Textiles of Nagaland

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Nagaland is a state in northeastern India. Nagaland is home to several tribes. Each tribe uses bold distinctive patterns with simple clean lines, stripes, squares, and bands and has its own specific designs and motifs for shawls and sarongs. Common colours are black or white with red and green motifs for introducing an extra weft. The combinations and the designs have tremendous social significance and symbolic meaning. The dress a person wears reveals his/her standing in the tribal hierarchy. The dress materials for daily use are produced with the help of the age old looms by the Naga females and the end product is surely a visual enchantment.

Yimchunger

A huge variety of shawls can be found amongst the Yimchunger Nagas. Rongkhim is one of the most stunning shawls which can be worn only by a renowned warrior. The red color found in that shawl represents the blood of the enemy. If a man who is not a warrior is found to don this shawl, he is believed to die of leprosy. In the order of merit, Kechinger Ronfkhim is the warrior shawl of second rate honor. A man who has taken the right hand of the enemy can wear this shawl. This shawl is a black cloth having two narrow grey bands at the two edges. Tsungrem khim is an exclusive female shawl. Sangkonglim khim or long drum shawl is that one particular shawl which can be worn by both the male and the female Yimchunger Nagas without any restriction. Amerthre khim is the beautiful Yimchunger shawl which can be worn exclusively by the individual who had killed a tiger. A wealthy Yimchunger tribal man wears Rehuke khim or cowrie which is the most important cloth for him. The shawl for a common man is a black one by the name Aneadk Khim. Again Mokhok Khim is a simple white shawl devoid of any design that can be worn by both the men and the women.

Among the Yimchunger tribe, the women folk are found to wear two categories of skirt, as mentioned below:

(a) Kechingperu khim is one type of skirt which is given to a child when she requires one. This skirt is a white cloth bearing narrow black and red bands at normal intervals; these bands keep alternating with white.

(b) Langa Imjung, also called Alongza khim is a skirt donned only by the wealthy women.

Sangtam

The symbols and designs found in the textiles of the Sangtam tribes are somewhat wimilar to the ones found amongst the Aos and the Yimchungers. The famous Sangtam Rongsu is a warrior shawl which no ordinary individual can wear. You ould find four grey band on the top of a cloth on a black base and four more bands of the same shade at the bottom. Supong is a decorative shawl of the Sangtam tribe which can be worn by the wealthy men. The Sangtam tsingrang su is a special shawl for the aristocratic Sangtam men.

Sema

Weaving has been practiced less in Sema villages as compared to the other neighboring tribes. However, in recent years the Sema women are found to produce shawls and skirts which are greatly being appreciated both inside and outside Nagaland for their delicate vibrant patterns.

Akhum, the most common Sema cloth is black with three or four red bands. It can be found to be adorned with various designs and is generally worn by wealthy men. Avi-kiyi-phi is a cloth worn by the Sema warriors of substance. This cloth may also be worn by a rich Sema who has offered the feast of merit by slaying mithun. Avi-kiyi-phi is a white cloth having nine white bands at regular intervals.

Konyak

Among the Konyaks, only a few variety of clothes can be found. The elderly people of the village are found to wear a remarkable shawl called nye-myon while attending important meetings and conferences. Nikola is a white shawl worn by women. In the middle portion of this shawl, a pair of narrow black lines can be found at a distance of nearly 4 cms and in between these two lines a lozenge pattern is woven in red. A wealthy Konyak woman wears a vibrant and good-looking shawl called shatni. On his daughter’s marriage, a rich man is found to present a shatni which she preserves during her lifetime. This shawl is later used to wrap her body after she dies. Meyni is the aristocratic shawl which is used by the chieves and the elders among the Konyak tribe. Nyauni, which is a combination of red bands and red lines, is worn by the rich Konyaks.

Ze-liangs-rong

Quite a few varieties of clothes is worn by the Ze-liangs-rong which is a mixed group of Zemis, Liangmais and Rongmei, as evident from the very name of the community. The usual pattern is a white cloth with six black bands at both the edges. The black bands keep varying in their sizes. The skirts of the Zemei are white with a thin black and red border. The women make shawls and skirts from cotton grown in home and the color of the attire is either white or beige. These have black bands of different widths along the border which are separated by pink and red borders. The popular skirt worn during dancing is black in color with a wide and a red border embroidered elaborately and also three white median bands with a narrow red line in the middle.

Rengma

A huge variety of patterns can be found in the clothes worn by the Rengma tribe. A man whio has not yet been able to offer any feast of merit or even take the head of his enemy can only wear an ordinary cloth called rhikho. It is a white cloth having four thin black bands. This cloth is worn by both the young and old. A dark blue cloth with a very wide median band having a thin zigzag pattern embroidered in red at the edges is a kind of cloth for which no ritual is required. It is called the Moyet tsu and is mainly a young man’s cloth. The rich men wear alungtsu is a cloth. Teri Phiketsu is a Rengma shawl of significane since for it the performance of head-hunting ceremony is imperative.

Phom Nagas

Like all the other tribes, the Phom Nagas also differentiate the patterns of their cloth on the basis of the social status of the person who wears it. Vihe-ashak is the ordinary white cloth and Nempong-ashak is the dark blue called  cloth meant for casual wear. Phom fanet is the cowrie shawl which is worn by a man who has offered feast of merit. Henyu is a handsome cloth and is a red shawl having narrow white horizontal bands at regular intervals. It is generally worn by the wealthy men. In recent years, this particular cloth has been selected as the national cloth of the Phom community ans the restrictions no longer exist. Phom shungnang is the skirt which is worn by the Phom women. A phom shungnang is a black cloth having a pair of prominent stripes running parallel to each other where each bears five thin red lines. Again shaka is the skirts worn by the wives and the daughters of the rich Phom tribal people.

Embroidery

The beautiful embroidery of Nagaland portrays the rich artistic caliber of the local craftsmen of the north eastern state of India. The local indigenous population of Nagaland design unique patterns on their shawls, clothes and other decorative items made up of cloth which reflects their cultural heritage. The splendid embroidery of the Angami Naga shawls of Nagaland has an internationally acclaimed status. Most of the tourists who visit the north eastern state prefer to buy the beautiful shawls as relic of the rich artistic creativity of the native population of Nagaland. Designed with colorful threads or wools, the Angami Naga shawls reflect the old glory and grandeur of the state of Nagaland.

Popularly known as Sami Lami Phee, the Angami Naga shawls were gifted to the valiant fighters by the ruler of Nagaland in recognition of their service during the ancient times. The Angami Naga shawls are usually embroidered with unique design patterns of several wild animals against the black base of the shawls. The exclusive embroidered cloths are an important part of the rich arts and crafts of Nagaland. Most of the local indigenous inhabitants have mastery over the traditional art of designing beautiful patterns of animals on the pieces of cloth.

The unique embroidered items help the state to earn huge revenues and have helped in the economic and social development of Nagaland. The state government of Nagaland has taken several landmark steps to improve the small scale and medium scale cottage industries for further enhancement of the traditional art of embroidery.

Traditional costumes of Nagaland

The traditional costumes worn in Nagaland are a lot different from the other states of India. The inhabitants of the state give a lot of weight age to their culture, traditions, and costumes and feel that costumes are what identifies them and separate them from the rest of the crowd. The dresses that people wear here are colourful and vibrant. An important item which the people of Nagaland adorn is a shawl. The beautiful shawls are amongst the most popular traditional dresses of the place. These shawls are separately designed for every tribe to be able to differentiate between them easily.  These categories are further divided into categories and sub-categories narrowing down the designs for each one of them. The shawl is also different as per the role of the person. For example, a person who has carried out any work which is merit worthy will have a separate shawl as compared to an ordinary man residing in the village.< Classification of Nagaland Traditional Dresses on the basis of tribes:

Angami Tribe

The Angamis form one of the biggest Naga tribal communities. The people belonging to this community who are generally hardworking and handsome, have been living mainly on the products out of the prolific terraced fields since a few generations before along the hilly slopes carrying out hunting. The women belonging to this tribe are expert weavers. In the absence of field works, they hae often been found sitting at their looms for a couple of hours. Although the women are found to wear a variety of cloth patterns, mainly they wear Loramhoushu or the one having white with red and black bands and lohe having black with red and yellow bands. Phichu-pfe is that distinctive cloth among the Angamis which is worn by the priest. Ratapfe is a black shalw which is worn commonly by men and women as casual wears. Kilt which is a plain black cloth is generally worn by men. It has the embroidery made with cowries in three to four lines. The usual dress of the Angami women consists of neikhro or a petticoat, vatchi or a sleeveless bodice and pfemhou which is a white skirt.

Lothas

Lothas have a separate distinction of shawls on the basis of the number of gennas which are performed by the one wearing it. Thereby, a person who has performed the first genna wears a shawl known as phangrhup, the stripes of which widen after the second genna is performed by the person. After the third genna is performed, the man can wear ethasu. Following this, if the series of feasts which needs to be completed is performed, and the stone-dragging is over with, the man is liable to wear lungpensu. Lungpensu is a dark blue cloth with five light blue coloured stripes on it with narrow stripes on both the sides.

Tsungkotepsu

It is an Ao warrior shawl which has a variety of figures including those of Tiger, Mithun, elephant, cock, a human head, and spear on top of it. The shawl is beautiful and attractive. The figures present on top of the shawl represent some symbol such as Mithun stands for the wealth of the person wearing it, elephant and tiger represent the ability of the person to hunt, and the human head stands for the success of the wearer in taking the number of heads. The patterns are black in colour and are present on top of a white band. The cloth on top of which the patterns are made is dark blue in colour.

Changs (Shawls)

Kaksi nei is the dress worn by unmarried boys as well as girls. A newly married couple wears the Silang nei. Tobu nei is a different kind of Chang shawl which has zig-zag patterns of red and black colours alternately on a blue band. Yimchunger shawl is another variety of shawls which are really popular and are Aneak Khim that is black and Mokhok Khim that is white.  Another shawl called Rongkhim which is a kind of Yimchunger shawl is worn by a person who has killed and taken heads during wars. The shawl has a red design which is rectangular in shape, the red color denoting the blood of the enemy. Earlier, by just taking a look at the shawl of the one wearing it, a person could identify his tribe, social status, the village of residence and the number of gennas performed by him. However, in today’s scenario, it is not really possible.

Kilt

Kilt is another commonly worn dress apart from the shawl. A kilt is denoted as the working dress which is usually black. It is intricately designed with cowries which make it appear like a male dress. Before the cowries are designed on the kilt, they are rubbed on a stone so as to make them stick well on the cloth. The man who uses the kilt is the one to sew it. Nobody else including the wife or any other person is allowed to do it for him. The cowries designed on top of kilt are quite popular amongst the Nagas and is symbolic of the success of the wearer in love as well as in war.

Thadou Dress

Women wear dresses which have a length of a quarter meter and are wrapped around the waist tightly. Shirts too are available in numerous varieties and are worn as per the clan that the woman belongs to. The skirts which have red and yellow stripes on them are especially worn to mark special occasions and are known as Azu Jangnup Su. Women belonging to the Angami tribe wear a skirt made up of blue cloth as well as white cloth. There are thick black bands on the margins of the white cloth which vary in breadth. They also wear Mechala which can be wrapped around the skirt and worn along with a shawl.  Men, on the other hand, wear the dress with a similar style along with ornaments, bangles, pendants; bracelets etc which give a religious look altogether. Women of Nagaland also wear another dress known as Neikhro which have a design resembling a petticoat. The uniqueness lies in the colour and pattern of these costumes. Another costume worn by the men of Nagaland is Rhikho. Only those men who have not yet been able to offer a great feast or have not been able to kill/defeat any big enemy wear this costume. The cloth is white in colour and has four bands of black colour attached to it.

Moyer Tusk is a cloth which is ordinary and is dark blue in colour. It has a band with zigzag patterns at the end of the cloth. Alungstu is also a traditional costume of Nagaland which is worn by the rich men of the place. These costumes depict prosperity and success. The cloth is dyed in yellow colour and also has flowers on it. These dress designs have been made by the people belonging to the tribe only.

Art and Crafts of Nagaland

The rich arts and crafts of Nagaland portray the artistic caliber and creative imagination of the local craftsmen of the north eastern state of India. Nagaland has several small scale cottage and medium scale industries that produce fine products of the traditional art of the state.

The art of weaving is primarily the domain of the female folk of Nagaland. The weaving industry is one of the important industries of Nagaland that has added to the financial strength of the north eastern state of India. The women of Nagaland design beautiful patterns on pieces of cloth to make them colorful and attractive. The excellent design patterns on the Angami Naga shawls bears relic to the unique artistic skills of the artists who have inherited the art from their forefathers. The men folk of Nagaland produce excellent pieces of wooden work. The artists carve exquisite designs on the wooden pieces. One of the traditional arts of Nagaland, the wood carving industry produces beautiful products that have an internationally acclaimed status.

Wood Carvings

The Nagaland wood carvings are known for their elegant designs and excellent quality. Nagaland earns huge revenues from the wood carving industry of the state. An integral part of arts and crafts of Nagaland, the beautifully designed wooden works portrays the rich artistic caliber and imaginative skills of the local craftsmen. The tribes of Wanchos, Phom and Konyaks are known for their splendid mastery over the traditional art of carving beautiful products from woods which they have inherited from their forefathers. The excellent pieces of wooden work have internationally acclaimed status. Most of the tourists who visit Nagaland make it a point to purchase the pieces of traditional art as relics of the unique cultural heritage and artistic creativity of the place. The wooden pieces of art work of Nagaland are primarily used for decorative purposes.

The wood carvers of Nagaland produce unique pieces of wooden work from traditional instruments of adze, chisel, dao and axe. Wooden figures of human beings, elephants, hornbill, mithun head, tiger and other animals are the main products of the traditional industry of wood carving. The wood carving industry of Nagaland has led to the strengthening of the economic base of the state.

The wood carvers of the area of Konyak in Nagaland draw inspiration from the Khajurao art work and carve excellent figures of human beings. The state government of Nagaland has taken several steps to improve the traditional industry of wood carving in the form of extending financial help and moral encourage to the craftsmen.

Basketry

Nagaland basketry can be used for variety of purposes. Most of the local indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland know the art of making baskets from bamboo and cane. Bamboo and cane are easily available in the neighboring forest lands of Nagaland. An important part of the traditional arts and crafts of Nagaland, the aboriginal tribes of the north eastern state make beautiful and usable baskets for daily use. The art of making baskets have been mostly mastered by the men folk of Nagaland. Basket making in Nagaland reflects the rich mythical history and folk culture of the state. According to the unique folk culture of the Ao tribe of Nagaland, the local indigenous inhabitants had inherited the art of making baskets from the magician, Changkichanglangba on the sixth day of his death.

Prior to his death, the magician had instructed the native population that after six days of his death, they would find out some interesting things in his grave. As per the direction of Changkichanglangba, the local inhabitants did find several beautiful baskets of different sizes and shapes. Thus the art of basket making was introduced among the tribal communities of Nagaland. The baskets of Nagaland vary in size and shape. While the Angami tribe make cylindrical baskets, the Ao are proficient in making conical shaped baskets. An essential household good of the local inhabitants of Nagaland, the baskets are generally used for keeping vegetables, clothes, and crops.

Baskets of Nagaland also serve as decorative items. Most of the tourists who visit Nagaland prefers to buy the beautiful baskets for imparting an ethnic look to their house.

Traditional Ornaments

The Traditional Ornaments of Nagaland are worn by both men and women specially during festive occasions. The ceremonial metallic bell necklace of the tribal people is very famous. A number of small bells are attached to a string. Multi-stranded jewelry is very popular in Nagaland. The Classical Naga necklaces that are worn by tribal men and women, often consist of a number of beaded strands. The necklace-ends are completed by wrapped threads, small sheep horns, or knitted string. The hook of the necklace is generally carved into a horn or bone, or a button which is made from a small bead or coin. The Naga warriors pendants are designed in the form of miniature trophy masks in order to symbolize their bravery and courage. Colorful glass beads are generally strung on chords and tightened by coins.

The traditional ornaments of Nagaland are multi colored with simple designs and very beautiful. A necklace made of colored beads is generally worn by the natives around the neck. The beads are made from variety of paraphernalia like stone, bone or shells. They also wear armlets made of ivory or brass. The most common ornaments used by the Nagas are necklaces, ear rings, armlets and bracelets. The Naga ornaments are usually designed from ordinary to semi-precious stones, ivory, metals boar’s teeth etc and are a hallmark of the high degree of creativity and dexterity of Art and Crafts of Nagaland .

Bamboo Works

Nagaland Bamboo Works are popular all over the world. This is because bamboo and cane are widely available in the forests of Nagaland and facilitate the growth and development of this skilled craft. Bamboos are used to make a wide variety of products which can be broadly categorized as:

Tribal Costume Accessories – The Tribal Costume Accessories like Combs, Konyak Naga Belt, leggings worn by Angami and Ao Naga men which are called Phipha are all made from bamboo.

Weapons – Weapons are an important part of tribal life. The Nagas make weapons like Chang Naga Cross-Bow from bamboo.

Domestic Products – They make cheap, light dishes from bamboo, which can be seen in every house of the state. Some of the domestic products produced from bamboo are Bamboo Saucers, Angami Naga Bamboo Spoons, Kedzu, a hayfork that is used by the Ao Nagas, Chang Bamboo Mugs and many more.

Musical Instruments – A wide variety of musical instruments are used by Nagas. The culturally refined Nagas have different musical instruments for different purposes such as Flute, Mouth Organ, Trumpet, Cup Violin.

Ceremonial Headgear – Most of the Nagas use a decorative ceremonial hat, which is usually made of bamboo.

Fish Traps and Fish Baskets – The Fish Traps and Fish Baskets that are used for fishing by the tribes are also made from bamboo. Lithuo is a fishing tray made of bamboo that is used by the tribal people in Nagaland.

Nagaland Bamboo Works are an inseparable part of the tradition and culture of the region. The Arts and Crafts of Nagaland are a hallmark of the consummate skill, expertise, talent and creativity of the tribal craftsmen.

Mats

The Mats of Nagaland are a rage with the local inhabitants as well as tourists. In Nagaland, bamboo is one of the main elements which is used to make various types of handicraft articles. Likewise, the mats are woven from bamboo splits. The raw material is found in abundance in the state and bamboo splits are sold in bundles of thousand. The length of the splits ranges from 30 cm to 60 cm and its price varies depending on the width and the length of the splits. The outer layer of the bamboo is used to make the splits because the inner layer of the bamboo is soft and fibrous.

The Mats of Nagaland are used for various purposes like the construction of house, rugs for drying grains, pretty floor coverings, comfortable sleeping mats, window and door screens and also as a partition as well as a host of other decorative purposes. These mats come in a wide variety of colors, design and size and are used for interior decoration in various innovative ways. To add color to the mat colored or textured warp is used by the artisans. These mats are also used for making wall hangings, table mats, tray mats, flower sticks etc. The price of the mats depend on the quality of the delicate bamboo splits, number and the quality of the warp threads used and also on the size of the mat. The Arts and Crafts of Nagaland are a hallmark of the consummate skill, expertise, talent and creativity of the tribal craftsmen.

Cane Works

Cane works of Nagaland form an important part of the handicrafts of the state. Cane is profusely used in Nagaland for making baskets and a number of items of utility. Tourists coming to Nagaland carry the cane works of Nagaland as souvenirs to their homeland. Nagas, the people of Nagaland, are known for their rich tradition of arts and crafts. Nagas use their skills to create different items of utility, such as hats, rain coats, etc. Basketry is of the most important form of craft in Nagaland. The cane baskets of the Khonoma village are known for their intricate design and weaving. The cane basket in Nagaland are made in the Tuensang district by the Khiamngam weavers. The delicacy and finesse of the basket gives it the appearance of lace.

Besides the cane baskets, the other cane works of Nagaland also include headgears and mats. Mats and headgears are made with the help of thin strips of bamboo or cane. In recent times, one can also come across beautiful furniture made of cane in Nagaland. Nagas also make head bands, leg guards, bangles, neck bands, necklace, armlets, leggings, etc. are some of the most popular cane works at Nagaland. The Arts and Crafts of Nagaland are a hallmark of the consummate skill, expertise, talent and creativity of the tribal craftsmen.

Pottery

The pottery of Nagaland is one of the celebrated crafts in Nagaland. The pottery at Nagaland is a craft that is restricted to the women. It would not be wrong to say that pottery in Nagaland is a part of the Naga household. The pottery of Nagaland is a unique form of craft. Unlike the other parts of India, pottery at Nagaland does not involve revolving the wheel. In Nagaland, pottery is made exclusively with the help of hands: revolving the wheel for making the vessels is completely non existent in Nagaland.

The pottery in Nagaland are simple. The earthenwares made in Nagaland have functional value. The Nagas pay more importance to utility rather than aesthetics. Therefore, the pottery of Nagaland do not intricate detailing and designs. The Tseminyu and Ungma villages of Nagaland are famous for their pottery. Besides, it is noteworthy that the turnover of the craft is not much, as it is done only by women. Menfolk in Nagaland are exempted from making earthenwares. The Arts and Crafts of Nagaland are a hallmark of the consummate skill, expertise, talent and creativity of the tribal craftsmen.

Metal Work

Nagaland metal work include weapons, ornaments and other miscellaneous items of utility. The ornaments made by the local smiths of Nagaland are very popular with the tourists, who carry the jewelries as mementos to their native land. In Nagaland, the Konyak blacksmiths were renowned for their metal works. The metal works in Nagaland are produced by the Konyak blacksmiths were in great demand in Assam, especially in the plains of Assam. Nagaland metal works, such as the local dao, ornaments, chisels, spears, etc., made by the local blacksmiths, are highly valued in Nagaland.

In Nagaland, the Rengmas are considered to be the best blacksmiths. In fact, it is the Rengmas who first learned to smelt iron by boiling and then heating the stone containing the iron sand. The weapons occupy a significant position in the society of Nagaland. In fact, the Nagas have been great lovers of weapons. Moreover, it is noteworthy that the shape and pattern of the weapons of Nagaland vary from one tribe to the other. Besides, dao and spear are two important weapons at Nagaland are used for hunting, as well as for war. The spear is usually decorated with goat’s hair. The dao is one of the multi-purpose weapons of Nagaland. The dao consists of a wooden handle and a blade and is used for cutting tress and chopping meat. The Arts and Crafts of Nagaland are a hallmark of the consummate skill, expertise, talent and creativity of the tribal craftsmen.

Ref

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagaland

https://www.nagalandonline.in/about/profile/culture/weaves-and-textiles-of-nagaland

https://www.mapsofindia.com/nagaland/society-and-culture/arts-crafts.html

Article Writtten By-
Ms. Sidrah Mubin Patel. B.Sc. in Textiles and Apparel Designing, Sir Vithaldas Thackersey College of Home Science.
Textile Value Chain Intern. Email: [email protected]