NAGALAND, INDIA — The colourful welcome bestowed upon us by the Naga tribesmen when we arrive at Touphema Tourist Village is well beyond our wildest expectations. Dancers in traditional dress chant and sing and engulf us with their warm hospitality.
The Paris-based anthropologists I’m guiding trough this remote northeastern Indian state that borders Myanmar are instantly impressed. The thought of making this heritage village our base during our week-long visit to this secluded region of India suddenly seems very appealing to them. Actually, Touphema Tourist Village was carefully chosen for the French group, who have come here to explore the anthropological traits of the exotic Naga tribes.
Touphema Tourist Village is without a doubt one of the best places from which to explore and appreciate the fascinating tribal culture of Nagaland and India’s Indigenous peoples.
Above: They may look like fierce warriors but Nagaland's tribal leaders make visitors feel welcome.
First off, the village complex sits atop one of the highest elevations in the region - in Nagaland’s tribal folklore, high elevations are reserved for the privileged of their society.
A cluster of traditional Naga huts dominate the village, which also features a community kitchen, reception centre and a well-stocked pub. In fact, as part of the welcome we are offered a locally brewed liquor that is served in intricately designed goblets and mugs made by local artisans.
Later, we are shown to our guest huts and are instantly impressed with their design and modern amenities. They even come with solar battery-powered lighting.
After freshening up from our 100-km-long car journey from Dimapur airport, where we landed, we are treated to another cultural performance as our first day nears an end. This one features bows and arrows, which seems to mesmerize the appreciative French scientists.
Above: Warriors put on a show for those who arrive at the Touphema Tourist Village.
During our stay, we also visited Kohima, the capital of Nagaland state, which sits 1,444m above sea level. It’s from Kohima where some members of our group set out to explore the surrounding mountain villages. I lead others on a visit to the city’s colourful, bustling bazaars that are piled high with locally-made goods, like the beautiful Nega shawl I purchase.
Kohima is an amalgam of Naga tribes like the Ao, Angami, and Rengma, who have adapted to modern city life quite nicely. The local marketplaces are staffed by many Indigenous people, who showcase their handmade wares to locals and visitors alike.
The tribal people of Nagaland are traditionally adept in handloom and handicraft products.
Above: The Nagaland people put their families first.
Increasingly, the indigenous Naga fashion designers are blending modern design patterns into their traditional styles, thereby creating a completely new set of designer clothes and apparel.
Kohima is truly a fascinating city with some well crafted landmarks, like its magnificent Catholic cathedral, which is ideally located on the impressive looking Aradurah Hill. The façade of the church is conspicuous by its geometrical design and is easily the largest cathedral of North East India.
The city also offers us some surprises - like the Naga-style wrestling competition we stumble upon, where competitors are wrapped in only simple loin cloths.
Sleepy Nagaland truly seems stuck in a time warp and the tranquil lifestyle of its people has attracted the attention of many foreign tourists, especially from India’s affluent southern regions.
Our itinerary, which was prepared with the help of Nagaland’s Ministry of Tourism, also included stops in Mokokchung, Wokha and Zunheboto, remote areas that are rich in Naga history and culture.
Eco-Tourism has become a big draw to this area of India and each Indigenous village oversees its own tourist programs, thus insuring that funds generated stay in each village for the betterment of the community.
Mokokchung village is the domain of the Ao Nagas and is conspicuous by its undulating hills that slope tenderly. It’s here that the French anthropologists were quick to learn more about the fascinating Ao people, who place a great emphasis on family ties.
Above: Every tribe in Nagaland has its own customs and rituals.
Our French friends hear that the villages’ morung, or bachelor’s dormitory, plays a vital role in the social life of the village.
It’s in the morung where male villagers showcase their incredible craftsmanship. However, women are banned from entering the morung and young boys are only allowed to enter every three years for training purposes.
There is no chieftain here and the village is run on democratic principles, with each individual getting an opportunity to take part in the administration of the village.
Our trips to Wokha and Zunheboto were equally rewarding as we discovered many hidden secrets of the Naga tribes. For instance, we found that every Naga tribe has a dialect of its own, although most speak Tibeto Burman. The culture, too, varies with each tribe.
The one thing that remained constant, though, was the overwhelming hospitality we were shown at each stop. After all, the Naga people place a great importance on friendship.
Above: Accommodation at the Touphema Tourist Village is second to none.
JUST THE FACTS
• The only airport in the state of Nagaland is located at Dimapur. There are regular flights to Dimapur from Guwahati and Kolkota, which in turn are well connected by flights from other parts of India and abroad. From Dimapur, the capital of Nagaland – Kohima is 74 Kms. away.
• Dimapur also has a railway station and is well served by a number of trains from Guwahati, the gateway city of North East India.
• As far as quality accommodation in Kohima is concerned, the best option is the super luxurious - The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC). TUTC are pioneers in “Luxury Camping” in some of India’s most remote locales. For reservations, please feel free to get in touch with Kohima Camp, Nagaland contact info :
Tekweuju, Above Japfu Christian college,
Kigwema, Pin 797001, Kohima, Nagaland.
• TUTC email: email@example.com
About the Author
Subhasish has been working as a travel journalist for the past two decades and has been editorially involved with numerous international In-Flight magazines. He was also involved with the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) as a consultant.