On a bright sunny cold morning in Nagaland’s capital of Kohima, while we waited for our cab to take us to Khonoma, discussions were rife about the previous night’s grand finale at the Horn bill festival. The colors and festivities had pumped in excitement and we were only too eager to see what the days visit to Khonoma, Asia’s first green village, had for us.
The next two hours were spent on the a road, all the time two of us wondering if the roads can be any more worse. “Bhaiyya… aur kithna time lagega ” (meaning, how long before we reach) – we whined to the driver as while holding tight to the hand grips to avoid rolling onto each other inside the car from the non existent roads that showed no mercy to any vehicle plying on it nor the hapless souls trapped in them.
Also Read : Why Attend The Horn Bill Festival of Nagaland
Though the distance from Kohima to Khonoma is just 20 kms, it takes close to about 2 hours to get here, thanks to the roads under construction. And just when we thought the journey is never going to end, we saw the towering gates that told us we were in the Naga Territory. From here, everything that we saw and learnt, showed us why Khonoma is a model village to the rest of the world and a classic example to responsible tourism.
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Why Khonoma Is Different
Khonoma has etched its name into Indian history with its unbeaten prowess during the British reign in India. The Angami tribes fought a resolute battle with the British to safeguard their home and families and remained unbeaten until a truce was agreed between both sides that brought an end to the bloodshed. This tribe of Naga warriors bow to no one makes a bold statement to the rest of the world with words carved into the stone near the entry gates.
After we disembarked from the car and made way to the entrance of the village, and was greeted at the reception desk. The cost of visiting the green village is at Rs.30/- entry fee per person along with INR 500 for a guided tour of the village. A very happy and cheerful guide escorted us on our 2 hour excursion through the village all the while explaining to us the journey of the village from what it was to being declared as a green zone.
The Green Journey of Khonoma
Khonoma’s transformation as a green village is attributed to the constant efforts of a forest officer belonging to the Angami trible – Tsilie. Concerned by the negative impacts to the ecosystem caused by hunting which is ingrained into the Naga tribes and the constant felling of trees by timber merchants, Tsilie proposed dedicating a part of the village to forest conservation. These efforts spanned over a decade before reaching consensus through extensive discussions with the villagers and officials. When eventually the sanctuary’s foundation stone was laid, it was decided not to just stop hunting and tree felling in the sanctuary, but rather, in the entire village of Khonoma.
Most of the houses in this village are made of bamboo and the flooring, made of mud. The pathways are laid with stone and lined with beautiful bushes and flowering plants. The ample number of garbage disposal bins kept throughout the village ensures that there is no trash thrown around and the village has its own garbage management. Per our guide, water coming through the tap is clean ground water and can be consumed directly.
While we walked up the cobbled stoned stairways, we couldn’t help but notice how lush and green the surrounding hills were. Spread over 123 square kilometers, this village houses about 600 families. Everywhere we walked, we were greeted by curious but welcoming smiles. We crossed a household getting ready for a wedding celebration the next day. Beef and pork form the greatest part of their cuisines and it was only natural that we caught sight of all these animals in various forms and shapes of being prepared for the feast the next day. Our guide informed us that the late 1980s saw the introduction of Christianity to the village and since then most of the villages are followers of Christian faith and hence the weddings are done in the Christian style and ceremonies.
He explained to us how hunting is ingrained into the element of every Naga and how bold and drastic a step it was for them to decide to let go off the hunting and decide to preserve the eco system around them by going green. Most of the villagers resorted into cultivation for livelihood and the terraced farming style of this village along the slopes of the hills makes it a very unique sight to the visit.
Where to Stay in Khonoma
Since Khonoma can be visited in a single day, this can be achieved by making Kohima your base and travelling to Khonoma using a taxi or by one of the Govt buses which are very less frequent. But should you choose to stay in Khonoma and proceed to one of the nearby villages like Dzuleke, you can reach out to NEIDA for finding details on accommodation. There are no hotels or resorts available but few of the households do provide home stay options as a means of livelihood. Staying at one of these villages would let one experience the real feel of living the rural lifestyle. Keep in mind the fact that heating and other facilities can be minimal – do not go here expecting the luxuries that you may be otherwise used to.
These would be home stays that the villagers do on a rotation basis and you will be assigned to one of the households – quite a promising experience for those willing to take the road less traveled by.
NEIDA For Further Details and Bookings Contact:
Phone: +91 – 370 – 2260197 (9.30 am – 5.30 pm)
How to Reach Khonoma
The only mode of transport to reach these villages in the outskirts of Kohima is by the unpaved and quite tiring road journeys. Most of these roads are under construction work and hence you can expect delays. The distance to Khonoma is only 20 kms but it can take anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours to get here, thanks to the roads that never seem to be done of construction work.
Cabs can charge you anywhere up to INR 2000 for a ride to Kohima and back. The roads are in a bad condition and hence it leaves not much room for bargaining. There are government buses that are definitely cheaper but less frequent. Visitors might need to check the schedule of these buses once you get to Kohima. There are also shared taxis that ply in this route, but then you would also need to make sure you manage to find a ride back because Khonoma is isolated and you cannot get a taxi here unless you have prearranged for some means of getting back.
Entry Permit Requirements
Before embarking on a journey to Nagaland, acquiring the entry permit is a must.
Domestic tourists should obtain the Inner Line permit issued by the following authorities : Deputy Resident Commissioner, Nagaland House, New Delhi, Deputy Resident Commissioner, Nagaland House, Kolkota, Assistant Resident Commissioner In Guwahati and Shillong, Deputy Commissioner of Dimapur, Kohima and Mokokchung. We were able to procure the same by contacting our hotel staff at an additional price of about Rs.300/- per head by providing the details and ID proof scanned copies in advance.
Foreign tourists no longer require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) / Protected Area Permit (PAP) to enter Nagaland as the new rules only require foreigners to register themselves at the local Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) of the district they visit within 24 hours of their arrival. This is a temporary change in effect for one year.
Note: Pakistani and Chinese nationals still require an RAP/PAP for entry.
Why Khonoma is an Example
While we sit back and share stories and pictures of the amazon rain forests burning away, glacial melts, hurricanes and climate changes that are way too evident to not notice anymore, far away in a tiny village in North East India, years ago an entire village took a pledge to transform their tiny piece of Earth into a green patch. This meant they would need to let go of their traditional tribal instincts including logging and felling of trees and hunting for sustenance and replace those with environment friendly agriculture, farming and afforestation.
Khonoma of Nagaland is a lesson that the modern world needs to know, follow and implement. This remote village sends a message to the rest of the world – Growth and modernization should not come at the cost of the planet. For everything we take, we need to give back much more – and all of us – big or small – have a role to play. Plant a tree, make a balcony green, reduce plastic and segregate/recycle waste. Little drops make an ocean. And here is the story of such a village trying to make a difference in a world that is quickly forgetting why conservation is so important.
Save these pins to your India travel boards for eco- friendly tourist destinations