India’s north east frontier states

… When I went backpacking through South East Asia in the early nineties, myself and a friend got quite into collecting old beads on our travels, a hobby I still have to this very day.  Back then, along with the Tibetan Plateau, home of the infamously mysterious Dzi beads, North East India’s Nagaland represented my own personal bead mecca, mainly because of a lot of rumours and mis-information but also because it was completely off-limits to foreigners at the time.

A few years ago I found myself working in Bhutan and whilst looking at a map I realised that my mythical Nagaland was geographically quite close as it went.  After a little research and some classic Indian style blagging of travel permits, I made my way to Kohima, Nagaland’s capital, and the beginning of a 4 week journey through this fascinating tribal state who’s cultures owe more to neighbouring Myanmar than anything to the west of them.

Here is a selection of photographs from that trip.

Konyak elder in a village over the border in Myanmar.  

Ao Naga women in a house during Moatsu festival of sowing, Ungma village, Mokokchung

Konyak elder

The Konyak Naga, like many of Nagaland’s tribes have been made infamous by their headhunting tradition which has all but disappeared in the 21st century.  Saying that however, a couple of months before I arrived, an inter family dispute had resulted in the Indian government sending more troops to Mon to quell growing unrest after a severed head was planted ceremoniously slap bang in the middle of the town.  Traditionally, Konyak men have tattooed their faces and bodies as a sign that they have taken human heads, a body adornment that can only be seen on the tribal elders today, the practice of head hunting having mostly disappeared by the early 80’s.

A facial tattoo

Buffalo horns adorn the inside of Konyak Long houses

Chang Naga men attending Moatsu, Chuchuyimlang village

Ao Naga tribal elder at home, Ungma village

Kohima, Nagaland’s capital

Smoking Opium

Many remote Konyak villages have succumbed to temptation of Opium as it is on its way out of Myanmar to the buying public.  If you are traveling around these parts, choose your overnight stays wisely lest you find yourself under the dark cloud of a community over run by the drug.  Normally, if the Angh (village leader) is a smoker, then you can rest assured the rest of the neighbourhood likes a toke, and you will no doubt quickly discover a place who’s soul has long gone up in the smoke of the low quality resin which is available in these parts .  Villages like these are better passed by in my opinion.

The relentless ritual of cooking up opium for the bong

… day and night

Ao Naga women

Chang Naga men

Chang Naga

Round a Konyak fire in Myanmar

Ao Naga meeting of tribal elders

Konyak elder

Strange to think that this old boy has savaged a number of men and beheaded them


Inside a Konyak longhouse

Chang Naga

Longwa village

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15 Responses to “Nagaland”

  1. wow i love to watch our naga elders….

  2. wow…..great naga picture….

  3. Longhi says:

    Hi, its real…. nice. m frm Longwa

  4. arenla chang says:

    hi tim,
    Thank you so much. I was working on a project and surfing net and found your writeups, it had helped me dozens, i have found out many that i wasn’t aware of our chang situations. thank u again ..good ones. keep it up!

  5. thielges says:

    I really like the portrait of the Ungma elder. Traditional structure with an exotic (to westerners at least) vibe.

  6. Rodger says:

    Hi Timothy, some wonderful work. Recently went to the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland,and found myself bewitched by this part of the world. I think the lighting decisions you made are spot on, getting away from all the obvious brightness, and moving into the shadows. The child and the hand image – Chapeau!

  7. adukho says:

    …amazing!!! your pictures shows a more brilliant side of the nagas, tell the real story with just the colors!! you have amazingly portrait nagaland, sir, thank you so much for the wonderful pictures!

  8. Ben Sailo says:

    Though I hail from the North Eastern part of India these kinds of picture always fascinate me.

  9. Thanks for sharing all these about Nagaland.

  10. jona says:

    Awesome you have done a gr8 job, this pictures speaks a lot… its has relly touched me. thank you

  11. Carol says:

    Fascinating tribal people. I wonder what bird provides the men with such large feathers for their ritual wear. As always, the photos are stunning. Thanks for an inside look at the diversity in our world. Amazing.

  12. Jamir says:

    Thanks for the beautiful pics of nagaland shared on the site. I am a naga but have not had a chance to live Nagaland as there is no choice but to work and live out of my state. Appreciate for sharing this.

  13. nagagirl says:

    It was by complete mad surfing I discover this website – thanks for sharing your fantastic pictures of Nagaland and her culture 🙂

  14. […] Nagaland – Timothy Allen, photographer for the BBC’s Human Planet series posts a series of images from the almost mythical Nagaland, in remote northeastern India. Excellent cultural photography. […]

  15. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bakka. Bakka said: RT @mitchellkphotos: Great photos from Nagaland (by Timothy Allen): […]

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