The Head Hunters of Nagaland

Right on the edge of India and Myanmar lies Nagaland, often refered to as the wild west of India where until recently 16 odd headhunting tribes valiantly fought off any intruders.

Nagaland

Nagaland

 

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is home to many tribes

 

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 is home to many tribes

 

Long feared for their ferocity in war and fierce independence , Naga tribes considered head hunting a sign of strength and machismo. Every inter-village war saw the victors loping of the heads of the vanquished , bringing social status for the warrior and fertility for the land.

 

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Among certain tribes such as the Konyaks of Mon, men who had claimed heads are adorned with face tattoos and V-shaped marks on their torsos, as well as brass pendants depicting the number of heads taken.

 

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A warrior bringing his first head back from battle was rewarded with a facial tattoo.

For a full day, from sunrise to sunset, the tattoo would be inscribed into the skin via thorn and bamboo. The recipient was forbidden to make any sounds during tattooing

 

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For men tattooing was a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood, just as going to war was a part of growing up.

For women tattooing reflected the cycle of life, where crucial life events such as coming of age, marriage or childbirth resulted in tattooing. Some patterns on woman were also to pay homage to a successful head taking by her father, brother or male relative.

Just as her mother and older sisters before her, it was mandatory to get tattoos. The belief was that if they refused then upon death they would be prevented from entering the land of the dead, where souls resided.

 

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The last occurrence of head hunting was in 1963 and this practice is now outlawed. However it was not so much for the government ban that the Nagas gave up this practice, but for the Christian missionaries operating here.

Almost 90% of Nagas now consider themselves Christian, with churches now the prominent landmarks in of most villages . As a result , this unique traditional practice is vanishing and only a few of the last old men and woman remain alive as a testimony to this culture of body art.

 

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Thanks to the efforts of Konyak & Bos this dying culture will be recorded in a book called ‘The Tattoo Headhunters’  expected to be published in 2017

Future generations will know less and less of their elders culture

Future generations will know less and less of their elders culture

 

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One cannot help feeling there is an element of truth in this boys T-shirt

One cannot help feeling there is an element of truth in this boys T-shirt

 

Nagalanders often refer to their state as the naughty state where their Christian beliefs are overlooked (as is any meaningful infrastructure) by Hindu Delhi.

Once a year tribes gather in the capital of Nagaland, Kohima.

 

 This must have been  the National highway 61

This must have been the National highway 61 to Kohima

 

as we could not find any other one to the capital, Kohema

as we could not find any other to the capital

 

We see very few cars given river bridges such as this

We see very few cars given river bridges such as this

 

Road kill

Really no need for this. Live and let live

 

and new life. Honey is harvested from these

New life along the way. Honey is harvested from these

 

En route to Kohema is the town of  Longleng

En route to Kohima is the town of Longleng

 

 which has a bakery

which has a bakery

 

and a bike & tyre workshop

and a bike spares & tyre workshop

 

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Kohima

 

 Kohema

has room at the Inn

 

 seems to have as much military as inhabitants

and as much military as inhabitants

 

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and lots of dog stew which we give a miss

It also has lots of dog stew on the menu, which we give a miss

 

Some of the various tribes that gathered in Kohema

Some of the various tribes that gathered in Kohima

 

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 thankfully today..

thankfully today..

 

no heads rolled

no heads rolled

 

 

8 Responses to The Head Hunters of Nagaland

  1. NoddyK

    Great photo’s. Wow, so much out there that we are not aware off… thanks for sharing. Safe travels 🙂

  2. Sharon McGillewie

    Fantastic photos, maybe we will see you on the road!!

  3. Jan and Gail

    This puts my earrings to shame. Jan says he agrees with Mad Rider. And we both say What a fantastic set of photos.

  4. Cheryl Lipman

    Stunning photos! Thanks for sharing your amazing trip

  5. Anonymous

    Interesting – I don’t think I would like to get into a fight with that lot! Makes me think of the series Game of Thrones! Thanks once again for sharing.

  6. Jim and Muriel

    What a different way of life in Nagaland——a lot to take in and as usual you describe it all and photograph it all so interestingly——-again, thanks you great pair !!

  7. Mad Rider

    Never knew such places still exist. Thanks for sharing

  8. Rodney

    This is absolutely fascinating. Your photography skills are excellent, Thanks for taking us along for the ride.

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