Kohima is the hilly capital city of India’s Nagaland state, perched at an elevation of 1,500m above sea level. It looks so remote on the map as to be inaccessible, and indeed it has retained a strongly independent cultural identity despite clashes with more powerful British colonial rulers and neighbouring states. Hidden in the far north-eastern reaches of India, the picturesque state of Nagaland is bound by Assam in the west; Burma in the east; Arunachal Pradesh in the north and Manipur in the south, forming a part of what are known as the Seven Sisters, the seven states of North East India, full of rolling hills and verdant rain forests.
The Naga people, comprised of 16 proud tribes were once headhunters. The tribes retain much of their traditional and cultural heritage visible in their elaborate costumes and ritualistic headdresses which incorporate tiger tusks, bear skins, hornbill feathers and other symbols. These are proudly shown off and celebrated during the annual Hornbill Festival at the beginning of December when all the tribes come together for 10 days of festivities. It is during this festival that The Ultimate Travelling Camp set up their seasonal Kohima Camp, providing a comfort-class but immersive experience for visitors in mobile luxury tents.
One of Kohima’s most famous sites is the moving and well-maintained Second World War Cemetery. This cemetery is a tribute to the soldiers who fought a decisive and bloody battle at Kohima during World War II which changed the course of the war. The Japanese had taken Burma and were advancing into India when British forces, skilfully assisted by Naga troops, finally forced them to retreat at Garrison Hill in April 1944. Overlooking the cemetery is the Cathedral of Reconciliation, which was built in 1965 and partly funded by the Japanese government. Kohima’s State Museum, just north of her bazaar, is another site of interest with exhibits including an anthropological collection of Naga masks, textiles, jewellery and totem pillars from the 16 Naga tribes.
Kohima can be reached by plane from Calcutta to Dimapur or from Delhi to Dimapur via Gauhati in Assam State, followed by a winding drive up the mountains.
The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.
G. K. Chesterton
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