THE CHANG TRIBE
The Chang tribe is like several other Naga tribes, which were involved in practicing of headhunting in the pre-British era. The person with maximum number of hunted heads was given the position of lakbou (chief), who would settle down the village. The chief was authorized to maintain special decorative marks in his house, and to wear special ceremonial dress during the festivals. But later on after the headhunting was abolished any type of problems in the village were resolved by a council of informally elected village leaders. The elected village leader also selected the fields for cultivation and was involved in fixing the festival dates.
After the head hunting was abolished, The Chang tribe was involved in constructing a platform called “Mullang Shon” in the center of the village, which would function as a public court. In the public court Issues such as village administration, cultivation, festivals, marriages and land boundaries were supposed to be discussed on this platform.
The State Government of Nagaland later established Village Development Boards in all the villages. In which the Village Development Board consists of 5-6 members, including one female member. It fulfills the development schemes in the village. The main reason to form the board was that this council was involved in maintaining peace and order in the village, resolving civil disputes according to the traditional laws, and arrangements for arrest of criminals and applied the Government regulations.
The Changs appeared from a place called Changsangmongko, and later developed at Changsang. The word Chang derived from the word chognu which means banyan tree, after a mythical banyan tree that grew at the now-abandoned Changsang. The Chang tribe is also said to be migrated to present-day Nagaland from the east, and therefore call themselves Chang (“Eastern” in the local dialect). And some of the Chang tribe also claims the Aos as their ancestors. The Chang folklore is similar to that of the Ao.
The Chang mythology believes that their ancestors lived with wild animals in the wild, by which they have assumed the status of clan spirits. Namely The Ong clan that honors the tiger as a clan spirts, while the others honor wild cats and birds (crows and eagles) as spirits. There are believed to be total five Chang clans: Chongpo, Ung, Lomou, Kangshou and Kudamji. And lastly Chongpo is further divided into Shangdi, Hangwang, Hagiyung, Ungpong and Maava clans accordingly. Historically the clans were secured within the village (khel), and lived in peace and harmony.
As of 2001, about 99.5% of the people of chang tribe were Christians. However, the Chang tribal were originally nature worshiper. They believed in relationship between the humans, the nature and the supernatural forces. They were involved to not worship any family, clan or village deities. But, they believe d in several nature spirits like water, sky, jungle etc. The most important spirit in chang tribe believed was Sampule Mukhao or Shambuli Muhgha, which is believed to be the spirit of the paddy field. Usually, the Ongbou the village priest from the Ong clan used to perform major sacrifices during the festivals. And later on in time The Chang conversions to Christianity started in 1936, and the Chang Naga Baptist Association was formed in 1940.
The Changs tribe speaks the Chang language, which belonged to the Tibeto-Burman family. Usually Nagamese is the language used for communicating with the outsiders. However, the educated Changs also speak English and Hindi languages.
After the arrival of Christianity, several people in Changs have adopted to modern clothing. The traditional Chang dress usually featured unique shawl-like garments and decorative and beautiful ornamented headgear. It also believed that the Chang shawls “surpass all the Naga shawls in beauty and eye-catching patterns”. The designs of shawl are traditional and different which differed from different age groups and clans. Mohnei is a cowrie-ornamented shawl and believed that it could be worn only by a man who had taken more than 6 heads.
The traditional Chang tribe cuisine is basically non-vegetarian, and comprises of variety of meats and fish. Rice is the basic and most important food of the tribe. Milk, fruits and vegetables are not a major part of the traditional Chang food habits, but also have been adopted widely in the modern times. Even Rice beer used to be of high social and ritual importance, but has largely been abandoned after the conversion of Changs to Christianity.
The traditional instrument of Chang tribe basically includes xylophone, various drums made by stretching animal leather, bamboo trumpets and bamboo flutes which is handmade and traditionally. The traditional instruments have been replaced by guitar among the modern Changs after the conversion to Christianity.
Being Christians, the modern Changs celebrate Christmas in a big way. Chang tribe also celebrates their traditional festival Naknyu lem or Nanyulum
Naknyu Lem or Naknyulum
Naknyu Lem is the major traditional festival of the Changs. According to changs belief, the ancient people had to remain inside of their homes for six days due to extreme darkness. Therefore, Naknyu Lem is held to celebrate the light on the seventh day.
On the first day, the rituals are the domestic animals are slaughtered, then the villages are cleaned, and firewood and water are stocked.
On the second day (Youjem, dark moon day), the tribes usually exchanged gifts and food items, and play sports. Women are involved in playing a musical instrument called kongkhin. The footpaths and the houses are decorated beautifully with leaves, and a shrub called Ngounaam is planted in front of the house to scare off the evil spirits. And at sunset, seeds called Vui long are buried inside the rice pods and burnt around the house. The Chang tribe believed that the fragments of the exploding seeds moving away from the house are considered to be a good omen. In case the fragments bounced back towards the house, it is considered to be a bad omen. People also don’t go out of their homes at sunset, because it is believed that the spirit of Shambuli Muhgha visits the village, and harms anyone outside the house.
And lastly on the third day, the village and the roads are cleaned. Later, the paths leading to the fields and neighboring villages are cleaned.