration during the 1917-18 Kuki revolt.

         The recent study of the origin of Nagas was by a Naga scholar name R.R. Shimray. He supported Marshall's view of Indo-China southwards movement. Thus he wrote: - "The Nagas and other tribal of North East India followed the Southward movements toward Indo-China. It has been seen that the ancestors of the Nagas had lived at Sea Coast in the remote past. This has been inferred from the various evidences that the Nagas at one distant past were living near the Sea.” "Some people believe the present group of Nagas came from the Philippines where there is a place called Naga". Some tribes from Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia are seems to be the same group of Nagas who retreated from the Southern Seas. However the above belief is just an assumption because the Naga village (present Naga city) in Philippines was name by Spanish troops only in 1573, when they discovered a flourishing Bikol village with abundance of NARRA TREES in that place.

         There is evidence to support a contention that traces of these races’ movement are to be found in the culture of the tribes now collectively called Nagas. All Nagas indicate their original place from where they had migrated southward while a few Konyaks villages that claim that they cam from the Chongliemdi clan. Khoiraos and Sema Nagas are closely affinity with the eastern Angami Nagas though they trace they origin to the south. The Sanglam trace their origin to the south (Korem in Burma) the Sema, Chindwin Valley of Burma, the Kolya-Kenyu relates to the Singphos, the northern of Burma. The folksong and folktale of Tangkhul tribe also supported that the Nagas came from Myanmar. The Angami, Chakesand, Poumei, Maram and Mao say that they are from the south. There is a same legend current between the Angami and the Mao, that they are the children of the first woman who is called Dziilimosiiro (some called her, goddess) which means the purest or crystal clear water, who, one day, while resting under a tree with her legs apart, suddenly a thick blanket of clouds surrounded over her and some drops of liquid came down over her private part, and thus she was Impregnated mysteriously by a cloud at the place called Makriipfii or Meikhel, which is believed as the first Nagas’ native place (land) by the common Nagas.

          It has been asserted that the Naga tribes are marked by a very strong love for the village sites. This is the marked contrast to the Kukis and other hill tribes like Garos and hill Kacharis. There are certainly some special marks by which Naga tribes are distinguished from their neighbours, and common ties by which as one people. There are distinguished from neighbours by physical, conformation, customs habits, manners, way of life and weapons. The majority of the Naga tribes burry the dead accept the Aos and Changs who expose their dead. A close examination of the implements and weapons used by the tribes of the Nagas reveals that these very same tools are also used by the Igorot tribes of the Philippines. Another characteristic to be noted is the use of the war-drums. Aos, Konyaks, Changs and Yimdrunges make huge drum out of a whole tree hollowed through a narrow slit in the top. Tribes like Sema, Angami, Mao, Zeliagrong and Tangkhul do not make these drums.
          Diversity of origin among the Nagas is proved by a number of minor considerations. The Sema reap with bare hands whereas the others with sickle.  The Angami, Zemi, Rengmas, Chakesang, Tangkhul, Mao and Maram practice terrace the slash and burn or shifting cultivation. Jhumming cultivation was well known but nowadays the state government discourages it. In the matters of the village polity, customs vary from tribe to tribe. The hereditary chief s among the Konyaks and the Sema enjoy almost feudal position as lord, the Ao and the Tangkhul have chiefs whose position and power are several notches blow those of the Sema and Konyaks king \chiefs. The Angami Chakesang, Rengma and Mao are run on even more democratic lives.

         Though at present, we are hard to put to arrive at a satisfactory explanation of the origin of the Nagas. In spite of all the different waves of immigrations and the resultant admixture of the people notwithstanding, there are many marked characteristics common to the various customs set them apart from the neighbouring non-Naga tribes of the North East.

            The whole Naga tribes came for a meeting for a deliberation at Shajouba Village near the Meikhel before their departure from Meikhel. According to the legend of Poumai Naga, a man name POU (of the prominent leader of Naga) erected his walking stick on the ground after the meeting and left for home. But his walking stick sprouted and rooted inside the earth. The then walking stick growth to be a wild pear tree (Chiitesii), which believes the first wild pear tree, is still alive at Shajouba near Meikhel. Whether it is sprouted from Pou's walking stick or not - the Pear tree is believed to be planted during the Nagas departure from Meikhel. The Nagas called this Pear tree as departure tree since it was planted during their departure. The wild Pear tree (in Poumei Tyaobe & in Mao Chiitesii) or departure tree planted during their departure meeting is a very important tree, which is still kept reverence by all the Nagas who migrated from Meikhel.     The falling of any branches from the wild pear tree due to storm or wind signifies the bad omen. If any branches of that tree fall, the Meikhelian (Poumai, Angami, Mao, Tangkhul, Zeliangrong Sema, Lotha, Maram and other Nagas) who dispersed from the dispersal site observed a day, which is forbidden to work in the field. People were strictly restricted to choke-off even a small branch from that tree. It is believed to be a sacred tree for the Nagas. It is believed that anybody who cuts down any branches of that tree will die instantly and heavy rain and storm would come to the areas. The Nagas considered the wild pear tree as sacred and no one dares to cut any branches from that wild pear tree (Chiitesii \ Tyaobe).

           There are 52 major tribes with the population about 3 millions in 2001. There are 16 tribes in Nagaland, 20 tribes in Manipur, 2 tribes in Assam, 3 tribes in Arunachal Pradesh and 11 tribes in Myanmar. According to Naga National Right and Movements NNC, there are 77 tribes, which include the sub-tribe and major tribes. According to 2001 Census, the Nagas from Nagaland and Manipur comprise of about 2.7 millions and the rest of the Nagas comprise of about 0.3 millions of population.

According to the report on the province of Assam in 1854 by Mills A.J. Moffatt, the British first came to contact with the Nagas in 1832 when the Captain Jenkins and Pamberton along with 700 soldiers and 800 coolies or porters to carry their belongings and provision marched across the Naga Hills in their attempt to find a route from Manipur to Assam. When the British came to the Naga Hills, the Nagas continued to raid the British troops in different villages. The fight between the Nagas and British continued till 1880 when the fort of Khonoma was finally fell into the hand of British troops

          After 1880, the British troops dominated in many parts of the Naga Hills but the Konyak tribe continued to fight the British till 1939-4. The British administered in most of the Naga villages but they did not controlled over in all the Nagas villages. When the British left the Nagas Hills after the India got Independence, the Nagas declared Nagaland (Nagalim) as an Independence Nation on 14th August 1947. But the Indian Government did not recognize the unilateral declaration of the Naga National Independence and the indigenous Naga people continue to struggle to get sovereignty from the Indian Government.

Robinson wrote, “Other races may from time to time have entered and takes refuge in the hills, bringing with them their own dialects and these last specially may form the great connection link of all the Nagas and the cause of separation from other hill tribes.”

1.  R. R. Shimray (1985): Origin and Culture of Nagas, New Delhi
2. Horam (1975),
3. Alphones D’souza SJ
3. R. B. Thohe Pou

Mao tribe
According to the Mao Naga myth of Human origin:
         The Mao Naga tribe inhabits the northern part of the Manipur State- Senapati district bounded by the Angami, Rengma and Chakhesang Naga tribes in the north, the Maram and Zeme Naga tribes in the west, the Tangkhul Naga in the east and the meiteis in the south. The area stretches along the foot hills of Esii Pfoki or Mt. Tenupu on the Japfii mountain range in the west extending up to Liani River on the eastern side of the Nagaland State.     
               “The Origin is always obscure,” says MacIver. The origin of the Mao Naga is very obscure, for there is not any written historical document of the past, the origin of the Mao Naga traces only through the bases of folk songs, stories and folk lores. The history and customs are preserved in human memories which are handed down through one generation to another by oral narration. The songs and tales cover the whole life of the society, social system, history of origin, migration, achievements of the heroes, the love affairs, events of the war and making peace treaty and such events of times.

The Tiger, the God and the Man came into existence through the miraculous union between the already existing the first woman and the cloud of the sky. The first woman’s name was called” DZIILIMOSIIRO,” which means the “purest water “or “crystal clear water.”

One day “DZIILIMOSIIRO,” was resting under a peepal tree with her legs apart at the place called ‘MAKHRIIFII’, now MAKHEL, which is believed as the first Nagas’ native land or place by the common Nagas, presently situated in Mao, Manipur. Suddenly a dust of clouds surrounded over her and some drops of liquid came down over her private part and she become pregnant. There is another tale about the origin and migration of the Mao Naga, which seems to be more authentic. It is believe that the Naga’s fore-fathers came from China. They ran away from Chinese emperor who forcibly employed his subjects in the construction of the Great Wall of China. They walked alone the river’s side, Kriiborii, which is a tributary of Chindwin River in Myanmar, and finally reached the end of the river, where its source begins. They settled there and name the place called “Makhrefii.”(Makhre - secret, fii- place)  

When the mother grew older, she became weak. The children of hers nursed her turn by turn when the other two went to the field. The mother always felt discomfort on the day when she was looking after by the tiger because the tiger would always demand to eat this and that parts of her body as soon as she died. 
She always caught high fever whenever the God looked after her during the day as the other brothers went to the field. The woman always long for the man to nurse her because she would feel very pleasant and never get sick whenever she was with her Son (man). 

Accidentally she breathed out her last breath on the day when the man looked her after. The man buried the dead body beneath the hearth of the kitchen as being advised by his mother less the Tiger and God came back from the field. The Tiger asked from the man to show the place where the mother was buried and scratched out the mud wherever he (Tiger) suspected. 

Now they all wept together for their lost mother. They sat down together and discussed what they would do thereafter, as the mother was no more. They came to conclusion that they must go to their respective places was already being directed by their mother when she was alive. 

When the time came for their departure, the God and the Tiger were hesitant to go to their respective places. They remained at home with the Man. They began fighting for the native home. They came to conclusion that they would have a contest. The contest was- one who saw, first the rising sun would dwell in the native land. Therefore the following day they sat in a line watching the first rising sun. The Tiger and the God were looking seriously at the east while the Man was looking at the west, at the high mountains. The man saw the sun light appeared on the top of the mountains before they saw the real sun rising. Thus the Man won the contest.

The God hesitantly went away the forest. The Tiger though supposed to go where their mother had directed to go (plain) but he remained at home with the Man in their native home. In order to get rid of the Tiger the Man made some sorts of plans. The Man asked the Tiger what was he scared most. The Tiger answered that fire and thundering sound were the most frightening things for him. 

One day the Man tight on the Tiger’s tail with a bamboo cup and piece of the torn mat when he was fast asleep. He then brought the horn, buffalo’s horn, near the Tiger’s ear and blew it with his might. On hearing the deafening sound the Tiger woke up from his sleep and ran away to the plain. The youngest son, therefore, remained in the native home as the inheritor of the mother. That is why the youngest son of the family inherits the residence of the parents.

To be continued.....

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