Traditional ornaments for the Nagas is belief to be a subject of both tangible and intangible heritage, tangible in its unique art forms and designs, and intangible in its usage or performing art form, in terms of substance by products and hypostasis of the substance.
For Nagas ornaments and jewelries are very much part of life. It is traditional attire when wears it, life when socially associates and considered, community living when an artist wears it and perform, and an oral expressions of traditional knowledge when communicates it.
Ornaments reflect interlinked relationship of human being with the nature. Unique features of every single ornament and a design in and on it characterise natural relationship of God’s creation, living and nonliving beings. Naga’s ornaments are inclusive in nature. If we are asked to see the whole universe at one glance, than it would be a Naga ornaments.
Combination of whole particles of materials used, associated rituals, crafting procedure and formulaties that are enshrined in the ornaments has volumes of traditional knowledge concerning Universe and environment.
The very essence of Naga egalitarian community life of coexistence is well depicted in the ornaments. Its symbolical messages and meaning illustrates: planet forces and tales, science of animal kingdom and its products, flora and fauna beauty and resources, and gems medicated power etc., etc.
Naga ornaments blend with traditional symbolic message and creative forms and designs artifacts colourful culture. To safeguard Ornaments and it’s traditional and cultural values we can strictly classified it into two categories, traditional ornaments and modern Art and craft jewellery or so called contemporary ornaments. Later has life in itself and cannot be substituted, while former is the replication of modern art or foreign products.
Traditional ornaments are made out of:
Birds: Hornbill feather,
Animals bone: Elephant task, wild boar tooth, bear skin, He goat hair etc.
Water creatures: sea shells
Flora and fauna:
Dried and green ferns and foliage
Headgears, Earrings, Necklaces, Armlet, Waistline, Iron walking stick, Wrape around and beads wrape around, Shawals and bead shawls
Headgears, Earrings, Boar tooth necklace, Gem Necklace, Armlet, Kilt, Cord belt, Machete case, Anklet, Shawals,
Beads shawl, Fur Machete, Fur Spear, Shield: Animals skin, cane, and bamboo.
Omen and Taboo of ornaments usage:
Naga people equally value objects and its practices. Not all the ornaments are commonly worn. Certain observation qualifies a person to wear specific ornament. Age factor is one main consideration, another is based on social status of the family that drows parameter of restriction. Age factors is one main criteria, another is social status and reputation of the family. Any negative or positive observation found on the process of ornaments preparation is considered good or bad omen. It is also a taboo to an undeserving wearer for defiling the sanctity of the ornament. Thus, for the fear of negative consequences which is premature dead or extinction of offspring, ornaments customs are well protected in the tribal community.
Traditionally for many Naga tribes, ornament is the only hereditary asset of a woman. A mother’s ornament passes to her daughter, in the form of a wedding gift or a shared property after her demise. For male folk father’s ornaments is shared among sons, where eldest gets the privilege of lion share. In case of issueless parents, mosty it is past on to paternal nephews and maternal nieces.
Unlike a modern art craft person who does earning by talent, traditional craftsperson are trained by their Gurus or are mostly from a traditional profession practitioner family. It was a prevailing system that every citizens irrespective of sex were to undergo Morung institution training from teenage and be a part of the institution till marriage.
Usually a man folks engaged in bamboo, cane, wood, stone curving, and metal etc. etc, and womenfolk in threads, looms, and jewelries etc.
Traditionally the profession of Naga man and woman are distinctively classified into two broad categories. Any wild products be it animals or materials acquired by muscle power related strength or wild products ie: bone, tooth, skin, hair, metal, stone, beads, wood, cane, and bamboo etc., in other words rough row materials are considered to be man’s profession. And soft materials including threads, finished products and jewelry etc are treated as women’s job. Superstition enshrined with traditional craftsmanship, it is a taboo for a man to indulge in thread works for the fear of clumsy nature, that would cause them life in warfare. So do a woman requires precautionary measures in delivering home chores while man is at work.
As Joseph Addison has rightly stated, “Modesty is not only an ornaments but also a guard to virtue”, it is our shared responsibility to safeguard our age old treasures and traditional values of ornaments, that has been gradually over shadowing by modern commercial art. Revitalize traditional ornaments to encourage coexistence community living and to pave ways for the love of God’s creation.
–Oral traditions and expressions transmitted from forefathers, grandparents, and parents.
-Folklore narratives of Nguchupili, and Inakha and Ghonli.
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-Hesheto Y Chishi, Sumi eno Tishetiye, ICS, Dimapur 2011.
-Sümi Naga Indigenous Game, INTECH., New Delhi, 2017.
-‘Modernization without Westernization: a case study on the Nagas of Nagaland in Historical perspective’. Aloino Centre Chekiye, Dimapur,2009.Pp.34-46.
-Challenges of Translating Oral Literature in Sümi Naga tribe perspective published by SBTA.,Dimapur, May 2010. Vol.I. Pp.89-98.
-A conglomerate Baptist Tradition in conflict with Naga Cultural, Social, Political and Religious life; in historical setting. Ph.D Thesis, SHUATS, 2005.
-Sümi Naga folksong Documentary video, ICS & NEZCC, Dimapur, 2008.
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-Sümi Naga Tishetiye Xülhe (Genealogical narratives of Sümi Naga, Central Institute of Indian Languages CIIL), Mysore, 2010.
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-Mheshoh pukiqhe mqo, Khuhuboto Town, Nagaland, 2016.