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Nagaland – The Land of Festivals

Nagaland – The Land of Festivals

The hypnotic beat of log drums  engulf you, the  battle  cry of the Naga warriors  as they perform the war dance mesmerize you. The folk songs sung over a glass of rice beer around  fire place fills you with a  sense  that all is good with life. Welcome to Nagaland.

Exploring Nagaland is like unfolding secret pages of a history book and is real discovery of breathtaking and untouched natural beauty, of hidden and unknown traditions, of a  vibrant culture and joyous festivals and the supreme quality of people and their hospitality.

 

Geography

Nagaland is a state in North East India that borders the state of Assam to the west, Arunachal Pradesh and part of Assam to the north, Myanmar to the east and Manipur to the south. The state capital is Kohima, and the largest city is Dimapur. It has an area of approximately 16,579 square kilometres (6,401 sq mi) with a population of approximately 1,980,602 as per the 2011 Census of India, making it one of the smallest states of India. The state is largely mountainous except in the areas bordering the Assam valley. Mount Saramati is the highest peak with a height of 3,840 metres and its range forms a natural barrier between Nagaland and Myanmar.  It lies between the parallels of 98-degrees and 96-degrees east longitude and 26.6-degrees and 27.4-degrees latitude north of the equator.

 

History

The ancient history of the Nagas is unclear. Ancient Sanskrit scriptures mention Kiratas, or golden skinned people, with a distinct culture, who lived in the mountains of the east after migrating from distant lands. Some anthropologists suggest Nagas belong to the Mongoloid race, and the various Naga tribes migrated at different times, each settling in the north-eastern part of what is now India and establishing their respective sovereign mountain terrains and village-states.

 

In 1826  the British East India Company took control of Assam and  steadily expanded their domain over what is now Nagaland. By 1892, all of Nagaland except the Tuensang area in the northeast was governed by the British. It was politically amalgamated into Assam, which in turn was for long periods a part of the province of Bengal.

 

After the independence of India in 1947, the area remained a part of the province of Assam. In 1957, the Naga Hills district of Assam and the Tuensang frontier were united in a single political entity that became a Union territory. Statehood was officially granted in 1963 and the first state-level democratic elections were held in 1964.

 

Culture

There are  sixteen main tribes in  Nagaland. They  are Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Dimasa Kachari, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, Yimchunger, Kuki and Zeliang.  Tribe and clan traditions and loyalties play an important part in the life of Nagas.  Weaving is a traditional art handed down through generations in Nagaland.  Each of the tribes has its own unique designs and colours, producing shawls, shoulder bags, decorative spears, table mats, wood carvings, and bamboo works.

 

Folk songs and dances are essential ingredients of the traditional Naga culture. The oral tradition is kept alive through the media of folk tales and songs. There are also seasonal songs which describe various activities done in a particular agricultural season. Tribal dances of the Nagas give an insight into the inborn Naga reticence of the people. War dances and other dances belonging to distinctive Naga tribes are a major art form in Nagaland.

 

Nagaland State symbols

The Mithun, is the state animal of Nagaland and has been adopted as the official seal of the Government of Nagaland. The Mithun is a semi domesticated ‘gaur’ found only in the north-eastern states of India and is ritually the most valued species in the state.

 

Blyth’s Tragopan, the orange-breasted speckled bird also found in Bhutan, north Myanmar, south east Tibet and China is the state bird of Nagaland.

 

Rhododendron  is the state flower of Nagaland.

 

Things not to miss

Hornbill Festival

The Annual Hornbill Festival is a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of the Nagas.  It is a ten day event held every year from December 01-10 in Kohima. The Hornbill Festival is a festival to revive, protect, sustain, and promote the richness of the Naga heritage and traditions. During this festival, all the Naga tribes come together to celebrate and display their culture and traditions. It’s a time where all these tribes gather up to showcase their age-old traditions and come closer to knowing each other. The main events of the Hornbill Festival take place at the Naga Heritage Village, Kisama which is about 12 kms from Kohima, the capital city of Nagaland. Traditional Naga huts and Morungs (boy’s dormitories) typical to each of the Naga tribes are built and erected in a way that closely resembles their traditional euphoria on a small hillock in Kisama. The place itself is scenic and mystical, and the festival is simply epic!

 

Amur Falcon Migration

Every year starting from mid October to mid November tens of thousands of falcons gather along the banks of the Doyang reservoir Wokha District in a spectacle that is impossible to describe in words! This is probably the largest migration of raptors in the world (of one species!) and they climax in massive congregations along the reservoir.

 

Kohima

Kohima scattered across a series of forested ridges and hilltops  is a large, bustling city with some spectacular views and tourist spots and can easily rub shoulders with the best hill stations of India.

 

Things to do in Kohima

War Cemetery

Central Market

Kohima State Museum

Kisama Heritage Village

 

Khonoma Village

Located approximately 20 kms from Kohima, Khonoma village offers delightful views of Nagaland’s natural beauty and ecological diversity. This  place, home to the fierce Angami tribe that thwarted many a British attack, is  now a model for ecological conservation with ban on cutting of trees and hunting of animals.

 

Dzukou Valley

Untouched by civilisation, this valley otherwise called the flower valley of celestial charm has an tempting appeal to all who gaze it. In summer, wild herbs, flowers and shrubs sprout along the stream banks. Lilies in white and pink, euphorbias, aconitums and hundreds of other botanical species in varied colours adorn the valley in monsoon.

 

Mon

Land of the Konyaks, most well known for being former headhunters, offers the best opportunity for finding semi-traditional villages and tattooed warriors in loincloths. The main attraction in Mon is the remote geographical location, and the opportunity it affords to get a glimpse of traditional village life.

 

Mokokchung

Gifted by nature with gurgling streams and picturesque hills, Mokokchung, located at an altitude of 1,325 mt above sea level,  is considered to be the cultural and intellectual capital of the state. No visit to Nagaland is complete without visiting this charming town and its surrounding villages.

 

Phesachadu

Phesachadu Village is  located 80 kms. north east of Kohima. This Chakhesang tribe village, nestled in the hills is famous for its cultural troupes and local musicians. Phesachadu is an ideal getaway destination for those who want to experience  authentic Naga village lifestyle.

 

Mima Village

Located  20 kms. south of Kohima, Mima Village is famous for its rock honey acquired from community owned apiaries. Mima is also well known for its stone monoliths dotted in and around the entire village. These monoliths are records of the history of the village and often have very interesting stories surrounding it.

 

 

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About Rohan K. Abraham

A simple attempt to document my travels, observations and experiences in this fantastic region of the world - The North East of India. Words cannot fully describe the beauty and diversity of this region, so click on the Instagram button here for the picture story.
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