The Sumi or Sema Nagas

The Sumi or Sema Naga is one of the major Naga tribes of Nagaland. Sumi Nagas mostly inhabit the central and southern regions of Nagaland; Zunheboto is the district of the Sumis and a major part of Dimapur district. 

The Sumis practiced headhunting like other Naga tribes before the arrival of the Christian missionaries and the subsequent conversion of the tribe’s people to Christianity. As in the other western Naga tribes, the principal offensive weapons of the Sema are the spear and the dao; the cross- bow, originally perhaps borrowed from tribes further east, is also used. The only defensive weapon is the shield, unless we may include “panjis.” No defensive armour is used by the Semas, not even a cane helmet.

The Sema men put on their cloths by drawing the corner of one end over the left shoulder from back to front and then throwing the cloth round the body so that the opposite corner on the same side of the cloth at the other end falls again over the left shoulder from front to back.

The dress of the Sema woman consists principally of a short petticoat, which does not reach to the knees, wrapped round the waist and kept in place by a bead girdle. Over the top of the petticoat is worn a string of cowries as a belt, and under it a broad girdle of yellow beads extending well below the hips, so broad as to suggest that this was originally the piece-de- resistance of the costume and that the petticoat underneath it is a more recent addition, particularly as weaving seems only to be a recently introduced art among Semas, and the beads alone without any petticoat are worn by httle girls.

The two major festivals of Sumi Nagas are: Tuluni and Ahuna.

Tuluni (8 July) festival is marked with feasts as the occasion occurs in the bountiful season of the year. Drinking rice beer indispensably forms as part of the feasts. Rice beer is served in a goblet made of bamboo or made of the leaf of plantain. This drink is called ‘Tuluni’ which gives the festival its name. Tuluni is also called “ANNI” the word of which denote the season of plentiful crops. This midyear (July) festival is a time of communal harmony and merry-making for the Sumi Community of Nagaland.

Sümis have two different clan-heads, viz. Swu (Sumi) and Tuku (Tukumi). By virtue of two separate clans the gennas and rituals differs between Sumi and Tukumi. Among all other festivals and gennas, Sumis in general accepted the festival of Tuluni as the most grand and important one.

Ahuna (14 November) is a traditional post-harvest festival of the Sumis. Ahuna signifies the celebration of the season’s harvest in thanksgiving, while invoking the spirit of good fortune in the New Year. Ahuna is celebrated on 13 and 14 November as one of the festivals of Nagaland, although it now holds the status of the official festival of the Sumi Nagas because it falls in a dry season and accessibility for visitors in terms of road conditions are better.

Photo Location: Longtong Sumi Village in Margherita Sub-Division in Tinsukia Dist.

Photographs are taken by Manash Pratim Gogoi . Contents are By Manash with inputs from Pranjal Borah.
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