he Naga people live in the North-Eastern part of India and the North-Western part of Myanmar. According to the data, only around 10% of the 4 million Naga people live in Myanmar’s territory. The Naga people are one of the around 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar. Some people think that the Naga tribes are the descents of the Chin ethnic group but that is not true. They have their own culture, literature and language with different traditions and customs. Regarding Naga tribes, there are many sub-tribes with respected languages and slightly different customs among them. In history, a great philosopher and Independence leader Mahatma Gandhi said, “The Naga people have a right to be independent. If the Naga tribes do not want to be under India like us Indians that do not want to be under British rule, they should gain their fundamental rights”. In this case, it could be claimed that the Naga people love and value their freedom and culture.
In Myanmar, there are three main cities namely Lay Shi, Lahe and Nanyun in Naga self-administrative area in Sagaing Region where the Naga New Year festival is held in turn every year. Nowadays, the Naga people still celebrate a New Year Festival to show their sovereignty, strength and traditions. The Naga traditional New Year festival is held in the middle of January after harvest time. The festival is usually celebrated over 3 days.
On the opening day of the festival, the Naga people erect a hand-woven bamboo pillar called “dagun dain” while they are singing traditional songs together. It is a unique custom indicating that everything will be great in the new year if the bamboo pillar is not broken or damaged. In this festival, different kinds of Naga traditional dances are performed by various tribes. The bonfire ceremony is one of the most famous things in the Naga New Year festival. Guests and tourists can join and also celebrate in the bonfire festival at night time. Moreover, the most significant culture about this festival is that both the local people and guests greet each other with a Naga language, “Arr Heyyy! Arr Heyyy!” which means “Blessings to New Year” in English.
The Opening Ceremony of the Naga New Year Festival 2019 in Lay Shi
At the Naga New Year festival, Naga people usually wear colorful costumes with traditional birds’ feathers. These birds called Hornbills are known as Naga people’s victorious symptom. The Naga tribe considers hornbills the symbol of valor in Naga warrior tradition. Additionally, Nagas sing traditional songs in harmony with folk dances to represent an independent community as well as to preserve their rituals. You can involve yourself in these traditional dances and you can experience Naga cultural activities during the festival.
Moreover, traditional houses are also on display during the festival. These tribal houses are generally built with lightweight materials like wood, bamboo and thatch as a natural outcome. Most of the Naga traditional houses are rectangular in shape as single-family houses. The local people said that houses are shown only during the festival days. So, it could be better if this exhibition can show the town as a tourist destination for the whole year.The other interesting thing called “Pan” is indistinguishable from the Naga people and their traditions. Pan is a kind of log drum made from a tree and it is always kept in the Pan building. In history, Nagas always play pan when they need to meet, before going to war, achieving victory, warning of danger and other purposes. You can also play Pan at the Naga New Year festival.
It could be said the Naga tribe has rich and beautiful cultures and it would be incredible if you have a chance to explore them at this New Year festival. For these reasons, as a researcher in the context of sustainable development, I wish to expand more local tours in Naga land, Myanmar as it is still hard to reach those areas. Moreover, most people do not know how to get there even though the Naga New Year festival is well known for its unique customs. In this case, it would be an advantage if Community Based Tourism can build through sustainable development in the coming years.
People are dancing traditional dances around a fire during a bonfire ceremony