Hills of Manipur

States of northeast India

Author: Atul Kaura
Date: 2020-04-07

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Northeastern region, which is popularly called Northeast India, is a collective name for the easternmost states of India. It comprises eight states – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, and Sikkim. The northeast of India shares international border with Tibet Autonomous Region, China in the north, Myanmar in the east, Bangladesh in the south-west, Nepal in the west, and Bhutan in the north-west. It is surprising to note that northeast of India which comprises of an area of 262,230 square kilometers just about 8 percent of that of India, and is connected to the rest of India by one of the largest panhandles in the world the Dooars of North Bengal.

After India got Independence in the year 1947, the northeast of India consisted of Assam with its capital as Shillong along with princely states of Manipur and Tripura which were deemed as union territories. In the year 1963 Nagaland and Meghalaya were carved out of Assam as separate states of Indian Union along with union territory of NEFA (Northeast Frontier Agency). This realignment of states in Northeast of India took the tally to states to 3 with 2 union territories. In the year 1971 Manipur & Tripura were granted full state hood. NEFA was granted state hood in 1975 as the state of Arunachal Pradesh while Mizoram as separated out as a state in 1987 out of the large territory of Assam taking the tally of states to 7 in Northeast of India. This gives the sobriquet of Seven Sisters for the Northeast of India. Sikkim was integrated as the eighth Northeastern Council state in 2002, which till 1975 was a separate Himalayan kingdom.

Historically Northeast region of India was never under any foreign rule even the moguls, who are considered to be the first to rule all over India, were not able to take Assamand make inroads in northeast of India. The Northeast of India was an entity of independent kingdoms till the British took control of Assam. The Northeast region of India was mostly under the rule of local kingdoms – Ahoms, Dimasa, Kamrupa, Koch in present day Assam, Kangleipak Kingdom in Manipur, Twipra Kingdom in Present day Tripura and The Namgyals of Sikkim. Northeast of India is the only region of present day India which was active battlefield during the Second World War.


Ujjyanta Palace Agartala

Geographically the Northeast of India is quite unique; it has the eastern Indian part of Himalayan range in the north covering the states of Sikkim & Arunachal Pradesh, forming the border between TAR China in the north. The Indian sub Himalayan ranges of the Patkai, Barail Range in Southeastern Arunachal, Naga Hills, Lushai Hills of Mizoram and Jampui Hills of Tripura form the border between the northeastern states of India and Myanmar. While the lower hill ranges of Garo, Khasi and Jaintia form a natural barrier between Bangladesh and northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya. The entire Northeastern region of India is surrounded by mountains on the north, east and south with a valley in between. The plains in between these mountains have the one of the largest river system in India the Brahmaputra along with the Barak River. With high rainfall in the entire northeast of India almost 65% of the geographical area of Northeast is covered with forest with as many as 28 National Parks and Wildlife sanctuaries in the region.


Brahmaputra River

The hills states of the northeast region of India like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland are predominantly inhabited by tribal people with diversity even within the tribal groups. The present northeast Indian population is a result of ancient and continuous flows of migrants from Tibet, Indo-Gangetic of India, the Himalayas, present Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Today northeast of India has over 200 ethnic groups with as many languages. This ethnic diversity of Northeast of India has resulted in a plethora of art forms both in dance as well as music. In terms of performing arts the northeast region of India has contributed the dance from Sattriya from Indian state of Assam along with Manipuri dance (Ras Lila) from Indian state Manipur to the listed classical dances of India. Northeast of India also have produced great maestros infield of music – Sachin Dev Barman from State of Tripura, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika from State of Assam along with a huge number of artist in the Indian film industry. With the younger generation of the northeast of India attracted towards western music, popularity of folk blue singer Rewben Mashangva, from Indian state of Nagaland along with folk singing band called Tetseo Sisters from the same state is on the rise in India. The Shillong Choir from the Indian state of Meghalaya is one of the best in the worlds and has been performing world over.


Ras Lila Manipuri Dance Form

With over 200 ethnic communities in northeast of India, the cuisines of northeast of India are also as diverse. Food from the northeast of India has an influence due to the Trans migration by Tibetan from the north, Thai and Burmese and South East Asian in general from the east and Bengal from the south. The British also left a mark on the local cuisine as they started with the tea plantations in the northeast of India with state of Assam. Each of the states from northeast of India have a typical cuisine Arunachal & Sikkim have a Tibetan influence with steamed or boiled food a lots of usage of meats, while the Naga food is similar with a Burmese influence. Northeast Indian cuisines of Assam, & Tripura have the influence of Bengal with usage of fish and meats and mustard and chilies as main spice, while the Khasi cuisine has a tribal touch and usage of fermented foods. Almost all the hill tracts of northeast of India have usage of fermented food in some form or other. Northeast Indian state of Manipur on the other hand has evolved a different cuisine of its own with usage of locally grown greens and fresh water fish from its local rivers and lakes.

North Eastern Himalayan region of India has great diversity of bamboo which is abundantly found in Arunacha, followed by Mizoram Meghalaya, and Manipur. Bamboo is used in every aspect of the life in the northeast from making houses to bridges to implements for different uses to weapons for hunting. This makes northeast of India one of the richest regions in India for Cane & Bamboo handicraft. Northeast is also famous for its handloom be it the cotton from Manipur & Mizoram or the Silks from Assam. There is always a unique souvenir to carry from any part of northeast of India

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