Thursday, January 3, 2013

Final rest at the ridge of the Mountains in Kohima, Nagaland

As most folks know, the purpose of our trip to India was for Mike to participate in an artist residency in Nagaland. Nagaland is a far eastern Indian state in the foothills of the Himalayas that borders Myanmar to the east and is still relatively unknown even to Indians.

Nagaland has a completely separate ethnic, religious and political history as the rest of India. It is made up of 16 distinct tribes (with many more sub-tribes) that until about 100 years ago lived isolated in these rugged subtropical mountains. They survived as warriors, small-scale rice cultivators and hunters with little to no trade with the Kingdoms of Assam and Manipur around them.

The Naga tribes had/have distinct dress, language and customs and lived throughout the subtropical hills and valleys of Nagaland. They are known for hunting, colorful festivals, skilled weaving, wood carving and also for "head hunting." The tribes fought frequently and the more human skulls a warrior accumulated--particularly of children and women--the more respect and power he earned.

About 150 years ago the Southern Baptist missionaries came to what is now Nagaland to convert the Naga people. (This is also about the same time that the British came to colonize this area--but I will write more on the later.) The missionaries were quickly accepted and Christianity became a powerful, unifying influence. The embrace of the southern Baptist, conservative Christian faith began a rapid process of modernization and a move away from tribal warfare. Still today, Nagaland is the largest Baptist state in the world. Religion plays an integral role in the formation of the Naga community. In fact, the word Naga (which also has an unrelated and separate meaning in the Hindu faith that worships the snake Naga spirit) only came into existence 150 years ago when the Souther Baptists came. 

So back to our journey here. On December 27, after two flights, a long layover in the loud and unpleasant Kolkata (Calcutta) airport, we landed in Dimapur, the transportation hub of Nagaland. Our lovely host, Theja, picked us up and drove us on a three-hour, windy and bumpy car ride up into the mountains where the Nagaland capitol, Kohima, sits on the ridge of green, subtropical mountains. After the grime and chaos of Delhi, the chill and confusion of Agra, and the exhaustion of the nearly 36 hours of cumulative travel time from our home in Washington, DC—it was brilliant to rest in the Nagaland hills of Kohima. 

Though we are 10.5 hours of difference from Washington, DC, the time distance is more like 12 hours (India has one time zone despite spanning nearly as wide as the U.S. from east to west.) We are literally on the other side of the world.

Here are some photos of where we are staying.

Stay tuned for more photos and posts about our Nagaland experience in coming days. (Internet is spotty. So expect delays:)

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