Nagaland is a land of picture post card landscapes, lush and verdant flora, inhabited by 16 major tribes, who have hundreds of years of tradition as valiant warriors.
For centuries the tribes fiercely fought off any intruders and, in between, kept themselves busy by fighting each other. The antagonistic tribes were also geographically isolated from each other by steep mountain ridges, rivers and gorges, and have therefore retained their distinct cultural identities and languages. Today they communicate with each other in `Nagamese' (a sort of market Assamese), or use English.
The Nagas are famous, because only some 50-60 years ago they were still headhunters (although there are also reports about rather recent head hunts). The Nagas needed human skulls, because they believed that only with these skulls they could guarantee the fertility of the fields and the people. Only a successful headhunter was allowed to tattoo his face and body, and as a demonstration he could wear a brass head on a necklace for each head that he had seized.
Most Naga villages are perched defensively on top of ridge tops guarded by ceremonial gates. The morung, a meeting house, acts as a boys' dormitory, and is used for storing weapons and once displayed the prizes of war (enemy heads). The huge sacred drum which stands by each morung is a hollowed out trea trunk carved to resemble a buffalo's head.
In the old days the villageÂ´s chieftain, the Angh, built his house at the highest point. Then the missionaries came and converted Nagaland into a state with more than 90% Christians. They demonstrated their power by building churches heights greater than the AnghÂ´s house.
Originally, although they revered natural `spirits', the Nagas believed in a single overseeing but unknown superforce, and hence readily accepted the Christian Gospel quite readily. The bible was translated into many of the Naga dialects (nearly every village has a church), yet the people have retained many of their old customs.
The Nagas have changed their tribal ways over time, though. One cannot expect to see people dressed in tribal clothes everywhere because a lot of people have adopted the western code of dress. Tribal costumes are usually only worn on festivals and other special occasions. Nagaland is fast modernizing but the Nagas still retain their tribal culture and values.
Dimapur is the commercial center of Nagaland, and the main entry point into the state. Nagaland's only airport is located there, with flights to and from Kolkata and Guwahati. Dimapur is also the only city in Nagaland to be connected by train with the rest of India.
Kohima, the state's capital, and the tribal villages of Khonoma and Touphema are the main places of interest in the Kohima district of Nagaland. The big traditional Hornbill Festival is held in the first week of December with various Naga tribes converging for a week-long cultural, dance and sporting celebration, much of it in full warrior costume.
town is the third most important urban hub in Nagaland. It takes around six hours to get there from the Nagaland capital, Kohima but Jorhat, in Assam, is exactly half the distance away. The district is home to the Ao tribe, which holds their celebratory Moatsu Festival during the first week of May each year.
You can find traditional Nagaland particularly in remote villages in the Mon district of northern Nagaland. The town of itself is not especially an attraction but it is a perfect base for visiting nearby Konyak villages where you can still find elderly men with tattooed faces, feathered head gear and traditional dresses.
In a move widely welcomed, the policy which requires special permits for travel in some areas of North East India has been dissolved as of 1 January, 2011. Now, only a valid visa is necessary for tourists visiting Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland. However, travel to Arunachal Pradesh will still require special permission.
Foreigners no longer require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP). However they must register themselves at the local Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) of the districts they visit within 24 hours of arrival.