One’s existence on earth is invariably determined by the environment he grows up in. That environment, in turn, revolves around the traditions they unconsciously follow. The conglomeration of the traditions of a particular society can be called ‘culture’, even though the word simply means ‘to cultivate’ or ‘to honour’. When a new culture invades a particular society, she is challenged as to whether she will maintain the purity of her culture or to accept the new culture. We hardly succeed in maintaining the purity of our culture for long. No society is free from negative beliefs and the inflow of the new culture gives her a chance to introspect her beliefs. We are hardly wise enough in handpicking the good traditions which could have formed into a perfect fusion of culture. The new culture which consequently develops often turns destructive for the generations to come, who will adopt it as their culture, unless we preserve and impart our original culture for them.
Similarly, Nagas were not free from intruders even though they penetrated in an exiguous manner. To point a few, there was the Ahoms with whom the Nagas traded with, for salt; then the British which our forefathers bravely fought against; But when the Americans came, we submitted and embraced a new culture- education, Christianity, new form of clothes, etc. Pointed above are the positive traditions we embraced into our homes by sweeping away the head-hunting, rituals, etc. Were we wise enough in the adoption of the new culture that in just two to three generations, we have become more American than a Naga, more Korean than a Naga? It was a pure ignorance on our part for the drunkenness in the wilderness of excitement with the new culture.
We often boast of the fact that our forefathers were head-hunters. We take the credit of their bravery but when questioned, most of today’s generation will not know the reason why our forefathers took heads. Many foreign writers termed the very act as ‘savage’ and we consecutively accepted. Little do we know that head hunting was a decent act during the time of our forefathers, not only for proving oneself as a brave man but because of the belief that our soul resides in the head and taking the head back home is a symbol of respect to the deceased and reunion with him.
Our traditions were orally based, being passed down for generations. Thanks to the foreigners who not only taught us a new way of preserving our culture by imparting the art of reading and writing through education, but also took the pain in writing down our history, which are a source of great help today. During the time when writers were romanticised, autobiographies and biographies were encouraged, we had our own in the form of tattoos, shawls, jewelleries, etc which had its own significant meaning. A person’s biography could be seen in his body itself.
Scholars and writers often uses the term ‘naked Nagas’ in their works. In fact, one theory states that the word ‘Naga’ means naked. Our name was given by the outsiders and if the theory proves right, it is because we wore scanty clothes. Nevertheless, we were rich in our culture, we were rich in our beliefs, we respected our traditions, we loved the person we were. Our culture was well clothed but sadly, we are rapidly undressing them after experiencing the comfort of embracing foreign culture to face the cold, hilly terrains where we still live. We are throwing away our traditions that if we do not act fast; the time is here that we will not know who we are.
The original meaning of culture is the cultivation of the soul and mind, to honour our roots. If we do not have the zeal to preserve and respect our roots, we do not have the right to call ourselves a “Naga”. When culture itself means to honour, what are we honouring today? Why do we say we have a rich culture when we don’t even know the significance of our festivals? Blame the academic texts which do not provide us the things we need to know about our culture. However, the blame game itself is pushing our past to the brim. Our parents are the link to our past, and once they are gone our culture will die along with them. The time is now, that we need to act to find our roots. It is our duty to dress our already naked culture, to regain our identity in the world.
By: Nokho
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