Nagaland one of the ‘seven sisters’—states that are in India’s northeast—is bordered on the east by Myanmar and the south by the state of Manipur. Nagaland also borders the state of Assam to the north-west, and borders the of state Arunachal Pradesh in the north-east. Composed of multiple different tribes, each with their own unique culture, festivals and language, Nagaland is predominantly Christian a legacy of the long era of British colonial rule due to the presence of American missionaries lead by the Baptist Preacher Edwin Clark in the late 1870s.
Even though agriculture employs the majority of the state’s residents Nagaland is dependent on the rest of India for imports of food due to poor agricultural practices which have depleted land fertility and caused soil erosion. The state capital Kohima, is popular for the views of the Himalayan foothills, in addition to its rich history before and since British colonization.
In 1816 the areas of present-day Nagaland and Assam were invaded by the kingdom of Burma—present day Myanmar—and the period of Burmese occupation was noted for atrocities against the civilian populations. Occupation of Assam lead to border tension and claims of territory by Burma that were then in possession of the British East India Company. After occasional skirmishes on the border, the British and Burma went to war in 1824. The First Burma War ended in 1826 and gave the British control of Assam and other territories, and the vast majority of Nagaland became part of British India.
In World War the capital of Nagaland, Kohima, was the sight of a fierce battle in 1944 between British and Indian soldiers who repelled a Japanese offensive into India. Conflict in Nagaland was far from over, for India’s independence in 1947 brought aspirations of an independent Nagaland for some of the tribes. Following a civil war before the creation of the Nagaland state in 1963, insurgency and separatist groups still existed and prolonged conflict ensued. The existence of separatists groups in Nagaland is still prevalent today despite ongoing negotiations and elections.
Demographics & Culture
With an estimated 3.1 million people in the state, Nagaland is one of the smallest states in India. There are roughly 16 tribes in Nagaland each with a variety of sub-tribes each distinct in their culture and spread throughout both Nagaland and neighboring Myanmar.
Almost 90% of the Nagaland population is Christian, while the remainder follows Hinduism, Islam and tribal religions. Nagaland’s tribes all have their own unique clothing and festivals, such as December’s Hornbill Festival. Moreover, one of the tribes the Konyaks was famous for “headhunting”, which earned warriors decorative facial tattoos that are all but disappearing due to the 1935 law against headhunting.