It is one thing to see the many Naga tribes put their best foot forward at the Hornbill Festival but another thing entirely to head into the state and get a chance to see different lives, livelihoods, and lifestyles up close. Tuophema Tourist Village, set up in 2001 as a community effort by the people of Tuophema, does just that. Self-funded, organized, and designed, the tourist village was the result of the joint efforts of the different khels or clans from within the village. Now hailed as a model of rural homestays for other tribes within Nagaland and beyond the state, the Tourist Village offers a unique glimpse into rural life of a different kind than most Indians would be familiar with.
A traditional welcome gate leads to the village, dominated by a large tree called the War Head Tree, where enemy heads were once hung as war trophies. The tourist village is run and maintained by a team of young locals and overseen by the elected village council.
Along with the rare experience of staying in a traditional Angami house, the tranquil tourist village offers a peaceful retreat, cultural and educational programmes, a local museum, as well as guided walks through the village.
With just over 500 families, this is a tightly-knit village that has offered tourists from near and far a rare chance to experience Angami hospitality. The history of the village is said to go back to 1461 CE, and the old northern gate is one of the village's few historical remains. A guided walk around the village, arranged by the helpful staff at the tourist village, will take you past the old and new sections of the village, which include Baptist churches, an amphitheater, and a charming, although unoccupied house built in the memory of the village founder. Close to the huts is a small museum that was set up in 2006. This well-lit room displays Angami dresses, headdresses, weapons, and jewelry, along with household and ritual items relevant to this area.
The gazebo near the dining room has lovely wooden seats from where visitors can enjoy the crisp mountain air, stunning views of the valleys and mountains for miles and miles, and some of the most spectacular sunsets and sunrises you are likely to ever see. For the city born and bred, it is recommended to head out of the hut in the middle of the night for a few minutes and stare slack-jawed at the stunning starry sky above. Thousands of stars light up the night sky in Tuophema, making for an unforgettable experience – and certainly a sight you'll never see in the smog-filled city skies.
Time your trip with the annual Angami festival of purification, known as Sekrenyi, held between 25 and 27 February every year. This is a wonderful display of rituals and ceremonies for those who have tired of the Hornbill festival. Water holds much significance for the Angamis, as is evident from the rituals of the first day of the festival a few drops of water are taken from a jug and poured into banana leaves, which are then placed at the three main posts of the house. The village well is cleaned the night before the festival and the youth are made to guard the well, as it is said that no one is allowed to collect water from the well after it has been cleaned. On the second day, the young men rise early and proceed to the well to wash.
Another interesting ritual during the festival is called dzuseva or 'touching the sleeping water,' in which men don two new shawls (the black mhoushu and the white lohe) and sprinkle water on themselves. This is said to wash away their misfortunes. There are other rituals involving rice beer, which is also part of the feasting, and drink with the locals as part of the feast.
Part of the northern Angami region, Tuophema is located in the Kohima district. Distance: 45km North of Kohima. The route is from Kohima via NH61 to Botsa, and then the uphill road to Tuophema village.
When To Go: November to March. The Sekrenyi festival is held in February.
Getting There: The nearest airport is at Dimapur. It's a three-and-a-half hour drive.