THE LAND OF FESTIVALS : NAGALAND

Before starting the blog let me share some useful contact numbers which might come in handy if you plan to visit the state of Nagaland.

ILP DC Court Dimapur  : 011-23013751
Hotel Pine Kohima : 9436001041 (Mr. Suraj Kumar)

How to reach Kohima :

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The only way to reach Kohima is through Dimapur. Dimapur is the gateway to Nagaland. It has a dedicated railway station as well as an airport. There are 2 ways to reach Kohima from Dimapur.

  •  Shared taxis.
  •  NST or the Nagaland State Transport buses

Preparations before taking the trip :

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I had been planning for this trip for the last 3 months. I had spent endless hours researching about Kohima even before the trip started. I had came across some
interesting articles providing information about the places to visit in Kohima.  One of the most helpful article was Top 20 Things to Do In Nagaland. But that was not enough. The first and the foremost question was regarding the ILP.

  • What is ILP ?
  • Where can I obtain it from?

I had fired some mails to the Nagaland district council querrying about the Inner Line Permit. I also went through numerous blogs just to get a first hand experience from someone who had already faced the same dilemma. But my quest for answers was not getting satiated. And that moment I had decided to take on the journey and discover things my own way.

Luckily I came across the Nagaland district council’s phone number which solved my misery. It was then decided that I would be obtaining my ILP from the district of Dimapur after reaching Nagaland.

What is ILP ?

Since 1873, ILP or Inner Line Permit is the permit required to visit the following 3 borderline states of India :

1). Arunachal Pradesh
2). Nagaland
3). Mizoram

Things required for ILP :

  • An ID proof preferably your PAN card or ADHAR Card.
  • A passport photograph.

Where can I get my ILP for Nagaland :

From DC Court Tangan Basti Dimapur you can collect the ILP and take the NST ( Nagaland State Transport ) buses to cover the remaining districts of Nagaland like Kohima, Mokokchung ( the cultural capital of Nagaland ) , Mon ( the most North East part where the head hunters reside), Tuensang ( which shares its boundaries with Burma )

Nov 30, 2015

I reached Dimapur station ( the only railway station / airport in Nagaland ) at 5:30 in the morning. The waiting room looked quite fishy and I decided to give it a miss. As I walked through the platform, I could see tight security of the army people. They were shouting at all those who were sleeping on the platform etc. In short they were doing there job. Now I was stuck. I still had to get my ILP but the District court opens at 10 AM. Since staying on the railway station was not possible due to strict army actions, I directly went towards the auto and asked him to drop me at the place where ILP is issued. We went towards the Tangan Basti. So here I was standing in a deserted district court of Dimapur at 6 AM. Even the shops were not open. All I could see was army guys marching here and there. Just imaginge my plight. And that’s when I kept saying to myself
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!!!”

For about an hour or so, I was reading my novel inside the district court. And then I met a Naga dude asking me to come to him. He said to me that he will get my ILP issued soon if I pay him Rs. 300. I finally got my ILP from there covering all the Naga districts.

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FYI : Govt. Price of Inner Line Permit is around 90. But then again this is India. And there was no point of debating with an unknown guy who could get things done for me

As I was collecting my ILP, I came across two people from Bihar. They were also going to Kohima for some work. And I was welcomed in the following manner :

Them : “Where are you from ? What are you doing over here?”
I : “I am from the state of Chhattisgarh on my way to visit the hornbill festival.”
Them : “You came here all alone just to attend the Hornbill festival”
I : “Very much.”
Them : “What the hell are you doing all alone in this part of the world. It’s not safe over here. Anyone can loot you after seeing such a huge backpack. We never come to North East without any reason. It was the need of the hour for us to travel to Kohima due to some official work. Otherwise you wouldn’t see us. No one travels for sight seeing over here. If you really want to visit some colorful festivals, come to UP-Bihar. What will you do if something happens to you in the hills ? Listen to
our words : If you want to stay alive, get the hell out of here as soon as possible. Its not safe we repeat “

I had not even reached Kohima and this was worst possible welcome which you could get. So far, I was feeling pretty safe. But the above words started taking it’s toll on me. I started feeling shit scared from the inside. However I decided to take an auto for the Nagaland State transport station.

1 PM : There was a long queue for buses. After waiting for an hour,  I finally got my ticket to Kohima. I was feeling awesome at this moment. I could finally feel all my hard work coming to light. It was finally going to happen. Hornbill fest, I am coming!!!

Dimapur to Kohima : 68 Kms

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Time to grab some Malpua on the way…

The distance from Dimapur to Kohima is just 68 kms. But it takes over 3 hours to reach. After covering the first 20 kilometers,  you can feel the sudden drop in temperature. Take out those jackets, ditch the music of your headphones and let the air do the talking. The sun sets at 4:30 PM and soon the headlights were on. Which part of the world am I, I exclaimed!

Back home there would be no signs of Sunset so early. But then again this is North-East. I had a task to adapt myself according to their timings.

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Clicked around 4:30 in the evening

5:15 PM : It was pitch dark when we were stil on our way and the conversation which I had with those Bihari guys was playing on my mind over and over. Finally I reached the land of Kohima at 6 pm.

The Stay :

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We do get some Vegetarian food..

I had done some home work 3 months ago and booked the Hotel Pine well in advance. The prices skyrocket if you try booking during the hornbill festival. The rooms were pretty decent with all the facilities. By facilities, I mean geyser etc. You don’t need an AC or even a fan out here. Thanks to Stayzilla for the 50 % discount. Rs. 500 per day was not a bad deal after all. After having my dinner at the room itself, I decided to sleep early and energise myself for big day.

Hornbill Festival :

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Where to go :
Naga Heritage Village, Kisama ( 12 kms from Kohima )

How to reach :
Take the city bus from Kohima town and go till BOC. You will find the PHQ or the police headquarters. There’s a taxi stand offering it’s services

How much to Pay :
Rs. 10 for the bus ride till BOC. Add another 50 bucks for the shared taxi ride from BOC till Kisama heritage Village.


 

It was the taxi where I met Sunil, a guy working with Nagaland government for the I.T department. Being an I.T engineer myself, we became good friends soon. Since he was residing in Kohima itself, I had my shot at asking as much questions as possible.

“How safe is Nagaland Sunil ? Is it possible for a solo traveler to travel to the interir districts of Mon, Mokokchung and Wokha”
To which he replies the following
“100 % safe. One can roam freely as much as possible. Just don’t go out during the night time. Otherwise this place is as safe as rest of India.”

Now this was the answer that I wanted to hear. The above positive words were enough for me to forget about whatever I had heard from the outsiders whom I had met initially.

It’s important for us to not build our opinion based on some one else’s opinions. That would be sheer injustice to the place you are visiting. There are good people and bad people everywhere. People can get looted in their home towns as well. That doesn’t mean that you are not going to come out of your homes. The same goes with North East. It’s a beautiful part of the country waiting for you to experience!

In about 45 minutes we reached the venue. ie). Kisama Heritage Village.

11 Reasons why the Hornbill Festival should be a part of your bucket list :

1). Forget about the performances inside. It was a remarkable sight to see the venue itself. In the backdrop of mountains of Kisama, the stage was set. I did not have much idea about how it would be like. Keeping all the other factors aside, I was more than ecstatic to see the whole setup.

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2). The festival of Hornbill provides a totally unique atmosphere inviting photographers, journalists and explorers from all over the world. As we stepped inside, we came across different tribes. There were performances going everywhere.

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Meet Madhu. A girl hailing from Bangalore who is freelancing all across India and doing what she loves. ie). Painting :She is here in the city of Kohima for 1 month, as part of her project. Look at the happiness on her face and now marvel at the beautiful painting in the background.

3). Talk about diversity, richness in culture, festivity, vibrant colors and unique dance performances and you should check out the Hornbill festival once in your lifetime. While it was Narendra Modi inaugarating the event last year. The inaugaration of the ceremony was done by Smt. Sushma Swaraj this time.

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4). There are 16 tribes. And each tribe has its own way of living. Each tribe has it’s own language unknown to the other tribes.

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5). Concept Of Head Hunting : Traditionally the Nagas were hunters. They took pride in hunting heads of animals as well as..wait for it “HUMAN BEINGS”
Yes you heard it right!

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Their tattoo marks and skeleton beads on chest and neck signified there ranks. When I say ‘Nagas’, not all the tribes practiced it. The tribes of Konyaks and Angamis are amongst a few who did. You have to go further north east to the villages in Tuensang and Mon districts, if you wish to witness the real culture.
The Present Day :
Christanity has taken over most of the Nagaland. The headhunting of human beings has been stopped ages ago.
6). FOODGASM : The non vegetarians are going to have a gala time out here.

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Must try : Bamboo cooked Chicken, Naga style Pork, Dog meat.
Although vegetarians won’t have as much choice as the non vegetarians. But there are buffets specially made for vegetarians.
7).  Chance to grab the Rice Beer or Zutho :
DSC00110Want some ?
The local drink made from rice is an integral part of the Naga culture. Each of the 16 tribes have their own way of preparing it. It tastes very unique unlike any alcoholic beverages present.
Benefits : It keeps the body warm and purifies your system.
A glass of rice beer is priced at Rs. 50 inside the festival area.

I ordered my first glass of Rice Beer. I liked it from the first sip. In fact I loved it! It goes well with Naga style pork.

8). Morung Hopping At Kisama : 

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As I told you that there are 16 tribes. Each tribe has a dedicated Morung. Now these Morungs are nothing but small rooms to chill out. Order some food and sit near the fireplace. Try the rice beers of different tribes. Each one tastes slightly different from the rest. When you are done with eating. Grab a rice beer again and enjoy some mind blowing tribal performances. Consider yourself lucky if you are attending the hornbill festival as you get a chance to observe so many things under one roof.
9). Chance to witness something surreal, I bet the retina of your eyes wouldn’t have seen already.
  • DSC00158Have you heard the Assamese flute used in the Bihu dance ?Trust me its melodious 🙂
  • Have you see the mesmerizing performance of Arunachalee dancers ?
    I bet you will love to see them!
10).  Nagaland, the land of festivals where festivals are not just a celebration, but a way of life. And the best time to visit the state is during Dec 1st to 10th, when the entire state comes to life.

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11) The Bhut Jolokia :
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This is termed as one of the World’s hottest chillies present in the world. Got some balls ? Do take part in the chilly eating competitions.

What are you waiting for??

Pack your bags and leave for Kohima! Don’t forget to carry winter wear. The temperature goes down to 5 degree celcius in December.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Lovely coverage! Not only Nagaland but the entire north-east is very colorful and as safe as any other part of India if not more. Take it from a north-easterner 😉 .

    And one more thing, those two guys you met at the beginning… they were idiots of the biggest order for sure!

    Cheers,
    Rajiv

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