Nāgāland - II

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Hilly area symbol © Sumit Sen
Nāgāland: Food, hunting and the War Memorial


Text by Bikram Grewal

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Hunting in Nagaland  War Memorial

Naga Food

© Sumit Sen

Those who don’t believe that boiled food can be both hearty and tasty have yet to try Naga food. Unlike other cooking, oil is seldom used in true Naga cooking.

A typical Naga meal comprises mostly of rice, which is generally eaten with meat of some sort and assorted vegetables. Salt, chilies (both fresh and dry), a special variety of garlic and ginger replace the varied Indian spices. Other common seasonings include fermented soya bean, dried yam leaves, fresh and dried bamboo shoots, and the resultant pungent taste may be a difficult for first-timers. The majority of the Nagas are very fond of chilies the most famous and lethal of which is simply called ‘Raja’.

The common view is that Nagas eats everything that walks, crawls or flies and a visit to the weekly “haat “ confirm this for the unbeliever. Along with beef, pork, chicken, mutton, fish, dog meat, wild birds and mammals are sold openly. Tubs full of frogs, snails, bees, silkworms and larvae make an interesting sight but not for the weak stomached.

© Sumit Sen© Sumit Sen

But this is not to say that every Naga home indulges in all of the above! Meat like that of the Mithun is only consumed during feasts or weddings. Occasionally the meat is dried or smoked and often cooked with vegetables such as pumpkins, squash, varieties of beans like soya.

Official prohibition means that there are no liquor stores or bars but the traditional rice beer is easily available.

© Sumit Sen


© Sumit Sen

To claim that hunting and trapping of birds and mammals in Nagaland does not exist would be foolish. In our short visit we found enough proof of both, we met several hunters, and saw enough evidence of both guns and slingshots being used. A trip to the local food markets reveals that wild birds and animals are openly sold. We saw found several rare species of birds including forest and game-birds, being sold strung together in small bunches. Khalij Pheasants, laughingthrushes, Fairy Bluebirds, assorted bulbuls were all seen and photographed by us. Mammals included Leopard Cat, the highly endangered Brush-tailed porcupines, Orange-bellied and Hoary-bellied Squirrels, Large Indian Civets and Himalayan Palm Civets. Wildlife enforcement seemed to be non-existent and most people were unaware that hunting is totally prohibited by the laws of the land.

© Bano Haralu

On the more positive side, one source claimed that, in relative terms, the hunting numbers were low and that it did not constitute a very serious threat to the wildlife of the region. He went on to argue that the forests were fecund enough to replenish all that was hunted. Furthermore it is now claimed that traditional hunting skills were in decline and the cost of ammunition has gone up considerably.

We, however, felt that experiments like the Khonoma initiative might prove to be a better substitute, as it provides the villagers with an alternative source of income. The powerful church could also be used to spread the anti-hunting message.

After we left Nagaland we learnt, with anguish, that hunting had been re-opened in Khonoma, albeit for a short duration. The village council having succumbed to local pressure and the killing-fields were rampant once again. Angulie later confirmed that he has recently seen and photographed a dead Chestnut-vented Nuthatch in the local food bazaar. We hope it is not one of the pair we saw!

© Bano Haralu

Also read: A sad encounter in Nagaland

Kohima War Cemetery

© Sumit Sen

The Japanese advance into India was halted at Kohima in April 1944 and Garrison Hill, a long wooded spur on a high ridge west of the village, was the scene of perhaps the most bitter fighting of the whole Burma campaign when a small Commonwealth force held out against repeated attacks by a Japanese Division. The fiercest hand to hand fighting took place in the garden of the Deputy Commissioner's bungalow, around the tennis court, but the heaviest casualties on both sides occurred after relieving forces reached the Garrison and the Japanese were driven off the ridge, so re-opening the road to Imphal. KOHIMA WAR CEMETERY lies on the battle ground of Garrison Hill. No trace remains of the bungalow, which was destroyed in the fighting, but white concrete lines mark and preserve permanently the historic tennis court. The cemetery now contains 1,420 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. At the highest point in the cemetery stands the KOHIMA CREMATION MEMORIAL commemorating 917 Hindu and Sikh soldiers whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith. At the lower end of the cemetery, near the entrance, is a memorial to the 2nd Division. It bears the inscription;- "When you go home Tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, We gave our today." The cemetery also contains a memorial to the 2nd Battalion, the Dorsetshire Regiment and a number of other regimental memorials have been erected on and near Garrison Hill.

(Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission)



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