Naga people at Naga New Year Festival
“Ah-Hay”.. “Ah-Hay”- “Ah-Hay!!”, the introduction of a Naga ethnic song from a group of Naga men woke me up while I was resisting the morning’s severe cold winter in the hilly region of Naga, as I stayed under my blanket.
Naga men and women were busy in the early morning in January last year, celebrating their new year festival. It was the first time I visited the Naga New Year Festival in Leshi in Sagaing Region.
I quickly washed my face, finished my breakfast, took my camera and walked over to the area where they celebrate the major day of the festival. Naga men wore traditional ethnic hand-woven dresses, along with typical ceremonial ornaments, including beads of claws of the bear as a strap, ivory armlets, necklaces made of tiger teeth, straps made of shells, leather shield, traditional spears, and knives.
I found that they were preparing to erect a ceremonial pole. Though this was my first visit, I realized that they would dance in groups to start the festival. Representatives from different ethnic tribes arrived in town before the ceremony to celebrate the festival.
I had the chance to talk to a man waiting to participate in a performance. He said he was from a Makuri Naga tribe.
“To arrive here, we spent five nights in the mountains,” said the man. They trekked continually up and downhills.
The annual festival is held alternately in Leshi, Lahe, and Nanyun.
The 2020 festival will be held in Lahe on 15 January.
The festival has attracted local and foreign travelers, as well as photographers, allowing them to experience the traditions and customs of the Naga ethnic people.
The special meal for the visitors is Gayal meat and traditional liquor made of rice.
For Nagas, they can receive meat and liquor for free when they visit other villages after they loudly call “Ah-Hay”.. “Ah-Hay”- “AhHay! three times.
“How about one or two times?” I asked him. He replied, “No food. No liquor.”
He also explained the meaning of Ah-Hay, which is “Let’s march to victory.”
Let’s meet in Lahe in January to hear “Ah-Hay” “Ah-Hay” “AhHay”.