On the Edge of India (Northeast) March 2014

On March 23, 2014 by keirobyn
Konyak Chiefs

We used our last spring break in India to travel to the North-Eastern states of India.  We were very happy to visit, as the Northeast is the only large region of India we hadn’t been to.  It’s not the easiest place to travel, as not all of the roads are great, so it takes awhile to get around. In the past, you also needed a lot of permits, but this is not so common anymore.  We visited the main city (Guwahati), the National Park of Kaziranga and Nagaland.

Kaziranga is a fantastic park.  It’s known for having the majority of the worlds’ remaining one horned rhinos.  We did four safari’s with the Hamiltons, seeing lots of rhinos, elephants, birds and deer.  Our enjoyment of the area was in no small part due to the hotel we stayed at – Wild Grass Lodge.  This is one of our favorite lodges in India. No TV, pool or wifi – just clean, quiet and friendly – a charming hotel.  We stayed for three nights in a cottage.  When passing through again after Nagaland, we stayed in a room in one of the main buildings  which was charming.

I didn’t think we’d make it to Nagaland as we didn’t set anything up before getting to Wild Grass. However, permits can now be obtained at the Nagaland border and Wild Grass organized a car and driver for us.  I was hoping the trip would only take us 5 hours or so, but it took 10!  The closer we got, the slower we traveled!  However, the trip got interesting as we got closer.  We were traveling to and around Mon, a Konyak (tribe) area.  The people looked Burmese to me (we were on the border of Burma), the hills and countryside were beautiful and the villages were mainly constructed out of thatch.

The Konyak people were super friendly, particularly because we had Zoë with us, who was the source of a lot of interest.  We visited two small villages (Longwa and Singha Chingnyu), in addition to the main town of Mon, where we stayed for two nights.  The villages each had a bunch of long houses. The houses were very simple inside, and very clean.  In each village, we had to visit the chief of the village. Longwa seemed to have lots of men smoking opium while the women did all the work, including a lot of manual labor, like carrying HUGE bundles of firewood.  Singha Chingnyu had a lot of skulls in their village museum; these are from head hunting times, which stopped in the 50s and 60s.  A few old men with facial tattoos were still around, identifying them as headhunters.  Today, the people have mostly converted to the Baptist Church (!).

We spent our last day in the big city of Guwahati, where we visited the Kamakhya Temple.  When Sati’s disintegrated body parts fell to the earth, her yoni fell on Kamakhya hill.  The temple is now the center of tantric and fertility worship.  It holds a large, mostly female festival in the summer time.  The main shrine of the temple features a 1 foot wide depression (the yoni) which is fed by a mountain spring.  The temple is unusual in several respects.  It’s mostly red, instead of orange, symbolizing menstrual blood.  The pilgrims mostly wear red and the entire temple grounds are a hue of red, because during the big festival red colored water flows everywhere.  Also, goats are regularly sacrificed  which was a bit unnerving for me to see.  (Robyn and Zoë did not see that.)

Our last big trip in India, and one of our favorites!

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