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East India: A Mini Continent of Hidden Wonders

To the North the Himalayas, the Bay of Bengal to the South, and lush green riverine plains and dense forests covering the land in between – Mother Nature unfurls to her full glory in East India.

The seven states of East India – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura – or the Seven Sisters are famous for their diverse groups of ethnic tribes, grand festivals and mouthwatering cuisine.

The rich history of Bengal and Odisha make them the most culturally affluent states of India in literature, art, music, and festivals. The sweet delicacies abundant in these two neighbouring states will leave you asking for second servings.

East India is a treasure trove for nature lovers and a treat for the souls of those who seek unique and diverse cultural experiences.

East India: A Mini Continent of Hidden Wonders

To the North the Himalayas, the Bay of Bengal to the South, and lush green riverine plains and dense forests covering the land in between – Mother Nature unfurls to her full glory in East India.

The seven states of East India – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura – or the Seven Sisters are famous for their diverse groups of ethnic tribes, grand festivals and mouthwatering cuisine.

The rich history of Bengal and Odisha make them the most culturally affluent states of India in literature, art, music, and festivals. The sweet delicacies abundant in these two neighbouring states will leave you asking for second servings.

East India is a treasure trove for nature lovers and a treat for the souls of those who seek unique and diverse cultural experiences.

WHERE TRADITIONS COME ALIVE IN FESTIVE FRENZY

Walk on the streets of India and ask anyone about how cultured and creative the people from the eastern side of the country are. You will surely get an overwhelming response saying how great they are in art, music, rituals, creative works and festivals.

The ‘Cultural Capital of India’, Kolkata is the gateway to the wonders of East India and is a treat in itself. The ‘City of Joy’, an alias of adulation, hosts the most extravagant festival in the country – Durga Puja. During the four days of the festival, people hop from one pandal (creative installations for the goddess) to another and share laughter and joy with friends and family.

Similarly overwhelming is the Rath Yatra or chariot festival in Puri, the coastal town in Odisha and home to the Hindu deity trio – Jagannath, Balaram and their sister Subhadra. Millions of devotees flock the city to see the deities out on the street and tug the ropes that pull their chariots on the road.

Two festivals that have recently gained popularity are the Dree festival in Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh and the Hornbill festival in Kohima, Nagaland.

Hornbill, celebrated in the first week of December, is a great opportunity to witness the diversity among the tribes of North-East India as all the major tribes come together for this festival.

The Dree festival is celebrated in the first week of July just before the monsoon sets in. A traditional dance is performed by residents of the Ziro valley and as a symbol of good harvest, cucumber is distributed to all present.

THERE’S NO FEAST WITHOUT ‘EAST’

When one hears Indian cuisine, seldom does one think about the East Indian delicacies. However, amid the crowd of kebabs and buckets of biryanis, East has kept its recipes to itself and made a firm name at the world stage with its healthy and wholesome range of cuisines.

If you love fish, East India will feel like Disneyworld! From the quintessential Bengali Maacher Jhol to the Assamese sweet and sour dishes such as Tenga Masoor, you will be spoiled with choices.

The smoked pork cooked with bamboo shoots is a signature preparation of Nagaland. Pork with Akhuni (fermented soya beans) or Anishi (fermented yam leaves) are some of the other delicacies.

MAGNIFICENT MOUNTAINS OF EAST INDIA

Protected by the Himalayas at the North, the eastern part of the country has a unique geographical identity. Kan-chen-zonga, commonly known as Kanchenjunga, is the third highest mountain in the world. Situated in the quaint little state of Sikkim, Kanchenjunga stands tall with its snow-capped head glowing gloriously at sunrise.

Darjeeling, a small hill station in West Bengal, is nestled in the midst of large tea plantations. Clouds touch hotel rooms in this high hill station and the view of Kanchenjunga from the Tiger Hill is a sight that will leave you awestruck.

Known as the ‘Queen of the Hills’, Darjeeling was once the largest tea exporter in the world (now it’s Assam). The famous toy train ride from New Jalpaiguri station to Darjeeling is and the Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway (DHR) has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Time stops at Gangtok because of the peaceful ambience it offers. The view of the mountain ranges is so clear that you will be tempted to extend your stay.The capital of Sikkim is a hill town famous for its Buddhist culture. Rumtek Monastery, one of the holiest Buddhist monasteries where the Dalai Lama visits each year, is located on the outskirts of Gangtok.

The greenest state of India, Sikkim also boasts of another hill station that has a picturesque landscape – Pelling. Being closer to Kanchenjunga, Pelling is famous for its unique view of the third tallest mountain in the world.

Further to the East, Garo, Khasi and Jaintia hills adorn the landscape of the Seven Sisters. Shillong, the former colonial town and now the capital of Meghalaya, is aptly called the ‘Scotland of the East’. This hill station is famous for its beautiful architecture that resembles the Celtic houses with chimneys, stone walls, and vines growing onto the old walls will make you rethink where you are.

“YOU MAY NOT SEE THE TIGER BUT THE TIGER HAS SEEN YOU”

Home of the famous Royal Bengal Tiger and the critically-endangered one-horned rhino, East India is a jungle lover’s paradise. It is agreed among researchers that the variety found in animal and bird species in East India can be rivalled by very few regions in the world.

Travellers from around the world visit the Sundarbans National Park to catch a glimpse of the Bengal Tiger. The illusive predator seldom offers a sight so much so that there is a saying among locals (who regularly encounter the beast) that one may never see the tiger but the tiger has definitely seen you. Enough to chill a human spine!

The Kaziranga and Nameri national parks are also among the favourites of wildlife enthusiasts as the endangered one-horned rhinoceros can only be found in the jungles of Assam.

YOU ARE NEVER TOO FAR FROM THE WATER

Riddled by rivers and caressed by the Bay of Bengal, East India is never devoid of water. You can enjoy boat rides on the Ganges or the Brahmaputra or spend a leisurely afternoons on the quiet, serene beaches. 

If you are a fan of long beaches where you can enjoy golden sunsets and palm trees,  in Odisha or Bakkhali beach in West Bengal are two of the best options for you.

Puri, a popular name among Hindu devotees, is a small city in Odisha that boasts of one of the longest beaches in India. The famous Jagannath Temple is also situated in the city.

 

THE EAST HAS SO MUCH MORE TO OFFER

Words fall short to depict the beauty of East India. Let’s talk about some activities that are completely out of the box.

The caves of Meghalaya await explorers all year long. Only a few tourists have ever stepped inside the pre-historic caves of the ancient land of Meghalaya. If you love mystery and thrill, the caves are one of the most adventurous places you can check out during your tour to East India.

One of the largest lagoons in India is located on the shoreline of Odisha by the Bay of Bengal. Chilika Lake is brackish water lagoon, which is home to schools of Gangetic dolphins.

Take a boat ride in the lake and get surrounded by these majestic creatures of the sea. It truly is an amazing feeling riding along side some of the smartest and friendliest being in the world. If you are lucky, some of the dolphins will do a back flip to say ‘Hi’ to you.

You can also pick tea buds in the lush green tea plantations in Darjeeling and Assam. The friendly tea farmers, most of whom are ladies from the local tribes, will welcome you with open arms.

Humble people, luscious cuisine, spectacular landspace, unique wildlife and a confluence of culture – East India has many secrets hidden to offer to travellers. What are you waiting for? Come to the warm and welcoming land of East India.

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