Each state of Northeast India has numerous places that are undiscovered, things are that unsought and fact that are unknown. This little dictionary of sorts aims to uncover some of the treasures from the casket of the eight siblings. As you leaf read through, find this beauty unravelled, as we attempt to cover one significant element with each letter of the alphabet.
A: Aswaklanta – Situated on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra, with historic deeds to its name, the architectural excellence of the Ahom dynasty is exemplified by this temple. As two temples welcome you, along with a breathtaking view of the river at sunset, don’t miss out on spotting the world’s smallest inhabited island, Umananda. Accessible by both road and water, crossing the river on a ferry will add to this experience.
B: Bomdila – Be it the splendid Tibetan architecture and Gom-phas or the wide expanse of apple orchards, Bomdila is a location that must not be missed. While April–October is ideal time to visit, one can even go during the peak Winter days as the snowfall is a treat for the eyes. Unwind, soak in the serenity or put those hiking boots to use, Bomdila has that and more to offer to those who land on its picturesque valleys.
C: Chandubi – Tucked away underneath the Garo Hills, Chandubi lake is the ideal spot for a quiet retreat. Created by an earthquake, this lake is flanked by lush green forests, a few islands, tea gardens and several villages. Attracting various birds during the winter months, the lake gets its fair share of tourists as well. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Chandubi provides you the perfect opportunity to gaze at a clear sky flecked with stars.
D: Dawki – Concealed by the Jaintia Hills and famed for its turquoise blue river water, Dawki is an idyllic Meghalayan paradise. Traversed by tourists in large numbers, this quiet town is a haven for exquisite species of birds while playing eye candy to several passionate shutterbugs. As winter transforms into spring, all roads lead to Dawki for the boat riding competition on the crystal clear Umngot river.
E: Eri Polu – An Assamese delicacy, Eri Polu literally translates to silk pupa. A preparation involving boiling the cocoon of a silk worm, this dish is known for its soft texture, which stands out from the coarse spices and herbs. Boiled and fried with bamboo shoots and indigenous herbs, this dish has a piquant peculiar smell. While those who try it for the first time might become squeamish, most others relish the taste. For all the foodies and curious souls, a plateful of eri polu is an exotic treat.
F: Flora and Fauna – Northeast is one of the richest stores of exquisite species of the plants and animals. Be it the one-horned rhino to the Hollock Gibbon, Sangai Deer to the White-winged Wood Duck, orchids to the Siroi lily. A feast for eyes, these species are found in the different sanctuaries and parks across the eight states.
G: Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary – Amidst tea gardens lies the Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, renamed as Hollongapar, after the Hollong trees that dominate the region. It houses the only hollock gibbons in India and their only nocturnal primate, the Bengal slow Ioris. Populated by numerous other exquisite species, very few in number, this sanctuary is famous for its diversity. While picturesque and lush tea gardens add to the view of the sanctuary, small villages around its periphery add to the rustic charm of the place. Drop down to this sanctuary to say hello to two of the only species of primates in the country.
H: Hornbill Festival – A mixture of colours, culture and celebration awaits everybody at the annual Hornbill Festival in Nagaland. A 10-day long festival, wherein one can witness the best of Naga hospitality, culture, food and music goes on during the first week of December. Filled with exhibitions, cooking, horticulture, art, pole climbing and several other interesting contests to keep you occupied, it is dubbed as the festival of festivals. While the International Music Festival attracts a huge crowd, one of the highlights is the breathtaking cultural performances and the night carnival, which set in the mood for a little frivolity.
I: Imli Chutney – One of the most popular condiments, tamarind chutney is locally made in every household. Used as a dipping sauce for momos, eaten with puri and aloo bhaji, and sometimes added dishes, such as the Manipuri Iromba, this chutney is fuss free and easy to make. Instantly adding a tangy twist, bottles of this chutney are a Northeastern staple.
J: Jadoh – A simple mixture of fragrant rice and pork or chicken is one of the most sought after dishes in Meghalaya. It is also considered as a healthy option due to its minimal oil usage, and also because it packs in quite a punch in terms of flavours. For vegetarians, meat is substituted with potatoes and seasonal veggies.
K: Khamba Thoibi – Performed as an obeisance the Lord Thangjing, this folk dance of Manipur celebrates the immortality of two mythological characters, Khamba and Thoibi. This vibrant dance celebrates joy and prosperity.
L: Ledo Road – Dating back to the Second World War, this road passing through the Indo-Myanmar border was a strategic supply link between India and China. Traversed by several tourists, the Ledo Road was renamed as the Stilwell Road. A depiction of the colonial era, this road has increasingly led to trade links between Northeast and Myanmar.
M: Mayong – Dubbed as the land of black magic, Mayong is a small district in Assam, which is surrounded by beliefs of the supernatural. Despite excavation, there isn’t any historical evidence, which points to the practice of witchcraft. Eerie and mystical, the community there still hold their beliefs regarding witch doctors who cure everything.
N: Nathu La – At an altitude of 14,000 feet lies the Nathu La pass, the road through which the Silk Route would operate. As tourists traverse the road to the Indo-China border and witness the beauty of the snow-capped peaks, the winding Tsongmo lake is yet another treat for the eyes. Not to forget is the ATM located at the highest altitude in the world.
O: Orchids – Exquisite and enticing, orchids are the most exotic flowers and Northeast houses the Deorali Orchid Sanctuary, which has 200 varieties of this flower. As April dawns and the flowers are in full bloom, do not miss out on this rare and elegant sight to behold.
P: Paragliding – An adrenaline rush and a desire to explore is all that paragliding in Northeast India beckons. Sikkim has the most magnificent views and is a paradise for adventure seekers. With a bird’s eye view of the Gomphas, the trails and the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, each moment is an adventure in itself.
Q: Quintessential Hospitality – Be it the Apatani tribe in Arunachal or the Khasis of Meghalaya, each community in Northeast India has an inherent sense of hospitality and deep regard for tourists wandering down its plains. Never to turn anybody away from their doors, people in Northeast are known for their welcoming nature, which makes them distinct. Warm smiles and big hearts characterise the people from the eight states.
R: Rongali Bihu – Marking the Assamese New Year, Rongali Bihu is celebrated during the onset of the harvest season. While donning new clothes and visiting near and dear ones forms one part of it, feasting, merrymaking and the Bihu dances adds to the festivities. Bihu fairs held all over Assam include stalls with local delicacies, gamusas and other authentic Assamese souvenirs, which mark the celebration of this festival.
S: Sangai Festival – Celebrated to pay homage to the Brow Antlered or Sangai deer, this festival is unique in many different ways. Showcasing the best of Manipur, this festival includes polo matches, cultural performances, live music, delectable local cuisines and exquisite handlooms and handicrafts. A culmination of colours, culture and the dire need to conserve the deer led to this cultural spectacle.
T: Talatal Ghar – Constructed as an army base, Talatal Ghar in Assam is an example of the fine Ahom architecture. Three storeys tall, it includes two secret underground passages, which were used during the war. One of the most historic monuments in Assam, this 17th century wonder was created using only wood and local resources.
U: Unakoti – Literally translating to one less than a crore, Unakoti is an unknown marvel in Tripura. It has 99, 99,999 idols of Lord Shiva carved onto stones. Legend has it that a sculptor who was devoted to Parvati, Shiva’s wife, was asked to create one crore idols of Shiva overnight. To this day, the folklore behind Unakoti remains, and it stands as a marvel – whether natural or manmade, that is yet to be found.
V: Vantawang Falls – The 13th highest waterfall in the country, Vantawang is nestled between lush green valleys and impenetrable forests. Known for its torrential speed of flow, the waterfall is one of Mizoram’s most famous tourist attractions.
W: Wokha – Deemed as the land of plenty, Wokha in Nagaland is known for its abundance of natural resources, and flora and fauna. Bound by teeming mountain ranges and crystal clear rivers, this small district has its own dance forms. Quite a sleepy little town, the people stick to their indigenous local practices of jhum or slash and burn agriculture, amongst others.
X: Xatras – A unique socio-cultural and religious practice in Assam, Xatras were established as an institution by Srimanta Sankardeva, the pioneer of the Neo-Vaishnavite movement. Contained mainly in Majuli, the Dakshinpat Xatra includes several dance forms – Jumora and Sutradhar – which were contributed by Sri Sankardev himself. People flock to the Xatras during Raasleela, the Sattriya dance; which developed with the Xatra and has been ordained as a classical dance form of India.
Y: Yak Safari – Exhilarating, thrilling and an experience of a lifetime, yak safaris are quite popular in Sikkim. As these sure footed animals navigate their way through the peaks and provide splendid views of the surroundings, sit back tight to take in the best of the journey.
Z: Ziro Music Festival – A festival of music under the stars amidst idyllic landscapes and delectable local cuisines sums up the music festival in Ziro. With a blend of indie, rock, jazz, blues and electronic music, barrels of Apong and Marua beer, pork sizzling on an open flame and the hospitality of the Apatani tribe, it is a weekend unlike any other.