Glimpses of the Other India

From the ethnically diverse tribes of Manipur and Nagaland, through religious devotion of Mizoram and up to the majestic snow-capped Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, North East India is sure to touch your heart with the subtle and make your eyes tear up with the divine.


Mon, Nagaland
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[pretty_image url=”” width=”660″ height=”240″ title=”” gallery=”” crop=”t” src=””]In the Land of the Headhunters[/pretty_image]

A small, tribal village.  It’s eerily quiet and there are no people in sight.  Skulls.  Skulls everywhere.  Mostly buffalo and deer.  But wait – did something move? – eyes peek out, all around, barely visible among the shadows.

Then – a Naga Konyak tribesman cautiously steps out into the light.  He bears full body tattoos, a spear in hand and a tribal outfit reminiscent more of African tribes than India.  Ah – but this is the Other India…


Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
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[pretty_image url=”” width=”660″ height=”240″ title=”” gallery=”” crop=”t” src=””]Far above the clouds, lost in a Himalayan Fantasy…[/pretty_image]

In Tibetan healing practice, a monk transfers the sickness of a diseased person onto a simple doll and the doll is then disposed of, never to return.  In the old days – instead of dolls, the fate of being sent away fell on those from the lower caste.  Many were sent south.

They traveled far, far above the Himalayan mountain tops, higher than the clouds, past surreally colorful moss-covered meadows and they became the original founders of Tawang – this Other India’s – ‘little Tibet’.


Kelkang, Mizoram
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[pretty_image url=”” width=”660″ height=”280″ title=”” gallery=”” crop=”c” src=””]Pilgrims seeking Enlightenment[/pretty_image]

Far away, in remote Mizo mountains, there’s an ancient, sacred land.  It’s off the map, but worry not – it’s safe.  For it’s the place where God himself walks the earth.

There – people speak in tongues, cry, dance, sing and scream out to the skies.  They roll in mud and weep in the rain – all claiming empowerment by the Holy Spirit.

And it’s too much on the senses!  Madness?  Devotion?  A faint difference indeed.

And between Budhism, Hinduism, Islam – the well known faiths of the region – it’s clear that this is different!  For this is – the Other India.


Imphal, Manipur
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[pretty_image url=”” width=”660″ height=”280″ title=”” gallery=”” crop=”c” src=””]Traditional Manipuri Dance[/pretty_image]

Oh, the troubled land of Manipur!  Only recently opened to outsiders, the state is kicking and fighting against Indian influence and control, with arguments ranging from valid land disputes to petty pride: “We like Polo – they like Soccer!  Give us independence!  Now!

There’s no rush here – often there’s no electricity or internet either.  The sun rises.  The town is already awake.  Its people – in front of their houses, with their dogs at their feet, each with a metal cup of hot tea and some boiled eggs for breakfast – they look through the daily paper, delivered by a smiley older man on a beat up bicycle – news of protesters blocking the roads alongside reports of Emma Watson’s new haircut.

There’s an outdoor shower – among mango trees, pineapple bushes, marijuana plants and tons of other vegetation which locals quickly identify as remedies for all kinds of different ailments.  There are cows, goats and chickens roaming nearby the quiet stream.  And there are always a groups of men – friendly ‘chillum circles’ – nearby.

And despite central Imphal’s dusty market madness – there is surely inner calm to be found here, in this Other India.


Gangtok, Sikkim
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[pretty_image url=”” width=”660″ height=”260″ title=”” gallery=”” crop=”t” src=””]A temple room, lost in time in Gangtok…[/pretty_image]
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A little room – easily mistaken for a temple.  Rows of statues of Buddhist deities line the central display case also decorated with colorful, religious butter sculptures.  It’s the prayer room in the house of two Tibetan exiles, now both in their late 80s.

With bullet scars faded, but still visible on his body, the grandpa speaks of the time he fought against the Chinese with the Tibetan army; he speaks of his latter departure from Tibet, along with the Dalai Lama.  The grandma’s memories today are largely gone.  She just smiles as she spins her Tibetan prayer wheel.


KV Paradise, Aizawl, Mizoram
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[pretty_image url=”” width=”660″ height=”240″ title=”” gallery=”” crop=”c” src=””]Mizoram’s Monument to Love[/pretty_image]

It’s hard to find – the place is hidden beyond the clouds.  Once they clear, though – the whole mausoleum glows peacefully in fresh mist.  The monument stands as a symbol of eternal love between Varte, a schoolteacher who died in a 2001 accident and Khawlhring, her husband who since has invested all his funds and efforts into the construction of this memorial.

And there’s a calm, quiet, spiritual magic to this place of quiet contemplation, here in this Other India.


Guwahati, Assam
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[pretty_image url=”” width=”660″ height=”300″ title=”” gallery=”” crop=”c” src=””]Prayers (Swimming?) In the local temple.[/pretty_image]

Streaks of warm sunlight sneak inside through the cracks in a bamboo wall.  It’s sunrise.  There’s a monkey on the roof.  And the Assam Mama is getting ready.  Her daughter’s wedding is mere few weeks away now, and there are still nearly 2,000 invitations – elegant, blue envelopes – to hand out.

Couple hours later – the car is packed and the whole family ready for a field trip to the countryside, with compulsory prayer-stops at every shrine along the way.

By early afternoon – home.  It’s been some time since Mama’s been back to her hometown.  With a low bow to touch the aging grandma’s feet, each family member pays their respects.  And after a chat and some chai, in a ceremonial fashion, Assam Mama presents her mother a wedding invitation – on a silver platter, along with an offering of betel nut and fruit.

And soon, the family’s back on the road, for there are many others still left to invite for this upcoming grand celebration, in this Other India.


Tawang Monastery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
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[pretty_image url=”” width=”660″ height=”340″ title=”” gallery=”” crop=”b” src=””]Buddhist Sand Sculpture in Progress[/pretty_image]

In this region known as the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama, in the impressive 16th Century Tawang Monastery, four monks crouch around a massive colored sand mosaic, applying their finishing touches.

Despite its size, it only takes them few days to finish.  And it’s not as profoundly ‘mysterious’ as Hollywood may have one think – they crack jokes as they work and during break time they welcome the rare visitor for vegan lunch and some very buttery salt tea in their simple, monastic rooms, in this Other India…



Check out this story in print!
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[caption_image url=”” width=”650″ height=”400″ title=”Glimpses of the Other India (Word Magazine)” lightbox=”false” crop=”t”]Glimpses of the Other India (Word Magazine)[/caption_image]

Coming up in June
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[one_third][caption_image url=”” width=”200″ height=”” title=”” lightbox=”true” crop=”c”]Love Market! (Vibrant Highland, Commercial Love)[/caption_image][/one_third] [two_third_last]The wait is over!  We’re finally releasing our feature-length adventure/doc from Vietnam: Vibrant Highland, Commercial Love – or simply, Love Market!

Learn more about the film on our project page!

Be sure to subscribe on youtube and like Etherium Sky on facebook so we can notify you of the release![/two_third_last]