Nagaland, with its diverse culture and festivities of its various tribes and sub-tribes, occupies the easternmost part of India. The British colonial power had scattered Naga population of about 4 million in different parts of North East India such as Nagaland, parts of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and also in Sagaing Division and Kachin State of Myanmar. They are a conglomeration of various tribes. According to a plausible theory, the Nagas migrated from Mongolia passing through China and other South East Asian countries, and at last settled in their present homeland in waves of migration.
Nagaland/Naga Hills as called then underwent massive transformation with and after WW II in almost all spheres of life. In a nutshell, let me share a little of my findings on the changes that occurred:
1. Isolation to Globalisation:
Nagas lived a life of aloofness, cut away from the rest of the world, except link with the Ahoms in 13th and 14th centuries and the Kacharis in the preceding centuries. With the Ahoms, they were at times friendly and at other times enemical. There were instances when the Ahom kings escaped to Konyak Naga area and even married Konyak princesses. Other than that, there was no contact with outsiders because of the geographical terrain and also fear of head-hunting.
With the arrival of the British, they came into contact with the British and they were even sent to France as a labour force during WW I. They thought British were super power, but during the WW II they found Japanese having better weapons of that time which were unimaginable to the Naga brains. As years rolled by, after WW II, the Nagas came to be exposed to the global world.
2. Indigenous Religion to Christianity:
Nagas believed in spirits both benevolent and malevolent and also in the existence of a Supreme Being who is called by different names by different tribes. But with the advent of Christianity and the works of missionaries, many embraced the new/foreign religion. The number of converts increased rapidly after WW II. Christianity, in fact, came to be the state religion today.
3. Local Dialect to English Language:
Increased contact among the Naga tribes and with outsiders led to the birth of a new dialect called ‘Nagamese’ which became the lingua franca. With English education introduced and spread by the Christian missionaries, the Nagas began to use the global language i.e. English and more so after the WW II.
4. Agriculture to White-collared Employment:
The only livelihood of the Nagas was agriculture, but with the coming of the British and WW II, they (British) took the Nagas as scouts/guides for their own various purposes. They also educated them and with education, they were employed in Government/better services. After WW II, many educational institutions mushroomed which provided an impetus to get placements in better services. Today, agriculture is confined only to villages while most people are employed in Government and business sectors.
5. The Banned-Sport: Head Hunting:
Head taking was upheld as an act of gallantry and honour. It was believed that the head has its soul which would bring prosperity, better health, good harvest and attract beautiful girls to the individuals. The British enforced a series of measures against head-hunting. With that, the once glorious sport began to be looked down. The Nagas held the ban of head hunting responsible for causing diseases and death in villages. The reason was that the ban made the Nagas to have no fear of visiting one another from village to village. However, this communication led to spread of diseases. Thus, after WW II, sporting head-hunting was completely stopped and is not in vogue any more.
6. Indigenous Technology to Modern Means of Communication:
Announcement of any emergency, danger or important information to the whole village was done by the ‘village crier’, usually by a village elder/chief. Another means of communication was the use of log-drum. For instance, if the enemies were approaching for head hunting, men beat the log-drum to give warning signal to the villagers or to alert the warriors to get ready to face the enemies. After the WW II, several means of communication became familiar to the Nagas – Radio, Telephone, Television, Computer, Mobile phone, etc.
7. ‘Morung’ to Schools and Colleges:
Morung/Youth dormitory found in every village was the traditional educational institution where the youth underwent training in various aspects of life until they got married. But with the arrival of the Christian missionaries and after WW II, the traditional educational system was replaced by the school and college education equipping the Nagas with the modern education. Understanding the importance of education, they demanded the British administration and requested Christian missionaries to open more schools in their villages. Today, the Nagas are not satisfied by just meagre schools nor the education imparted in village schools and therefore, they started to venture out to other states and even abroad to further their horizon of knowledge.
Thus, basing on all these, many hold that WW II opened the floodgate of changes in Nagaland. The Nagas, who were steeped in an age of aloofness and inaccessibility, were brought to exposure in all spheres of life after WW II. People’s attitude changed drastically and their outlook broadened. People are conscious of their identities and their rights. The Nagas have always been brave and independent loving warriors and out of WW II, they directly/indirectly reaped a good harvest of advantages for her future generation. Hence, modernity dawned in Nagaland.
Lt. Regina Razousinuo
Assistant Professor cum Associate NCC Officer
Department of History
St. Joseph’s College, Jakhama