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Life and culture in Northeast India

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Item Code: BAG018
Publisher: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2020
ISBN: 9789385360251
Pages: 260 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Other Details 11.00 X 9.50 inch
Weight 1.76 kg
Book Description
About The Book

The eight states of India's Northeast make up only 8 per cent of the country's land mass, but they are home to over one hundred tribes, each with its own unique culture. The terrain, predominantly hilly, ranges from snow-capped Himalayan peaks to tropical rainforests, and the national parks and preserves contain exceptional scenery and an abundance of wildlife, from red pandas to snow leopards. Now, for the first time, noted documentary filmmakers and photographers Dipti Bhalla Verma and Shiv Kunal Verma provide a comprehensive introduction to this little-known yet captivating part of the world.

Bhalla and Verma conduct us from the towering Kanchenjunga massif in Sikkim to the tea plantations of Assam, to the astonishing biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh, to the martial tribes and Baptist churches of Nagaland, to the birthplace of polo in Manipur, to the living root bridges of Meghalaya, to the farms nestled among the hills of Tripura and Mizoram. The authors take us into the lives of the many peoples of Northeast India, who maintain their traditional customs and beliefs even in the face of growing ecological threats. They trace the history of the major population groups from the earliest records to the present, and illustrate their characteristic art forms, from dance to architecture. Special sections are devoted to Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Khangchendzonga National Park and Kazirang National Park, all three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Featuring more than three hundred colour photographs and twelve detailed maps, Life and Culture in Northeast India will be an essential volume for anyone interested in the peoples and places of Planet Earth.

About the Author

Dipti Bhalla Verma, cofounder of the production company Kaleidolndia, has made num films about the people, natura heritage and armed forces of India. She is also coahor and photographer of the books Ocean to Sky: India from the Air, Tamil Nadu and the Northeast Trilogy. She is an alumna of Miranda House, Delhi, the Film and Television Institute of India, and the Australian Film and Television School.

Shiv Kunal Verma is the author or coauthor of more than a dozen books, including the highly acclaimed Northeast Trilogy, The Long Road to Siachen and 1962: The War That Wasn't. As the cofounder of KaleidoIndia, he has produced over fifty films. Among his many distinguished films on the Indian Armed Forces, The Standard Bearers, a film on the National Defence Academy, is considered an all-time classic. Educated at the Doon School and Madras Christian College, he currently holds the prestigious Chair of Excellence at the United Services Institute.


It was almost twenty years ago that Dipti and Kunal made a short film on Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. It was very important as we were all working on the revival of this UNESCO World Heritage Site that had been ravaged due to militancy over the past couple of decades. That was the introduction, but since then we kept in touch because of our common involvement with India's Northeast. Being from the region, I have been a part of some of the journeys with Kunal. It is his images that interpret both the history and the present story of the region, further enhanced by Dipti, who binds them with the right words. Few people in this world realise that a very important part of India begins from here.

How many of us know that the Lepcha have a story akin to Noah's Ark? The entire region described in this book probably has more cultures than the rest of the country put together, and several of the tribal communities place their faith in "biodivinity" Please do not call it "animism", as it is more advanced than the organised religions of the world. Here, they have learnt to depend on their immediate biodiversity for their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. This is the science of sustainability that our Northeastern communities have been practising for generations, while the world is struggling to achieve sustainable development goals, now that resources have come under tremendous pressure.

Look at the emergence of modern civilisations that were connected through trade: the maritime route, also known as the "rice route", that ran from Chittagong, and the mountain route through Sikkim, known as the "silk route", that connected Lhasa with the rest of the world through this region. These trade routes then introduced the world to a variety of weaving methods, items like terracotta, and agricultural produce that included certain varieties of rice, corn, sweet orange, mango and other produce that are now part and parcel of our daily lives. Every 20 km (12 mi.) that you travel in this region, you will be introduced to a new culture, language and lifestyle, very different in origin, finding their roots somewhere in Asia. A lot of this cultural diversity is also because of the diverse landscape so typical of the Northeast.


India's Northeast is a land where nature, in its multifarious physiological and climatic manifestations, has from time immemorial held the lives of the people in the palm of its hands. On the subcontinent, the gap between the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean is at its narrowest here. This geographical factor has resulted in the greatest diversity of insect, plant and animal life. Not so surprising, then, is perhaps the fact that the area also has the largest diversity in the number of human races that have migrated into and made the region their home The topography of the region may have influenced the migratory patterns over time, but by the beginning of the nineteenth century, this complex web of people had more or less settled down. Survival, then, perhaps depended on each group zealously guarding its ethnicity, a fact that suited the earlier policy of the colonial masters, who furthered the divide in their quest to rule. Like elsewhere in many parts of India, this constant past remains-a reminder of a bygone era, yet coexisting with absolute ease with the evolving present.

The eastern sweep of the Assam Himalayas dominates this incredible landscape, physically defining the northern borders of the region. The Tsang Po descends into India through a gap in the Great Himalayas at Gelling, flowing through the heart of Adi country as the Siang River, and then debouches into the Assam Plains at Pasighat There the formidable waters of the Siang mix with the Dibang and the other great tributary, the Lohit, which enters Arunachal Pradesh from Tibet at its extreme northeastern corner at Kibithu. It is here, at the confluence, that the Brahmaputra is born and together the waters flow in a southwesterly direction, annually claiming the plains as their own, swelling and receding across the vast low-lying region of Assam.

Starting from the eastern flank of Arunachal Pradesh, where the warmth of the first rays of the sun are felt, another great north-south mountain chain, the Naga Patkai Hills, extends into Nagaland and Manipur, linking up with the Chaifil Tlang and the Uiphum Tlang Ranges in Mizoram before tapering off into the Chin and the Arakan Yoma. Along the southern bank of the Brahmaputra River are the east-west aligned Jaintia, Khasi and Garo Hills that make up the state of Meghalaya, which in turn separate the river valley from the low-lying areas of Bangladesh to the immediate south. After India's independence and the partition of the subcontinent, the resultant narrow tract of land, the Siliguri Corridor, or Chicken's Neck became a slender thread that acted as the sole gateway to the entire region further extenuating its remoteness and defining its isolation. Once this narrow gap is traversed and the traveller journeys through Sikkim, part of northern West Bengal Assam Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram, this often unfamiliar part of the country steps forward in all its geophysical, anthropological and folkloric splendor.

The Himalayan Range is the youngest mountain chain in the world. Ecologically, the region is extremely fragile, prone to landslides and other disturbances. The Assam earthquake of 1950 had virtually altered the face of the Dibang River Valley as entire villages were wiped out Draining the valleys is a complex network of rivers, all of them tributaries of the Brahmaputra but major rivers in their own right. Often people on either bank have very little to do with each other Not just the rest of the country but even within the Northeast, communities know very little about each other, most areas having evolved as compartmentalised geographical entities Until as recently as the early twentieth century, the link between the Tsang Po and the Brahmaputra had yet to be established, with the remoteness of the region it flowed through only adding to its overall mystique.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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