Sumi Naga

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Sumi Naga
Total population
Sumi and other Naga languages
Christianity; Animism
Related ethnic groups
other Naga peoples

The 'Sumi Naga' is one of the major Naga peoples in Nagaland, India. The Sumis mainly inhabit the Zunheboto district, although many have spread out and inhabit in almost all the other districts within Nagaland. Many go outside Nagaland for education and work.

The Sumi are one of the most united and most aggressive Naga tribe. Since times immemorial, other Nagas have feared the Sumi. Despite their ferocity and aggressive nature in warfare, the Sumi are known for their simplicity and honesty.

The Sumis practised headhunting like other Naga peoples before the arrival of the Christian missionaries and their subsequent conversion to Christianity. Anthropological study of the Sumi is documented in the book The Sema Nagas by J. H. Hutton, who was a Professor of Social Anthropology in the University of Cambridge. The Sumi is one of the recognised scheduled tribes of India.


According to the 2011 census of India, Sumi Nagas number around 300000 in population.


The ancestral religion of the Sumis was the worship of nature. With the arrival of Baptist missionaries in the 20th century, like other Naga tribes, today, Sumis are 99.9% Christians. Very few of them still practice animism.


Sumi Nagas mostly inhabit the central and southern regions of Nagaland. Zunheboto is the district of the Sumis and they also live in districts such as Dimapur, Kohima, Kiphire, Mokokchung, Tuensang, etc. There are also seven Sumi villages in Tinsukia District of Assam.

Clan system[edit]

Sumis have two different clan-heads, viz. Swu (Sumi) and Tuku (Tukumi).[2]


Sumi women in traditional costume
Sumi dancer girls during Naga Traditional New Year Festival 2007, Lahe, Sagaing, Myanmar

The Sumis celebrate many festivals which have been carried down from generations. Most of these festivals usually mark the beginning of new seasons, harvesting of new crops or victory at war. The two major festivals that are currently popular among them are:


Tuluni (July 8) is a festival of great significance for the Sumi. This 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 from the leaf of plantain. This drink is called Tuluni which gives the festival its name. Tuluni is also called "Anni" the word of which denotes the season of plentiful crops. This midyear festival is a time of communal harmony and merry-making for the Sumi community. Slaughtering of pigs, cows and mithun is an important feature of this festival.

During this festival, the betrothed exchange basketful of gifts with meals. The fiance is invited to a grand dinner at the fiancee's residence. Even siblings of the families of both the bride and groom exchange dinner and packed food and meats - wrapped the traditional way in plantain leaves. It was a time of joy even for servants and housekeepers in the olden days. On this day they were fed extra generously with good food and meat.

The practice of working in groups is common for the Sumi agriculture farmers, and Tuluni is a special time for them because they get to rest and celebrate the completion of a farming season of hard work in their paddy fields. For this festival, the farmer groups (also called Aloji) pool in money or other resources together to exchange/buy pigs and cows to be slaughtered for the special day. The meat is equally divided among themselves and some portion is kept aside for the group feast. In the midst of the feast, group leaders get extra offer of meat by way of feeding them by others. Each working group consists of 20 to 30 in number which includes several women too. The new recruits are also made to join the group at this grand feast.

The betrothed are settled at this period. The fervours of feast is synchronised with a chain of folk songs and ballads. In modern times, friends and members from other tribes and communities are invited to attend the feast and are entertained with a variety of traditional songs and dances, they are also served with sumptuous authentic Sumi cuisine of smoked pork and Axone with local herbs and vegetables.

By virtue of two separate clans the gennas and rituals differ between Sumi and Tukumi. Among all other festivals and gennas, Sumis in general accept the festival of Tuluni as the most grand and important one.


Ahuna (November 14) 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. On this occasion, the entire community prepares and feasts on the first meal of rice drawn from the season's harvest cooked in bamboo segments. The receptacles for cooking or serving on this occasion are freshly made, curved or cut, from locally available resources prolific and abundant in the countryside.

Ahuna is celebrated on November 13 and 14 and 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. Tuluni is still the most respected festival for the local Sumi.

SÜMI AHUNA Ahuna is a Sümi traditional agricultural-calendar-end Tiqhetini (festival) signifying completion of successful agricultural work. It marks the time when all food items, grains, tubers and variety of vegetables from the year-long farming are collected and stored in the Aleh (Granary). Cooking newly harvested rice wrapped in Tsüzüküghü (Phrynium marantaceae leaves) or Saphaye (Aspidistra elatior) leaves in fresh-cut bamboo stems is one of the main rituals symbolizing success of crop cultivation. Ahuna is also a time for charting a new beginning – mapping a blue print of a new area for the next agricultural year called the Asüyekithe. For our ancestors, it was a time for serious divination invoking the Alhou (creator) and spirits of nature to show if the next agricultural year would produce a good harvest to sustain the village population. According to the forecasts, measures in the form of precautionary rituals were performed to appease nature spirits to ensure that the next agricultural year would be bountiful. The forecasting ritual is performed after Ahuna rice is consumed. Emptied bamboo tube used for cooking new rice is split into equal halves and thrown in the air with specific incantations, usually performed by Achine-u (priest in the old Sümi religion): if both the halves land face-down or face-up, it is a bad omen, however, if one is face-down and the other split side up, it is regarded a sign of good fortune. The old religion has died out a long time now and most rituals forgotten or forbidden. In modern times, throwing of split bamboo during Ahuna is usually done for fun. Traditionally, the Ahuna Tiqhetini was observed for over three days after harvest. In modern times, Ahuna is celebrated as a major public event with an array of cultural activities of traditional songs and dances, traditional sports and different cultural competitions and with traditional food. The Government of Nagaland has declared 14th November as the Sümi Ahuna, one of the State festivals of Nagaland.


  1. ^ 2011census of India
  2. ^ "Sumi Festivals". National Informatics Centre, Nagaland State Unit, Kohima. Retrieved 2011-10-16. 


  • Hutton, John Henry (1921), "The Sema Nagas". London: Macmillan and Co. Limited [1]
  • Jacobs, Julian (1999), "The Nagas: Hills People of Northeast India". London: Thames and Hudson.

External links[edit]