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Culture of Nagaland

Crafts of Nagaland


Naga storage and carry baskets woven from fine strips of cane and bamboo are well known and sought after for their utility as well as aesthetic value. The cane baskets and containers woven by the Khiamngan weavers in the Tuensang District are known for their fineness and delicacy of work that gives it a lace-like appearance. Headgears and mats are also woven from fine bamboo and cane strips 


Naga women are excellent weavers and the colorful shawls, bags and jackets woven by them are extremely popular. The ‘backstrap’ loom is commonly used for weaving, although, in recent years the fly shuttle loom has become popular with the weavers. Each tribe uses distinguishing colors and motifs that are often based on tribal folklore. Earlier, natural dyes extracted from barks, roots and plants were used for dyeing cotton yarn and woven fabrics. In addition, woven cloth was embellished with beads, cowries’ shells and goats’ hair to denote the wealth and status of the weaver.

Wood Carving

Making using of simple rudimentary tools and implements such as the local dao, hand drill and chisel, skilled craftsmen produce great works of art. One of the finest specimens of the Naga craftsman is to be found at Shangnyu village in Mon District. The work of art at Shangnyu consists of a massive wooden panel that has carvings depicting objects of art as well as those of ritual and utility value. The Diezephe Craft village in Dimapur District is a good example of a craft concentrated village where the major source of income is from woodcraft.


Pottery was known to the early Nagas and was mostly done by the womenfolk. The pots made were generally very simple and importance was given to its functional value rather than aesthetics. Tseminyu and Ungma village were well known for pottery.

Metal work

Iron tin and brass are used to produce weapons as well as the items of utility and ornaments. The Konyak blacksmiths were famous for their works in the early days and their products were in great demand in the plains of Assam. Even today, the local dao, spears, chisels, ornaments and other items of utility are still made by local blacksmiths.


Spinning, like dyeing and weaving is performed by women and every Naga woman is supposed to weave the cloths of her family. Until recently, it was essential that every marriageable girl should know how to spin and weave, and tiny girls can often be seen with little toy looms experimenting with weaving. The usual process of spinning is rather primitive and a few simple tools are used in the whole process.


The Nagas use dark, blue, red and rarely yellow dye. Women carry out the whole process. Blue dye is obtained from the leaves of the Strobilanthes flaccidifolius. This is a universal Naga dye and the plant is grown on the outskirts of the villages or in patches cleared in heavy jungle. There is a slight difference in the method of preparation and use of the blue dye among the different tribes. The indigenous red dye is less used than the dark blue. The red colour being of blood, a young woman using this colour in dye operation is superstitiously believed to die a violent death or loose her head in a raid. Therefore, only old women dye yarn in the red colour. Only a few tribes make yellow dye. Angamis prepare it from the wood of a plant locally called ‘athuo’. The wood portion of the plant is light yellow in natural colour. Rengmas make yellow dye from the flowers of a tree. Use of the dye of any colour is restricted before harvest, there being a strong feeling that the process is in somehow detrimental to crops. 

Music of Nagaland

It is a land of folklore passed down the generations through word of mouth. Here, music is an integral part of life. The common musical instrument played by the Nagas is Petu.  It is a string instrument. The Angamis and Chakhesangs are particularly fond of it and it is used to give the desired accompaniment to one's voice. Another popular string instrument is Theku. Of the wind instrument, the flute is quite common. In earlier days, the instrument was kept in the Morung only, but now the restriction is not observed. In some tribes, only boys are allowed to play the flute. The trumpet is mostly used by the herds’ men to scare away wild animals from the cattle. Today, the guitar is very popular. Songs, which are generally sung, by both young and old alike may be classified as follows.

1.      Heliamleu or dancing songs – are romantic songs composed and sung by both young and old people

2.      Hereileu or war songs - composed by old people about the pride of their life, bygone days, usually sung in the memory of the victory or the defeat in war.

3.      Neuleu or legendry songs - composed by old men to commemorate any significant event of the olden days or that of a person who had done something notable during his life time.

4.      Hekialeu or songs about self - composed by old men of their eventful career while they were young and strong.

5.      Hekialeu or a duet - composed by both young and old, but usually sung by young boys and girls together.

Dances of Nagaland

Dancing is full of vigour and vitality. Artists slowly enter the arena or stage, make a circle or any other geometrical formation and gradually work up tempo with the stamping of feet, interspersed with clapping and chanting. The spear, dao or the shields are swung to the rhythm of the dance. After the climax is reached, the tempo is brought down again and there is a satisfying finale. The beauty of the dances is heightened by the colourful costumes. There are a number of dances and each with a different name. They are named after the manner in which hands and feet are executed to resemble the movements of a bird or an insect or an animal.



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