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Naga King Chilli (Capsicum Chinense/Frutescens)

1.         Naga King Chilli (Capsicum Chinense/Frutescens)

What is Naga King Chilli?

The Naga King Chilli is a traditional food item of the Naga people. In the local Angami language, it is “Kedi Chüsi” or “Chüdi” which literally mean the “king of chillies”. Nagaland is believed to be the original home of this chilli pepper and Nagaland Government has obtained the GI rights for this product in 2008. The Nagaland government had in 1999 passed the Nagaland Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, to provide some safety net to Naga farmers in the cultivation of the King Chilli.

This chilli is also found in Assam, Manipur, particularly the hills areas, and Bangladesh where it is believed that Naga insurgents had taken the product there for their consumption and provided the first seeds when they went to East Pakistan for arms training. Some Nagas believe that this was how the Dorset Naga was “discovered”!  

This chilli pepper is called by various names such as Naga Jolokia, Naga Morich, Bhut Jolokia, Bih Jolokia etc. Whatever the names by which it is called, they seem to be only different varieties of the same chilli. Nagaland Government has found that there are four varieties of the Naga King Chilli pepper, each distinct. The hotness of the chilli is undisputed. The Guinness Book of World Records had awarded this chilli pepper the status of the hottest in the world. A Naga folk tale also talks about a bet between two friends on eating a certain amount of this chilli. One of them died after fulfilling the bet by consuming the agreed number of chillies.   

There seems to be some differences among scientists about whether the Naga King Chilli/Jolokia belongs to the Capsicum Chinense or the Capsicum Frutescens. According to Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, this particular chilli pepper contains both genes, as per DNA testing.

It has a distinct taste and pungency although some may need to acquire the taste. While some cannot even touch it, some consume about 3-7 whole pods in one (meal) sitting, using it in both their curry and as “chutney”. With some people, it seems the chilli becomes addictive as they can no longer enjoy their food without the same heat!

The Naga King Chilli, despite its reputation, is actually a very sensitive and vulnerable item. Even after germination of the seeds, and planting/transplanting very good looking saplings, the trees may not fruit at all – for instance if there was very heavy rains or no rains at all. After harvest, it has very little staying power and easily rots. And when it rots, it is like, or worse than, the proverbial rotten tomato, making all others rot!

This chilli pepper does not grow well in all areas. Even in areas where it grows, the heat may be lost unless the climate, the soil and other conditions are as per its requirements. For instance, some of the chillies may keep your hands `burning’ for several days after many thorough washing while with others a single proper wash is adequate and can keep you safe! Depending on the conditions of soil, climate etc. the heat of the chilli pepper may go down to half or more its potential heat.

In February 2007, the Guinness Book of World Records certified Bhut Jolokia (Naga Jolokia) as the hottest chilli pepper in the world. As per findings of Professor Paul Bosland, of New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute, in 2005, the SHU rating was 1,001,304. Earlier, in 2004, Frontal Agritech of Assam, had claimed a rating of 1, 041,427 SHUs. This meant that the Naga Jolokia has almost two times the heat of the Red Savina Pepper which was earlier the hottest chilli pepper in the world.

SHU or Scoville Heat Unit is how the heat of a chilli pepper is measured. This measurement system is named after Wilbur Scoville a chemist who worked out a system of diluting grounded chillies in sugar solution till there was no more heat left. Other methods of measuring the heat of a chilli pepper have since been developed which some believe are more accurate.    

Brief History of Naga King Chilli

“Earlier the Red Savina with 248,556 SHUs and the Orange Habanero with 357,729 SHUs, were considered the hottest chillies in the world. But in September 2000 the Defence Research Laboratory in Tezpur in Assam claimed they had discovered a new chlli pepper which registered 855,000 SHUs. It was called the Tezpur Chilli, Indian PC-1. Initially, the claim was treated with skepticism. Later, the Chile Pepper Institute in New Mexico made a comparative study of all three chilli peppers and found that the Naga Jolokia (also called Bhut Jolokia, Naga Morich, Bih Jolokia etc.) registered 1,001,304 SHUs, clearly far ahead of the other two then hottest chillies in the world. This study was done by Professor Paul Bosland of New Mexico State University. This was reported by BBC and Associated Press etc in early 2007. Later, Frontal Agritech, an export firm in Jorhat, Assam, made their own study and claimed their Bih Jolokia registered 1,041,427 SHUs”. (Source : Frontal Agritech, Jorhat, Assam, website).

Uses of Naga King Chilli

Naga King Chilli is used as an everyday food item by Nagas. Indeed, the highest concentration of this chilli consumption are among Naga people themselves. The product is highly prized and the cost, accordingly, is also the highest in Naga society. It is used in many forms – fresh, dried, powdered and in pickled forms. It is used in all kinds of food preparations.

Some Nagas use crushed/powdered Naga King chilli as a pesticide to protect crops from insects/harmful bacteria. In Assam, some environmental NGOs also use this chilli as protection against the depredations of wild elephants (Nandita Hazarika, Eco-system, India).
“Apart from it being the major ingredient used in the manufacture of hot sauces by a wide variety of food manufacturers, both big and small, Capsaicin is also used as the basis for a topical analgesic used for alleviating muscle and joint pain, such as that attributable to osteoarthritis, and sold under such brand names as Capsin, Capzasin-P, Dolorac, Zacin and Zostrix, whilst pepper spray, otherwise known as Oleoresin Capsicum spray, which is beloved of law enforcement agencies across North America, is produced from the oils extracted from chilli peppers. (Which is incidentally the reason why the Indian Defense Research Laboratory was interested in the first place.) In particular the Assamese Bhut/Bih/Naga Jolokia can apparently frighten off elephants, and the Assam Haathi Project has been experimenting with the construction of smoke bombs containing dry chilli and smearing fences with chilli oil in order to deter wild elephants from encroaching on farmland”. (source : Frontal Agritech, Assam).
Nutritional Value and Usefulness

The ripe red chillies contain vitamin A, B and C. The unripe yellow and green chillies also contain these vitamins but less. They contain potassium, magnesium and iron.

According to reports chillies do the following : -

  1. Fight cancer cells
  2. Help in fighting obesity for those with weight problems
  3. Helps cells to produce insulin again in Type 1 Diabetes patients
  4. Fights bad cholesterol and prevents or delays heart diseases
  5. Provides relief from diseases like rhinitis and bronchitis by thinning and clearing mucus from stuffed noses and congested luings.
  6. Has anti-ulcer protective effect on stomachs
  7. Believed to have anaesthetic effects to block out pain and may be used to treat chronic pain in future.

Possible Risks

  1. High consumption could cause stomach cancer
  2. May contain carcinogenic substances
  3. Could induce gastroesophageal reflux
  4. Chillies should not be swallowed whole 

About the King of Chillies!

Until about 10-15 years ago, the Naga King Chilli used to be mentioned in respectful and fearful tones in Naga homes because it was so hot. This respect and fear began to disappear when some gastric patients declared that they were “cured” of their ailment after consuming the King Chilli for sometime.

Properties

The Naga King Chilli, possibly, the only chilli that contains genes of both Capsicum Frutescens and Capsicum Chinense, is said to be a circulatory stimulant and also used in treatment of Atherosclerosis, shock, hemorrhage, heart attack etc. It is said to combine well with many herbal medicinal treatments.

According to medical research, Chilies, in general, help in treatment of cancer by killing bad cells, obesity through weight loss, diabetes by reducing required insulin to lower blood sugar, heart diseases by preventing/delaying oxidation of bad cholesterol, rhinitis and bronchitis through thinning of mucus, and also reduces chronic pain. It is said to even assist in food preservation.

In any case, the common properties of chilli are Vitamins C, A, B and B6. They contain high percentage of potassium, magnesium and iron as well as anti-ulcer properties.

Nagaland Horticulture Department

             STORY OF THE ORIGIN OF THE NAGA KING CHILLI
(Based on the Zeliangrong Naga Tribe folklore)

Introduction :-

The story of the origin and usage of the Naga King Chilli cannot be fully explaned since there were no officially documented records. However, there are many evidences in the form of stories, songs, names and places related to the use of this importance crop among the different Naga tribes. Stories and songs on its uses handed down verbally from generation to generation. The Naga King Chilli (or locally known as CHAIBERACHI in the Zeliangrong dialect and CHUDI CHUSI in the Angami dialect), was and is not only used as a food item but was and is popularly used for medicinal purposes to cure various diseases, as an anti-venom, as well as in sports such as betting, eating competitions in social gatherings, social gena and festive functions as well as used as a weapon in warfare in bygone days.

How it got its Name :-

CHUDI in the Angami dialect literally means King of Hotness. CHAIBE in the Zeliangrong dialect refers to a person of a high and dignified status within the community, society and tribe- a leader, or head or commander-in-chief. Probably in the bygone days the people named this particular chilli as such owing to the following observations and facts.

1.         The Naga King Chilli is the most pungent amongst the many chillies.
2.         The most captivating and enchanting of chillis with a distinctive flavour.
3.         Its attractive look with the best colour to match.
4.         The biggest in size compared to other chillis.
5.         Unlike other chillis the Naga King Chilli has no plastic-like cover, making it more              palatable and easier to digest.
6.         The most delicate of all chillis.
7.         It possesses carminative properties and medicinal value for various diseases.

It is assumed that for all these special features it was named as CHAIBE RACHI or
CHUDI CHUSI (both meaning KING OF CHILLIES)

                                      A VERSION OF THE STORY:

( Source: Mr.Akhang Kamei, President of the Zeliangrong Baudi, Nagaland)

Legend tells of man living with nature a long, long time ago, when he had to hunt for food amongst the wild with his bare hands and on his own strenght. At such a time there was a man by the name of PANMEI, who was hunting for food in the deep jungles. He happened to come across this particular Chilli plant, that we call the Naga King Chilli today, in its full ripened stage. Taking it to be a fruit,PANMEI plucked one of the ripened chilli and, driven by acute hunger, ate the whole chilli at once inspite of the terrible burning pungency. In no time it seemed as if his mouth and stomach were on fire. The man crawled and rolled in the jungle, tried eating whatever was within his grasp, but to no avail. At last with no other alternative, he lay there in the jungle facing up toward the sky, writhing in pain and almost at the point of fainting. The story goes on to say that precisely at this grave moment a bird called ROINGAU flew over the man carrying a bunch of paddy and drop it onto his stomach. Surprised, he took the paddy bunch and extracted a few grains and started chewing on them raw. In a matter of seconds, the burning pain in his mouth and stomach vanished. PANMEI believed this to be a miracle sent by God. He carefully collected the bunch of paddy and the chilli plant and took possession of them. As the story goes, thus began the cultivation of paddy and the Naga King Chilli. The story further states that since this miraculous incident, the Panmei Clan by Gena, ( a bounden village ritual/custom ) were forbidden to neither kill nor eat the bird called ROINGAU. This prohibited gena is still being observed and practiced by the Panmei Clan of the Zeliangrong Naga Tribe till this present day.

            STORY OF THE NAGA KING CHILLI USED AS CURATIVE MEDICINE
                   ( Source: Descendent of Nchang Clan of the Zeliangrong Naga)

Many years ago there lived a man called NCHANG, at the present Old Tening Village of Peren District, Nagaland. He was an adventurous man, who loved hunting and other wild sports. One fine day he caught hold of a hornet. Now in order to locate the hive, as was the usual tactic he placed a white raw cotton on the hornet’s sting and released it, observing where it would land. Unfortunately, the hornet flew out of range of Nchang’s eyesight. Believing that he had poor eyesight, he decided to take some curative measures. So plucking a fully ripened Naga King Chilli, he carefully cut open the fruit and took out the crystal clear water-like drops from the chilli and applied the drops to both his eyes as was practiced by his forefathers. NCHANG had to bear the excruciating pain in his eyes the whole night long. With sheer determination, he closed his eyes and tolerated the pain. On waking up the next morning, he carefully washed both his eyes and continued hunting for another hornet. He repeated the same tactic as before and again released the hornet. This time round he was able to see clearly where the hornet had landed and thus was able to locate its hive. The story says that a hornet hive was so large that it took 8 strong men to carry it home. From that time onward, the forest where NCHANG discovered the hornet’s hive was named as NCHANG KUI GUNG (meaning Nchang’s hornet hive forest). The location of the forest now stands in the Tesen Forest about 13 kms from Peren Town. To this day it is called by the same name of NCHANG KUI GUNG.

                        STORY OF BETTING ON THE NAGA KING CHILLI   
                   ( Source: Elders of Nsong Village Peren District Nagaland )

There are many instances, where among the Zeliangrong people, they challenge one another on who can eat the most Naga King Chilli for a prize. Since time immemorial to this day, this story tells us about two intimate friends in Taloram Village, where one friend challenged  the other to eat a bamboo basket full of about 2 kgs.of the chilli. The prize being one Mithun. The friend accepted the challenge and ate the whole lot. But unfortunately after consuming the entire amount of about 2 kgs.of the Naga King Chilli, the friend died after an immense struggle due to the excessive pungency of the chilli. Standing by the promise made, the friend presented the Mithun to his deceased friend with which the last funeral rites were performed.

                        SONG OF THE NAGA KING CHILLI

There are numerous songs composed on the Naga King Chilli and they vary from village to village. Qouted below is one such song:

            “ You may be a rich man’son to wear costly ornaments & earrings “

                        You make earrings of Chaiberachi, ( Naga King Chilli )

                                    You appear distinctive and charming,

                                    The rich red Chaiberachi in your ear,

                                    Makes you handsome and attractive.

                        You go back home,take off your earrings of Chaiberachi.

                        And make for yourself richly flavoured and pungent curry.

                                    And Hetam ( chutney ) too

                            And enjoy your food deliciously.

History of Naga King Chilli-

The Naga King Chilli, locally known as the “Chudi Chilli“ and commonly known as the Naga Mircha or Raja Mircha -  meaning “King of Chillies” is indigenous to the Nagas and has been a part of their lifestyle since time immemorial. Farmers in Naga Chilly growing areas of Nagaland have been engaged in the cultivation of Raja Chilli since the time of their forefathers and this has been and still is one of their chief sources of income and livelihood.

It had long been associated with the Naga community in all Naga inhabited areas as a staple culinary item & hence is intrinsically linked to the Nagas.

2. The Class of goods : Chilli

3. The territory ;  It is consumed in all Naga Territory. However it is extensively cultivated chiefly in four (4) Districts of Nagaland : Kohima, Peren, Mon, Dimapur.

4. The particulars of appearance:

The colour is green, turning red in maturity. It is sub-conical to conical in shape and about 2.5 – 2.95 cm. wide at the shoulders and 5.95 – 8.54 cm in lenght and may weigh 12 to 16 grams each. The skin is finely wrinkled, and the flesh is thin. Chüdi chilly has a distinctive pungency and fruity aroma.

As per the information collected from the farmers, there are 3 – 4 varieties grown depending from area to area, village to village.

1.  White turning red on maturity :- long & big in size, no infection, no leaf curl, good for picking, this is available whole year round except Feb-March. There is no decrease in size and a single tree bears fruits for 3-5 years.

2. Green turning red on maturity:- small in size & very hot, size decrease in winter, problem of leaf curl. A single tree bears fruits for 2-3 years.

3. Green turning red on maturity:- big in size & not as hot as the small green one.

4. Green turning very dark maroon on maturity.

MORPHOLOGICAL CHARACTERS OF NAGA CHUDI CHILLI:

Plant Height                          45- 200 cm
Stem color                              Dark Green
Leaf color                                Green
Leaf lenght                             10.65 – 14.25 cm
Leaf width                              5.4 -7.5 cm
Annular Constriction         Present below calyx
Fruit color at maturity      Red, brown, white red
Fruit shape                            Sub-conical to conical
Fruit length                           4.5 – 8.2 cm
Fruit width at shoulder     2.5 – 2.95
Fruit weight                          4.2 – 9.9 g
Fruit surface                         Rough, wrinkle with spikes
Seed color                               Light Brown
1000 seed weight                0.43 - 48 g
Seeds /Fruit                           21 – 55 seeds
Hypocotyls color                  Green

5. Particulars of producers:

Naga inhabitants belonging to the Indo-Mongoloid stock whose presence was noted 10 centuries Before Christ at the time of compilation of the Vedas comprise of more than 20 tribes & sub-tribes all throughout the specific geographical distribution.
Being a rural ethnic group more than 4/5th of the population living in the rural areas, 90% of the population is Agrarian based or employed.

6. The standard bench mark or other characteristics of the geographical indication;

That the very local name Naga Mircha, Naga hari, Naga Jolokia which is otherwise scientifically called (Capsicum chinense Jacq ) is indicative as a standard benchmark or characteristics of the Geograpphical indication.

7. The particulars of the special characteristics/uniqueness of the goods;

Particulars of the special characteristics & uniqueness of the goods is that it is known as the hottest chilly on earth & is closely associated to the Naga tribes often involving awe by the fact that this chilly is consumed very matter of factly & without any fan-fare at each & every meal as a must have item on the plate. Besides the same chilly is used in a number of dishes for cooking.

8. Textual description of the proposed boundary;

Found in the extreme northeastern India, bordered on the west & north by State of Assam, on the east by Myanmar, on the north by Arunachal Pradesh, & on the south by Manipur. One of India’s smallest States, Nagaland, houses the hottest chilli in the world, with a total area of 16.579 sq.km. The hills runs through & has Saramati as its highest peak at a height of 12,600 ft, main rivers flowing through it are the Dhansiri, Doyang, Dikhu & Jhanji with a mountainous terrain thickly wooded having deep cut river valleys. The hills are thus home to a wide variety of plant & animal life.

9. The Chilli growth conditions & other attributes

It grows in monsoon climatic conditions with generally high humidity. The rainfall range for cultivation of Chudi Chilly or Naga Chilly is wide, ranging from 1200 to 4050 mm per annum and the climate is moderate with temperatures ranging between a maximum of 36 degree celsius in summer and a minimum of 6 degree celsius in winter.

The average annual rainfall in Nagaland is 2,000 mm and the temperature in the State varies from 31 degree celsius in summer and minimum of 6 degree celsius in winter. They grow well both in uplands and valleys.

The unique soil & climate conditions of this region perhaps provide the best possible environment for expression of the full potential. Creating an artificially similar environment elsewhere in the world may not be successful in exploiting the very inherent uniqueness of the Chudi Chilli, or locally known as the Naga Mircha or Raja Mircha ).

10. Special human skill involved:

Cultivation of Raja Chilli thrives best in and around bamboo plantations as also around banana plantations and the older the land, the hotter the chillies are said to be. Before cultivation, the bamboo fields are slashed and burned and the soil is said to be the best suited for the cultivation of Naga Chilli.

11. Number of producers;

Majority of the households in the Naga Chilli production areas of Nagaland are primary growers and more than 20 lakhs belonging to the Naga tribes are consumers of the Chudi Chilli, (the Naga Mircha or Raja Mircha )

(Source & write-up : Department of Horticulture, Government of Nagaland)

References:

  1. Wikipedia,the Free Encyclopedia ("http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chili_pepper)
  2. Annual Administrative Report, 2008-09 of Department of Horticulture, Government of Nagaland (pages 8 & 9)
  3. PMRC website :
  4. Frontal Agritech, Jorhat, Assam, website.
  5. Department of Horticulture, Government of Nagaland (unpublished documents presented for GI registration).
  6. Nagaland Empowerment of People through Economic Development (NEPED), Government of Nagaland, seminar/workshop (January, 2011).

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