Breaking Barriers, Beyond Borders: the Naga Village named Longwa

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That the north eastern region of India is a diversive wonder of natural beauty and amazement is a surprise to none. Especially since the region is not as connected to the Indian mainland geographically, it poses as a delightful offbeat terrain to tread for exploring travelers and nature enthusiasts. And indeed, in its wide panoply of offerings that range from the hues of nature to the zest of culture and of course the allure of uniquities galore, north east India is one of the most vibrant lands you can set your foot on for a truly enriching travel experience to cherish.

In its harmonious coexistence with seven of its sister states, the extreme eastern stretches of the country throws up an array of vivid presences, similar yet strikingly different in its landscape, in its essence and in its encompassment of all things exotic. For here is a paradise hitherto unexplored, beckoning all to come and feel the magnificence of its swaying glory, of its many exuberant melodies and of course its chasm of eccentric charms. And one such rather fascinating escapade of sorts where you can do all that you fancy, unbounded and unclaimed is a particular picturesque village nestled in the small mountainous state of Nagaland.

The Longwa village in the Mon district of the state is no doubt a trail of never ending beauty. Serene yet adventurous, pretty commonplace in its lush natural abundance yet all the same quirky in its distinction, this is a village unlike any other you would have ever treaded into. Sure, there rests a tepid tranquility in the hills surrounding the village, the air still is one of simplistic indulgence and nowhere will you quite encounter the quiteness typical to far flung tribal villages like you will do in Longwa and yet this is a place surreptitiously peculiar, even in its popular front! Such is the allure of this quaint existence in nature that you cannot help but feel as if you have escaped into some different land in your quest of the extraordinary here. And why indeed, of course you have!

One of the largest villages in the district, Longwa resides in an identity exclusive to its own. The scene witnessed here is no different than that you would commonly encounter in any other rural setting- large traditional wood houses with thatched roofs. But even in its commonplace geographical identity, Longwa harbours an integrity less deciphered. Surprisingly however, even as a village that falls along the India- Myanmar international border, Longwa isn’t exactly one of the last Indian villages like Turtuk, Chitkul and some other hamlets that lie on the threshold. Longwa instead is more spectacular, for its locational advantage means that it crosses very much over the border to also sit some of its expanse in India’s neighbouring country of Myanmar!

In its dual seating characteristics, the Longwa village also endows its inhabitants with as distinctive an identity. The villagers here enjoy dual citizenship courtesy their homes in a place that is so uniquely steeped in a saga of harmony. Which means they can cross over into foreign territory even within the village at will! In a world that is so geographically restricted and territorially marked with the most stringent of measures, it indeed is an esteem only the Longwa villagers can boast of- of not being regulated by travel rules and visa norms, of not yielding in to the hostility that generally marks international borders.

But even in its unexampled specimen of such a distinctive reputation, perhaps the most fascinating of all the Longwa hearths and homes is that of the chief of the village, known as the Angh. The hereditary king or head of the village, it is the house of the Longwa Angh that is of particular importance when it comes to manifesting the duality in its entirety. For globetrotters forever lunching at one place and resting in another, the Angh would be no different from someone of their clan. With a house that resides half in India and the other half in Myanmar courtesy the Indo- Myanmar border that runs right through it, the Angh asserts his supremacy as the real leader of the village. Also as understandably a tourist attraction, there is the influential King’s house that is on the radar of pretty much everyone who dares to venture into this quaint land of oddballs and eccentricities and of course also of a lesson in civilised coexistence.

It however is not just the Angh’s house that is a spectacular assertion of the twin identity that Longwa is known for. The chief has to his name other claims to fame, the most prominent being him having some 60 wives! Additionally, the Angh also rules over some 60 to 70 villages that lie in either country. This peculiar assertion of autonomous power also leads to Longwan residents enjoying the right to vote in elections on both sides of the border. No wonder tourists to this far flung village retreat are also accorded almost similar status that allows them to venture beyond India and into Myanmar for a travel experience that would be forever etched in memory.

The charms of Longwa however are not restricted only to its geographical exclusivity. The village is home also to India’s last head hunting tribe, the Konyaks, who also are the largest of all tribes inhabiting Nagaland. In fact in their visible tattooed presence, these are the people also starkly feared for their head hunting reputation. A warrior tribe, the Konyas however have long been forced to forfeit their head hunting tradition, particularly since the 1960s when Christianity began to take root in the state. But the village of Longwa continues to be home to the last surviving Konyak tribesmen, some of whom still retain their tattooed appearance that is as much an assertation of their identity as any other. In harbouring also a distinctive cultural and ethnic identity therefore apart from its distinguishing physical attributes, Longwa undoubtedly is one of north east India’s most startling relevations- and one that comes about with much restraint and quite a bit of adventure.

konyak headhunters
Source: Mint

Speaking of adventure though, apart from the bumpy rides to Longwa amidst the hilly terrains, the village remains shrouded in a mystery of intoxication. Much like its cloud shrouded environs, Longwa remains under an air of addictive sniffs. In its close locational quarters with Myanmar, the village has thrived as a vital place where getting high on opium is perhaps one of the most favorite of past times. Specially in the famed Angh house, opium dictates the way of life day in and day out and is seen as a particularly prospective catch for tourism.

Longwa indeed is then no less phenomenal an existence of a state known for its vibrant Hornbill Festival. As in fact one of the most popular festivals of north east India, Nagaland rests in an identity stemming from this most extravagant of celebrations. But there sure are aspects of the state that are no less enticing, like the facade of fascination we just discovered. Step on therefore in this Land of Festivals to unearth the lores of Longwa- a mystery like no other!

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