KOHIMA, Nagaland’s capital, was built alongside the large Angami village of Kohima by the British in the nineteenth century. Traditional Naga villages – including Khonoma, 20km beyond Kohima, Jakhema and Kigwema – are just a short drive away.
Spread loosely over the saddle of two large hills, Kohima forms a pass that played a strategic role during World War II. The Imphal–Dimapur highway – the route along which the Japanese hoped to reach the plains of India – crosses the saddle at the foot of the World War II Cemetery, designed by Edwin Lutyens, in a peaceful location overlooking the town. It stands tribute to the Allies who died during the three-month Battle of Kohima, which ended in June 1944 with a death toll of over ten thousand soldiers.
The Cathedral, on the way out of town towards the State Museum, contains India’s largest wooden crucifix, while the fascinating State Museum in Bayavu Hill Colony, a twenty-minute walk from the centre, has an excellent collection of Naga jewellery, costumes, spears, corsets and crafts.
The large Angami settlement of Kohima village is set on a high hill overlooking modern Kohima. Only a few of the buildings still have the traditional pitched roofs and crossed “house-horns” on the gables, but its tightly knit labyrinth of lanes gives the village a definite Naga feel. Carved heads to signify family status, grain baskets in front of the houses, and troughs used to make rice beer are among the distinctive features.