Half a day’s drive from Dimapur and a couple of hours’ drive away from Burma, Mon is the stronghold of the proud Konyak tribe, one of the largest tribes in Nagaland. It consists of a cluster of villages, all an hour or less away from each other. Time your visit to be here during the Aoleong Festival, held in the first week of April. Everyone takes out their traditional finery, and even the most urban of the Mon townsfolk sport Konyak necklaces. Several hundred locals and some visitors congregate in the festival grounds, and after the pastor blesses the festival, men and women from various tribes get into position to dance, chant and sing. The men sport hornbill feathers, woven red sashes, knives with furry tails, spears and bells that are attached to their backs. The women dance more sedately, sporting armbands, belts, waistbands around their shawl-skirts, headbands, intricate earrings and feathers. With their ululating cries and the men’s deeper singing, a powerful unison emerges. Theatrically, warriors shoot into the air, which is thick with smoke and gunpowder. There is soon a mist of smoke from which warriors can be glimpsed only in intervals, their heads lifted in war cry, guns and spears held aloft in song.

Zubeni Lotha
Longwa Village, as seen from a vantage point
Longwa Village, as seen from a vantage point

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

In the region around Mon, you will find the last vestiges of the village world that was once Nagaland. You’ll see village warriors, elderly men with tattoos on their wizened faces, beaded chokers around their necks and little bronze heads that symbolise how many enemy skulls the warrior has claimed.

There are many tribal villages in the area, but the most popular one is Longwa, located about 35 km from Mon. The headman’s longhouse at Longwa dramatically straddles the India-Myanmar border and contains within it a range of weapons, old totems and other strange historical paraphernalia, making for a visual smorgasbord. The village elders here tend to dress in their traditional costumes, and almost everyone carries the formidable dao – a machete that was originally used for headhunting and continues to be a standard accessory for the Konyak tribe. Some households augment their income by making and selling jewellery, masks and other local collectibles to tourists.

Zubeni Lotha
Traditional jewellery, Mon
Traditional jewellery, Mon

Other villages worth visiting include Old Mon (5 km) and Singha Chingnyu (20 km), the latter with a huge longhouse decorated with animal skulls, stuffed tigers and a storehouse of old human tropies.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Helsa Cottage (Cell: 09862345965; Tariff: ₹1,000-1,500) is essentially one of the more decent options in town, but this hotel has a lovely affable host, though the rooms and facilities are basic at best. Meals arranged on request. Another option is Paramount Guest House (Cell: 09436433782, Tariff: ₹1,000-2,500), which also prepares meals in the in-house kitchen.

Outside of town, on the way to Longwa, is Helsa Resort (Cell: 08974634314; Tariff: ₹1,000-1,500), which offers eight traditional Konyak huts, with sparse furnishings. They serve meals on request.

When to go October to May, when it is not raining Location The northernmost district of Nagaland is bounded by Arunachal Pradesh to its north, Assam to its west and Myanmar to its east Air Nearest airport: Jorhat (Assam) Rail Nearest rail: Bhoju (Assam)