Knowledge Corner

Nagaland is a state in Northeast India. It borders the state of Assam to the west, Arunachal Pradesh and part of Assam to the north, Burma to the east and Manipur to the south. The state capital is Kohima, and the largest city is Dimapur. It has an area of 16,579 square kilometres (6,401 sq mi) with a population of 1,980,602 per the 2011 Census of India, making it one of the smallest states of India.

The state is inhabited by 16 major tribes – Ao, Angami, Chang, Konyak, Lotha, Sumi, Chakhesang, Khiamniungan, Dimasa Kachari, Phom, Rengma, Sangtam, Yimchunger, Kuki, Zeme-Liangmai(Zeliang) and Pochury as well as a number of sub-tribes. Each tribe is unique in character with its own distinct customs, language and dress. Two threads common to all, are language and religion – English is in predominant use. Nagaland is one of three states in India where the population is mostly Christian.

Nagaland became the 16th state of India on 1 December 1963. Agriculture is the most important economic activity and the principal crops include rice, corn, millets, pulses, tobacco, oilseeds,sugarcane, potatoes, and fibers. Other significant economic activity includes forestry, tourism, insurance, real estate, and miscellaneous cottage industries. The state has experienced insurgency as well as inter-ethnic conflict since the 1950s. The violence and insecurity have long limited Nagaland’s economic development, because it had to commit its scarce resources on law, order and security. In the last 15 years, the state has seen less violence and annual economic growth rates nearing 10% on a compounded basis, one of the fastest in the region.

The state is mostly mountainous except those areas bordering Assam valley. Mount Saramati is the highest peak with a height of 3,840 metres and its range forms a natural barrier between Nagaland and Burma. It lies between the parallels of 98-degrees and 96-degrees east longitude and 26.6-degrees and 27.4-degrees latitude north of the equator. The state is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna; it has been suggested as the “falcon capital of the world”.


The ancient history of the Nagas is unclear. Some anthropologists suggest Nagas belong to the Mongoloid race, and different tribes migrated at different times, each settling in the north-eastern part of present India and establishing their respective sovereign mountain terrains and village-states. There are no records of whether they came from the northern Mongolian region, southeast Asia or southwest China, except that their origins are from the east of India and that historic records show the present day Naga people settled before the arrival of the Ahoms in 1228 AD.

The origin of the word ‘Naga’ is also sketchy. A popularly accepted, but controversial view is that it originated from the Burmese word ‘Naka’, meaning people with earrings. Others suggest it means pierced noses.

Before the arrival of European colonialism in South Asia, there had been many wars, persecution and raids from Burma on Naga tribes, Meitei people and others in India’s northeast. The invaders came for “head hunting” and to seek wealth and captives from these tribes and ethnic groups. When the British inquired Burmese guides about the people living in northern Himalayas, they were told ‘Naka’. This was recorded as ‘Naga’, and has been in use thereafter.

With the arrival of British East India Company in the early 19th century, followed by the British Raj, Britain expanded its domain over entire South Asia including the Naga Hills. The first Europeans to enter the hills were Captains Jenkins and Pemberton in 1832. The early contact with the Naga tribes were of suspicion and conflict. The colonial interests in Assam, such as tea estates and other trading posts suffered from raids from tribes who were known for their bravery and “head hunting” practices. To put an end to these raids, the British troops recorded 10 military expeditions between 1839 and 1850. In February 1851, at the bloody battle at Kikrüma, numerous people died both on the British side as well as the Kikrüma Naga tribe side; in days after the battle, intertribal warfare followed that led to more bloodshed. After that war, the British first adopted a policy of respect and non-interference with Naga tribes. This policy failed. Over 1851 to 1865, Naga tribes continued to raid the British in Assam. The British India Government, fresh from the shocks of 1857 Indian rebellion, reviewed its governance structure throughout South Asia including its northeastern region. In 1866, the British India administration reached the historic step in Nagaland’s modern history, by establishing a post at Samaguting with the explicit goal of ending intertribal warfare and tribal raids on property and personnel. In 1869, Captain Butler was appointed to lead and consolidate the British presence in the Nagaland hills. In 1878, the headquarters were transferred to Kohima – creating a city that remains to this day an important center of administration, commerce and culture for Nagaland.

On 4 October 1879, GH Damant (M.A.C.S), a British political agent, went to Khonoma with some troops, where he was shot dead along with 35 of his team. Kohima was next attacked and the stockade looted. This violence led to a determined effort by the British Raj, to return and respond. The subsequent defeat of Khonoma marked the end of serious and persistent hostility in the Naga Hills. Between 1880 and 1922, the British administration consolidated their position over a large area of the Naga Hills and integrated it into its Assam operations. The British administration enforced the Rupee as the currency for economic activity and a system of structured tribal government that was very different than historic social governance practices. These developments triggered profound social changes among the Naga people.A British India 1940 map showing Nagaland and Kohima City as part of Assam.

In parallel, since mid 19th century, Christian missionaries from the United States and Europe, stationed in India, reached out into Nagaland and neighboring states, playing their role in converting Nagaland’s Naga tribes from Animism to Christianity.


Nagaland is largely a mountainous state. The Naga Hills rise from the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam to about 2,000 feet (610 m) and rise further to the southeast, as high as 6,000 feet (1,800 m). Mount Saramati at an elevation of 12,601.70 feet (3,841.00 m) is the state’s highest peak; this is where the Naga Hills merge with the Patkai Range in which form the boundary with Burma. Rivers such as the Doyang and Diphu to the north, the Barak river in the southwest, dissect the entire state. 20 percent of the total land area of the state is covered with wooded forest, a haven for flora and fauna. The evergreen tropical and the sub tropical forests are found in strategic pockets in the state.


Per Grierson’s classification system, Naga languages can be grouped into Western, Central and Eastern Naga Groups. The Western Group includes among others Angami, Chokri and Kheza. The Central Naga group includes Ao, Lotha and Sangtam, whereas Eastern Group includes Konyak and Chang. In addition, there are Naga-Bodo group illustrated by Mikir language, and Kuki group of languages illustrated by Sopvama (also called Mao Naga) and Luppa languages. These belong mostly to the Sino-Tibetan language family. Shafer came up with his own classification system for languages found in and around Nagaland. Each tribe has one or more dialects that are unintelligible to others.

In 1967, the Nagaland Assembly proclaimed English as the official language of Nagaland and it is the medium for education in Nagaland. Other than English, Nagamese, a creole language form of Indo-AryanAssamese, is a widely spoken language.

The major languages spoken as per 2001 census are Ao (257,500), Konyak (248,002), Lotha (168,356), Angami (131,737), Phom (122,454), Yimchungre (92,092), Sema (92,884), Sangtam (84,150), Chakru (83,506), Chang (62,347), Zeliang (61,492), Bengali (58,890), Rengma (58,590), Hindi (56,981), Kheza (40,362), Khiemnungan (37,752), Assamese (16,183), and Chakhesang (9,544).


The state’s population is 1.978 million, out of which 88% are Christians. The census of 2011 recorded the state’s Christian population at 1,739,651, making it, with Meghalaya, and Mizoram one of the three Christian-majority states in India. The state has a very high church attendance rate in both urban and rural areas. Huge churches dominate the skylines of Kohima, Dimapur, and Mokokchung.

Nagaland is known as “the only predominantly Baptist state in the world” and “the most Baptist state in the world” Among Christians, Baptists have constituted more than 75% of the state’s population, thus making it more Baptist (on a percentage basis) than Mississippi in the southern United States, where 55% of the population is Baptist, and Texas which is 51% Baptist. Roman Catholics, Revivalists, and Pentecostals are the other Christian denomination numbers. Catholics are found in significant numbers in parts of Wokha district and Kohima district as also in the urban areas of Kohima and Dimapur.

Skill Test

1. What is the capital of Nagaland?
2. Which the official language of Nagaland?
3. What is the total amount area that makes Nagaland?
4. What is the number of districts in Nagaland?
5. In which year was Nagaland formed?
6. What is the rank of Nagaland according to the area of the state?
7. What is the highest point in Nagaland?
8. According to which article in Indian Constitution gives a special provision of Nagaland?
9. Which is the state bird of Nagaland?
10. According to the census of 2011 what is the population of Nagaland?
11. What is the total number of Lok Sabha seats?
12. Name the state that lies to the south of Nagaland
13. State the date on which the Nagaland state was formed?
14. What is the major religion of Nagaland after Hinduism?
15. Name the country that lies east to Nagaland?
16. Among which of the rivers are present in Nagaland?