Aizawl, a charming hill station, is the capital of Mizoram in North East India. The population of Aizawl consists of different communities of the ethnic Mizos. The 112-year-old town is also the centre of all important government offices, the state assembly house and the civil secretariat.
Aizawl is located above the Tropic of Cancer, set on a ridge 1132 m above sea level, with the Tlawng river valley to its west and the Tuirial river valley to its east. The interesting characteristic of the region is its timber houses and varieties of flowers.
Aizawl has witnessed tribal uprising in 1890 and was besieged then. Robert McCabe, the then Deputy Commissioner of the Lakhimpur district, restored order in the area and forced 15 tribal chiefs to surrender. After this incident, more troops were employed at Aizawl and another uprising was also quelled by McCabe in 1892.
The city then became the headquarters of the 1st Assam Rifles. During March 1966, the Mizo National Front (MNF) members took control of the city in an uprising. The AR headquarters in the city was besieged. The Indian Air Force then carried out air strikes on the town and the MNF had to withdraw to Lunglei.
Various Mizo tribes make up the majority of the population. The dominant religion here is Christianity. Though small in number, Hindus and Muslims are also present in the city. Mizo and English are spoken and understood here. Since Aizawl is the capital, the economy is basically sustained by government services.
The Mizoram State Museum is worth a visit. It charges a nominal entry fee.
Aizawl is also a religious and cultural center of the Mizos. Chapchar Kut, Min Kut and Pawl Kut festivals are hosted in the city and celebrated with much enthusiasm. The famous Cheraw (bamboo dance) is a spectacular sight. In this group performance, the dancers display rhythmic foot movements and colourful costumes.
The other major dances of the region are Khuallam, Chheihlam, Chai and Sarlamkai. These dances are generally accompanied by a town feast. During these dance festivals, they also organize flower shows, food festival, music competition and traditional games. The region is popular for items made from cane and bamboo.
The main shopping areas in Aizawl are Bara Bazar, Millenium Centre and Solomon’s cave. You can buy garments, cosmetics and shoes. For handicraft, go to Zohanco in Zarkawt area. They have good shawls, bags and furnishing materials. If you like traditional bamboo things like baskets or the finely woven bamboo caps (Khumbeu), these are available at MKVI Sales Emporium, Zarkawt. Check out the State Government Emporium and Hnam Chhantu for traditional items.
WHERE TO STAY
Options for accommodation are limited in Aizawl. It is advisable to book rooms in advance. The hotels are affordable and offer basic facilities.
Good budget hotels offer rooms for around Rs 500 per night. A little high-end hotel rooms are available for around Rs 750 to Rs 1000. These rooms have 24 hour hot water supply. There are few luxurious resorts on the scenic hills providing amazing view of the valley. These resorts charge about Rs 3500 and offer internet and recreational facilities.
WHERE TO EAT
The restaurants attached to hotels provide Indian and Continental food. In places like Bara Bazaar and Zodin Square you can find local food including delicacies like steamed fish, chicken momos and baked pork momos. At the popular Dhaba Restaurant, you will find good Tandoori food. For authentic Oriental cuisine, go to Beijing Blue – it serves good Korean, Japanese and Chinese dishes.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
November to February is the best time to visit Aizawl. Take light woolens and cottons for summers and heavy woolens for winters.
WHAT TO SEE
Tamdil (Tam Lake): About 85 km from Aizawl, the natural lake is famous for its fish and prawns. On the way, you will get to see some of the scenic areas of Mizoram. Boat rides are another attraction at the lake. You can also stay here overnight as the resort village Saituai is just 10 km away.
Durtlang Hills: This is a must visit on the trip to Aizawl as the beautiful, rocky hills offer a good view of the entire town.
Reiek: This is a model Mizo village. You can ask the ticket clerk for a local guide to show you around. During Christmas, the place is centre of festivities with live music shows. Entry fee is charged for adults and children.
Vantawng Waterfall: This is the highest waterfall (750 ft high) in Mizoram. It is surrounded by a vast stretch of thick bamboo forests and is close to Thenzawl. It is 152 km from Aizawl, and you can even stay overnight as there are cottages for hire and a cafeteria.
Champhai: These are fertile plains, about 200 km from Aizawl. One can enjoy the stunning panorama of rice fields bordered by hills of Myanmar at a distance. The winding road goes through thick forests and the region is known for its raw scenic beauty.
Phawngpui (Blue Mountain): It is Mizoram’s highest peak, very popular with trekkers and adventure lovers. It is 300 km from Aizawl and close to theMyanmar border. It is a charming place with fragrant herbs and rare species of orchids and rhododendrons.
Dampa: This is a tiger reserve located inWest Phaileng district and is 127 km from Aizawl. You need a permit from the forest officer based at West Phaileng to enter the Dampa forest. This sanctuary has a good variety of birds and animals and is a delight for nature lovers. If you want to stay here, it would be better to book rooms at the forest rest house in advance.