Northeast India originally consisted of seven contiguous states, collectively known as the Seven Sisters ( Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura). The state of Sikkim is also considered part of Northeast India though not part of the contiguous Seven Sisters. The Siliguri Corridor in West Bengal which measures 21 to 40 km wide connects Northeast India with the rest of the country and separates Sikkim from the other Northeastern states.
The Northeast includes one of the richest language areas with more than 200 languages from many language families (Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, Tai-Kadai, Austro-Asian) with similar structural features. Assamese is the most commonly used spoken language in the Northeast because it’s also easy to understand for a sizeable number of Bengali-speaking communities in the region. This language is frequently spoken in the Brahmaputra Valley and for numerous speaking communities, it has evolved into the lingua franca. An Assamese-based lexified Creole language has also evolved in states like Nagaland( Nagamese) and Arunachal( Nefamese).
There are around 220 languages spoken by the people in Northeast India. They belong to many languages such as the Indo European, Sino – Tibetian, Kra – Dai, Austroasiatic.
According to available ancient texts, some of the parts of the Northeast as part of a country known as Pragjyotisha and Kamrupa. Pragjyotisha is mentioned in the great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as in some Puranas.
The Mahabharata states that the border of Pragjyotisha extended to the Bay of Bengal in the south and the Karatoya River in the west. Some corridors of Nepal and Bhutan were also included in the part of ancient Pragjyotisha. Northeast is home to numerous Indo- Mongoid ethnic groups, with each group speaking numerous dialects.
The lifestyles of the people who live here can be seen in traditional art forms through the representation of indigenous games, farm hunting and fishing styles. The local tribesmen are very skilled with unique items made of bamboo, sticks, clay, stone, various headgear and other items for everyday use in antiquity. India is a country of traditional music and music also plays an important role in the lives of the people.
The Northeast also has its own unique form of music. The rich textiles of the region are reflected through folk tales and paintings of indigenous artists. In addition, the role of women in shaping the culture of the region’s contribution to the freedom movement of the country is to be noted.
Children and women are brought up to be self-independent from an early age. There are matriarchal societies in the state of Meghalaya, which is a unique feature in patriarchal India. Khasi, Garo and Jaintia are the three dominant tribal communities of Meghalaya. Khasi, Jaintia and Garo society practice matrileany. In a matrilineal society, women in the family inherit all ancestral properties. This is another culture that is unique in a male-dominated country like India.
The handicraft making in the Northeast is rich and consists of textiles, wood, ceramics, masks making, dolls and various other artifacts from sticks and bamboo. Metalcraft is also exclusive to some groups in the region. Assam silk is widely known worldwide for its lustrous and fine texture.
The tribal communities of the region celebrate their festivals and rituals through their hereditary forms of folk dance and songs. Sattriya( from Assam) and Manipuri Dance( from Manipur) are featured as classical balls in India.
In addition, all the tribes in the region have their own folk dances related to their ancient religions and festivals. The region’s tribal heritage is rich in hunting, farming and indigenous practices. The rich culture lives on and is seen in the traditional costumes of each community.
Traditional art tattoos were practiced in the Northeast region than any other parts of India. In the Apatani tribe in Arunachal Pradesh, for example, young women are tattooed so that they are not attracted to rival tribes in neighboring villages who could kidnap their most beautiful women. Tattoos also helped to create a tribal identity in the region, in addition to recognition after death in war or accident.
Art tattoos are more widespread in the Northeast than in other parts of India. In the Apatani tribe in Arunachal Pradesh, for example, young women are tattooed so that they are not attracted to rival tribes in neighboring villages who could kidnap their most beautiful women. Tattoos also helped to create a tribal identity in the region, in addition to recognition after death in war or accident.
Northeast India is also home to many interesting living root bridges that offer spectacular walks. These root bridges are found in the southern parts of Meghalaya in Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The root bridges still exist in the region to this day, although it has disappeared as a practice, with many specimens being damaged by floods in recent years or replaced by more standard buildings.