Assisant Professor, SJC (A)
Today the world is changing at a rapid pace, with the advancement in the field of science and technology, where new things have replaced the old – new things with newer facilities. As we look around, we see many changes happening. We are enticed by the changes and development that are taking place around us. Change is an inevitable mighty law of Nature and we have to adapt with it but we cannot discard everything that is old. Our Tradition and Culture is our identity and by losing it we lose everything. Thus, it is high time for us, Nagas, to retrospect and revive our past culture.
Culture plays a vital role in forming and shaping the society. Culture governs the society and every individual is indispensable to it. Nagas have a long past but a short history and by learning the glorious past culture, our society can be rejuvenated and revitalized. If India is known for its “Unity in Diversity”, Nagas contributes a great deal to it. The customs and traditions of the Nagas have been verbally handed down from our forefathers and through them we have come to know of our varied cultures. There are still a handful of people with grey hairs in our villages whose knowledge and memory about our culture are unparalleled but the young minds do not pay a head to them, only a handful do listen and record them.
What is the worth and value of our education if it does not enlighten and direct us to learn our culture? The purpose of Education is to develop a whole being, but its aim can never be achieved if we neglect our culture as it reconciles us to everything. “Custom is the principal magistrate of man’s life”, says Francis Bacon. Do we ever ponder about the importance of culture in our lives? Can we simply neglect our culture as we are living in the 21st century? Let us be true to ourselves as Nagas– not forgetting our root and origin.
In olden days, Nagas were known as Animists and they lived under the law of Nature. Though illiterate and ignorant they had accuracy in calculating the habits of nature. They have never read Wordsworth’s philosophy of nature but they believed that nature has a Devine power. As keen observers of nature they were able to carry out their daily activities according to the changing phenomena of nature. They take only what was needed and do not simply destroy nature. They did not have the modern machineries that we have today but they were hard working and through sheer hard work and determination they were able to make their living independently. Their zeal and spirit for hard work have no bounds. Taxes and revenues were never collected as an individual was the master of his own affairs. They led a simple life yet they had a civilized culture which taught reverence and respect for one another.
The old customs and traditions are priceless. Disputes were settled according to the customary laws and through the proverbial wisdom of the village elders. The culprits were dealt with severity in public so as to teach them a lesson for life. The code of conduct was imparted to the young through Morungs. Young boys and girls were taught certain values and virtues of life through Morungs by the elders so that they become good citizens. Respect and courtesy towards the elders was considered a virtue and everyone abided by it. Helping the weak and the needy was considered a moral duty. The burden of a family was shared by everyone and this imparted a sense of mutual obligation to every member of the society. Their sense of oneness, belongingness and unity in times of difficulties showed the very essence of interdependence as social beings for their survival. There was no robbery and no extortion so people only used two cross bars to lock their doors – can trust among neighbours ever be greater than that?
Another pride of our forefathers lay in the hospitality shown towards strangers. The act of receiving strangers was a joy and a blessing for them. Strangers were always offered the best food and drink. Festivities and celebrations were part and parcel of their social lives as every festival has a meaning or reason of why it is celebrated. Festival times also manifested their rich culture and heritage where the young and the old alike sang, danced and made merry together. Folklores and folktales were narrated to the young minds by the elders during times of festivals as it was a time where they can pass their legacy to the younger generation. Festivals were the times where the young people learnt about their customs and traditions through games, dances and listening to the elders. Those were the joys and glories of the bygone days.
True, Nagaland is a blessed land and a land of festivals. The rich cultural heritage and the age old traditions and customs of the Nagas are remarkable. Besides these, the marvellous beauty stretching from the breathtaking sight of Dzükou valley to the height of Saramati and from the length of the Dhansari river to the breath of Shiloi lake make Nagaland the “Switzerland of the East”.
The Nagaland of today has changed from the Nagaland of yesterday. There is a wide gap between the past and the present generation with regard to the practice of customs and traditions. Westernization has taken a deep root in the minds of the young people. The social media have overpowered our present generation. Youngsters are only confined to the four corners of their room with electronic gadgets without any room for learning our cultures and traditions. Living in peace and harmony were the days of the bygone ages. People have become so materialistic, individualistic and spiritually hollow. Our political systems have become the game of the rich with lots of corruptions behind the scene. If you have a gun you have everything and anything. If you don’t have money, you have no voice in the society. The code of discipline ‘shame’ and ‘genna’ do not exist anymore. Sadly, this is the truth. Does this prick our minds?
Brethren, it is not too late to revive and trace back our glorious culture which is fast deteriorating. Let us be wise enough to preserve our identity. The key is in our hands. There is no mountain that we cannot climb, no sea that we cannot cross if we have a strong will and desire to do it. Let us wake up, join hands together to revive the true image of NAGALAND.