Nagaland – Overview
For most people, the remote state of Nagaland is little more than a small flame-shaped bit on the north-eastern edge of the Indian map. But, very few people know that apart from being one of the smallest states of India, Nagaland is also one of its most charming and culturally one of its richest and diverse region. Nagaland is the land of tribes and is home to around 32 tribal communities including 16 major and numerous sub-tribes that spread over seven districts of the state, each with their own distinct lifestyle and culture. The state of Nagaland lacks a common written language, except the Tenyidie Language. People speak 60 varied dialects derived from the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. English is the official language of the state, while small portion of the population speak Assamese.
Spread over an area of 16,527 sq.kms, the hilly state of Nagaland is bordered by Assam on the west and north, Mynamar on the east, Arunachal Pradesh on the north and Manipur on the south. Kohima is the state capital, while Dimapur and Mokochung are its important towns. Mount Saramati (12,552 m above sea level) is the highest peak of Nagaland, this is the place where the Naga Hills merge with the Patkai Range of Myanmar. Nagaland is criss-crossed by mighty rivers such as the Doyang and Dhiku rivers in the north, the Barak river in the south-west and the Chindwin river of Myanmar in the south-east.
So, if you haven’t yet explored the rugged mountains, lush green valleys and gently-flowing streams, haven’t experienced the bounty of nature at its best or you haven’t encountered the handsome tribal people known for their arts and crafts, music and costumes, then you are one of the lucky people who can still look forward to discover the enchanting land of Nagaland.
Nagaland – History
Early history of Nagaland is shrouded in mystery, loosely it is linked with the customs and economic activities of the Naga tribes. Since ancient time, the Naga tribes have socio-economic and political connections with tribes of Assam and Myanmar, even today majority of Nagas inhabit Assam. In 1816, after an invasion, Nagaland along with Assam came under the rule of Myanmar. This period is mainly known for the oppressive rule and turmoil in Nagaland and Assam.
By the late 19th century, the British East India Company had established themselves firmly in the area and outlawed the traditional practice of headhunting. Politically, Nagaland was amalgamated into Assam, which was a part of the Bengal province. After 1929, there was a movement to unite all tribes politically, but Naga territory remained divided between Assam and the North East Frontier Agency. In 1947, after the independence of India, the Naga territory remained a part of the Assam province. Further, nationalist activities arose amongst the Naga tribes, they demanded a political union of their ancestral and native-group and also attacked many government officials and Indians from other states.
In July 1960, due to civil unrest, the Indian Government agreed to make the Naga territory a self-governing state within the country. On December 1, 1963 Nagaland came into being as the 16th state of India, with three districts (now eleven) inhabited by 16 major tribes and a number of sub-tribes. For several year, the Naga separatists continue to demand autonomy and a single administrative unit comprising all the Naga-inhabited areas and some of the north-eastern states. Over the years, a long history of insurgency has been painstakingly settled with talks and ceasefire agreements between Naga rebels and the Central Government and now Nagaland is relatively free of any conflict.
Nagaland – Tourist Destinations
Nagaland has a number of destinations which house several tourist attractions, but the Tourist Department has recommended a tourist circuit for tourists visiting the state. Recommender tourist circuit of Nagaland is Dimapur – Kohima – Wokha – Mokokchung – Tuensang – Mokochung – Zunheboto – Kohima. Perched at 1444.12 m above sea level, the state capital Kohima is a beautiful hill station providing panoramic views of the rugged Naga hills. Nagaland Tourism Department offers package and conducted tours to tourist destinations within and outside the state. You can hire tourist buses from the Tourism Department to visit the charming tourist destinations of Nagaland.
Nagaland – People & Culture
Nagaland is dominated by tribes, more than 80% of the state population live in villages. As per census of 2001, Nagaland has a population of 1,988,636 dominated by the Christians. Nagaland’s Christian population is 1,790, 349 (90% of the state’s population) making it one of three Christian-majority states of India. Among Christians, Baptists (80% of total population) are the predominant group and Nagaland is popularly known as “The major Baptist state in the world.” Catholics, Pentecostals and Revivalists are other Christian groups, while Hindu and Muslim constitute 7.7% and 1.8% of the total state population. There are 16 major tribes in the state namely – the Ao, Angami, Chakhesang, Chang, Kachari, Khiamungan, Konyak, Kuki, Lotha, Rengma, Sangram, Sema, Phom, Pochury, Yimchunger and Zeliang. Of these 16 tribes, the Aos, Angamis, Konyaks and Semas are the biggest Naga tribes.
Although Christian missionaries have converted most of the Naga tribes from animism to Christianity, but the Nagas still practice their rich cultural traditions with colorful fairs and festivals, clan bonds and specific territories. In fact, you can easily distinguish one tribe from another by their costumes and the number of bone necklaces they wear which determine the social status of an individual. Besides, the tribal dances of the Nagas provide an insight into their life. War dances are a major art form in the state, some of the popular dance forms are Moatsu, Tuluni, Tokhu Emong and Sekrenyi.
Nagas are known all over the country for their exquisite handwoven shawls, wood carvings and bamboo works. Naga women are skilled spinners, weavers and dyers. Three-panelled shawl is the hallmark of Naga product, it is stitched together and embellished with embroidery and decoration. Bamboo is the backbone of Naga houses and a number of cultural artifacts. Naga craftsmen make a variety of items from bamboo such as baskets, mats, hats, cups, mugs, pipes and caskets. Coarser cane is used for making neck-bands, furniture and rain-proof hats.
Nagaland – Cuisine
Most of the Nagas are meat eaters and they enjoy dousing the meat with red chilly. Nagas preserve the meat by hanging up a slab in their house and letting the fire from the hearth. On the other hand, Tribal cuisine somehow vary from the common Naga cuisine. In truth, tribal cuisine is not always everyone’s cup of tea and it can be prepared only by tribes. Tribal eat steamed hornets, curried locusts and squirrel dish with sticky rice and washed down with rice beer. Take a drive from Dimapur to Kohima on National Highway 39 which is lined with Naga food stalls featuring local delicacies and mouth-watering pineapples.
Nagaland – Fairs and Festivals
No matter what time of the year you visit Nagaland, you are likely to experience a festival celebrated by any tribe. As majority of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood, so most of the fairs and festivals are celebrations of spring, fecundity and nature. Among the important fairs and festivals are Kuki Mimkur (January), Angami Sekrenyi (February), Aoling Monyu (March), Ao Moatsu (April), Sema Tuluni (July), Naknyulum (July), Amongmong (September), Tsokum (October), Lotha Tokhu Emong (November), Ngada (November/December) and Metemnero. In addition to these, if you want to experience more in a short time, then visit Nagaland from the 1st to 5th of December, when the popular Hornbill Festival takes place.
Nagaland – Wildlife
Geographically a mountainous state, Nagaland is blessed with rich floral and faunal species. Of the total area of Nagaland, about one-sixth is covered by the tropical and sub-tropical evergreen forests that include bamboo, palms, rattan, timber as well as mahogany forests.
Of course, Nagaland is home to only Itanki Wildlife Sanctuary but it is a wonderful treasure-trove of exotic wildlife. Itanki Wildlife Sanctuary is located 111 km away from Kohima and 37 km from Dimapur. In this sanctuary, you will see the Hoolock Baboon, the only gibbon found in India. Apart from gibbon, the sanctuary also has a sizeable population of elephant, tiger, mithun, sambhar, wild dog, sloth bear, barking deer, goral, flying squirrel, khaleej, hornbill, black stork etc. Sprawling over an area of 56 sq. kms, this wildlife sanctuary houses a forest resthouse and offers transport on hire.
If you are looking for adventure, Nagaland offers you some really thrilling adventure options. In fact, Nagaland is bestowed with some of most magical and striking feature that nature can think of. With a number of spectacular peaks, six mighty rivers (Dhansiri, Dikhu, Doyang, Milak, Tizu and Zungki), breathtakingly winsome valley and mysterious caves, Nagaland will surely enthrall you. Just 15 km south of Kohima is the Japfu Peak (3043 m) which makes for a great trek especially during November to March.
Not much further away, lies the Dzukou Valley (2462 m) at a distance of 25 kms from Kohima. One of the best trekking spots in the North East, the Dzukou Valley is watered by a meandering stream which usually freezes in winter. During spring season, the valley becomes a riot of wildflowers and pink and white rhododendrons.
Another getaway is the lush Dzulekie forests, 40 km west of Kohima and situated at an elevation of 2133 m. Here, you will see shimmering Dzulekie stream, a tourist rest house and some beautiful cottages that provide shelter to the travellers. You can also enjoy angling in the white-water rivers of Milak and Tula flowing in Mokokchung district. If you wish to indulge yourself in adventure sports, you can hire trekking and camping equipment at a reasonable charge.
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Nagaland – Shopping
Nagaland is known for a rich tradition of arts and crafts, which make shopping a delightful experience. Whether you look for a utility item or an object d’art, the artifacts of Nagaland depicts rich aesthetic sense and master craftsmanship of the Nagas. Weaving is one of the most colourful and dynamic traditions of Nagas, you will find its finest example in the beautiful hand-woven shawls of the various tribes. While you are shopping in Nagaland, look out for popular items such as Basketry, Pottery, Shawls, Bags, Jackets, Metal works and Woodcrafts.
Visit the sales emporium of Nagaland Handlooms and Handicrafts Development Corporation in Kohima to buy woolen shawls, mekhlas (sarongs) and a variety of Naga handicrafts, made of wood and bamboo. Check out Gurtell boutique for buying a range of traditional and contemporary fabrics and designs. Also, visit the market outside the Supermarket where village women in tribal dresses sell items ranging from farm produce to trinkets.
Nagaland has a salubrious climate which makes its pleasant at any time in the year. Monsoon rain falls in the state from May to September during which the humidity level remains high. Summers are not too hot, the temperature varies between a maximum of 31oC and a minimum of 16oC. Winters are quite chilly, the temperature ranges between a maximum of 24oC and a minimum of 4oC.
Best Time to Visit
Best time to visit Nagaland is between November to March.
Nagaland – Transportation
Airlines: Nearest airport is Dimapur airport, which is located at a distance of 74 kms from Kohima. Indian Airlines operate flights from Delhi to Dimapur via Guwahati on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Daily flights are available between Dimapur and Kolkata.
Railways: Dimapur is the major railhead which is linked to Guwahati railway station. Guwahati is served by a number of important trains from rest of the country.
Roadways: Kohima is connected by good network of roads with Dimapur, Imphal, Guwahati and Shillong. National Highway 39 connects Dimapur with Kohima and you can reach Kohima from Dimapur by bus. Starting at 5.30 a.m, buses leave from Dimapur for Kohima every hour. You can also reach Kohima from Imphal (145 kms). You may also avail taxi services which are available on share basis. Blue Hills Travels and several other private agents in Guwahati operate deluxe buses to Kohima. The distance between Kohima to Guwahati is 390 kms, and the journey take about 13 hours.