|Regions with significant populations|
|Northern Rengma and Southern Rengma|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Naga tribes|
Like other Naga tribes, there are few written historical records of Rengmas.
According to the local traditions, the Rengmas and the Lothas (or Lhotas) were once part of a single tribe. There are also oral records of a mighty struggle between the combined Rengma villages, and the Lotha village of Phiro. There are records of the Rengmas' conflict with the Angami Nagas.
Slavery used to be a practice among the Rengmas, and the slaves were known by the names menugetenyu and itsakesa. By the time the British arrived in the Naga region, the slavery was a declining practice, and no Rengma appears to have been a slave during this time.
In Assam, the Rengma tribals are found in the Rengma Hills which was once a part of Naga Hills but brought under assam jurisdiction for administrative convinience and now the refugees (karbis) who migrated from khasi hills have taken over. Compared to the Mikirs or karbis, they are the sons of the land. The karbis however, by their political strategies managed to name the land as Karbi Anglong. But as Rengmas prgress more in the field of education they are now seeking justice.
The Rengma Nagas are divided into two groups: the Eastern Rengmas, and the Western Rengmas.
The traditional Rengma clothing consists of various types of clothes, which are indicative of the status and position of the weavers. A man who has not been able to offer a great feast, or has never killed an enemy, may wear an ordinary type of cloth called rhikho. Rhikho is a white cloth with four narrow black bands. The number of black bands varies with the age of the wearer. Moyet tsu is another ordinary type of cloth, worn by the young men. It is a dark blue cloth with a very broad median band, and embroidered with a thin zigzag pattern in red at the edges. Alungtsu is a cloth for well-to-do men, who have not yet offered a great feast. Teri Phiketsu is a shawl, which requires the wearer to perform the head hunting ceremony.
Rengmas make yellow dye from the flowers of a tree, and also practise painting on clothes.
The harvest festival of the Rengmas is called Ngada. It is an eight-day Ngada festival that marks the end of the agricultural season. Ngadah is celebrated just after the harvest, towards the end of November. The village high priest (Phesengu) announces the date of commencement of the festival.
The schedule of the festival is as follows:
|1||Preparation of rice-beer|
|2||Collection of banana leaves from the forest.|
|3||Women visit the graves of their deceased relatives, and place rice-beer wrapped in banana leaves on the graves. The Nagas believe that the souls of the deceased visit their relatives during Ngadah, and rice beer is a symbolic offering to the souls. The rice-beer is then tasted by the eldest member of the household, followed by others.|
|4||Early in the morning, the male members gather at their respective morungs or dormitories (known as Rensi), early in the morning. They come with their own rice beer and meat, and a have a meal. The women do not take part in the morung feast. In the noon, all the male members go around the village with their ceremonial and warrior fineries. They are followed by women, who carry rice-beer in mugs and bitter gourd containers, to offer them drinks.|
|5||The male members visit all the houses in a procession, singing songs related to Ngadah. Each visited house offers something as a token of their appreciation.|
|6||People visit houses of other villagers, and eat and drink.|
|7||People collect firewood, banana leaves and vegetables for the feast, from the forest.|
|8||A grand feast is arranged, and whole village feasts on the collection from the fifth day. According to the traditional Rengma belief, the souls of those who died in the previous year leave the village after the grand feast, and go to the land of the dead. The end of the festival is marked with three rites: an agreement with the fire in order to avoid fire accidents, an agreement with rats to avoid destruction of crops or household goods, and a rite to expel the evil spirits.|
During Ngadah, the Rengmas also perform a folk dance, with traditional warrior attire.
Other tribal customs
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