One of the most underrated and offbeat locations in India are situated in the northeastern side of India. A guerdon of several unknown narratives of history, an exploration to this end of the Indian cosmos can bring lots of experiential and memory-making awareness in one’s life. If you’re someone who’s looking to expand their travel journal and are looking to spend ten days of happiness and culture in a place that you haven’t visited before, think Kohima this season.
Why the last month of the calendar, you ask?
It’s the time of the Hornbill Festival, you see.
Considered to be the festival of festivals, the Hornbill festival charts an opportunity for inter-tribal interaction and for you to delve into the traditional cultural heritage of Nagaland. The event which will commence from 1st December to the 10th of December in the Naga heritage village in Kisama, will become a space where one can indulge and enjoy a celebration of varied lifestyles that Nagaland has to offer.
Nagaland, often referred to as the ‘Switzerland of the East’, is home to a rugged terrain of hills, emerald valleys and sparkling streams. A trekker’s paradise, if I might say.
Moreover, demographically and culturally, Nagaland comprises of several tribes that have their own distinct identity, cuisine and lifestyle. The Festival, which is named after the large and colorful Hornbill bird, is an amazing opportunity to experience a variety of cultural food, handicrafts, songs, dances and customs of Nagaland at one single place clubbed and displayed brilliantly together. The week long festival is attended by all the major tribes of Nagaland.
The festivities begin by nine in the morning each day and takes place amidst perfect replicas of tribal huts with wood carvings and hollow log drum instruments, which are played in a memorable symphony at the end of the day.
The main attraction of the Hornbill festival is the Hornbill National Rock Concert after sundown. Bands from all across the country come to compete in the concert. The concert is followed by a night market.
Moreover, there are various other adventure activities like zorbing, ziplining, sumo wrestling and many more.
The most interesting aspect of the festival remains the artistic displays by the various tribes. One can visit a wooden hut, built as the replica of a tribe’s living space, view the way they live and eat and understand stories that are different to one’s usual daily life.
Apart from the Festival, Kohima is a beautiful city that is waiting to be explored. Let’s get a hang of that.
One of the most popular attractions in the capital, this Catholic Cathedral is nestled in the Aradura hills in Kohima and is an amazing semi circular form of architectural building. It’s crucifix , around 16ft high, is in fact, the tallest in the country and considered one of the tallest in Asia!
Interestingly, this church was built on special request from the Japanese war survivors who invaded Nagaland during the war time and wished to built the church to offer peace to the souls of the dead.
The second world war cemetery
“When you go home, tell them of us and say for your tomorrow, we gave our today”.
The memorial is a solemn ode to the warriors who sacrificed their lives to stop the Japanese invasion in India. The history of India, would have been very different if not for this monumental battle which occurred in the location of the cemetery.
The war museum in Kisama
The war museum furthermore explains the beginnings and progression of the battle. A very interesting aspect one may notice, is the space of respect reserved for the Japanese forces. One realises, how at the end of the day, perspectives are subjective to a nation, and that a soldier at the end of the day, is just that, a soldier, fighting for his motherland under alien skies.
Nagaland State Museum
According to the official site of the Hornbill Festival,
“Nagaland State Museum, which holds exhibit of the evolution of Naga culture, is known as one of the major attractions in Kohima as well as Nagaland. Tourists visiting this museum can see the tribal habitats that are predominant in the eastern territories of India.”
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Khonoma Village, one of the most famous villages of Nagaland is known for being the last base of the Naga warriors rebelling against the British Empire. This quaint little hamlet is situated at a distance of 20 km from Kohima.
Testimonies of the bygone years can be witnessed in traditionally carved gate, which provides access to the highest point of the village. Carved terraces in the hills draw the attention of the visitors, which are used for cultivation of 20 different types of paddy.
Mokokchung is an ancient village belonging to the Mokokchung District of the erstwhile Naga Hills of Nagaland. Literally translated, Mokokchung refers to a group of people who left their motherland rather unwillingly. Interestingly, it is one of the most culturally rich and intellectual districts of Nagaland and everyone understands English here.
The freshness, calmness and the unique vibe of this place has begun to attract travellers more and more over the years. To reach this exotic town, you can take a taxi from the airport of Dimapur (194.6 km). There is no railway station in Mokokchung Village. Also, the roads are swiftly linked to many villages and attractions, so the wanderlust in you can dig further and more.
How to reach Kohima?
According to the official site of the festival,
“Preferable way for reaching Kohima is to take the train or flight to Dimapur and then rent a taxi to Kohima. You can take Delhi to Guwahati Rajdhani Express. From Guwahati station or the JanaShatabdi Express, it takes around 4 and a half hours to reach Dimapur.
Dimapur is the border district between Assam and Nagaland and also a major commercial hub. It used to be the capital of ancient Dimasa Kachari Kingdom. The Dimapur taxi stand is adjacent to the railway Station. Taxis can be hired with other passengers (shared taxi) or exclusive (full taxi). One way fare from Dimapur Station to Kohima will be about 200/- per person for a shared cab.”
Where to stay?
During Hornbill Festiva,l tourists from all over world flock Kohima. So it’s advisable to book hotels well in advance since accommodation is very limited in Kisama. Most of the budget hotels are located in Kohima. However, with the increase in tourist inflow, a lot of guest houses, dorms, youth hostels etc. have been made available by the local people. If someone wishes for a home stay with the locals, that can be easily done too.
Some hotels to be considered are, hotel Japfu, the Heritage hotel, and The Orchid.
So are you penciling in Kohima in your calendar?