Sinlung /
06 September 2013

After The Rains

By Anjana Palepu
Women pluck tea leaves at the Amchung garden in Assam. (Anupam Nath/AP/File photo)
Women pluck tea leaves at the Amchung garden in Assam. (Anupam Nath/AP/File photo)

Young Assamese dancers perform the Bihu, a folk dance from Assam, during Rongali Bihu celebrations, the festival which marks the Assamese new year and the onset of spring. (Anupam Nath/AP/File photo)

Young Assamese dancers perform the Bihu, a folk dance from Assam, during Rongali Bihu celebrations, the festival which marks the Assamese new year and the onset of spring. (Anupam Nath/AP/File photo)

The seven sisters is the wettest region in the country, receiving over 432 mm of rainfall every year. So there is a lot of relief that the monsoon is ending, making this the ideal time for a visit.

Different from the rest of the country, it is home to the biggest tribal population after Africa, with 168 tribes, many allowing you a peek into their world. While much of the region is still unexplored, rustic homestays allow you to break bread with the locals, while unusual adventures will see you going back for more. If you are planning a holiday, experts suggest you pack light and do not carry too many valuables as you may have to travel to remote areas by foot. Some attractions you cannot afford to miss:

Discover via taste traveling to the seven states can also be a culinary journey, with each state having a distinct style of cooking and local spices cooked in mustard oil. The Assamese staple diet is fish and rice with a range of pithas (rice powder cakes with sugar or jaggery) as dessert. Though chicken is considered taboo, duck eggs and a variety of fresh water fish are regularly consumed, cooked in little spice and oil.

Traditional Manipuri dining is a ‘sit-down’ affair with banana-leaf plates. Kabok is a traditional speciality — fried rice with vegetables and some basic spices. Iromba, another speciality, is a combination of fish, vegetables and bamboo shoots fermented and served on the side. You might want to treat the harmless looking Manipuri chilli with caution — it rates nine on the Scoville scale! In Meghalaya, the cuisine includes a lot of pork. Jodah is a spicy rice and pork dish eaten at any time of the day.

Kyat is the local brew of this region and adds zing to all celebrations.

Meanwhile, Sikkim has its own unique dietary culture with an infusion of Tibetan specialties like momos and thupka.

Don’t say no to their local millet beer – Tchang, usually served in  bamboo mugs. Wrestling and boat races each tribe is like a chiefdom, independent of each other, with different customs and rituals. The change of the seasons is celebrated across the seven states.

The most famous event is the Hornbill festival of Nagaland in December, where all Naga tribes participate. With over sixty per cent of the state directly dependent on agriculture, the festival is named after the Indian Hornbill, a large and colourful forest bird, that makes an appearance in tribal folklore. You can partake in cultural performances, sporting events and food fairs, in addition to the famous Naga wrestling. Book well in advance, as the accommodation in rustic homestays are in demand.

Assam celebrates Bihu every April, a selection of three different festivals where you can witness the traditional Assamese dance and share their local feast. The Boat Race festival in Assam, usual ly in September, is covered by tourists across the world. Historical evidence has suggested that boat races, a common feature during the reign of the Mughal empires, was revived in 1965.

Green escape, the world’s most eco friendly village, Mawlynnong in Meghalaya leads the way for earth lovers. Being the first village in the world to impose a complete ban on plastic, it has been voted as the cleanest village in Asia, complete with dustbins made of bamboo. Imphal boasts of a woman-only market where in addition to the local produce, you can shop for handicrafts and handlooms characteristic of that region. Architects, listen up. In the Kohima district of Nagaland, this is an open air museum features traditional style Nagaland buildings.

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