Monday, January 21, 2013

Trip to Kohima-Dimapur - December 2011

A part of Kohima city seen from Raj Bhavan
Some time in April 2011, my friend  K Srinivasan (KS) asked me  whether I would be interested in joining him for a trip to attend the Hornbill Festival in Kohima (Nagaland) during the first week of December 2011 and to visits Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya thereafter. Since I had never made a trip to any one of the north-eastern states, I readily agreed to join him for this trip. The first thing KS did was to book the hotel in Kohima as during Hornbill Festival week, the tourist season would be at the peak level. Local newspaper reports indicated that during the Hornbill Festival, only about 20 percent of the tourists can be accommodated in decent hotels in Kohima. Other tourists will have to manage in some budget hotels, home stays around Kohima or in some tent accommodation in the surrounding villages. We had a taste of this difficulty. Despite trying to book a descent hotel almost eight months in advance, we could not get accommodation in any of the top hotels in Kohima. Luckily, we got the accommodation in one of the best hotels – Cimborb Hotel. The hotel tariff during the Hornbill Festival almost doubles irrespective of how early one books the hotel. We paid Rs.3000/- for a double room but after seeing the hotel room and facilities, we felt that it was worth the amount. We also booked around the same time the only direct (hopping) flight available from Kolkatta to Dimapur. The flight fare was cheaper than the hotel room tariff we paid!
Since the Kolkatta-Dimapur flight was in the morning, we reached Kolkatta from Mumbai in the previous day by flight and stayed overnight in a budget hotel near the airport. The flight to Dimapur (via Dibrugarh) took off about 30 minutes late and reached Dimapur in the early afternoon. Since local buses and share taxis for going to Kohima are available only from the Dimapur bus stand which is about 7 kms from the airport, we took an auto from the airport to reach the NSTC bus stand and took a share taxi from a taxi stand located next to NSTC bus stand (Rs.400/- per head or full taxi for Rs.1500/-) covering a distance of 74 kms. The two lane road (NH-39) maintained by BRO was in excellent condition despite being a curvy hill road and most part of the journey was scenic. I am sure that during rainy season, one would pass through numerous watter falls as they were now almost dried up. On the way, there were many pineapple sellers. The road was dotted on both sides with wild sunflower plants. There were two police check post and one Forest check post located on  NH.29 up to Kohima but none of these check posts made us to show our Inner line Permit (ILP) which were already obtained through post. Our driver revealed that during Hornbill Festival week (December 1-7th), ILPs are not normally checked. But one cannot take a chance.
It took about two hours (including a short tea break) to reach Kohima. The peak time traffic on the road made another 30 minutes to reach our hotel. For a change, it was nice to see  cars moving in a single line albeit in a snail’s pace on a two lane road and none tried to break the lane even though the adjunct lane was almost empty. We checked in the hotel at 5.00 p.m. when dusk has already set in. From our hotel window, we could see colourful lights flickering in most of the places in around hotel indicating the start of the Christmas month. About 90 per cent of Nangland's population is Christians. 

Dimapur Airport 

One of the road side hawkers displaying among other things, the famous Bhoot Jolokia chili which is regarded as one of the five most hottest chilies in the world.

Our hotel for six nights at Kohima.

View from Hotel room.

View from our hotel restaurant.

Day-1 : Kohima Walking Tour - War Cemetery-Hotel Heritage-Kohima Museum
We got up early in the morning as the sun rises in this part of India in winter by 5.30 a.m. The room temperature was 14C which meant that outside temperature be much lower than the room temperature. After a heavy breakfast, we were thinking of hiring a cab to see Kohima's prominent places of tourist interest. However, the hotel manager suggested that  we cover the places by walking which are all within 2-3 kms radius of our hotel. So we decided to do walking trip. We commenced our walking around 9.00 a.m taking the route to the left of our hotel towards the Police Headquarters Building. On the way we cross a market place looking more like a city centre lined with shops on both the sides of the road. When we reached in the vicinity of Raj Bhavan, we enquired from a local person the direction to the War Cemetery. It was during our talks he suggested that we visit former Deputy Commissioner's bungalow which has now been turned in to a hotel called The Heritage. The hotel has only limited rooms probably six in all. But more than the hotel, it was a heritage bungalow having a feel of a colonial era. The intricate wood carved pillars at the entrance of the reception room, some historical items on display in the reception room, the old time brass lanterns hanging on the wood ceiling canopy of the  pathway reminded of a bygone era. 
When we came out from The Heritage, the local person to whom we had earlier talked was still around, probably the security staff of Raj Bhavan who was now off duty. He walked with us to show the gate of the War Cemetery and went back. The next one hour or so were spent inside the war cemetery. The plaques of all the soldiers - British, Indian and Nepalese who laid down their lives for depending  Kohima from the onslaught of the Japanese army during World War II. The remains of all those soldiers who died defending Kohima were buried/creme ted  in this place. The plaques are geometrically arranged on stepped lawns giving the description of the soldiers and their regiments. The view of Kohima village from the
cemetery  is beautiful.
From the cemetery road, we walked further and came to the market place which looked like Kohima's city centre. We came to know from a passer by that Kohima museum was 3 kms ahead and walking on a crowded road was not going to easy and pleasurable. The passer by suggested that we catch a mini bus just stopped in front of us to pick up the passengers which would drop us at a road diversion to the Museum. Luckily for us, a young boy in the bus not only guided us to get down at the proper point, he also accompanied us up to the gate of the Museum which was about 200m further from the road.
The Kohima museum is a 'must see' for those interested in the tribal life of Nagaland and their customs, traditions and vocations etc.  The replicas of all the 16 main tribes of Nagaland are on display including their traditional dresses, weapons, musical instruments, jewelleries etc. In fact, one can identify the tribes on the basis of their dresses and jewelleries. After the completion of the round of Museum which took us about one hour to complete, we got a taxi outside the gate of the museum to drop us at the hotel for Rs.120/-. After finishing our lunch at the hotel's restaurant, we rested for the rest of the day. In any case, the sun sets in this part of India quite early and we were advised not to venture out in the night  in secluded places. 

This is the place about 500m away from out hotel  which is one of the bases in Kohima for buses and share taxis. In the background is State Police Head Quarters. 

Many shops in Kohima of the types shown in this picture have iron grill fixed to prevent rogues and drunk customers from robbing the shop specially in the night. All shops generally close by 7.00-8.00 p.m. This shop (Paan-cigarette and general merchant  shops) generally open beyond 8.00 p.m. and it is only these shops which have protective grills.
The close-up of the hotel The Heritage.  Thanks to a local Naga  who met us on the way to Raj Bhavan, who suggested us to visit this place and we were not disappointed. During the British time, this was the Deputy Commissioner's Bungalow.
Reception room of the hotel The Heritage

One of the two wood carved pillars of the hotel The Heritage

One of the brass lamps with meena work hanging in the ceiling of the entrance to The Heritage.

Raj Bhavan Gate

The traffic jam did not on one side of the road did not led to lane cutting.  Note how people are walking on the footpath.  There is a  stiff penalty in Kohima for breaking traffic rules

Kohima War Cemetery. This cemetery was build in memory of those who laid their lives while successfully repulsing the advancing Japanese forces during April-June 1944 of  the Second World War
View of Kohima village (a part of Kohima City) seen from War Cemetery
A beautiful flower found in War Cemetery

A heavy weight wood carved door of the entrance for open air display of artifacts.
A stone sculpture in the open air section of the Museum.
Ashoka Pillar on display in an open air section of the Museum.

Replica of a Zeliang Naga tribal woman giving a pose of doing a butterfly dance in Kohima Museum.
The various shapes of head gears used by different Naga tribes in Kohima Museum.

Drinking mugs made of bamboo and other woods and also from horns of Mithun
A Konyak tribal warrior's victory basket.

Chair assembledd using Elephant's bones

Human skulls on display in Kohima Museum. Head hunting was practiced by Nagas which prevailed until the start of the 20th century. Taking heads during war by warriors earned them fame, honour and  glory and gave them higher status in the tribal hierarchy.

Armlets with spikes were used during war as well as ornaments by wealthy Konyak tribal men and women.

Naga neckless

The museum has also an Art Gallery in the Kohima Museum where paintings by local artists are displayed. This is the painting of a Sema tribal lady.
Days-2, 3 and 5 : Visits to Hornbill Festival, Kisama village
Please read Hornbill Festival - December 2011

Day-4 : Day Visit to Khonoma Village

Please read Khonoma - A Historical and Green Village in Nagaland

Day- 6 : To Dimapur-Lumding

Today was our last day in Kohima and we were to catch the late afternoon Shatabdi Express from Dimapur for Lumding where we would take a overnight halt to catch early morning Lumding-Silchar Barrak Valley Express. Although we had enough time to reach Dimapur for catching the train, since the check out timing in the hotel was 9.00 a.m., we decided to move to Dimapur well in advance of our train timing and take the opportunity to visit Kachari Kingdom's ruins located in Dimapur. After breakfast and checking out from the hotel, we took a local taxi to drop us at Kohima-Dimapur taxi stand which was located about 2 kms from out hotel. A share-taxi for Dimapur was already waiting for two more passengers. So without wasting any time, we started our journey to Dimapur around 9.15 a.m.
In the taxi, we chatted with one local person of Assamese origin (belonging to Shibsagar) who stays in Kohima with Naga wife but works for Vijaya Bank in Dimapur. He said that he was born and brought up in Kohima as his father was a Government employee and located in Kohima during British rule when it was a part of Assam. However, after creation of Nagaland, he did not shift back to Assam as all his close relatives are based in Kohima. He gave his mobile number to us in case we needed any help while in Dimapur.
As we reached Dimapur, the good smaritan requested our taxi driver to take us to the ruins of Kachari Kingdom a couple of Kms diversion from the Dimapur taxi stand. The ruins are scattered on a vast open space and are in sambles. Our driver told us that most of the intricately carved items of the Kacheri Kingdom have been stolen for quite a long period until Archaeologically Survey of India took over the place. Presently, ASI has places all the remains of the ruins in 2-3 places and barricated them with high iron grills to prevent further pilferage.
After spending some 15 minutes at the ruins, we reached Dimapur railway station by 12 noon. Since our train was schedule to arrive at 4.15 p.m., we took mini lunch in a restaurant next to the waiting room and took rest in a waiting room. The Dimapur railway station deos not have cloak room facility but have retiring rooms. 
Shatabdi Express arrived on time and we reached Lumding railway station at 5.30 p.m. by which time the night had set in. A good Samaritan in our coach who works for Indian Oil, guided us to take an autorickshaw outside the station for Hotel Global which was the best hotel available in Lumding at affordable price. He was right. The room was clean and spacious with a sofa, centre glass designer centre table, AC, TV and hot water with a double bed and one single bed, the tariff of Rs.1500/-. The dinner was very good being home cooked by one of the employees of the hotel who stays with his family in the hotel itself.
Gateway to  Rajabari Park where ruins of  10th century Kachari kingdom are kept in an enclosure. Dimapur was the ancient capital of Kachari Kingdom. Kacharis, the non-aryan tribals came to this part of India during 10th century and established theor kingdom covering a part of present day Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. Sometime in 15th centuries, Kacharas got converted in Hinduism.


One of the intricatelyy carved stone facets on the gateway to the ruins of Kachari Kingdom, Dimapur.
Ruins of the Kachari Kingdom are kept in an enclosure. Note the mushroom type tops on stone pillars of different sizes which are said to be seen only in this part of whole of south-south-east Asia.
Close up of a carved stone pillar with mushroom like top.

Intricatelyy carved broken stone pillars of Kachari ruins.
The 'Y' shaped carved stone. - Kachari ruins Dimapur
Seems to be an intricatelyy carved stone pillar - Kachari ruins, Dimapur.
Dimapur railway station entrance.

Now a few concluding observations about our visit to Kohima and surrounding places:
1. The local people in Kohima and elsewhere were extremely friendly and cooperative. Some of them not only guided us in our destinations, they, in fact, accompanied us up to the nearest points to our places of visits. Most of the local people know Hindi and English.
2. When we planned the trip, we were a bit apprehensive about securities as one point of time, there were insurgent groups operating in Nagaland. Eventhough, there were armed policemen almost every 100m in some of the promient roads in Kohima, we were never felt uneasy. In fact, on a couple of occasions, we took a short stroll in the night after dinner without feeling scared.
3. The main roads within the Kohima faced traffic jams especially during the morning and evening peak hours when traffic jams extended nearly one km of length.  It was a pleasant surprise to note observe that there was not a single instance of lane cutting despite the other lane being devoid of traffic.
4. Most of the shops in Kohima are shut by 8.00 p.m. A few shops which remain opened beyond 8.00 p,m, have grilled window to prevent possible robberies mainly be drunken men in the night.



Cholleti Kumar said...

You had a nice trip....Thanks for sharing the information.

Find accommodation facilities in Kohima, Nagaland

Dinnu Syed said...

Nice Trip and awesome Collection of Pics. Your blog is very beneficial for every reader including me. Really helpful ur experience for me to visit the Dimapur in this year. Can u tell me best month to visit Dimapur ? I can plan my trip and to see most Tourist Places in India.