During my high school years spent at the residential (Baptist) Carmel Residential School in Tezpur, Assam, I had the opportunity to make friends with many boarders who hailed from the state of Mizoram. Since quality education still eluded many in the state of Mizoram, these chinky-eyed Mizos would come in droves to get themselves educated at the renowned Carmel Residential School, which was a name to reckon with in the educational landscape of North East India.
The typical Mizo youth loves Western music and Rock bands like Aerosmith, U2, AC/DC, Metallica, Guns & Roses, and Bon Jovi are household names in Mizoram. They are predominantly Christians and fun-loving. During our Christmas holidays, instead of heading home, I would pack my rucksack and move to Aizwal, the capital of Mizoram with my Mizo friends.
The breathtakingly beautiful state of Mizoram is sort of a finger-like extension in the extreme Southeast of India and pokes down between Burma and Bangladesh. In the local parlance, the name “Mizoram” means the land of the hill people, “Mizo” for man, and “Ram” for land.
The violent insurgency movement under the leadership of Laldenga’s Mizo National Front culminated peacefully with the signing of the “Mizoram Accord” on June 30th, 1986 with the government of India. While the government undertook steps for the resettlement and rehabilitation of the underground MNF personnel, the MNF in turn took the necessary steps to end all underground activities.
The peace-loving people of Mizoram have for some time now been exposed to complex, modern civilization. Head hunters were exposed to writing and debate, the hill tribes were initiated into the comforts of tropical and woolen garments, nomadic tribes who had not even handled a bullock cart were trained to drive jeeps and trucks, the practitioners of “Slash-and-Burn” or “Jhum Cultivation” were introduced to permanent cultivation, high-yielding crops, and irrigation. And all these in one or two generations, which has resulted in the average Mizo being well off.
The first-time visitor to any Mizoram village will be completely taken aback by the Mizo people’s tradition of worshipping spirits, both ancestor spirits as well as the deities of the village. The Mizos believe that the destiny of the universe is in the hands of one god – “Khazangpa”. He lives in the sky, punishes evildoers, and gives handsome rewards for good deeds.
Mizoram is predominantly a Christian state. The impact of Christian missionaries on the Mizo population is spectacular. They have undergone profound changes as a result of the spread of Christian ideals among them. Christianity taught them the value of peace, tolerance, and co-existence. The age-old practice of head-hunting and internecine feuds are now a thing of the past.
Christian ideals of universal brotherhood and modern education, as well as the availability of the Bible in the local language, brought the Mizo tribes out of seclusion and isolation. The familiarization of Mizo people with new ideas, coupled with the subsequent independence and democratization of the polity, has taken them into the modern world, with all its strengths and dangers.
Most visitors to Mizoram try to coincide their visit to Mizoram particularly during the festival season. Check out with the Department of Tourism with regard to the exact festival dates. Not surprisingly, a majority of the Mizo festivals are in some way or the other connected to agriculture. Their festivals are conspicuous by melodious music and dance.
Of special importance is the festival of Chapchar Kut, which is a riot of colors that celebrates the advent of spring and the successful clearing of the “Jhum” debris. Often, you will come across a few Western tourists who are unable to hold their instincts join in the celebrations much to the delight of the festival crowd.
The festival of Mim Kut and Pawl Kut too are very popular with the tourists as well as the general public. While the former is dedicated to the harvesting of Maize, the latter is a post-harvest festival that takes place between December-January.
One of the best ways to discover the fascinating Mizo countryside is a drive to a remote village. The Mizo tribes in the villages live mostly in bamboo huts. Most villages are situated near a rivulet, stream, spring, or waterfalls. Some villagers have found an innovative way of supplying piped drinking water to their houses, courtesy of their specially designed bamboo pipes.
The capital city Aizwal is the domain of the Christians and there are elegantly designed churches at each and every corner of the city. Evening time is by far the best time to savor the myriad delights of Aizwal city. As dusk descends on the city, the tooling of the church bells resonates the entire city. 6 P.M. is the time when the whole of Aizwal goes to worshipping mode. The churches are choc-a-bloc with their share of the congregation and from a vantage position from a city hillock, one can view the breathtaking panoramic view of a city dotted with millions of lights.
On a typical day in Aizwal, you will find its bazaars bedecked with all kinds of electronic items, gizmos, handicraft items, and curios. Most visitors to Aizwal prefer to buy shoes both foreign-made and local. They are a craze with the tourists.
For the avid cultural freak, there is the charming village of Kulikawn where you will come across traditional Mizo women trading in piglets in intricately woven baskets. If you have the energy, you would do well to climb uphill to Chaltlang, which is located at a height of 3,713 feet and is easily the highest point of Aizwal. The view from the top is mesmerizing as you can see the bustling city spread like a well-woven carpet. Nighttime is the best time to be here when the city springs to life.
Traveler’s Fact File
Getting There | By Air
The nearest airport is at Lengpui which is an hour’s drive from Aizwal city. It is connected by Alliance Air (a subsidiary of Indian Airlines) to Calcutta. Hired cabs are easily available at Lengpui airport.
The nearest rail station is at Silchar, in the North Cachar Hills, Assam. From Silchar, it is a 6 hours drive to Aizwal covering all of 184 Kms.
By road, the journey is arduous. You take the National Highway 40 from Guwahati to Shillong, the capital of the state of Meghalaya, and from their hit the National Highway 44 to Silchar, and from Silchar, you drive all the way down to Aizwal on the National Highway 54.
The city of Aizwal offers a multiplicity of accommodation options to suit every budget. Here you will not come across the usual 5-star deluxe hotels that are a feature of metropolitan India. The accommodation units are at best sketchy. Apart from the government-run Berawtlang Tourist Complex, there are numerous private hotels like Hotel Chief, Hotel Ritz, and Hotel Royale all with attached baths, running hot/cold water, an in-house restaurant, and personalized room service.