North East - Cross the enchanted frontier and enter a world of difference

North East India Consisting of Assam, Meghalya, Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura and the state of Sikkim has its head amongst the snow-capped peaks of the eastern Himalayas, one arm extending into Bhutan, the other into Myanmar (Burma) and both its feet almost touching the subtropical waters of the Bay of Bengal.

Although connected to the vast body of India by a slender land-locked isthmus a mere forty five miles wide, historically, culturally and spiritually the ties are perhaps even more tenuous for this gathering of seven states is a world of its own, its many peoples - over 166 separate tribes - traditions and languages owing more to its Tibetan and Burmese neighbours than to Mughal or Hindu India. Apart from its vast scenic beauty it is this very 'otherness' - indeed, this other-worldliness - which provides the northeast's greatest attraction.

Until recently the whole area was simply known as Assam. This term of convenience encompassed a richly variegated and interwoven tapestry of highly localised (and often highly individualistic) clans, tribes and states often speaking mutually incomprehensible languages, whose territories expanded and contracted as their poweT waxed and waned. The richest of these constantly warring groups had settled alongside the mighty Brahmaputra river which cuts a broad swathe from right to left across the entire area, but the vast majority of the tribal people inhabited the hills.

Suggested Itineraries

Program 1: The Brahmaputra Cruise

Program 2: Assam, Arunachal & Meghalaya


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ARUNACHAL PRADESH

Right at the top of north-eastern India, crowning its six clustered sisters like a protective helmet, is Arunachal Pradesh, the `Land of the Dawn-lit- Mountains.' This is the first Indian soil to greet the morning sun. Arunachal Pradesh is India's largest north-eastern state, and also its remotest.The fascination grows slowly during the two hour journey from the airport in Lilabari, Assam, to the capital of Naharlagun(Itanagar).The drive from Naharlagun to the new capital in the hills, Itanagarmetres, is enchanting.The road winds through that magical country where tropical evergreen rain forests meet temperate Himalayan jungles.In the rich tropical forests of the Tirap district, clusters of the beautiful blue vanda (Vanda Coerulea) adorn the trees. Their large blue - violet blooms are delicately veined. The bamboo orchid, ArundinaGraminifolia, a pretty evergreen species with attractive pink - purple flowers is common in open sunny areas near Tipi.The visitor should stop at the far side of the bridge that spans the Pachim River. There is an attractive village below and to the right of the road leading to Itanagar. Most of the houses are built at ground level but at least one is on stilts.

Arunachal has 26 major tribes and many sub-tribes living in 3649 scattered villages. Although a number of tribal groups constitute the total population, the density of population is very less. People are Mangoloid stock but each tribe has certain distinct characteristics in language, dress & costume.Their colourful festivals are manifestations of their faith and belief. There are the gently and cultured Monpas of West Kameng who received Buddhism from Padma Sambhava; the Thongi (Sherdukpens) whoes chiefs trace their treaty relationships with the powers in the valley to a thousand years back; the Hrusso who for thirty generations have patronisedVaishnava scholars; the proud Bangni-Nishi and the Tagin typifying the ancient Indian ideal of the honourable warrior; the Adis and Mishmis who are eager to build academic careers; the Apatanis with their marvels of wet-rice cultivation; the Khampti in their magnificent ceremonial robes and the peaceful, progressive Nocte, Wancho and Tangsa.

The people of Arunachal are the greatest attraction of this beautiful land. And even in the capital at Itanagar, the visitor comes across Nishi warriors wearing their 'bopiah' hornbill caps, carrying their 'chokh' bearskin bags with their 'oyjo' knives in their monkey-skin 'burkhey' scabbards. But the visitor should not be misled by their appearance.

ASSAM

The largest of the states in the northeast of India is Assam whose capital, Guwahati, has an inspired location on the banks of the River Brahmaputra. The ancient city of Pragjyotishpur or the light of east is the site of modern Guwahati, the Gateway to North Eastern India.Amidst Assam's verdant lushness are two important game sanctuaries, Manas and Kaziranga, both best known for their population of one horned Indian rhinoceros, a species that faced extinction. Much of the rest of the state is devoted to tea plantation which yield the strong Assam leaf popular all over the world.Sibsagar was the capital of the Ahom Kings who ruled Assam before the advent of the British. The town is build round the Sibsagar tank, dug over 200 years ago. The tank is above town level although situated in the heart of the town. On its banks are located some of the famous temples of Sibsagar. The Shiva temple, constructed in the year 1734 is believed to be the highest Hindu temple in India.

NAGALAND

Nagaland is a world apart, where nature is resplendent in all her full-bodied glory. Exquisitely picturesque, vibrantly colorful, all lush fertile, the land represents unimaginable beauty, created by nature, to take your breath away... The Nagas, inhabitants of Nagaland, are said to belong to the indo-mongoloid stock, a race whose presence was first noted ten centuries before Christ, at the time of the compilation of the Vedas. Inaugurated on December 1, 1963 as the 16th state of the Bharat Union, Nagaland is bounded by Assam in the west, Burma on the East, Arunachal Pradesh & Assam on the North and Manipur in the South. The state consists of seven districts with sixteen tribes & sub-tribes inhabiting it. The Naga tribes are generally full of folklore. They are fond of seasonal songs, solo, duet and choric. Here man has to fight nature all the time. The struggle however, makes people tough. The people here are strongly built, simple, honest and hard-working.

MEGHALAYA

Meghalayais one of the country's newest states with its capital at Shillong. It is a very attractive hill station. Its sparkling lakes and dazzling waterfalls spring from lush green mountains and pine tree forest. The climate is pleasant throughout the year. When you explore its enchanting places, you will realize that your search for eternity and serenity has reached its terminus.

Shillong has a host of attractions- 18-hole golf course known as Glen Eagle of the East, Don Bosco Museum, a seven-floor Museum offers 14 aesthetically pleasing and informative galleries about North East, Cherrapunjee, a very scenic 120 km drive from Shillong famous as the wettest place on earth. For those who enjoy caving, Meghalaya is just the place, for it has about 788 caves, many of them unmapped and unexplored. Numerous waterfalls with mesmerizing surroundings worth visiting. Meghalaya's main ethnic communities, each having its own distinctive customs and cultural traditions are the Khasis (of Mon-Khmer ancestry), the Garos (of Tibeto-Burman origin) and the Jaintias said to be from South East Asia. The common trait binding all three communities is its matrilineal system in which the family linage is taken from the mother's side. The people of Meghalaya are known to be hospitable, cheerful and friendly.Traditionally, the Khasis believe that their religion is God given and is based on the belief of one supreme God, the creator 'U BleiNongthaw' A Khasi is a deeply religious person, who has an intense love of life. He believes that life is God's greatest gift and he has to account for it again in the hereafter.

MIZORAM

Mizoram, formerly known as the Lushai Hills is situated in the Norrth Eastern Corner of India. It is flanked by Bangladesh and Tripura in the West and Burma in the East. Aizwal is the capital of Mizoram.Mizoram lies in the southernmost outpost of North Eastern India, the land of the Blue Mountains. Manipur, Assam and Tripura bind the northern end of this little island of tranquility.Evergreen ranges of Mizoram hills with blooms of exotic flora and dense bamboo jungles rise sharply from the plains of Assam in a north south direction. These hills and plunging gorges are criss-crossed by gushing rivers and sparkling waterfalls. Highest among its several peaks is the PhawngpuiThe Blue Mountain.

It is said that the Mizos migrated from their homeland in China about 3 centuries ago, in search of new pastures and settled in these remote Mizo Hills (Lushai Hills). Mizoram is a kaleidoscopic 'pleasure trove' for the discerning visitor with its wide array of festivals and dances, handicrafts, flora and fauna, breathtaking natural beauty and temperate climate. The Mizos are friendly and very hospitable. English is one of the Commonly spoken languages. The joyful enthusiasm and gregarious spirit of the local populace has been vastly responsible for establishing some of the most attractive tourism features in this beautiful state. Today, Mizoram is a dazzling mix of this cross-cultural vibrancy with 87 percent literacy (second highest in India- a fact in which every Mizo takes genuine pride), gender equality and a vigorous pursuit of its ancient cultural traditions.

MANIPUR

Martial arts and a demure dance. The green state of Manipur, and Imphal its capital, has all the fine, merged, tints of a water colour. Faiths and traditions and life styles seem to flow into each other with a softedged grace so that it is impossible to know where one ends and the other begins.

The so- called Manipur valley is really a plateau about 700 meteres high, watered by rivers threading out of the dark, mist-topped, ranges. Bright green fields stretch all the way to the distant mountains. And the character of the terrain changes from parts resembling the delicate valley of Kangra, north of the plains of Punjab, to that of the flat-sub-mountain lands of Kerala deep in the warm south of India. Like the Nair women of Kerala the women of Manipur are trained in the fierce local Martial art known as Thang-ta. Both the men and women are dressed in black and they wield their swords like slicing, flashing, propellers; and when their swords clash, sparks fly. They look like lithe, vicious, felines. And all the while, drums grumble and murmur ominously.

In marked contrast, is the delicate, marionette-like, Manipuri dance. The choreographers of this very feminine dance must ensure that the faces of the women are veiled at all times, that there is no gesture or eye-contact between the dancers and their audience, that the movements of the lower part of the body are minimal, that the bottom half of the costumes are heavy and concealing, and that the mudra gestures and movements merely suggest the relationship between the dancers and their Divine Master, Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna in his manifestation as Govindji is the presiding deity in the revered Sri Govindji Temple with its twin golden domes. The principal deity here is carved out of a jackfruit tree in response to a dream which RajarshiBhagyachandra had in the 18th century. Older forms of worship, however, continue to exist in the veneration of forest deities known as UmangLais. They are represented as metal masks, similar to the deities of other Himalayan people such as the Himachalis of Kulu. Thus Imphal gives a fascinating insight into an archetypal Indian trend: multiple ethno - cultural streams merging into patterns like a gently blended water-colour.

TRIPURA

Tripura is a tiny state in the North-East of the country. It has extensive international border with Bangladesh and, in fact, 85% of its perimeter is international border with rest being common boundary with Assam and Mizoram to the east. There is a common belief that the name of the state has originated from the presiding deity 'TRIPURA SUNDARI'. Another theory is that the name of the state was originally 'TUIPRA' – meaning a land adjoining water. Once upon a time Tripura extended upto the Bay of Bengal when its ruler held from Garo Hill to Arakan.Tripura, quite off the beaten track, is a storehouse of tribal crafts and culture as well as music and dancing. In the centre of this patch of intense greenery is the capital, Agartala, where gracious buildings were once the palaces of Tripura's royal family. The former princely state of Tripura was ruled by Maharajas of Manikya dynasty.

Tripura has rich cultural heritage of 19 different tribal communities, Bengali and Manipuri communities. Each community has its own dance forms which are famous in the country. The main folk dances are Hozagiri dance of Reang community, Garia , Jhum, Maimita, MasakSumani and Lebangboomani dances of Tripuri community, Bizu dance of Chakma community, Cheraw and Welcome dances of Lusai community, Hai-Hak dance of Malsum community, Wangala dance of Garo Community, Sangraiaka, Chimithang, Padisha and abhangma dances of Mog community, Garia dances of Kalai and Jamatia communities, Gajan, Dhamail, Sari and Rabindra dances of Bengali community and Basanta Rash and Pungchalam dances of Manipuri community. Each community has its own traditional musical instruments. The important musical instruments are' Khamb( Drum)', Bamboo flute, 'Lebang,', 'Sarinda', 'Do- Tara', and 'Khengrong', etc