Where the dead Nagas live on: Longkhum, Nagaland
Situated at an altitude of around 6056 feet above sea level is the Ao Naga village of Longkhum. The village of Longkhum is located 17 km from the town of Mokokchung which is the district headquarters of the place and is around 135 km from the capital of Nagaland, Kohima.
Getting to the village of Longkhum is not very difficult and for a group of travellers it is best to hire a private taxi from Mokokchung. The journey is very scenic and a hassle-free one. The other option of getting to Longkhum is to take a shared taxi from Mokokchung to the village of Alichen and then take a connecting shared jeep or taxi uphill to Longkhum. The NST bus service to Longkhum from the town of Mokokchung are very bad with just a single bus that leaves from Mokokchung at noon and returns back the following morning at 9 am.
The road leading to the village of Longkhum from Alichen takes travellers through the rain forest where one can only see the road and dense forest on either side of it and hear insects and bees buzzing all through the day. Wandering into the forest is a good idea if you spot a trail. The rain forest of Nagaland has plenty to discover and explore from a random tree house to a colourful bee the forest is still very much virgin.
Longkhum hill is the highest peak of Mokochung district that has an altitude of about 6500 feet above sea level. Longkhum village is located on the gentle slope of this hill. The village is surrounded by thick forests on all sides.
The Ao Nagas and the Nagas from all around believe that Longkhum is the place where the spirits of their dead family members rest for a while on the way to heaven. A vanguard village in the days of head hunting, Longkhum commands a view of the surrounding hills and valleys. Mongzu Ki – eagle’s eye – is situated at a high precipice where eagles have nested for centuries. According to Ao mythology, eagles are the manifestations of the spirits of the dead. Hence, a visit to the village is believed to be spiritual for many Nagas.
The main tourist attractions include the Mata Yimkong – the top of the hillock where once stood a fortress and the students’ Jubilee Tower, the highest point of the village. The footprints preserved on a rock surface, believed to be of Chenna and Etiben – the Romeo and Juliet of the Ao Naga tribe, is another interesting spot worth visiting.
Longkhum is quite well developed and has a government run guest house which is also the only accommodation option for travellers. The guest house has only a couple of rooms so it is advisable to pre-book a room in there guest house either from the tourism office in Dimapur or Kohima to assure a room for the night.
The villagers speak both the Ao Naga dialects of Mongsen and Chungli. English, the official state language of Nagaland is easily understood and also spoken by nearly everyone young and old in the village.
Longkhum is a very beautiful village with plenty of pine trees, rhododendrons shrubs and offers travellers a splendid view of the Eastern Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh. The village is an ideal place to make a day trip to while in Mokokchung.