Lotha Naga
A Lotha Naga girl in her traditional attire
Total population
173,111[1] (2011 census)
Languages
Lotha
Religion
Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Naga tribes

The Lotha Nagas are a major Naga ethnic group native to Wokha district of Nagaland , India.

Distribution

Towns and villages under Wokha District

Origins

Scholars have presented several theories about the migration of the Lothas and the other Naga tribes, based on vocal explanations passed on from one generation to another.

Migration from eastern China

According to this theory mentioned by Hokishe Sema, the Lothas started moving out from the Eastern part of China, passing through Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma en route. After many long years of movement, they reached a place called Khezakhenoma located between Manipur and Chakhesang (the present-day Phek), where they settled for a short period of time. From Khezakhenoma (Khezhakeno) they moved towards the present day settlement of the Lothas i.e. Wokha where they finally settled.[2]

Migration from Manchuria

This theory, mentioned by T. Phillips, says that the Lothas migrated from Manchuria, passing through the foothills of the Himalayas and reached Manipur via Burma. From Manipur, they moved out and settled at the present day place.[3]

Migration from Lenka

There are multiple versions of this theory:[4]

Local traditions mention that the Rengmas and the Lothas were once part of a single tribe.[5] There are also oral records of a mighty struggle between the combined Rengma villages, and the Lotha village of Phiro.[6]

Culture

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Wokha is the traditional home of the Lotha tribe. Lothas are renowned for their colorful dances and folk songs. The male members wear shawls indicating their social status. The prestigious social shawl for women is Opvuram and Longpensu for men.

Like many Nagas, the Lothas practiced headhunting in the older days. After the arrival of Christianity, they gave up this practice. Though the majority of the Lothas are Baptist, there exist a moderate amount of other forms of Christianity like the Catholics. Catholics are concentrated more in Wokha than in other parts of Nagaland.

Tokhü Emong and Pikhuchak are the main festivals celebrated amidst much pomp and splendor. Tokhü Emong is celebrated on 7 November. The Tokhü Emong is the harvest festival of the Lothas. With the harvest done and the granaries full, the people now take a respite from the toils and sweat and settle down to enjoy the fruits of one's hard labour.

Tokhü Emong is celebrated in the 1st month of November every year and it stretches over to 9 days. Earlier, no particular date was fixed. However, in order to carve unity and uniformity among the ranges, Wokha elders decided to celebrate it on a fixed date. Following this Tokhü Emong is celebrated on 7 November, every year.

During this festival, the entire Village takes part in the celebration. Every household have food and drinks prepared for the feast. Friends, families neighbors are invited to each other's house and this continues for 9 days. The main features of the feast are community songs, dances, feast, fun and frolic. Everyone attires themselves in their beautiful traditional dresses and costumes according to their social status. There is an air of gaiety and light heartedness everywhere. Gifts of food and drinks are exchanged during the Festival. Among friends, the number of cooked meat given denotes the depth of friendship and ties. For example, if one man offers 12 pieces of meat to his friend, it shows that he treasures his friendship, it is reciprocated, and he is also offered 12 pieces of meat, it means that the friendship is valued from both sides.

In this case, should any disaster or misfortunes strikes either one of them, both of them will stand by each other no matter what. Thus a friendship of loyalty and fidelity was pledged. In case of mere acquaintances or platonic ones, only 6 pieces of meat are exchanged.

It is the Priest who gives the signal for the start of the festival. He accompanied by aides (Yinga) along with baskets goes round the village collecting un husked rice from every home when offering is made. The priest takes a handful of it, showers prayers and it is only after this that he puts the contribution in his basket. The belief was that the more generous the contribution, the more yield one would get during harvest but if any one refuses to contribute, he would lead a pauper's life. So none would dare to refuse contribution for fear of that. A portion of the collection is used to buy a pig and the rest is used for making rice-beer. The pig is killed and cut and is distributed to the contributors. The ritual is considered as contributing factor to general prosperity.

Before the commencement of the festival, if any stranger happens to be in the village, he gets two options; to leave the village (past beyond the village gate) before sunset or to stay there in the village until the festival is over. He however, enjoys the warm hospitality of the villagers. This festival also provide the occasion to offer prayers for the departed souls. The family who lost any member during the year performs his/her last rites. The people remain in the village till the last rites are performed.

Young boys and girls engaged during the year are happily married after Tokhü. It is also the time for renovating the village gate, cleaning wells and repairing houses.

Tokhü -Emong is also a festival of thanks giving, sharing and reconciliation but the most beautiful aspect of this festival is that past rancours are forgiven, new ties are formed and bonds of closer intimacy are formed.

Wild cries of Joy-echo over the green hills and narrow valleys. One feels as if the stones have been given tongue to say ‘Oh farmers, tender your fields with love and care’.

References

  1. ^ "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". www.censusindia.gov.in. Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  2. ^ Hokishe Sema (former Governor), The Emergence of Nagaland
  3. ^ T. Phillips, Growth of Baptist Churches in Nagaland
  4. ^ J P Mills, The Lotha-Nagas
  5. ^ Journal of Anthropological Research. University of New Mexico. 1973. p. 168. OCLC 60616192.
  6. ^ Hutton, J H (1921). The Angami Nagas with Some Notes on Neighbouring Tribes. London: Macmillan and co. pp. 7. OCLC 44920051.