Jatinga, a small village in the hilly Dima Hasao district of Assam, is known for the peculiar phenomenon of birds ‘committing suicide’. The whole area is veiled by the mist and fog from the month of September onwards to the end of December, accompanied by winds and light rain. These are some of the conditions that are believed to contribute to the birds ‘committing suicide’.
However, contrary to popular belief, birds do not go there to ‘commit suicide’. The doomed birds that happen to migrate are, in fact, hunted down by the villagers. Bamboo poles and catapults are used to bring down the birds while in flight. Light sources are put up by the villagers to attract the birds. Any reasonable explanation as to why the birds get trapped in the winds and fog or hit trees on their way to seek a light source has not come up so far.
Records show that an astonishing 44 species of birds have been attracted to the light sources. Interestingly, the birds are not attracted to the entire Jatinga ridge but only to a well defined strip that is 1.5 km long and 200 metres wide. Invariably, the birds that the place attracts are not long distance migratory birds but resident ones from the adjacent hills and slopes.
Best time to visit: January to April, August to December
Places to stay: Advance booking with the district forest office in Haflong can help get you accommodation at the bird watching centre. Some people prefer to stay at Silchar which has budget hotels.
Nohkalikai in Meghalaya is the tallest plunge waterfall in the entire country with a height of 1115 feet (340 metres). Below the falls, a plunge pool of unusual emerald colour has formed.
Very few people are aware that the falls are part of a dramatic legend that led to it being christened Nohkalikai. According to local myth, the horrific tale starts with Kalikai (‘ka’ is a local prefix for women) who lived in Rangjyrteh, a village in Sohra, Cherrapunjee. Most people were engaged in the iron and ore business. Evidence of that is still strewn about the town with abandoned tools and basins. To continue with the story, Kalikai lost her husband immediately after the birth of their first child. As a result, she started to work to support herself and her daughter, ferrying iron between villages. Later, she remarried and this is where the story gets decidedly ugly.
Kalikai’s new husband was blinded by rage and jealousy with the way she showered affection on her daughter. In a fit of rage, he killed the child when her mother was at work and cooked her for dinner. Exhausted after a long day, she unwittingly ate the body parts of the child. Horrified by the realization of what she had done, she jumped off the cliff to her death. This is how the falls came to be known as Nohkalikai which literally means the ‘jump of Kalikai’.
Best time to visit: September and October
Places to stay: nearest option is Cherrapunjee which has an assortment of accommodation options from resorts, to cottages to home stays etc.
Shilloi Lake, located in Nagaland, is breathtakingly beautiful and shaped like a footprint. The serene Shilloi Lake has a very interesting myth about its origin. The story goes that a couple was working in the fields one day, leaving their baby girl in the hut. The cry of the baby compelled her parents to check on her but they found that the baby was missing from the hut.
A search for the baby led the villagers to the lake where a hand supporting the baby from underneath the water was seen. A unanimous decision to drain the lake to retrieve the baby was taken. But the work was stalled when the village chief had a strange dream; in his dream, a strange voice cautioned him against draining the lake, and warned that if he went ahead, it would be catastrophic. A number of villagers had the same dream, and, subsequently, the effort was abandoned.
A buffalo was also sacrificed to commemorate the incident, but to their astonishment, the same buffalo was found alive and grazing in the field. The villagers then concluded that the girl child was alive and today she is known as the ‘Queen of the Lake’.
Best time to visit: March, April, May and November
Places to stay: The Heritage Hotel (Kohima), it’s an old DC bungalow revamped into a hotel
Note: It takes around 5 and half hours to reach Shilloi Lake from Kohima, the nearest town
Kohima War Cemetery
Kohima War Cemetery has a very profound epitaph on the tombstone of a British soldier, which goes something like this, ‘When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today’. As most of us know, the purpose of the Japanese invasion was to overthrow the British rule in India, but they suffered one of their worst defeats at the hands of the British and Indian soldiers during the Second World War. This was the ‘Battle of Kohima’ and was considered so fierce that it was also called the ‘Stalingrad of the East’.
The war cemetery is home to around 1,420 graves and mainly built in remembrance of the soldiers. There is also a domed memorial structure at the top to commemorate 917 Hindus and Sikh soldiers cremated according to their faith. The cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Known for being one of the most popular inscriptions in the world, it is a very fitting tribute to a very noble cause.
Best time to visit: Summer when the weather is pleasant.
Places to stay: Aradura Inn, The Heritage, Razhu Pru
Mayong, located in Morigaon district of Assam, is a place of great historical significance due to it being the ancient seat of magic and mystery. The name Mayong or Mayang originated from the word ‘maya’ which literally means illusion. For quite a long time, this place was both famed and feared as a land where sorcerers and magicians have held sway for centuries.
But despite its illustrious history, it is fading into oblivion; even the people of the Northeast are unaware of its magical traditions. Stories of people disappearing into thin air, humans being turned into animals, taming of fierce animals, etc were commonplace in earlier times. Today, there are numerous archaeological relics and artefacts, including books on black magic at the Mayong Central Museum and Emporium. Visit it and get lost into a magical world where nothing is impossible.
Best time to visit: January to March, October to December
Places to stay: You can stay at Guwahati; Mayong is around 40 kms from the city.
Words: Payel Bhattacharjee