Khonsa, Arunachal Pradesh: Khonsa is located in the Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh. Its geographical coordinates are 27.02°N 95.57°E and it is located at an elevation of 1215 meters (3986 feet). It is located at a distance of about 185 km from the state capital Itanagar.
Khonsa is made of hilly and rocky mountains, valleys, deep rifts and tropical forests. The area hardly has any plain surface. A number of streams and rivers flow through the area.
The Namsang-Dirak River Valley and the Tissa River Valley mainly form the region.
The Tirap district is bounded by Myanmar, Assam in the South, Changlang District of Arunachal Pradesh in the East, Dibrugarh, Assam in the North and by Sibasagar (Assam) and Mon (Nagaland) district in the West. Tirap is the second smallest district of Arunachal Pradesh.The district derives its name from the river Tirap which originates in the district and flows through Changlang District.
Khonsa is a small hill stationand the district headquarters of Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh. Khonsa is also called as "Forgotten Land". Khonsa is mainly a military area occupied by Assam Rifles and CRPF battalions. A few small outpost set up by the Koi-hai (militants) are also located here. Due to this, the entry to Khonsa is limited to a few areas and restricted in the military areas.
Khonsa is a beautiful paradise surrounded by thick forests and hilly terrians. The fog covered hills, dense forests and exotic valleys make it a photographer's delight. These dense forests is a home to a number of animal species such as Tiger, leopard, jackal, wild boar, bear, barking deer, red panda, musk deer, mithun, rodents, etc. The forests of Khonsa have more than 500 species of fine varieties of orchids. Thus the forests that are extremely rich in its flora and fauna makes it a complete natural splendor.
Khonsa has slowly emerged as a popular tourist destination of Arunachal Pradesh. Trekking and hiking through the natural trails, is a real exciting adventure that one can enjoy here.
Visitors can even go to the nearby tribal villages - Kheti and Lajo where the Nocte and Wancho tribe live in a complete traditional style. The worth mentioning fact about these villages are that one can find human skulls hanging on the village dormitories. The skulls belong to the people who had been hunted by the tribes. Though it sounds scary yet it is a fact that the tribes are dangerous and brave.
Khonsa is majorly occupied by the Nocte and Wancho tribes. In addition to the local tribes, the place is also inhabited by a few immigrants from Nagaland, Assam, Myanmar and Bangladesh. This makes it a cosmopolitan city. Assamese, Hindi, Nocte, Wancho and a bit of English are the main languages of Khonsa. Tattooing is a social custom among the tribes. They believe in the deities, Rang and Baurang.
Khonsa and its neighboring areas have some amazing tea and coffee plantations. The main occupation of the locals is Agriculture and they have traditionally being practicing the Jhum method of cultivation. Gradually people have now begun to adopt Terrace farming. Paddy, Maize, Millets and Tapioca are the main crops of the area.
The houses of the tribes are bamboo and dry tree leaves huts built on a bed of bamboo sticks. This bed is made as the hilly area is very uneven and stony and also protects them from animal and insect attacks. The interesting feature of their houses is the huge animal horns hung at the entrance. It is believed that it brings them good luck and prosperity. A few of them also have a collection of the hunted animal horns displayed in their houses.
Khonsa has a huge number of converted Christian population. The foreign missionaries have constantly been working in the prime and remote areas where the locals are baptized into Catholics. They have small churches built in the villages and these missionaries help them in their economic and educational development.
The main local festivals are:
1. Loku festival - It is the festival of the Nocte tribe. The word Loku in their language meads "to drive out" and the festival is celebrated to bid goodbye to the old season and welcome the new season. A few villages celebrate this festival in the month of July/August and a few in the month of October/November based on their cultivation habits. The date of the festival is declared in advance. Young boys and girls collect "Kow" leaves for making dishes and cups, firewood for bonfire to be lighted during the festival and also rice and beer from each house. The festival starts with slaughtering of pigs and buffalos, collection of entertainment articles and making of rice beer (an alcoholic drink). On the second day they get together to offer prayers, sing and dance and have a feast. On the third day the village Chief inaugurates the Jhum cultivation by breaking eggs. They again sing and dance at the Chief's house and end the festival.
2. Pongtu festival- This is a festival of the Tutsa tribe that is celebrated for 10 days in the month of April. It is celebrated to seek the blessings of the God for a good harvest. The date of the festival is decided by the village elders. Slaughtering of pigs, fowls, cows and buffaloes, feasting, offering prayers and having rice beer constitute this festival. The festival blessings are placed as good omen in the fields.
3. Oriah festival - Also known as Ojiyele festival, it is celebrated by the Wancho tribe in the month of March and April every year just after sowing paddy in the Jhum fields. The date of the festival is decided by the Chief of the village along with the village elders. The festival is celebrated for 5 days. As soon as the date is decided the locals start collecting pigs, fowls, cows and buffaloes and make rice beer. The festival begins by making a bamboo framework in front of the village Chief's house by young boys and girls. The villagers get together to offer prayers, the animals are slaughtered and they all have a feast. The festival continues with these frameworks being built in front of all the houses and feasting. Each day of the festival is marked with offering prayers to the God to give them a good harvest and prosperity. Singing and dancing is the vital part of the festival.
Nearest Big Town:
The nearest big town is Changlang city of Changlang district, Arunachal. Changlang is a tourist destination and a well-developed city.