OFFBEAT

Meet the Konyaks – Nagaland’s Fiercest Headhunters

Aroma Sah Anant

Last updated: Jun 1, 2017

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See

Trek up to the top of the Longwa village to see both India and Myanmar in one sweeping glance.

Trivia

Quite interestingly, Longwa village is in India as well as Myanmar. The village head is the Angh and his word is considered the final command.

Shop

The Konyaks are fine craftsmen. Buy beaded traditional jewellery, woven shawls, and other brass and bamboo artefacts.

Do

There are a few B&Bs and guest houses in Mon district which provide accommodation.

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For years in Nagaland’s Mon district, boys were asked to get a decapitated head of the enemy. It was their rite of passage to manhood, and once accomplished, they could proudly get their face and body decorated with prominent black tattoos. This notorious tradition of headhunting practiced by the fascinating Konyak tribe in Nagaland has intrigued one and all. Here is all you should prepare yourself for when meeting the fearsome Konyaks.

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1. The Mon District

To meet the Konyaks, the largest tribe in Nagaland, a travel to the Mon district and the Longwa Village bordering Myanmar is imperative. In the midst of the pristine green valleys and azure blue skies, it is hard to believe that such a fierce and bloody tradition once existed to occupy land and show supremacy.

2. The Border Village of Longwa

In Longwa Village, you can meet the last of the original Konyaks — the ones who hunted enemies and had their faces proudly covered in black tattoos. In this luscious and idyllic village, wooden houses and the Konyak way of life will leave you amazed.

Read more: A Tourist Guide to North East India

3. The Typical Konyak Household

The huts that were once adorned with decapitated heads of the enemy, today bear skulls of animals that have been hunted for food. Inside every Konyak home, bones of buffaloes, deer, boars and hornbills are proudly displayed.

4. Traditional Crafts and Creations

The village boys and girls no longer boast the prestigious and beautifully designed black tattoos, but members of the Konyak tribe have another outlet for their creative energy — they design elaborate head gear, ornaments and colourful dresses. the Konyaks are also proficient in intricate craftsmanship. You can shop for carved wooden artefacts and beautifully hand-woven shawls at Mon. In Shangnyu Village, there is an over-8- feet-tall wooden monument one must visit.  

Read more: Ngada Festival: Nagaland’s Cultural Feast

5. The Culture of Hunting

In Mon, if you see a man with a distinctive black tattoo decorating his face and hands, then it is indicative that he has killed at least one man. Besides the tattoos, their look is complete with colourful tribal jewellery, intricately-woven shawls and probably, just a loin cloth. While banning of headhunting has been in place for many years, Konyaks today hunt for meat. Hunting is a sport close to every Naga’s heart, and they decorate vestiges of their catch in their houses.

6. The Aoling Festival

Plan your trip in the months of April when the martial tribesmen celebrate the Aoling Festival, or the Naga New Year. This festival is a riot of colours, costumes and traditional offerings. Tribals come decked up in traditional clothes and jewellery, and the energy here is infectious. Celebrations include tribal dances and various rituals including animal sacrifices.

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Nagaland’s most fascinating tribe is surely the Konyaks. Visit them soon as within a few decades, the original headhunters might not exist anymore! 

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