As the plane descends leaving the blanket of clouds behind, you are greeted by a vast expanse of green mountains with mist swirling around them. Nestled among these mountains of the North-East, is one of the most remote places in India; the city of Aizawl. Set over the ridges of steep hills, it is at an approximate height of 1100 meters above sea level. In 1871, the British had established an outpost in this region, which later became the Aizawl village, and eventually became the city that it is today.
The mountains are formed of sedimentary rocks, which suggest that the whole of the area must have been submerged under the sea a long time ago. Flanked on the north by the craggy peaks of Durtlang, the hill city overlooks the valley of the river Tlawng and ranges of blue hills beyond. Being the capital city, most of the important government offices of the state are located here. Aizawl has a mild, pleasant weather all year round, though it gets rainy during the second half of the year.
The houses here are mostly made of timber, supported by stilts on steep slopes, while the bigger buildings are of concrete. An interesting feature of the building style here is that the multi-storied buildings and houses have their floors built one below the other, instead of the usual high rise system. So a building that appears to have just 2 floors from the outside, may actually have 6 more floors below. There is an acute shortage of water in the state, so all the households use water harvesting methods to collect rain water. The streets are lined with shops and filled with Maruti 800’s and a variety of bikes. People here have a special liking for motorcycles. Even a person living in a single room house would be owning an expensive motorcycle. Despite the great number of vehicles, the traffic here has a sense of orderliness and patience that is less seen in India. Children can often be seen playing on the less busy roads, along with the occasional small sized dog trotting around. There is a small military area in Thuampui, where along with the living quarters and offices, a canteen and a helipad are also situated. A service is run by ‘Pawan Hans’ once a week, wherein for a fee, you can go for an aerial tour of the city in a helicopter.
With a resident population of almost 3 lacs, it is the largest city in the state. Mizos from various tribes make up the majority of the population. Aizawl has a diversified culture with influences from all religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. But Christianity is the one which has the strongest influence on the natives. The Christian community regularly visits the church on Sundays.
While English and Hindi are understood by some, Mizo is the main language here, due to which you can often have trouble communicating with the locals and shopkeepers. The people here are quite friendly and hospitable. They mostly run shops or are engaged in the local industries. It can be well observed here that the males and females have an equal status in the society. The shops are mostly run by the women. Many work in handlooms, where shawls are produced and used locally.
The people here follow the system of community living, where they work together and help each other whenever needed. This ensures efficient functioning and harmony in the society. The streets are cleaned and maintained by those living in the locality only. You’ll notice that there are no beggars here. In fact, there are almost none in the entire state. If a person is in need of clothes, food, money or anything else, the local people would gather resources and help him out. The people here eat mostly non vegetarian, and consume chicken, beef, mutton, fish and various other animals that can be found locally. Pork is a much liked item here, and many of the people breed pigs in their houses. However, do not expect the food here to tickle your taste buds, since the people prefer their food plain boiled. But if you do feel like eating outside, there are a few food joints in the market area where you can get a bite.
Tourism is a major source of income here. The place has plenty of attractions, such as the Mizoram State Museum, Solomon’s Temple, and the Khuangchera Puk caves. Various festivals like Chapchar kut and Pawl kut are hosted in the city and celebrated with much enthusiasm. The ‘Cheraw’, is a popular and unique dance form famous in Mizoram, in which a grid is formed on the ground using bamboo staves, inside which the females dance, while the males move the staves in rhythmic beats. Hence, it is also known as the ‘Bamboo Dance’.
The rich green land is home to an equally rich wildlife, and many unique birds and animals can be found here. The Khawnglung Wildlife Sanctuary is situated about 170 kms from the city. Then of course there are the various picnic spots, where you can enjoy the scenic beauty of the hills. There is also a three star hotel, ‘The Regency’ where you can spend the night in comfort after a day out. The main shopping areas are the Bara Bazaar, which is a labyrinth of streets lined with shops selling clothes and imports from China, and the Millennium Centre, which is a local shopping mall. The market closes down by 6 in the evening, so it is better to go there early.
Aizawl is definitely one of the most beautiful hill stations in the country. It is a green city among the clouds. When seen from a distance at night, the innumerable lights of the city spread over the hills create an amazing view, which resembles that of a star filled sky.
If you’re looking to spend a few days at a place that is ‘away from it all’, where you can explore and experience the beauty of nature, this is a place worth visiting.