I walked past the busy streets near the Midland Colony on NH-39 to confront the gates of the Kohima War Cemetery. There was an eerie silence in the air, a gentle whisper of the winds into my ears, as if they spoke something of this place, about the heroes who chose to fight against all odds- and became eternal.
You can only die once, to make sure it’s worth it- Vladimir Kamarisky
The somewhat crowded streets of Kohima town keeps busy with its daily routine. Day begins like usual here as the people prepare to open their shops, the taxis await their new passengers and the children prepare for their school. Someone silently watches over them, from the corner of the street. The spirits of the heroes that fall for one purpose- Freedom!!!!
For those of us who have never witnessed battle, it is just an imagination, unexplained and often misunderstood. But for those who live through the tempest, their life is never the same again. It requires raw courage for sacrifice, a price not all dare to pay!!
Entering through the gates of Kohima War Cemetery, I confronted the stone cenotaph, which explained in few words the true essence of sacrifice..I looked around to notice thousands of such cremations around. (This cemetery has 1420 Commonwealth Burials of the WW-II. Source)
I chose a shady tree near the tennis court and sat down here for some time. A spectacular view of the horizon confronted me today, which otherwise was a billow of smoke, dust, rubble and pile in the past, with the aftermath of war. Today, small pink roses rested on the graves and their fragrance filled the air.
About a 1000 Indian Soldiers fought a fierce battle to thwart the Japanese Invasion here, what culminated with a gruesome fist fight. What kept them going, I thought! Love for their family, for their nation or just the spur of the moment! Today at the upper end of the cemetery, stands a memorial that revives their sacrifice and bravery, known as the Kohima Cremation Memorial. Another memorial is in the lower part of the cemetery and is dedicated to the 2nd Division.
The ‘Battle of Attrition’, as the battle of Kohima was also referred to, claimed more than 50000 lives in the gruesome hand-to-hand combat. Out of 85000 soldiers, only 20000 survived to tell the story.
Today visitors travelling to this side of the country have the Kohima War Cemetery on their must watch sights. I met a traveler couple on my trip to Guwahati from Dimapur who shared his experiences as we spoke on the flight. He traveled to Kohima for the first time, though he was aware of Kohima War Cemetery already. He mentioned:
My heart went out for all those heroes as I saw their cremations at the Kohima War Cemetery. Today I realize, how far they went from their own homes, just to keep us safe!
The best way to reach Kohima is via Tezpur along NH-39 and NH-37. The 5 hour road trip is smooth for most of the journey and can have occasional bad patches in between. There is a lot to do as you travel along the way.
Best time to Visit:
The best time to visit Kohima is between October and May as the state is at its best during this time. The cold breeze of the Garo and Khasi hills will be a welcome break for you from the humidity of the plains in Assam.
Must do things enroute:
1. Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary:
If you are planning your trip in the months of April, then you can combine your trip to Kohima along with a Wildlife Safari in Kaziranga. The sanctuary remains open between November and April months and is closed for the rest of the year. Located along the NH-39, the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, is approximately 90 kms from Tezpur and is a must see destination on the way.
Related: Close Quarters with the Wild
2. Sip the Exotic Assam Tea in a Tea Boutique:
If you are travelling through Assam and do not savor the delicacy of the state, then your visit may not be worthwhile. On the way, take a break to drop into the Hatikhuli Tea Boutique and sip your favourite tea in style. You can rejoice and carry home some souvenir from wide varieties such as the Organic, Green Tea, Orthodox, CTC etc.
3. Visit the Ancient Village of Chumukedima, Dimapur:
Located at the district headquarters of Dimapur, Chumukedima is an ancient village located at the foothills and was established by the Tourist Department of Nagaland. The place also is home to some exotic waterfalls.