Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Places to visit in South Assam - Norht Cachar Hills District
NORTH CACHAR HILLS
Some call it a Magic land......
Some call it a Green Paradise......
& some, the God's Picture Book..
Each place of the district has something celestial & amazing to offer......
Journey through this land means to stir up your mind & kindle your imagination.........
Let's discover this wonderland ....
"The North Cachar Hills"
Up in the rugged terrains stands Assam’s only hill station Haflong, where one can see the rainbow down below. It is the Dist. Head Qr. of N.C.Hills District. The hills emerge from the heart of Assam like chorus of silent hymns & rise up to the sky like the crescendo. The sportive clouds play around the cliffs like gleeful children. The limitless green rolls away to distant horizon in a beautiful rhythm. Hilly Assam is a land of sensuousness. A heaven to the senses where one touches the sweetest dream with one’s finger. The mountains float in the distant sky. The clouds descend & snugly lie below one’s feet.
Where to stay : Circuit House,Dak-Bunglow ( Addl. Circuit House),Council's Guest House, Hotel Elite,Hotel Jayashree,Hotel Eastern.
What to wear : Heavy woollen in Winter. Cotton in Summer.
Other attraction: Exciting Trekking in Borail Hills, Traditional dances of the Tribals.
Just 9 kms from Haflong. World wide famous for bird mystery (Birds Harakiri). The migratory birds come during the months August to November & it becomes the ornithologist's attraction. From the elevated watch tower one can see them yielding to their death wish & their little plumage dropping down.
Located on the bank of the river Mahur and 53 kms from Haflong. Maibang once flourished as the capital of Dimasa, kachari Kingdom. Stone house & temple of Kachari king & other ruins of the kingdom are the main attractions of the place.
Where to stay : P.W.D. Guest House, Irrigation I.B.
112 km from Haflong & 224 kms from Guwahati .The huge Hydel plant has come up under North East electric Power Corporation(NEEPCO) with dams in the Kopili river.
Near Umrangso, there is a Hot spring( GARAMPANI),the water of which is believed to have medicinal value.
Where to stay: NEEPCO Guest House, P.W.D. Guest House,D.C.'s I.B., & other Guest Houses of Cement factories.
Approximately 120 kms away from Haflong, & 8-10 kms from Haflong Tiniali,The Kopili River turns into a thrilling waterfall, rolling over the rocks of Panimoor.
Where to stay : Forest Inspection Bunglow, PWD IB at Diyungmukh
Other beautiful places of N.C.Hills are
Laisong, Semkhor, Gunjung, Khorongma, Harangajao, Pathar Nalla waterfalls in the Khrungming Reserve Forest etc.
North Cachar Hills. . . . . . a heaven to the senses where one touches the sweetest dream with one’s fingers, mountains float in the distant sky and the clouds descend to lie below one’s feet. . . . .
Adoringly described by the visitors as 'Switzerland of the East', the North Cachar Hills is a district garlanded by hills. This dreamland of north-east is an unending saga of undulating hills and valleys, gently flowing streams and waterfalls, where the very breeze that wafts across the paddy fields and the bamboo forests is redolent with the fragrance of the land in which man and animal live in perfect harmony with nature.
Whether you travels by road or take the quaint train over the century-old track, the scenes that unfold in an unending procession seem like picture-postcards, crafted by gifted hands that understand something of the pristine beauty of nature. The towns and villages that come into view through the rolling mist and the clouds that float around blend so beautifully with the emerald-green landscape that the visitor begins to wonder how this paradise survived so long against the march of progress.
Waiting to be discovered are a hundred other wonders that seem one with the legends and folklore of the land and its people. A fascinating mosaic of ethnic, cultural and tribal mix, the people of N.C.Hills embody in their lives all the values derived from centuries of shared living on the lap of nature. Equally enticing is the flora and fauna of the land, which has the famed Jatinga village where, drawn by some mysterious alchemy of earth and sky, disoriented birds come in thousands in the cloudy months of September and October to a flaming tryst with the dinger.
Savouring the customs and traditions of the people, their colourful festivals and bazaars and their hospitality compete with the local brew makes a visit to NCHills doubly rewarding. The salubrious climate round the year, the leisurely pace of life and the bounties of nature all combine to beckon the tourists with the promise of an experience they would love to treasure.
The Tribes of N.C.Hills
The Dimasa Kacharis :
The Kacharis are the most widely spread tribe in northeast India. They are said to be the earliest inhabitants of the Brahmaputra Valley. The Kacharis belong to the Indo-Mongoloid (Kirata) group which include the Bodos and their allied tribes. They have prominent Mongoloid features with high cheek bones, slit eyes and a slight growth of hair in the body and scant beard. They call themselves Bodo or Bodo-fisa in the Brahmaputra valley and Dimasa or Dima-fisa or ‘sons of the great river’ in the North Cachar Hills & Karbi- Anglong district.
The Dimasa Kacharis greatly inhabit the northern half of the North Cachar Hills and ravines of the Jatinga valley and the adjoining tract.
The Dimasas believe in the existence of a supreme being Madai – Under whom there are several Madais including family deities and evil spirits. The religious practices of the Dimasas are reflected in their Daikho system. A Daikho has a presiding deity with a definite territorial jurisdiction and a distinct group of followers known as Khel. Every Dimasa Kachari family worships its ancestral deity once a year before sowing the next paddy. It is known as Madai Khelimba. This is done for the general welfare of the family. And Misengba is for the good of the whole community. They cremate their dead. The dead body is washed and dressed in new clothes, the corpse is placed inside the house on a mat. A fowl is thrashed to death and placed at the foot of the deceased so that it might show the deceased the right path to heaven. The widow does not tie their hair till cremation. The dead body is cremated by the side of a river or stream.
The Dimasa have a tendency to build their houses on hill slopes with a river or streamlet flowing nearby. The dwelling houses are built on plinth of earth – in two rows facing each other with a sufficiently wide gap in between.
An important institution of the village is Hangsao. It is an association of unmarried boys and girls of the village. It is organized for the purpose of working together in cultivation and lasts only for one year. Throughout the year, the members of the Hangsao work together in the Jhums cutivating by rotation an area of land at every member’s field.
Music and dance play an important role in the day-to-day life of the Dimasa Kacharis. They sing and dance expressing their joy at the youth common houses ‘Nadrang’ or at the courtyard of the ‘Gajaibaou’s house in popular common festival like Bushu or Hangsao – manauba. The female owner of the house, where the Bushu festival is held, is called ‘Gajaibaou’.
By using their traditional musical instruments like Muri, Muri-wathisa, Supin Khram, Khramdubung, they present their traditional dances named – Baidima, Jaubani, Jaupinbani, Rennginbani, Baichargi, Kunlubani, Daislelaibani, Kamauthaikim Kaubani, Nanabairibani, Baururnjla, Kailaibani, Homaudaobani, Rongjaobani, Dausipamaikabani, Daudngjang, Nowaijang, Dailaibani, Narimbani, Rogidaw bihimaiyadaw, Maijaobani, Maisubanai, Richibbani, Michai bonthai jibnai, Homojing ladaibani, Berma charao paibani, Mangusha bondaibani, Madaikalimbani etc.
The males put on the traditional dresses like richa, rikaosa, paguri rimchau and rimchaoramai to perform the folk dances. The females put on Rigu, rijamfini, rijamfinaberen, rikaucha, rikhra, jingsudu etc. and wear ornaments like Kaudima, Khadu, Kamautai, Longbar, Panlaubar. Chandraral, Rongbarcha, Enggrasa, Jongsama, Ligjao, Jingbri, Yausidam etc.
The dance forms of the Dimasa Kacharis are complex in character. They are strictly dependent on instrumental music. No songs are used. Khram (drum) follows the rhythm of the Muri (fife) and so also the dancers. Though one may find the music trilling from Muri to be monotonous, but there are variations with noticeable microtones for different dance forms. That is why young men practice dancing at Nadrang during leisure hours and the village kids follow the rhythm and stepping at a distance from an early age.
The Zeme Nagas :
The Zeme Nagas are distributed in North Cachar Hills and parts of adjoining Manipur and Nagaland states. They are classified by the anthropologists as one of the sub-tribes of the Kacha Nagas. The Zemes living in Nagaland call themselves Zeliang and those of the Manipur borders are known as Zeliangrong.
Originally they migrated from Nagaland via Manipur and settled down in the north-eastern part of N.C.Hills and south of Maibang, the ancient capital of the Kachari kings. They also settled as far as the bank of the river Kopili. With the decline of the Kachari power, the Zemes became easy victims of the depredations of the mighty Angami Nagas in the neighbourhood. As a result, some of the Zemes migrated to the west and settled in the hills beyond the Diyung valley. They speak their own zemi dialect and are living peacefully along with the other tribes like Dimasa Kachari, Kuki, Hmar for more than two centuries. The Zemes are well built, strong ang healthy with thick black hair and a fair complexion.
The Zemes have six clans – Napame, Nkuame, Heneume, Nriame, Sogame, and Pnma. Of them Napame and Nkuame are considered as belonging to the same clan and marriage between these two clans is not encouraged. The clans are exogamous. There is a system of bride price which is paid in terms of Mithuns by the bridegroom to the bride’s parents.
TheThe Zeme Nagas are animist and they believe in the existence of one supreme God and eight other gods under Him who are associated with health, water etc. They believe in witchcraft and black magic. They also believe in the existence of a spiritual world. When a man dies, they believe, he takes a journey to this spiritual world and provisions of food etc. are made for this occasion by keeping aside a share in a basket from the feast to the departed soul held by the realtives of the deceased. The deadbody is put in a coffin and buried. A flat stone slab with some markings is placed on the grave as a symbol of identification.
The Zeme villages are on the breezy hill-tops. Each village has dormitories for young boys and girls. The boys’ dormitories are called Hangseuki and the girls’ are known as Langseuki. All the young unmarried boys and girls spend the night in their respective dormitories. As soon as one is married he or she ceases to be a member of the dormitory which are considered as centers of learning as well as village recreational activities. The girls are taught weaving, spinning, singing and dancing etc. and the boys are taught wrestling, hunting and making of handicrafts. These dormitories also serve as guest houses.
Though a small section of the Zemes have been converted to Christianity, the larger section still honour their traditional festivals connected with agricultural activities and other social institutions. They celebrate some six important festivals during the year.
Youth dormitories play an important role in celebrating their festivals. The main festivals are – Heleibame, Sangbambe, Fokfatmi, Engkamngi, Siami and Kahagaba – mostly connected with agricultural activities.
Of the folk dances of the Zemes the popular ones are – Haripivelim, Johumpeselim, Kanguibelim, Kerapsaplim, Hakalim, Nbzchuinelim etc.
In their songs and dance performances they use their traditional musical instruments – Inchum, Hembeu, Inlubai, Kebuike, Metiyah, Inar, Kumtoi, Into etc.
The Zeme traditional male dresses are named as Injingni, Heni, Mopahai, Lauhepai, Khampefai etc. The young boys decorate their legs with rice powder paste and tie cane ropes just below the knee. The girls wear Mini Hegiangnine, Faimang, Faitik, Limfai and ornaments made of silver, brass and colourful bird feathers for the earlobes.
The Hmars migrated from China and settled first in Burma and scattered around Manipur, Mizoram and North Cachar Hills in Assam. They are of Mongoloid stock. Though the tribe is divided into exogamous clans but they do not strictly adhere to exogamy. Monogamy is strictly followed. Arranged cum Love-Marriages are preferred .
The system of bride price is still prevelant & the youngest daughter usually gets an extra price called 'Nuzum'. Earlier they practiced animism & their God was “Pathien” & sacrifices were offered for his appeasement. Now almost the whole of the tribe is converted into Christianity & they have built churches in their villages & religious rites are performed according to the tenets of Christianity.The Hmars built their villages on hill -tops & houses are constructed on wooden planks. Slash & burn system of agricultural practices is still at large amongst the Hmars.
Even after long years of migration from their original abode, the Hmars still adhere to their traditional culture through observing their traditional festivals connecting with agricultural cycle & other community rites & practices. Their cultural traditions are best reflected in their folk songs & dances. Khuong (drum) is the main part of the musical instrument. The other musical instruments are Pheiphit (whistle made of bamboo), Theihlea (bamboo flute), Darkhuong (gong), Darbu (set of small gong), Darmang (flat brass gong), Seki (set of mithun horn), Hna Mut (Leaf instrument), Perkhuong (guitar made of bamboo) etc.
According to the Hmar geneology, the following are the major clans. They are Lawitlang, Zote, Lungtau, Thiek, Khawbung, Pakhuong, Faihriem, Darngawn, Leiri, Ngurte, Khiengte, Pautu and Ngente.
The chief of their village council is called “LAL” .He is selected from amongst the youngest son except Leiri & Faihriem Clans.He is all-powerful and everybody follows his leadership and directive.
The Hmar womenfolk are great weavers in their tiny loin looms. They dye their homespun yarns into different colours and weave exquisite clothes for the family. Man and women wear different kind of clothes. Hmar – am is finely woven cloth for the aristocratic womenfolk, Tawn lo – puon is a breast cloth never to be touched by a man, Tharlaikawn is a body wrapper with coloured strips on the back for the women. Ngo – tlong is a white wrapper for women, Thangsuo – Puon is for the great hunters and heroes who have earned the title ‘Thangsuo” for valour, Rukrak – puon is a long wrapper for village aristocrats, Hmar – puon is a common cloth with black and white strips, Daraki is a dhoti for the malefolk, Paihar is a chaddar for men, Lukawm is a soft cloth for man’s headgear, Puondum is a chaddar for menfolk and Puon – Kernei is the finely woven breast wrapper for the village maidens.
The festival highlighting agricultural practices is Sikpuiruoi and Butukhuonglom. They express their happiness in Dar lam and Parton lam dances by rhythmic beating of the drums. To honour a great hunter they perform Pheiphitlam dance accompanied by melodious tune trilling from their flutes. To perform Fahral Tawk lam, they use bamboo poles like the Mizos (in their famous Cheraw dance).
The Hmars perform a number of dances –the Harvest dance is called Chon lam, the hunting dance is known as Salu lam and a privately organized festival dance is popular as Thangkawngvailak. The dancers, both boys and girls, put on their colourful traditional dresses and the boys wear headgear Tawnlairang made of bird’s feathers or Lukhum made of bamboo, and the colourful shawl called Hmar puon. The girls adorn themselves with ornaments like Kutsabi (ring), Banbun (bangles), Nabe (earings), Thi (Seeded Necklace), Thi val (beaded ornaments), Thi hna (beaded ornaments) etc, and wear exquisitely embroidered Puons, Puonbil and Zakuo.They rejoice in drinking ‘ Zu’ (rice beer) and the oldman and woman smoke in their ‘Tuibur’ pipes at their hearts content.
The Hmars are great hunters and while returning with precious games, they dance ‘Salu lam’ to mark their victory.
The Hmars love dancing so much that the very thought of the dance arena brings out the dancers in them. And they dance ‘Chon lam’ while proceeding to the arena.
The Kuki is a generic term for a number of mixed group of people who have migrated into India through Burma from central Asia. In Burma they are called Chin & in Indian frontier states they are best identified as Kukis.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India lists 37 number of tribes in the Kuki group of people in Assam. They are….
1. Baite or Biete, 2. Changsan, 3. Chongloi, 4.Doungel 5.Gamlhou 6. Gangte 7. Guite 8. Hangsing 9. Haokip or Haupit. 10.Haolai 11.Hengna 12. Hangsing 13.Hrangkhawl or Rongkhol 14. Jongbe 15. Khawchung 16. Khwathlang 17. Khelma 18. Kholhou 19. Kipgen 20. Kuki 21. Lienthang 22.Lhangunm 23. Lhoujem 24. Lhouvum 25. Lupheng 26. Mangjol 27. Misao 28. Riang 29. Sairhem 30. Selnam 31. Singson 32. Sitlhou 33. Sukte 34. Thado 35. Thangew 36. Uibuh 37. Vaiphei
Being of mongoloid stock the Kukis are strongly built in features and are stout. They are patriarchal in social organization and the sons inherit the property. Marriage among the Kukis are monogamous and cross-cousin marriage is preferred.
The Kukis prefer to live on the hill tops and their villages are cluster of houses closely constructed to protect from alien raiders. The village headman wields considerable power in their day-to-day life affairs. The headman is assisted by some wise man called Siemang and Pachong & all house-hold heads of the village congregate to discuss & resolve matters relating to the village & the community. Though Christianity has brought considerable changes in their socio-economic life, yet the Kukis still adhere to much of their old customs, laws and habits which their illustrious forefathers adopted from time immemorial.
The Kukis grow dwarf cotton and spun yarns for their own use. They use vegetable dyes in a myriad of hues and weave dreamlike designs mostly geometric in nature. The menfolk prefer colourful Sangkhol, a jacket & a pheichawm(short lungi or dhoti) and wrap a chaddar which is sometimes embroidered like a snake skin.They also wear head dresses viz., tuhpah, delkop.
The women adorn themselves with a nih-san( red slip) underneath a pon've(a wrap around) which was worn from above the chest. The ornaments included bilba( earings), hah-le-chao(bracelets & bangles), khi(necklace) & occassionaly bilkam ( a type of ring shaped earing to stretch the ear lobe . They split their tresses into two and wrap them over their heads into fine knots.
Both men and women enjoy smoking from their intricately crafted pipes named differently. Those made from stones and brass-metal is Sumeng golong, only made from brass-metal is Sum thin golong and those craved out of wood with a brass spout is called Gojung golong.
After the harvest is over, the Kukis observe the Chavang kut festival at the country-yard of the village headman. They perform traditional dances like Jongchalam, Malkanglam etc. to the tune of their traditional musical instruments – Khuong, Dahbo, Pheipit, Gosem, Dah-pi, Dah-cha, Pengkul, theile, theiphit,selki etc. Other festivals are Mim Kut, Sa-ai, Chang-Ai, Hun, Chawn le Han etc.
The participating families wear their traditional dresses Sangkhol, Khamtang, Ponmonvom, saipikhup and the malefolk adorn with Sangkhol, Delkop etc.
The harvest season is always a time for festivities, dancing and singing. The Kukis express the farmer’s happiness in Jongchalam by body breaks and rhythmic steps. And when the days of hard toil in their jhum fields are over, the Kukis rejoice while dancing Malkanglam.
Sagolpheikhal is a dance to express victory in war or in successful group hunting.
The Biates :
Believed to be an off shoot of the Lushai-Kuki-Chin group, the Biates migrated from Central China and entered India to settle in northern part of Mizoram from where they were pushed by later immigrants to present day North Cachar Hills in the early 19th century.
The Biates have their own dialect and cultureal traits which are expressed through many a festivals in different occasions. Among them the agriculral festivals like Cemchoikut, Pamcharkut, Lahangkut harvest festival observed by families separately Jolsuak and Salulam to honour the brave hunters of ferocious animals.
During the festive days they consume liberal quantities of Zu fsice beer while dancing and singing their traditional dances like Buontumlam, Kolrikhelam, Rikifacholam, Partonlam, Sulribum-lam, Thingpuilethluk-lam, Meburlam and Darlam in tune with their musical instruments named Dar-ribu, Jamluang, Rossm, Khuang etc.
Both the boys and girls wear their traditional dresses and ornaments during performance of these dances. The girls put a decorated cane ring as a head gear and drape their favourite Jakua, Choipuan, Puanbomzia etc. The boys wear Lukom Jakua, Diarkai etc. The girls ornaments include Rithai, Kuarbet, Bangun, Ritai etc.
On the first day of broadcasting seeds in their jhum fields, the Biate women perform Meburlam dance to please ‘Nbupathien’, their god for crops and bounty. They dance with bamboo tubes in their hands and touch each other’s in a rhythmic way.
After they return from the fields the women sometimes gather in a courtyard and dance dance Rikifachoilam, imitating the wild parrots pecking grains from their jhum fields.
In winter, almost all Biate women go to a nearby stream or riverlet and dance Tuipuilen thluk in praise of the legendary mermaids. They break their bodies like waves in a ocean in tune with the accompanying flute.
The Hrongkhols :
Differently described by the ethenographes as Hrangkawal, Rongkhol or Hrongkhol, this tiny group of people of the great Kuki tribe is scatteredly thriving in the North Cachar Hills. Mainly agriculturists, they practice jhum cultivation and build their houses on wooden slit and use bamboo profusely for the floor as well as the walls and thatch for the roofs.
The womenfolk use puans dyed in black and relish smoking from tiny but elaborate smoking pipes like those used by the Mizos of the southern districts.
The Hrangkhols observe the harvest festival called Rual-Chapak and invite the spring season through Parangat festival.
‘Parangat’ means flower. When the spring comes, flowers bloom everywhere. The Hrangkhols observe Parangat on a full moon day. The festval begins in the vening and continues till next morning. Except the main entry to the village, all other paths are closed for the day. The youngmen collect wild flowers from the nearby forest and offer them to the oldest man of the village in adecorated busket. And thereafter they greet each other and welcome the advent of spring. They sing and dance the whole night with drinking bouts of rice-beer in the silvery moonlight.
Like other hill tribes, fish is a symbol of prosperity to the Hrangkhol. They imitate community fishing in their Soksolkirlam dance. It is a rhythmic expression of their prayer for health and happiness.
The Hrangkhols present a special dance ‘Bhailam’ to welcome honourable persons into the village. The male dancers wear Churia, Kamis, Lukom, Changkaltak and the female participants wear Ponbomtak, Ponamnei, Kongkhit, Thepbop etc. They use cornaments called Jakcher, Chumhrui, Lirthei etc.
In these festivals the performance of songs and dance are the main attractive items. They participate in their folk dances known as Darlam, Doinkini, Rochemiam and Soksollam. They play on their traditional musical instruments like Dar, Cheranda, Rochem, Theile etc.
Jatinga, famous for the phenomenon of birds “committing suicide”, is located on a spur of the Haflong ridge, the head quarter of the district. It itself is an offshoot of the main ridge of the Borail range. It is centrally located at the junction of the roads leading to Haflong, Lumding and Silchar. Here the mist & fog lie like a veil around the beautiful face of the damsel from September to November. During these late monsoon months, mysterious behaviour of birds takes place. However, some other conditions are also necessary for the phenomenon to occur. The air must be foggy, cloudy or misty. If there is slight rain, it would be even better. The wind must be from south to north. It should be moonless dark nights. And the best time is between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Curiously, most of the doomed birds do not attempt to fly away after they land near the lights. They look dazed and disheveled, perhaps due to the trauma of the whole shocking experience. Such birds fall easy prey to the villagers. Some of the birds hovering around the light sources are brought down by a vigorous swing of the bamboo poles. Catapults are also used to bring down the birds in flight as well as those perching on the trees and bushes near the light sources. However, contrary to the popular belief, birds do not commit suicide. Under circumstances not yet fully explained, these birds get caught in the fog and wind, get disoriented and seek solace of the light sources put out by the villagers. They hit against trees or other objects and get injured in their flight towards the light source. The villagers hit the hovering birds with bamboo poles or catapults to bring them down
Various studies have been conducted to unravel the causes behind this phenomenon. The record maintained show that 44 species have been attracted to the light sources. It has been established that the birds are not attracted to the entire Jatinga Ridge but only to a well-defined strip, 1.5 km long and 200 metres wide. Invariably the birds come in only from the north and attempts at placing the lights on the southern side of the ridge to attract the birds have failed. Another interesting fact has been brought out is that no long distance migratory bird gets attracted to the light traps. The victims are resident birds of the adjacent valleys and hill slopes.
The unusual behaviour of the birds seems to occur due to the peculiar weather conditions at Jatinga. There also appears to be a correlation between the breeding period of the birds and the Jatinga phenomenon. Studies also reveal that the flight of water birds to Jatinga may be attributed to heavy rains and floods and submergence of their natural habitat in the surrounding areas. It has been observed that there was a high congregation of birds at Jatinga during 1988 which happened to be a year of high floods. Renowned ornithologists Dr. Salim Ali, Dr. S.Sengupta, A. Rauf etc have carried out researches on this subject. However, no single hypothesis comprehensively explains the Jatinga mystery till date. The problem deserves deeper scientific study from various angles.