Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Khonoma - A Historical Nagaland Village : December 2011

Khonoma Village
During our five days of stay in Kohima, we had planned for a visit to typical Naga village. After checking out in the Internet and on a recommendation from a friend who spends most of his time in north-eastern states, we decided to visit Khonoma which is closer to Kohima  (20 kms) than other villages in Nagaland preferred by tourists.  A taxi was booked one day in advance for a day trip to Khonoma (Rs.1700/-).
When we got up early in the morning, we realised that there was some water problem in the hotel. The problem became acute as the time progressed and at last we had to manage with only hot water wash. After some time, the water supply completely stopped. Problem appears to be on account of non-functioning of water pumps as I could see from the window that a mechanic had been checking the water pump. After breakfast, we commenced our journey to Khonoma village at 8.30 a.m.
Earlier KS had a telephonic talk with Ms. Rovino who had a home stay arrangement in the village for providing a guide for a village walk in Khonoma and also for arranging vegetarian lunch for both of us after completion of the village walk. It was difficult get inpromtu vegetarian meals in the village as there were no hotels, restaurants or even a dabha.
We left our hotel around 8.30 a.m. in a hired taxi for Khonoma. After about 4 kms of drive on Kohima-Dimapur road, a diversion to the left  took us on a single lane road to Khonoma. The road was in a horrible condition with patholes till the outer gate of Khonoma village as the road widening work was in progress. It took almost 1 hour 45 minutes to cover a distance of 20 kms to Khonoma. I was feeling sorry for the taxi driver who had taken his newly bought Maruti Omni taxi on this road. However, the slow movement of our taxi gave us opportunity to view beautiful landscape - deep valleys skirted by thick forest cover. There were many memorials erected on the road sides as we reached the outskirt of Khonoma. We reached Khonoma around 10.00 a.m. We parked out car near the Baptist church and waited out guide to come. He came in 5 minutes and introduced himself to us who turned out to be Ms. Ravino's 71 year old father.

The 20 kms road journey to Khonoma village is very rough as it is a mud road having lots of potholes.

The stepped paddy fields in the midst of forest seen from the road to Khonoma village.
A memorial in honour of the first 'President of the Federal Government of Nagaland'. Behind the memorial is the View Point of the valley which is perched on a hanging rock.
A welcome arch to Khonoma village about 3 kms before the village.
Baptist Church, Khonoma village. The church is located at the juntion where the only two roads in the village meet.
We started our village walk with out guide by climbing a stone staircase just opposite the Baptist church. He took us to many historical places - Forts, memorials, murungs, shawl and basket  weaving places etc.  There are hundreds of memorials in the village erected in honour of those who laid down their lives fighting for Naga cause and of those who had contributed for the welfare of the village. The village walk took about 2 hours to complete. Being an old man, our guide was very knowledgeable about the evolution of this village to the present position. I could not believe that the village had 3 cell towers - Aircell, Airtel and BSNL. Apart from learning about  the contribution of the villagers in keeping the village green, what impressed me more about Khonoma village the cleaniness in the entire village. I have travelled to many villages across India but I saw the cleanest village in Khonoma.
The stone steps leading to the upper Khonoma village. Most of the historic places are in this part of the village.
The Stone door with typical Naga painting which was to be installed at the gate leading to upper Khonoma. There used to be a wooden carved door but that was replaced with this stone door. But it was so heavy that it could not be moved. So the stone door has been kept aside.
An Angami Naga man relaxing on the boundary of his home in Khonoma village
A part of the Khonoma village. The population of the village is around 3000 and almost all houses have tin roofs as against the traditional thatched roofs. This is on account of the fact that original traditional houses had been destroyed during war years  and new houses were built after the war ended.
Khonoma village on the left with stepped farms in the valley. More than 20 varieties of rice are grown in these fields surrounding the village.
A church located on the top of a hillock seen from the upper Khonoma village.
Khonoma village has a population of around 3000 mostly inhabited by Angami Naga tribe. It has a history of fighting Britishers in the 19th century and with Indian army in the late 50s. The village has two one-lane roads - the upper circular road and the lower circular road.  Almost all houses are built around these two roads. I can now understand as to why British army and later Indian army found it very hard to capture Khonoma. The village is located on a hillock surrounded by valleys from all sides. While the base of the valleys have stepped farm land, the upper sides of the valleys have dense cover of forests. So villager can see from the top any army movements and take positions accordingly to ambush the advancing soldiers. In case of emergency, the villagers could take shelters under the dense forest cover and frustrated the advancing soldiers with their guerrilla warfare. During those time, they used to live in the forest with wild apples, animals and birds as their food.
Earlier, the villagers sacrificed their lives fighting British forces and later the Indian forces for Naga cause. Now many of them have sacrificed their livelihood for the cause of keeping the village green and maintaining the ecological balance. The Village Council has completely banned log cutting and hunting animals and birds which is in force for more than 10 years now. It is gratifying to know that all villagers are cooperating in this regard.  
After completion of about two hours of walk around the village, we visited Ravino's house located on the other side of the Baptist church. We had a cup of tea and biscuits in his house before proceeding to community kitchen located about further 1 km from his house where our lunch was arranged. After the exploration of the surrounding places of the community kitchen, we returned for buffet lunch in the open air. The lunch menu had a good varieties of non-vegetarian food but on our request, Ravino had arranged some vegetarian dishes  like vegetable soup with bamboo shoots, rice, dal, red and white pumpkin mixed vegetables, boiled mustard leaves salad etc. The lunch costed us Rs.300/- per head. The guide charge was Rs.300/-. 
A part of Khonoma village seen from the Fort. The circular place (top left) is the meeting place for the villagers.
A lady weaving a woolen shawl in  her Khonoma house.
A basket weaver
We visited the house of Mr Anguile,  the two time National award winning basket weaver. Here he is seen almost completing the basket weaving.
The history of the Khonoma Fort inscribed on a stone plaque near the entrance to the Fort.
In 1870's war with Nagas, British forces entered Khonoma village (left foreground) from this valley.
Lower circular road passing through the lower Khonoma village.
One of the traditional Morungs ( bachelors' dormitory).  Morungs play a vital role in Naga Society. It serves as a learning institute where young boys  are passed on the traditional beliefs and customs from one generation to another.  Of course with the advent of schools, this convention is slowly going into background and it is now being used more like a recreational club.
Nagas consider hanging of heads of the hunted animals at the entrance to their houses as 'trophies'. The more the trophies, the higher the status of the Nagas in the society. In this house, heads of animals such as monkeys, deers, Mithun ( a kind of bison) and wild boars can be seen.
A stone in owl shape near Community Kitchen is said to drive away the evil spirit from Khonoma.
The house at the right is the Khonoma Village Council Office. At left is a private resident.
A picturesque ground  in Khonoma village, surrounded on the three sides by dense forest.
After lunch we sent for a stroll on a big ground behind the community kitchen. The pleasant weather made the stroll enjoyable. Around 3.00 p.m., we took leave of our guide and Ms. Ravino and started our return journey leaving behind the  memory of a beautiful and historical village Khonoma. Perhaps staying overnight in the village would have given some more insights about the village.
For more pictures of Khonoma village see photo album.


Swathi Manikireddy said...

I love Greenery Villages, but I've never seen any as amazing as these. Pics are fantastic. Thanks for sharing. See more information about How to Reach Khonoma Village . Thanks for sharing.

Tiyi Woro said...

Awesome Blog. Enjoyed the photos as well as the write up.