Seven Sisters- North East India
The seven states of North East India (now
eight with the inclusion of Sikkim) are (clockwise) Assam,
Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and
Meghalaya. It is only connected to mainland India by the 22 kms.
wide Siliguri Corridor and is elsewhere bordered by Bhutan,
Tibet, China, Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh. Opened to visitors
a couple of years ago, positive moves are now being made to
Only Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura can be visited without PAP
(Protected Area Permits) or RAP (Restricted Area Permits).
Getting them is possible but not easy for independent travelers
though no problem for groups traveling with an Indian Tour
Operator who will do all the paperwork. It is advisable you take
help of a local tour operator in getting this much needed
permits done through in case you plan to travel individually.
Over 250,000 sq. kms.
English is commonly spoken by all. Other
languages spoken are Assamese, Hindi and about 100 tribal
Brief History :
The people of the region are a mixture of Aryan and
Mongoloid origin, most of the tribal groups racial origins being
visibly those of the peoples of Tibet, Burma, Thailand and Laos.
They consequently have little in common with the rest of India.
Whilst some of the more accessible regions
came under British Administration under the Raj, much of the
region, being covered in mountains and jungles and home to
warring tribal groups such as the notorious 'Naked Naga'
headhunters remained off-limits. Although some tribal people
fought with the British and Indian forces in the decisive
battles in Nagaland that turned back the Japanese in WWII,
political unrest continued after Indian Independence, with head
hunting raids persisting in remote areas into the 1960s. The
situation was further exacerbated by the Chinese incursion into
Arunachal Pradesh in1962 when they reached as far as Assam,
their gateway to India, before running out of supplies and being
pushed back to Chinese Occupied Tibet.
Throughout this time, the seven states
continued to suffer from ethnic violence and even today, there
are still some freedom movements from both the Bodos of Assam
and the Naga people though they no longer seem to receive much
popular support. There are also tribal struggles between the
Kukis and Nagas of Manipur and similar unrest in Tripura.
Additionally, there are some border incursions, particularly
from Myanmar and an influx of migrants the area can ill afford,
from Bangladesh and Nepal.
Apart from Assam, it's all up or down, with almost no flat
land! Trapped at the eastern end of colliding tectonic plates,
deluged by monsoon rains, gouged by great rivers and covered in
jungle, travel is not easy! Altitudes vary from 6800m along the
Tibetan border down to less than 100m at Guwahati on the
Brahmaputra River, which cuts through the eastern Himalaya,
having its source at the sacred Mt. Kailash in Tibet. Elsewhere,
the hills are mostly around 3 – 4000 mtrs. in height, divided by
steep sided jungle-filled ravines often 1 - 2000m in depth.
In the numerous National Parks, you will see elephants,
one-horned rhinos, various deer, wild boar, otters and a variety
of birds. Tigers, clouded leopards and snow leopards are also
there but very elusive.
Adventure activities :
Climbing, trekking, rafting, caving and paragliding.
How to get there :
Gateway to Northeast India is Guwahati which is conveniently
connected from Delhi & Kolkata. Once in Guwahati, you can easily
connect to other north-eastern cities by Air and Road.
Clothing and equipment :
Warm woollens for winters (November to February) and light
clothing for the rest of the season. Climbing gear is obviously
essential if you are heading for the big Himalayan peaks. A good
sleeping bag is invaluable in Arunachal Pradesh, and a head
torch. And if you are going trekking, consider taking a compact,
Chloroquine and Proguanil are recommended against malaria though
much of the time you are likely to be over 20000 mtrs. and
malaria free. Water purifiers are useful, if not essential if
drinking from streams. Insect repellents and after-bite creams
are worth considering in jungle terrain. If going above 4000 to
5000 mtrs. take appropriate altitude precautions.
Best time to visit :
It all depends what you are into. September to April avoids
the monsoon and is the best time for most activities. September
is generally the best time for flowers, following the rains.
October- November is harvest time. The rivers are at their
lowest by springtime but still have enough Himalayan run- off to
guarantee a good rafting trip. Festivals happen in all states
throughout the year. The Naga Hornbill Festival in early
December is excellent though no doubt others such as the Buddha
Mahotsava Festival in Tawang in mid October is equally
remarkable or you may just bump into some traveling troubadour.