If you’re thinking of visiting the Seven Sister States of India, don’t hesitate.
The Seven Sister States of India, aka, India’s Northeast is famous for its gorgeous natural landscapes, humble people, and some very interesting local food. The Seven Sister States are home to several tribes who weave indigenous fabric that is unlike anything you have ever seen!
Let’s find out more about the Seven Sisters.
Who are the Seven Sisters?
The Seven Sisters is a collective name for the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, and Sikkim. And if you counted eight states, you’re right! Sikkim was included in the Northeast region of India after the popular name was coined.
India’s Northeast is famous for its breathtaking landscapes, diversity, rare and unique wildlife which captivates travelers all around the world. Each state has its own culture, customs, food habits, and more.
I consider myself fortunate enough to be able to call this beautiful region my place of birth. Today, I touch down on all the reasons why one must visit Northeast India at least once in their lives!
Nature in the Seven Sisters
North-East India, the land of undulating hills and plains with luxuriant green vegetation and a variety of exotic flora and fauna! These include several species of rare orchids too.
Believe it or not, each state is as beautiful as the other, each with its own culture and beliefs. Tourists have not yet discovered Northeast India, which explains the serenity and calm that is not usually associated with India.
Think babbling brooks, hills covered with lush forests, winding roads with no traffic and only the trees for company.
Bring a book or a notebook to doodle in, as your soul soaks up the warmth of nature. Drive into the countryside to be delighted by an undiscovered waterfall, or walk across a century-old bridge made of living tree roots (Take a look at this link here, if you don’t believe me!). Sit by the banks of the mighty river Brahmaputra (India’s only “male” river) and watch the orange sun set in the distance.
If you love to trek, head to the Dzükou valley, on the borders of Nagaland and Manipur. It is difficult to describe the views here in words. Take a look at the picture below, if you don’t believe me.
Meghalaya, whose name roughly translates to “The abode of the clouds” is famous for its waterfalls, lakes and hills. Mawsynram is the wettest place in the world and is a cluster of quaint little hamlets where it rains every day! Stop in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya and get some local shopping done, if you so desire!
Go marvel at the Elephant Falls and the Nohkalikai Falls in Meghalaya. Are you already planning a holiday in your mind, wondering why you didn’t think of the Northeast sooner?
A drive from Bomdila to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is a feast for the eyes, with magnificent views of the Gorichen Peak. The locals consider this mountain sacred. It is also one of the toughest treks in the seven sister states that make up Northeast India.
If in Sikkim, you must visit the Nathula Pass which is easily accessible from the capital city of Gangtok. Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the word is visible from Gangtok.
Manipur is home to the world’s only floating National park, the Keibul Lamjao National Park. Watch this video here if you don’t believe that such a place actually exists!
Food & Drink in the Seven Sister States
If you thought Indian food was only butter chicken and chicken tikka masala, think again!
India’s North-Eastern states have distinctly different food habits from the rest of the country. Rice is a huge part of the local diet, with many eating rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Most people from this region prefer to use minimal spices so that the freshness of locally grown organic ingredients can shine through. They also prefer to use fresh herbs like coriander and mint to flavor their cuisine, instead of relying on ground spices.
If you love pork, Nagaland is your personal brand of Heaven, my friend! Naga cuisine includes a variety of pork dishes such as dried pork, smoked pork with greens, pork with dry bamboo shoots, amongst others. ‘Akhuni’ is a trademark of Naga food, and while this fermented soybean paste is not everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly is a local favorite!
‘Momos‘ or dumplings with fillings of vegetables, pork and chicken are a staple food in the North-East.
When it comes to alcohol, many prefer a locally brewed rice beer called ‘Apong’. This beer is home-made and is free from chemicals.
While the food of Assam is also inherently spice free, the cuisine of Assam is slightly different from the rest of the region. Assamese people love “Khar”, a dish made of the ashes of sundried banana peels.
Fish curries made with tomatoes, seasonal vegetables and locally caught fish are part of every Assamese diet. “Xaak” or greens are very popular and varieties available change according to the season.
It is rare to find vegetarians in this region, which is ironic because North-Easterns love their vegetables. The Seven Sisters is home to many species of edible plants that are local delicacies.
Take, for example, the ghost pepper chili, once considered to the hottest chili in the world. You would rarely find local vegetables like the Elephant Apple and the Fiddlehead fern elsewhere.
Assam is also a global leader in the production of tea leaves. Assam tea makes for an excellent breakfast tea because of its strong briskness.
Culture of the Seven Sister States
Northeast India is home to more than a hundred tribes, each of whom speaks their own dialect and have their own traditions. Imagine the richness that each tribe adds to the overall cultural tapestry of the region!
Northeast India is traditionally an agriculture-based region, and many festivals celebrated are linked to the times of harvesting crops.
For example, the Assamese festival of Bihu is takes place throughout the year. However, it is when the rice crops are ready to be harvested in the fields that the most celebrated version called “Bohag Bihu” is held. Bohag Bihu signifies a time of abundance and joy. This festival also sees troops of dancers performing the local Bihu dance, celebrating the harvest.
The Khasis, an ethnic tribe in Meghalaya, hold an annual five-day long religious festival called KaPemblangNongrem, popularly known as the Nongrem dance. Locals perform this dance to appease their goddess, to ensure a bountiful harvest. Head to the official government site to know more.
Ever seen a bamboo dance, where men move multiple bamboo staves horizontally and vertically, and women dance between them? Manipur’s Cheraw Dance is a fascinating experience and must be experienced in person to be fully appreciative of the immense skill required. For now, content yourself with this, but I’d skip the first 30 seconds to get to the real deal!
Weaves & Textiles in the Seven Sister States
While in the Seven Sister states, don’t forget to pick up shawls, scarves and other clothing made from traditional handwoven fabric. These fabrics are an essential part of Northeastern culture, with each state producing unique weaves, often woven by hand at home.
Assam is famous for its silk, which comes in three varieties: Muga, Eri, and Pat. Muga Silk is often called “liquid gold” because it is almost as expensive and is treasured as gold jewellery for an Assamese woman.
Muga Silk is to Assam, what Champagne is to the Champagne region in France, with Muga Silk being a protected geographical indication (GI) to Assam. Read more about Assam silk here.
Textiles woven in Nagaland are often a beautiful combination of red, black and white colours. One can easily use these woven fabrics for coats, shawls and even bedspreads. These fabrics are readily available to buy if you want to take a slice of the Northeast back with you!
The weaving of textiles in the Northeast is mostly restricted to the women of the house. Men aren’t usually allowed to use the house loom, since many tribes have a myth that a man would lose his virility if he were to start weaving.
Tourist Must-Dos in the Seven Sister States
As if all the reasons above weren’t enough, here are a few more must-do experiences in the Seven Sister states of the Northeast!
Assam is famous for its Kamakhya Temple, which has enormous religious significance. The annual Ambubachi Mela, usually held in June, is a highly anticipated event. Lakhs of pilgrims make the journey from all over the country to worship at the temple. Many sages only emerge in public for this festival, while choosing to remain in seclusion for the rest of the year.
Don’t miss Nagaland’s Naga Heritage Village! Also called the Kisama Heritage Village, it offers an interesting peek into the traditions and rich culture of the Naga tribe.
For a surreal experience, head to the Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, established in the year 1681. Situated at a height of about 10,000 feet, this is the second-largest monastery in the world. Head to the official website here for more information on how to get there.
If you’re a nature geek, put Dawki, Meghalaya on your list and float down a boat on the translucent teal waters of the river Umngnot. Watch the fish go about their day and forget all the chores that await you when you leave this paradise!
While in Assam, a must-do is the Kaziranga National Park, one of India’s national treasures in terms of flora and fauna. Don’t miss the wildlife safari offered here! If you are lucky, you might even spot a one-horned rhino. You can choose to stay in the park itself or a nearby town and drive to the park for a day trip.
Whatever your reason may be to travel to new places, the Seven Sister States that make up Northeast of India gives you all those reasons and more! Head to this unexplored gem before the tourists discover it!
Also Read: 28 Things India Is Known And Famous For