Mahkel: Where Nagas lived in harmony

Some Naga groups share a common belief of their ethnogenesis as a distinct people: these groups include Angami, Sema, Rengma, Lotha, Zeme, Liangmei and Rongmei. According to this belief, the ancestors of the Nagas lived in harmony together at a place called Mahkel (identified with the present-day Mao village of Makhel in Manipur,and, alternatively, believed to be near the Chindwin river in present-day Myanmar. As their population grew, they decided to split and spread outside Makhel. According to the Heraka faith, the Naga peoples took an oath pledging that they would come together again and live as a kingdom.

However, when the British arrived in India, the various Naga tribes had no common national identity. The term “Naga” was a vaguely-defined exonym, which referred to the different tribes in present-day Nagaland and its surrounding area. The different tribes spoke mutually unintelligible languages and had distinct cultures but they are inextricably interrelated. Each Naga village was a sovereign state ruled by tribal elders.

Internecine feuds, wars and headhunting campaigns were common among the Naga tribes. The British captured several Naga territories and consolidated them under the Naga Hills District of Assam. During the British rule, missionaries such as Miles Bronson and Edwin W. Clark introduced Christianity to the area, greatly changing the social and political fabric of the local society. The common Christian identity led to peace and unity among the various Naga tribes.Nagamese developed as a link language for inter-tribe communication.

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