The Kohima city is the hilly capital of India’s north-eastern state, Nagaland and also an unexplored gem of India. Kohima was originally known as Kewhira. The name, Kohima, was officially given by the British as they could not pronounce the Angami name of Kewhira. It is called after the wild flowering plant Kewhi, found in the mountains.
It is popularly known for its ten day long festival of festivals, Hornbill. It is one of the most culturally diverse states of India with 16 different tribes and each having their own language as well as the traditional dress. Unfortunately, very few of us know about Kohima and its people.
The city is as beautiful as a dream with lush green hills and moderate temperature all the year round. The summers are almost non-existent and winters are also not extreme. One can live without a fan in summers and heater in winters.
It rains heavily from May to October but there is no water clogging or slush due to the property of soil here. The day view and night view are completely different and breathtaking. The reddish-orange sunrise at the backdrop of green hills is as mesmerizing as the night view which resembles thousands of lighted diyas floating on the hill.
The people are sweet, simple and contented in life. Their creativity and fashion sense never fails to amaze you. The females enjoy unparallel respect and freedom. Eve-teasing is almost non-existent and females can wear what they want to without getting judged.
Their Sunday mornings are dedicated to church prayers and community service. Their unmatched passion for football is proven by the presence of at least one football ground in the remotest of village. Same holds true for the churches as the major religion in Kohima is Christianity which is practiced by 80.22% of the population.
Music is said to run in their blood and almost all of them can sing or play music. The average literacy level is also quite high and stands at about 90.76%
Apart from the exquisite weather, view, and culture, there are few places which are worth experiencing. The places such as War Cemetery of World War II, Kohima Cathedral with the biggest wooden cross in Asia, Nagaland State Museum depicting various cultures of Nagaland, Kisama Heritage Village (Venue of Hornbill festivities), etc are particularly exhilarating. There are even beautiful trekking destinations like Puliebadze peak and Zuku Valley nearby.
In 1944, during World War II the Battle of Kohima along with the simultaneous Battle of Imphal was the turning point in the Burma Campaign. This hand-to-hand battle prevented the Japanese from gaining a high base from which they might next roll across the extensive flatlands of India.
The Kohima soil is believed to become red with blood. Kohima War Cemetery has the pious remains of the brave soldiers who laid up their live to protect the border of our country. The Allied war dead were very young and belonged to different religions such as Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, etc. It is beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
There is a world famous quotation known as Kohima poem which says here, “When You Go Home, Tell them of us and Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.” The depth of these lines gives you Goosebumps. It is believed that tons of arms and ammunition is still buried within the soil of Kohima.
Kohima Cathedral is one of the biggest cathedrals in North East India. Its splendid architecture makes it one of the important landmarks of Kohima. The unique design created by blending the traditional with the orthodox resulted in an architectural marvel. Its façade is shaped like a traditional Naga House. The actual work began in 1986 and the dedication and consecration of the church was done in 1991.
The lion‘s share of the three crore financial expense came from Japanese, who wished the church to be a place of prayer especially for the Japanese war victims who laid down their lives for their nation in the Second World War battle fought in Kohima.
This is affirmed in the prayer inscribed in English & Japanese script in the Cathedral Campus.
“…It is with thankfulness that we heard that Catholic Cathedral was being built at Kohima, where mass would be offered every morning in memory of the fallen…”
The internal sitting capacity is of 3200 people. It has the largest cross made of single wood in Asia. The magnificent crucifix carved in wood and is 16 ft high. It is the presentation of Jesus’ final journey with the cross, the last journey to Calvary. The fourteen stations, pose a real replica to the faithful with its beautiful arrangement on the slope of the hill leading up to the Cathedral. The roof has beautiful stained glass painting depicting various meaningful messages for human beings.
Nagaland State Museum is a place which provides you the luxury to explore different cultures of Nagaland under one roof. One of the major attractions of this museum is the collection of rare artifacts of all the 16 tribes that inhabit the state. Some of the artifacts exhibited in this museum are clan motifs, precious stones, necklaces, traditional attires and inscriptions.
This art gallery also showcases the Naga Morung, which are the hut models that display variance of architecture between the tribes. Musical instruments made of bamboo and buffalo horns are also on display in this museum.
Hornbill Festival and Kisama Heritage Village are synonyms of each other as this ten day festival (1st to 10th December) is extensively celebrated on this huge venue. This festival is named after the bird Hornbill which is mentioned in the folklore of most of the state’s tribes however the bird is rarely spotted now.
During this ten day festival the place is buzzing with traditional dance forms, international tourists, traditional art exhibitions, traditional sports, flower exhibitions, diversified traditional wood and craft shops, kids arena, locally grown fruits and herbs, literature fest, mouth watering cuisines and above all different Morung (Hut) occupied by different tribes.
There are couples of different tribes in their traditional attire and friendly smile, more than happy to be clicked. Naga King Chilly Eating competition is an event that cannot be missed. Additional attractions include Konyak fire eating demonstration as well as Hornbill International Motor Rally and WW-II Vintage Car Rally.
Not only this, you can smell the hear the festivity in the air of Kohima with local and International Rock bands performing and night bazaars everywhere till 9 AM every day. The hill city is decorated with Rainbow colors and remains so till the change of new calendar year.
Finally, I would just say that if you have not been to Kohima then you are definitely missing something in life. Go and Explore!