On the Myanmar border, south of Arunachal Pradesh and east of Assam, NAGALAND is physically and conceptually at the very edge of the Subcontinent. Home to the fiercely independent Nagas, its hills and valleys were only opened up to tourism in 2000. One of India’s most beautiful states, it was once renowned for its head-hunters but is now ninety percent Christian.

When the British arrived in neighbouring Assam in the mid-nineteenth century, they initially left the Naga warrior tribes alone. But after continued Naga raids on Assamese villages, the British sought to push them back into the hills. The Angami warriors (a Naga tribe) defeated the British twice, but were finally overcome in 1879, and a truce was declared. The British later came to hold a certain authority here; the Nagas remained loyal during World War II and fought valiantly against the Japanese invaders. At the time of Independence, the Nagas found their land divided into two, with the larger area falling to Burma. Gandhi asked them to remain within India for ten years, promising them choice of destiny thereafter. His promise was never fulfilled, and more than sixty years on, the Nagas are still fighting for a homeland. Though a ceasefire is officially in place, violence continues – a bomb in 2004 killed seventy people in Dimapur, the largest attack in recent years.

A visit to a Naga village provides a fascinating insight into a rapidly disappearing way of life. Most tour operators will arrange trips here, but some Nagas are tired of having their homes on show. If you do visit, bring a gift and ensure your guide speaks the relevant dialect. You should also offer money for the village to the chief (or angh).

Traditional Angami villages surround the capital of Kohima, including Khonoma. From Mon you can see various Konyak villages such as Shangnyu. The Ao tribe inhabits Mokokchung, while Tuensang is home to six different tribes. The state’s terrain is also ideal for trekking and mountain biking – Gurudongma Tours & Treks arranges trips. A good time to visit the state is during the Hornbill Festival (w, held in the first week in December, which showcases Naga art, dance, music and sport. You’ll need a permit to enter Nagaland.

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