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Naga warriors have long been feared and respected, and head-hunting was practised within living memory. They are also skilful farmers, growing twenty different species of rice. They differentiate between the soul and the spirit, believing the soul resides in the nape of the neck, while the spirit, in the head, holds great power and brings good fortune. Heads of enemies and fallen comrades were once collected to add to those of the community’s own ancestors. Some tribes tattooed their faces with swirling horns to mark success in head-hunting. The heads themselves were kept in the men’s meeting house (morung) in each village, which was decorated with fantastic carvings of animals, elephant heads and tusks – you can still see examples in many villages. Although each tribe has its own dialect, a hybrid language drawn from various local languages and Assamese has developed into the common Naga tongue.

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