Angami tribal man during Hornbill Festival, Nagaland.

The Angami People of Nagaland | Celebrating Indigenous Peoples

Angami tribal man during Hornbill Festival, Nagaland.
Angami tribal man during Hornbill Festival.

Nagaland is one of the seven sister states of India and is located in the northeastern part of the nation. Kohima is the heart/bustling city of this state. The place is filled with the natural beauty of glorious mountains which catches the attention of travelers. The region is rich in flora, fauna and cultures. Tribes of Nagaland are categorized into sixteen types, they are: Angami, Rengma, Yimchunger, Konyak, Chakhesang, Sangtam, Dimasa Kachar, Zeliang, Khiamniungan, Lotha, Kuki, Chang, Sumi, Phom, Pochury and Ao. Among all these tribes, the “Angami” find majority in the state.

Origin of Angami Society:

Every society has its origin and significance. There are several theories which attempt to characterize the origin and society of Naga Tribes. One of the well accepted is that the Naga Tribes are one of the most powerful society who have inhabited the Naga Hills for several centuries. Though there is real no proof to identify the real origin of this society, there are beliefs and theories. J.H Hutton, who served as an administrator from 1917-1935 in Naga Hills, recorded that the Angami people are the first tribal society to have settled in Northeast India. To clarify the real origin of this society, a study case was conducted with the head and local people of the villages. While conducting the survey, it was found that the society has its own folk tales, legends, proverbs and poems. According to one legend, the ancestors of the tribes were brothers who lived together with their parents in Khezhakenoma village. When the three brothers spread out, the Angamis came to the present Kohima area. In another legend it is believed that Maikel Stone was the place where ancestors of the Angamis emerged from the earth. Many festivals are also observed by the community according to their culture and tradition. Tendydie, Gnamei, Angami and Tsoghami are mother tongue of Angami Tribes. Tendydie is the one most commonly used.

Division of Angami Tribe:

The domination by this tribe of their hills is further understood by their sub-divisions in land, such as Southern Angami (south part of Kohima located on the foothills of Mount Japfu); Western Angami (west side of Kohima); Northern Angami (northern part of Kohima) and Chakhro Angami.

Kohima city, Nagaland
Kohima is a bustling hill-station inhabited majorly by the Angamis.

Culture and Tradition:

Angami Tribes are divided into five major types namely Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Christian Revival and Roman Catholic. Eighty percent of the population of Angamis follow the Baptist, with churches in the Angami region being owned and operated by Angami Baptist Church Council. It is to be noted that there are still some Angamis who follow an animist Pfutsana religion, thus denying to convert to Christianity.

Historically, Angami religion was that of tsana (meaning ‘way of ancestors’), which was characterized by belief in spirits. Above all creature, the chief, was Kepenuopfü, who was considered the creator and supreme being of all living creatures. The literal meaning of Kepenuopfü is simply ‘birth-spirit’. The Angamis also had deities as ‘terhoma‘ meaning spirits, but when the missionaries came and translated the word ‘terhoma’, they termed it as ‘satan’. This made the notion of  all the terhoma be considered as evil in the minds of the people, even when the qualities of some of them were definitely benevolent.

Angami Village, Nagaland
Angami villages are picturesquely located on top of hills.
Basket weaving by Angami Tribe, Nagaland
Basket weaving is a popular livelihood in the villages.

Angamis prefer to live in the top of hills, which probably has to do with observing a line of sight to invading enemies. Their villages vary in size and observe democracy. Though there’s a village headman, decisions are made with the consent of elders and important persons of the village. Their staple food is rice and drink is zu (rice beer) which is brewed in every home. The Angamis are also one of the earliest Naga tribes to end their practice of headhunting, which was once a test of bravery, in 1905.

Woodcarving of Headhunter Heritage
Angami woodwork depicting their heritage of headhunting. Photo courtesy: David Camrass

The hill people depend mostly on cultivation and livestock-rearing. They are one of the only 2 tribes out of the sixteen Naga tribes who practise wet-rice cultivation on beautiful terraces carved out on the hill slopes. Due to this labor intensive method of cultivation, land is considered as the most important form of property. Woodcrafts and artworks are the other common means of livelihood, which are performed with great skill. This can be observed in the variety of house doors and clan-gates found in a village. Spinning, weaving, pottery and basketry are also pursued by the tribe, whereas weaving is a must for every Angami woman. The Angamis are also rich in folk-songs, folk-dance and folktales.

Festival:

Sekrenyi is the most significant festival celebrated by Angami people. The festival is observed for 10 days in the month of February every year.  Literally, Sekrenyi means ‘sanctification festival’. The festival falls on the 25th day of month Kezei (according to Angami Calendar) and is celebrated after the harvesting of fields. It is observed in a very traditional and religious manner. The most interesting day of the festival is the thekra hie, when young and old people wearing their traditional dresses sit together and spend the day singing songs, performing dances, have feasts, drinking beer and merry making. All the work ceases during the ten days of feasting and song. It is no wonder that Nagaland is called the ‘land of festivals’.

To visit:

Tour of Naga Tribes is an itinerary which deals with interacting with numerous interesting tribes of Nagaland, such as the Konyaks, Angamis and Aos. Greener Pastures also organizes tailored trips to Sekrenyi Festival.

Angami children during Sekrenyi Festival, Nagaland
Angami children during Sekrenyi Festival. Photo courtesy: David Camrass

Contributed by: Oinam Kennedy

This post is part of our series Celebrating Indigenous Peoples, focused on indigenous peoples of Northeast India and their times.

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