WELCOME TO NORTH EAST INDIA
- An article by M.P. Bezbaruah, Permanant Rep (Hon), UNWTO and Member, North Eastern Council
“This land is not like our land, its sky is not like our sky. Its rivers are beyond limit and estimate like the mind of the wise”.
Thus wrote Mullah Darvish of Herat who was, three centuries back accompanying Mir Jumla’s invading Mogul army to Assam. The North East of today of eight states is largely the Assam of yore.
The Ministry of Tourism describes the North East as the ‘paradise unexplored’. But no one phrase or word can truly describe the beauty of the place. No rainbow can fully capture the myriad hues of culture, craft and ethnicity of the North East.
The region is one of the world’s bio-diversity hot spots. Forests cover 52 per cent of the region’s geographical area. The tropical lush green forests and hills have a fresh vitality about them that set them apart. To illustrate this, a story is often related of a British forest officer who lost his walking stick in the jungles. Next day when he went looking for it, he found it sprouting—so fertile is the soil!
Here the rivers sing, the leaves whisper and the rocks tell stories. The people are as colourful, music vibrates and folklores abound. This region has about 900 species—or about three fourths of all the bird diversity of India. Out of about 1000 species of orchid varieties identified in the country about 500 rare ones are found in Arunachal Pradesh and more than 400 in Manipur. The entire North East is dotted with dozens of game sanctuaries and national parks— the most famous one being Kaziranga World Heritage site, habitat of the world’s largest one horned Rhino population and the world’s largest population of the Eastern Swamp Deer.
Unique as the land is, the beauty of the North East is its variety. The states differ in ethnicity, topography, climate, culture, heritage and tradition. Within each state again there is bewildering variety, making the North East always an exhilarating and unique experience. Tribal population predominates- the percentage ranges from 19 to 95. The density of population also varies from 13 per sq.km to 345 per sq.km. Out of 635 tribes in the country, more than 200 are in the North East. They speak many languages—about 200, not counting may be another 200 dialects. Yet, in this variety there is a strong common bonding.
Mahatma Gandhi once said “ Assamese women can weave fairly tales in their looms’. This statement is true in all senses for the whole of the North East. In the unique tribal loin loom weaving the weaver becomes a part of the textile—transferring the strength of the warp and the weft through movements of the waist to which the loom is tied. The exquisite designs also often tell a story. If textile is the artistry of the people, cane and bamboo work is a way of life. Throughout history, in their struggle for coexistence with nature, the Northeast people developed a bamboo culture –using cane and bamboo for every possible needs of daily life, weaving their imagination into the baskets of exquisite designs and craftsmanship. In inaccessible places of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, even today one can see marvels of workmanship and engineering sense in long cane and bamboo bridges across rivers of swift currents. It indeed is a world beyond.
The Brahmaputra is like the life line of the North East, sustaining, along its numerous tributaries, the life and ecosystem of the region. Along the Brahmaputra in the plains of Assam are more than 700 tea gardens spreading a green carpet, continuing the tradition of the famous Assam Tea since 1835. And one of the oldest refineries in the world - Digboi refinery which started the process of exploitation of gas and oil reserves of the region in 1890 is still going strong.
From the snow capped mountains of Sikkim, to the rugged hills of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram, the rolling meadows of Meghalaya, called the ‘Scotland of the East’, and the verdant plains of Assam there is surprise at every step in the diversity of the landscape of the North East. No wonder, through the centuries, every migrating race and every invading army coming to the region has been saying that this land is like no other land.