Naga Textiles Collection
The Naga People & their Tradition of Weaving Tribal Textiles & Crafting Jewelry
The Naga People
Little is known about the early history of the Naga people. Ancient Sanskrit books speak of a golden skinned people of the sub-Himalayan region thought to be ancestors of the present day Naga who occupied the mountains 2000 years ago. The Naga, of which there are several tribes, live in Northeast India and in Burma near the Burmese/Indian border where their population is estimated to be about 100,000. The Naga are thought to be related to the Mongoloid Tibeto-Burman group, and some anthropologists suggest that there is common ancestry with the Chin, a people living in the mountainous regions of Chin State, Burma.
Our Naga textiles and artifacts are from the Burmese side of Nagaland. Throughout the various Naga tribes, more than a dozen diverse and sometimes mutually incomprehensible languages are spoken. The main tribal groups of the Naga include the Angami, Sema, Ao, Kalyo-Kengyu, Konyak, Lhota, Rengma, Tangkhul, Chang, Sangtam, and Sema.
The Naga fiercely resisted British rule and became renowned for their strength, stamina, and fierceness in battle. Formerly head-hunters, the Naga later developed harmony and diversity in their society. This vibrant culture exemplifies an exotic society and Naga textiles and artifacts are resplendent with complex and deeply symbolic designs.
The Naga Tradition of Textile Weaving
The Naga have a rich tradition of textile weaving and use textiles with different patterns to show social status, tribal belonging, and wealth. The head-hunting pattern adorning body cloths has now become redundant with the cessation of the practice.
The production of textiles is the preserve of women. Both cotton and hemp are used to make Naga throws on hand looms, using the back-strap method. After the hand spun cloth has been woven, small patches of embroidery are added using a porcupine needle. A number of plant extracts are used to dye the cloth including indigo, mahogany, and lacquer. Men and women wear body cloths rich in color and design -each tribe having its own particular patterns.
Naga Tribal Jewelry
Both men and women are very fond of ornaments and wear a wide range of adornments including bronze and brass armlets and anklets, heavy earrings, necklaces in bronze, shells, precious stones. and boar tusks. For the Naga, ornaments are about more than mere decoration; they help form the identity of the individual and the tribe.
The men also wear strong metal ornaments for self defence. Cane or brass rings are worn below the knees to provide strength in climbing hills. Women wear necklaces of polished hexagonal cornelian beads, and for the wealthy- red pebbles. The Naga believe ornaments are an important part of what defines a human. Most ornaments and motifs appearing on textiles have a specific and powerful symbolic meaning and the right to wear them is strictly governed.
The Naga Today
In a fast changing world, Naga society has undergone considerable change over the last few decades. Nagaland is evidently pursuing a policy of economic and social ‘modernization’ and ancient traditions are quickly falling by the way. Ninety percent of Naga today are Baptist Christians, with just a few pockets of determined animists. Western experts on the Naga caution against the view of the Naga as passive victims of ‘de-culturation’ and stress that a vigorous sense of history and identity at an individual and tribal level has been retained. Unfortunately, the fight to establish independence by some Naga has resulted in division and conflict between tribes.
We hope to help support the Naga tradition of weaving by offering their unique textiles in our gallery. Naga throws sold in villages are limited in supply, and while designs and colours peculiar to each tribe recur, throws and runners are often unique and exact replicas cannot be found. Minor imperfections expected from completely hand crafted products may be present, but we carefully handpick every item to ensure the highest possible quality. Prices vary according to the complexity, rarity and overall quality of the piece. Naga textiles and ornaments are very well crafted and resonate with the primal quality of an ancient, tribal culture.
Our collection of Naga textiles includes Naga blankets or body cloths and Naga shawls, which serve well as throws, runners, or wall decoration.