Rengma is a Naga tribe found in Nagaland and Assam states of India. According to the 2001 census of India, the Rengma population in Nagaland was 51,000, i.e. 2.9% of the total Naga population.
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” or Karbi-Anglong allegedly once part of the Naga Hills (then) in Assam but then transferred to Assam’s non-Naga districts for “administrative convenience;” Rengmas claim that they are the native or aborigines of Karbi-Anglong, that the Karbi tribe immigrated from the Khasi Hills in the west, colonized the area to their detriment, and reduced them (the Rengmas) to a minority of the population. Karbi oral history claim that they immigrated from the Yunnan region of China in ancient times, settling in Western Assam, but were first displaced eastwards by the rise of the Dimasa Kingdom, then fled into the forests and mountains of Karbi-Anglong during the Burmese invasions and depredations. The Rengmas have come under pressure from militant factions representing the majority Karbis to assimilate or emigrate, and have retaliated by forming their own counter-militancy groupings, leading to ethnic killings and polarization in Karbi-Anglong, and the flight of both Karbis and Rengmas to relief camps. Parallel to the Rengmas, the Kukis, who have an anti-Naga tendency in the last few decades, also have militant groups active in Karbi-Anglong resisting Karbi efforts at assimilation or expulsion of the Kukis there.
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.