One of the smallest states of the Indian Union, Nagaland is almost unexplored, as far as tourist destinations are concerned. Sharing borderlines with Myanmar in the east, Assam in its western and northern periphery, and the Tirap district in Arunachal Pradesh in the north east and Manipur in the south, Nagaland’s blue-hued mountains and emerald expanses comprise an intriguing world of ancient rituals and a proud people. The Naga inhabitants are of Indo-Mongoloid stock. The tribal inhabitants have colourful traditional dresses, customs and dialects. Though they were animist by tradition, almost 98% of the population embraced Christianity under the influence of English missionaries.
The state is inhabited by 16 major tribes - Ao, Angami, Chang, Konyak, Lotha, Sumi, Chakhesang, Khiamniungam, Kachari, Phom, Rengma, Sangtam, Yimchungrü, Kuki, Zeliang and Pochury as well as a number of sub-tribes spread over Nagaland’s seven districts; primary amongst them are the Angamis, the Sema, Konyak, Aos and the Rengmas, each with their own distinct culture and lifestyle. Nagas have evolved into a generic term for many tribal communities in the North East.
More than 60% of the population of Nagaland depends on agriculture and therefore most of their festivals revolve around agriculture. They consider their festivals sacred and so participation in these festivals is essential. Nagaland is known as the land of festivals, as each tribe celebrates its own festival with dedication and passion. To encourage inter-tribal interaction and to promote cultural heritage of Nagaland, the Government of Nagaland organizes the Hornbill Festival every year in the first week of December.
Historically, the people of Nagaland have always been brave and independence loving warriors. The colonial British were never fully successful in annexing this region in their empire. The ancient and pre-modern Nagaland was in fact the ‘land of the Nagas’ that also included modern day Burma. When India became independent in 1947, she gradually acquired a large part of this territory in her objective of securing her national borders and Nagaland formally became an Indian state as late as in 1963.
The topography of Nagaland is nearly all hilly, the highest peak being Saramati (3841 meters) in the district of Kiphire that borders Myanmar. Many rivers cut through this mountainous terrain, like sharp swords slicing through rocks. The main ones are Dhansiri, Doyang, Dikhu, Milak, Tizu and Zunki.
Surrounded by Myanmar on the east and three other Indian states in other directions, the total area of Nagaland is about 16,527 sq. km. A population of only about 1.9 million, the numbers may sound meager when compared with the vast population of the Indian peninsula; but these few people are composed of 16 different tribes, each representing a different culture and preserving unique customes. These colourful people span across 11 administrative districts (Kohima being the capital), with a population density of 120 person per sq km. The climate of Nagaland can be called nothing but perfect. With pleasant summers when temperature do not average above 31 degree Celsius and winters when they don’t average below 4 Degree Celsius, the place can be called the ‘perpetual’ holiday destination.
The best months to visit Nagalnd are between October and May, when the landscapes wears a green carpet and the flowers light up the skies with their bright hue. Rhododendrons and Orchids cover the landscape of Nagaland and one cannot miss them even as he is driving or trekking the challenging terrain.