Scattered across a series of ridges and hilltops, along the country’s north-eastern border with Burma, at a height of 1261 metres above sea level, Kohima is a pretty hill station, that could easily blow one away with its’ beauty. I can say this with conviction because I know the place well enough, having spent some of the best years of my childhood here, studying in a convent school, high up a hill that overlooked the rest of the town.
Kohima, named after a wild flowering plant called ‘Kewhi’, found in the mountains was also known as Thigoma once. Back in the days, it used to be very different. Traffic used to be thin and the population sparse. As the road carried us uphill and downhill through sharp twists and turns, we never failed to take notice of the beautiful churches that stood out – their tall, elongated roofs, occasionally springing up from nowhere, breaking the monotony of the identical government offices and staff quarters, giving the town its’ distinct identity.
Whenever anyone visited us, we were proud to take it upon ourselves to show them around Kohima and what better place to start than the Cemetery. The immaculate looking Commonwealth War Cemetery, still attracts hundreds of visitors today, at the site of a fierce gun-battle during the Battle of Kohima, where a beautifully laid out garden and manicured lawns houses the graves dedicated to the 10,000 soldiers of the Allied Forces, who lost their lives during the Japanese invasion of World War II.
The Nagas of today are very modern and have moved way ahead from their traditional way of life. If one fancies, the traditional Naga way of life, can still be seen existing in the villages, prominent among them being Bara Basti, which had and still has, the distinction of being the second-largest village in Asia. The entrance gate to the village and the Village Chief’s house would be adorned with traditional Naga art and buffalo horns, typical of all Naga villages. Also worth a visit is Khonoma, India’s first eco-friendly village, a Government of India sponsored a 3-crore project, focused on preserving trees and plants by an environmentally conscious community that believes going green is the only way forward.
The State Museum of Kohima is another attraction not to be missed especially if one is interested in rare artefacts belonging to different tribes of the state. The colourful traditional dresses of each of the tribes and the clan motifs displayed, the wide range of bamboo and cane artefacts, all reveal the rich cultural heritage of the state and is an excellent place to pick up a few souvenirs to carry back home.
Sightseeing in Kohima can never be complete without a visit to the Catholic Cathedral on Aradhura Hill, right next door to my alma mater, which happens to be one of the largest cathedrals in the entire north-east.
For those who love nature and are keen on trekking, a trip to Kohima can never be complete without setting foot on the picturesque Dzukou Valley, popularly known as the “Valley of Flowers of the North East”. The walk through the valleys and plains carpeted with exotic flowers is guaranteed to leave one mesmerised.
Blessed with a wonderfully pleasant climate, Kohima has been known for its’ unhurried pace of life, one that has always attracted travellers who wanted to get away from the hurly-burly of city life. Pleasant summers and light frosting in winters means that the climate never really reaches extremes. The city that was once home to the Angami Nagas and Rengma Nagas is today a melting pot of 16 different tribes and people from the various parts of the country, who have now settled there.
For all those of us who ever lived in Kohima at some point in our lives, Kohima remains unique to us, no matter where life has taken us and where we find ourselves today. All Kohimians remain loyally bound by a common connection and an irreplaceable love for the town that once was and will always remain ‘home’ to us.