As the cultures of the seven states that make up the region are similar, they are often collectively referred to as the 'Seven Sister States.'
|Arunachal Pradesh |
An ethnically diverse state, home to several tribal groups and a large Tibetan Buddhist following. The territory, however, continues to be the matter of a border dispute between India and China.
Known worldwide for Assam tea and being the first site for oil production in Asia. Also home to numerous national parks, some of which are designated as World Heritage Sites.
Home to a diverse set of tribes, and credited with introducing the sport of polo to Europeans.
Known for having a capital that is often dubbed as the "Scotland of the East" and amazing, jubilant scenery. The state is one of the few Christian-majority states in India.
One of the most geographically isolated states in India, as well as being home to several tribes who have their roots in South East Asia. The state is one of the few Christian-majority states in India.
Home to 16 major tribes, the state has the distinction of being one of the few Christian-majority states in India.
One of the most isolated states in India and most populous states in the region. Many of the state's residents are ethnic Bengalis who fled from Bangladesh during the second Indo-Pakistani war.
Here are nine of the most notable cities.
- 1 Intangki National Park (Ntangki National Park), Nagaland — a wildlife park located in the Perren district. Home to several endangered species as well as other mammals and birds. Among them are the golden langur, white-breasted kingfisher, python and sloth bear
- 2 Kaziranga National Park, Assam — one of the oldest national parks in India with the largest habitat for Indian single-horned rhinos
- 3 Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh — (rain forest area) third largest national park in India with a large diversity of mammals and birds and for being home to the northernmost rain forest in the world
- 5 Nokrek National Park (Nokrek Biosphere Reserve), Meghalaya — a small population of red pandas reside in this park. It is habitat for the Asian elephant, species of cats and primates. It is also an important area for birds. Rongbang Dare Water Fall and Nokrek Peak are located in this park with tall, thick forest
With the possible exception of Assam, which is famous worldwide for its tea, this is the least-known region of India. Most of these states are populated by hill tribes, who have fought long insurgency battles with the central government. However, this has been on the wane in recent times, and now it is rare for outbreaks of violence to occur. (See #Stay safe.)
This area of the country is different demographically from the rest of India, which is partly shown by the nature of its religious diversity. While the great majority of Tripurans are Hindus and most Assamese are Hindus or Muslims, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland are overwhelmingly Christian, Manipur is almost equally divided between Hindus and Christians, and Arunachal Pradesh has a very slight plurality of Christians, with Hindus in nearly equal numbers and the indigenous Donyi-Polo religion, which combines shamanism and Animism, close behind. There is also a Buddhist presence, especially in places like Tawang that are close to the borders of Tibet and Bhutan. Tibetan cultural influence extends far beyond the population of practicing Buddhists, for example by influencing local foods in some parts of the North East. Given the unique cultural and social landscape, it helps a visitor to avoid patronizing questions about race, citizenry, or even food. Remember, these are seven diverse states with highly diverse legacies.
Geographically, again, Assam is a state apart, as it is centred around the valley of the broad Brahmaputra, whereas all the other states in this region are at least partly hilly, with some featuring tall snow-capped mountains.
This region of India has about 220 languages from multiple language families. English and Hindi are not universally understood, and below is a list of the official languages of each state which will help your trip planning to some extent:
- Arunachal Pradesh - Hindi, English
- Assam - Assamese, Bengali (in the Barak Valley), Bodo (in Bodoland)
- Manipur - Meiteilon, English
- Meghalaya - Khasi, Garo, English
- Mizoram - Mizo, English
- Nagaland - English
- Tripura - Bengali, Kokborok
The Northeast is not an easy place to enter, especially for Indian citizens. Since the second India-Pakistan war, travel has become a lot more complicated than what it was. Most states require you to have a permit to visit them.
Foreigners need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) to enter the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Foreigners are required to register with the Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) within 24 hours of arrival in Manipur, Mizoram or Nagaland.
Assam (Gopinath Bordoloi Airport, Guwahati), Manipur (Imphal Airport), Nagaland (Dimapur Airport) and Tripura (Agartala Airport) have direct flights from other parts of India (Delhi and/or Kolkata). There are two other major airports serving upper regions of Assam and neighbouring areas - Dibrugarh Airport and Silchar Airport. There are helicopter services to Naharlagun (14 km from Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh) and Aizawl (Mizoram).
There are good train connections from most of the major Indian cities to Assam. Incidentally, Assam is the only state in region with rail lines (barring Nagaland with one station-Dimapur). The important stations in Assam are Guwahati, Bongaigaon, Lumding, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh. The fastest train from Delhi is Guwahati-bound Rajdhani Express (28 hrs) followed by North-East Express (32 hrs) and Dibrugarh-bound Brahmaputra Mail (42 hrs), while the fastest train from Kolkata (Howrah) is Saraighat Express. The train track in Assam is not electrified and is a single lane, so delays are the norm.
There are narrow gauge trains to Arunachal Pradesh and Barak Valley area but they are very much prone to cancellation and delays and are not at all comfortable.
Improving the rail connections in North East India is a priority for the Central Government of India, and rail extensions are under construction.
All the states have good network of roads in urban areas. There are regular long journey buses from West Bengal to many north-eastern states. Self-driving is not a good idea as all roads pass through heavy forest reserves and areas infested by insurgents.
- Greener Pastures, ☏ . An eco-tourism company that promotes travel, conservation and sustainability in Northeast India. They provide tours that deal with tribal cultural exchange, wildlife viewing, extreme adventure sports, river cruises, history learning and tea stays.
- Kaziranga National Park. Famous for its one-horned rhino found nowhere else in the world. Elephant rides in the park make for a thrilling experience. Has accommodation cottages and restaurants.
North East India is famous for its delicious and ethnic delicacies. The cuisine includes world famous vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes. North East has earned accolades for the various dishes prepared from local herbs and spices. Apart from local dishes, it is also equipped with restaurants and hotels serving conventional Indian foods (both North Indian and South Indian). So eating is no problem for tourists.
If you are over the age of 25, you can drink alcohol in India. In North Eastern India, there are many refreshing alcoholic beverages that you can drink. Look for aphung (a rice-beer) in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, and zutho (a type of wine) in Mizoram You can find many of these in local markets.
NE India is completely connected with the rest of the world with excellent communication facilities with all the major telecommunication companies like Reliance, Vodafone, Airtel and BSNL.
In the past, the region gained a bad reputation due to separatism, tribal and sectarian violence, and militant activities. Since then, many of these activities have simmered down as many rebel groups have made peace with the Indian government, and the region is safe for travel.
In terms of personal safety, most travellers, including solo female travellers, will not face any major problems walking around the streets at night.
Driving in the North East is remarkably safer and more reliable than in other areas of the country. Drivers will not impatiently honk at you and most visitors can expect to cross roads with ease.
The North East has a plethora of distinctive languages and cultures that set it apart from the rest of India. Hospitality is a cornerstone of many of the cultures here, and many locals will go out of their way to make a visitor feel welcomed. For instance, it's not uncommon for a local to help someone out if they're in need of transportation or anything else. You may, however, be expected to give it back one way or the other.
The people from the North East have East Asian rather than more typical South Asian features. On occasion, this has caused some North Easterners to be teased and subjected to discrimination in other parts of India. So be prepared, and don't be surprised.
Although they may be casually used in other parts of India, terms such as "Chinki", "Chinese", "Nepali", "Chowmein", and "Momo" are seen as racial slurs in the North East.
In places like Mizoram, the church and other religious institutions play an influential role in society; respect that while you're there.
While the region is no longer a hotbed for separatism these days, political and social issues do persist.
Steer clear of discussing issues in the North East. A region which has largely been isolated from the rest of India, many residents there have endured a great degree of social problems such as racism and discrimination. Media coverage of the region is virtually non-existent, and many of the more well-aware Indians regard this as an incredibly embarrassing issue. Although much work has gone into integrating the region into the rest of the country, some North-Easterners may react with hostility and/or fierce debates depending on your views.