The Seven Sister States are a region in northeastern India, comprising the contiguous states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura. The sisters lie deep in the lap of easternmost Himalayan hills in north-eastern part of India. Connected to rest of India by merely 20 km of wide land (at Siliguri, West Bengal), the North-East India shares over 2,000 km of border with Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
When India became independent from the United Kingdom in 1947, only three states covered the area. Manipur and Tripura were princely states, while a much larger Assam Province was under direct British rule. Its capital was Shillong. Four new states were carved out of the original territory of Assam in the decades following independence, in line with the policy of the Indian government of reorganizing the states along ethnic and linguistic lines. Accordingly, Nagaland became a separate state in 1963, followed by Meghalaya in 1972. Mizoram became a Union Territory in 1972, and achieved statehood - along with Arunachal Pradesh - in 1987.
Assam is the gateway through which the sister states are connected to the mainland. Tripura, a virtual enclave is almost surrounded by Bangladesh. Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal depend on Assam for their internal communications. Manipur and Mizoram's contacts with the main body of India are through Assam's Barak Valley.
The people of the region are a mixture of Aryan and Mongoloid origin, most of the tribal groups racial origins being visibly those of the peoples of Tibet, Burma, Thailand and Laos. They consequently have little in common with the rest of India. Their complete integration with India came about only during the British Raj.
The sobriquet, the Land of Seven Sisters, had been originally coined, coinciding with the inauguration of the new states in January, 1972, by Jyoti Prasad Saikia, a journalist in Tripura in course of a radio talk. Saikia later compiled a book on the interdependence and commonness of the Seven Sister States, and named it the Land of Seven Sisters. It has been primarily because of this publication that the sobriquet has caught on.
The region is known for its unique culture, handicrafts, martial arts, and scenic beauty. The North-East India is home to varied number of tribal groups (almost 166). Each tribe has their own distinct culture, which gives them a unique cultural identity. Numerous of art forms and festivals of the region are intrinsic part of its rich culture and tradition. Many of festivals like Bihu, Jhum Cultivation, Ke Pemblang, Nongkrem, Durga Puja and Karchi Puja are some of the most important festivals, which are mirror to rich socio-cultural life of North-East India.
Manipuri dance is the perfect representation of Manipuri culture. The dance is often devoted to religious themes, while the Raas Lila (love story of Radha and Krishna) dominating it. The 29 tribes of Manipur have different dances to offer - Lai Haroba (feast of dances, representing celebrations of Gods), Pung Cholem (Mridang dance), Mao Naga dance, the priestess dance of Malbe Jagoi, Thangal Surang dance etc. The vibrant culture of the Manipuris is reflected in their dance and drama.
Main industries in the region are tea-based, crude oil and natural gas, silk, bamboo and handicrafts. The states are heavily forested and have plentiful rainfall. There are beautiful wildlife sanctuaries, tea-estates and mighty rivers like Brahmaputra. The region is home to one-horned rhinoceros, elephants and other endangered wildlife.
Best time to go:
September is generally the best time for flowers, following the rains. October - November is harvest time. The rivers are at their lowest by springtime but still have enough Himalayan run-off to guarantee a good rafting trip.
Festivals happen in all states throughout the year. The Naga Hornbill Festival in early December is excellent though no doubt others such as the Buddha Mahotsava Festival in Tawang in mid October is equally remarkable.
How to get there:
Gateway to Northeast India is Guwahati which is conveniently connected from Delhi & Kolkata with rail and air. Once in Guwahati, you can easily connect to other north-eastern cities, either by air or road.
Only Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura can be visited without PAP (Protected Area Permits) or RAP (Restricted Area Permits). Getting them is possible but not easy for independent travelers though no problem for groups traveling with an Indian Tour Operator who will do all the paperwork.
Foreign tourists require restricted area permit to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
Travel documents required to obtain the permit are : A) Xerox copy of passport and visa details along with filled application form. B) Two passport size photographs.
Restricted Area Permit for Foreign tourists is granted for 10 days which is extendable.
Warm woolens for winters (Nov to Feb) and light clothing for the rest of the season.
Chloroquine and Proguanil are recommended against malaria though much of the time you are likely to be over 2000m and malaria free. Insect repellents and after-bite creams are worth considering in jungle terrain. If going above 4000m, acclimatization is recommended.