Gairemong, the culture hero of the Rongmei Nagas, was born of the union between a human mother and the master of the world who came to her in the form of a charming python. A few hours happily spent and a child deposited in the woman's womb, the python coiled away. He found the duties of domestication too heavy on him and so went away to indulge in pursuits of pleasure.
Meanwhile, the son grew up and like the Buddha was confronted by the miseries that plagued society. Who was responsible for them? He found no answer, but his quest was ongoing. Finally, finding that he was anguished, his mother told him who was the master of the world.
The father was, however, in the midst of great fun. When the son reprimanded him for being so lackadaisical about the world he had created, the master of the world cursed him. But soon the compassion of the father got better of him and he bequeathed the rocks, the trees, the birds, the tigers, the meandering streams to his son. "They will save you even when humanity turns against you," blessed the father in a hurry.
Gairemong in turn went around giving the people the message of the world. You are your own master he said. Even today, the hills of Nagaland resound with this call.
The hills of Nagaland lie to the very east of India, south of Arunachal Pradesh, north of Manipur and east of Assam. To its west, it shares a border with Myanmar (Burma). It is one of the magnificent mountainous systems that extend from the Chittagong Hill tracts to the Patkao Mountains at a point where the range is joined by northeastern offshoot of the Himalayas.
Adjoining a part of the Chin Hills and Arakan Yoma mountain system, Nagaland comprises three massive mountain ranges, which run irregularly parallel to each other from north to south. They are the Barail, the Naga and the Patkai ranges. A number of rivers run the terrain too. The largest and the most important among them are the Doyang and the Dikhu. With many forests and a varied wildlife, Nagaland is a veritable treasure house of nature. It has also some of the most beautiful orchids and flowers.
Kohima - The Capital City
Nagaland is spread over an area of 56,366 square miles and has a population of about seven lakhs. Its capital Kohima is so called because "Kew Hi" is the name of a plant grown on the mountainside. "Kew Hi Ma" means "the men of the land where the flower Kew Hi grows". Earlier, Kohima was known as "Thigoma".
Situated at the southern tip of the state, overlooking the valley is the mountainous capital, Kohima. Kohima does not have monuments, monasteries or temples to offer by way of stock tourist attractions. However the unhurried pace of life, calm and serene environs and fresh, unpolluted air makes a welcome change for a jaded city dweller. The Second World War Cemetery in Kohima, the State Museum and the Zoo are the principal places of interest here. Excursions from Kohima lead to Khonoma village, Japfu Peak, Dzakou Valley and Mokokchung.
The main river running through Nagaland is river Doying. There are many smaller ones. Narrow valleys of Dikhu, Tizu and Doyang delve into the lower parts of the state. In keeping with the topography of the northeast, there are many forests in Nagaland, many of them inhabited only by animals and never visited by man! They are so dense that they are inaccessible and the treasures they hold in terms of wildlife are beyond imagination.
Elephants, Tigers, Barking Deer, Jackals, Monkeys and Wild Buffaloes, not to mention Wild Pigs and Dogs, are some of the more commonly seen wild life. Wild game is the most prized meat. Animal hide, skull, tusks and feathers are all used for ornamentation.
Bamboo forests mark the area while plantain trees bring a story with them. They are said to be the favourite of Elephants and so if ever one wants to keep vigil for a visiting jumbo then do so near a plantain tree, which has a few fruits hanging from it. The people use the leaves of this tree to pack food in.
Nagaland, as the name suggests, is inhabited by the Nagas. The word Naga has become a generic name for many tribal communities in the northeast. There are 32 such tribes of which 16 live in Nagaland. About 100 years ago, Christian missionaries came to this part of the country and today 98% of the population is converted. Nevertheless, inter tribal differences remain and each tribe commands absolute loyalty from its people.
Nagaland is blessed with salubrious climate throughout the
year and one can visit it anytime. If one is looking for a quiet getaway
from the hustle and bustle of city life, it provides the right ambience;
as life here is laid back and slow.
For the adventurous, Nagaland is an ideal place for trekking, jungle camping and offers limitless exploration possibilities in its lush and verdant sub-tropical rain forests, which are also a treasure trove of a plethora of medicinal plants.
The Nagas with their "joie the vivre", dance and song are a part and parcel of all their festivities. Most of their dances are performed with a robust rhythm.
The earliest reference made to these people is in the Geographia of Claudius Ptolemaius of 2nd century AD. Ptolemy described Nagaland as "the land of the naked". But if that was one description, today if one visits the people of the state one will find them highly sophisticated and aware. The Nagas were among the first in India to get an exposure of western culture and thought. They fought the first in India to get an exposure of western culture and thought. They fought the First World War when they were recruited to labour crops that served in France. So the global awareness among the people of the state is very high.
Directorate of Tourism, Kohima
State Resident Commissioner, 29, Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi.