Naga head hunters and daring Christian missionaries - British India

First missionary to visit the Ngaland.
Hornbill Festival Nagaland 2015, India.

The Nagas of NE India, who are  closely related to the Chin and Kachin people of Burma, are one of the most recognized head hunting people in the modern world. The tribal community of Naga is a conglomeration of different groups.  Among them Noctes, Wanchos and Tirap were vicious head-hunters. They live predominantly in the mountains of Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh;  some other Naga tribes occupy territory in the contiguous adjoining states of Manipur, NE India and  across the border in Burma. Previously known as Naga Hills District during the Colonial period, now, it has become a small state called Nagaland with  the capital at Kohima. As of 2012, the state of Nagaland  officially recognizes 17 Naga tribes  and across the border in Burma.

Part of NE
E. W. Clark and his wife  in Nagaland,

Above image: E . W. Clark and his wife sailed from Boston, Massachusetts , USA ) on October  20, 1868  under the Baptist Missionary Union as Missionaries and and settled in Nagaland, India. They did  pioneering work in Nagaland and developed printing., 


Ursula Violet Graham Bower, one of the pioneering anthropologists in the Naga Hills between 1937–1946 considered Nagaland the "paradise of headhunters.  For the Naga tribes, head-taking was an important part of their culture. They believed the success of their crop, health, growth of their community and wealth of their village  could be safeguarded by sprinkling of blood from a stranger over the fields. The various kinds of tattoos displayed  by the tribes show their level of success in headhunting raids and their rank in the hierarchy.  Strange costumes and ornaments of hair, fur, shells, teeth, ivory, and monkeys' skulls, etc  were worn by them   for harnessing  great power in their own right. Their status is recognized in the community based on their headhunting skill, distinctive  ornaments worn by them and the mithun feasts given by them. In the villages where the Noctes live there is a community space called ''Morung'' or ''Pang''. It is actually a big storage space  or hut made of bamboo and canes where  the headhunters would display their trophies on the wooden shelves in an hierarchical order after their raids. Here, they conduct prayer of peace and feast in remembrance of the dead. Women are  
Human skulls kept in the morung. Naga tribes NE
not allowed inside the Morung. It also serves as a dormitory for young men who guard the village.

In 1866 the  British Raj created the Naga Hills district  with  its headquarters  at Samagutingand later  annexed the Lotha Naga region. Kohima in 1879 became the administrative center. The British Raj treated the Naga Hills District as a separate entity, because of its backwardness. The Naga District Tribal Council came into being in 1945 under the control of Governor of Assam.

During the East India British company rule and later under the Crown, the Nagas were a menace to them. Because of frequent attack on the tea estates, the British had difficulty in managing the tea plantations.

Christmas cartoons

The credit goes to Protestant Christian missionaries from Britain who, in the nineteenth century, were instrumental  in converting many among the Naga tribes to Christian faith. Initially the Nagas refused to change their life style and strange customs. Gradually they had begun dropping many tribal customs and traditions. The  English education and exposure to modern studies opened the new world for them. For generations they refused to drop their age old customs and gruesome  headhunting and become civilized.  Despite their uncivilized customs, they were not followers of any particular religion. Nor were they materialistic.
The first missionary  to reach the  Naga hills is believed to be one Rev. Miles Bronson, an American who made his first journey to Namsang, on January 7, 1839. He was the first white man  to visit this area. The gritty preacher learned their language, lived among them (1839-1841) and finally won their acceptance in the society. In the 1870s, Dr. & Mrs.E. W. Clark, American Missionaries

Koyok tribes,Nagaland (once head hunters) Alamy

worked among the Ao people. With the help of a Mr. Godhula, an Assamese Christian, they established the first church, a Baptist one, in Molungkimong (Dekha Haimong Village) in 1872.

Over a period of time, Mulong became the center of missions  with the main purpose of civilizing and converting Nagas in to Christian faith.  Mulong was the first Christian village in Nagaland. Then in a later year Clark moved his mission center to Impur which is now known as Ao Baptist Arogo Mungdang.

As Clerk was not given permission to enter the Nagaland  on December 23, 1872 Clark organized the First Baptist Church at Molungkimong.  The site has an ancient Leechi tree, which is believed to have been planted by Dr. E. W. Clark, the first American Missionary. Slowly  the tribes people adopted  Christianity as their religion, but at the same time never gave up their  Naga identity, barring their  distinctions based on warring tribal villages. To day Nagaland is the only state where  more than 95% of the population are Christians, mostly Baptists.