Northeast India

Northeast India (officially North Eastern Region, NER) is the easternmost region of India representing both a geographic and political administrative division of the country. It comprises eight statesArunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. The Siliguri Corridor in West Bengal, with a width of 21 to 40 kilometres (13 to 25 mi),[2] connects the North Eastern Region with East India. The region shares an international border of 5,182 kilometres (3,220 mi) (about 99 percent of its total geographical boundary) with several neighbouring countries – 1,395 kilometres (867 mi) with Tibet Autonomous Region, China in the north, 1,640 kilometres (1,020 mi) with Myanmar in the east, 1,596 kilometres (992 mi) with Bangladesh in the south-west, 97 kilometres (60 mi) with Nepal in the west, and 455 kilometres (283 mi) with Bhutan in the north-west.[2] It comprises an area of 262,230 square kilometres (101,250 sq mi), almost 8 percent of that of India, and is one of the largest salients (panhandles) in the world.

Northeast India
North Eastern Region (NER)
Country India
Largest cityGuwahati
Major cities (2011 Census of India)[1]
  Total262,230 km2 (101,250 sq mi)
  Density170/km2 (450/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (Indian Standard Time)
Official languages

The states of North Eastern Region are officially recognised under the North Eastern Council (NEC),[3] constituted in 1971 as the acting agency for the development of the north eastern states. Long after induction of NEC, Sikkim formed part of the North Eastern Region as the eighth state in 2002.[4][5] India's Look-East connectivity projects connect Northeast India to China and ASEAN.


The earliest settlers may have been Austroasiatic languages speakers from Southeast Asia, followed by Tibeto-Burmese from China and by 500 B.C. Indo-Aryans speakers from Gangetic Plains.[6] Due to the bio- and crop diversity of the region, archaeological researchers believe that early settlers of Northeast India had domesticated several important plants.[7] Writers believe that the 100 BC writings of Chinese explorer, Zhang Qian indicate an early trade route via Northeast India.[8] The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea mention a people called Sêsatai in the region,[9] who produced malabathron, so prized in the old world.[10]

In the early historical period (most of first millennium), Kamarupa straddled most of present-day Northeast India, besides Bhutan and Sylhet in Bangladesh. Xuanzang, a travelling Chinese Buddhist monk, visited Kamarupa in the 7th century. He described the people as "short in stature and black-looking", whose speech differed a little from mid-India and who were of simple but violent disposition. He wrote that the people in Kamarupa knew of Sichuan, which lay to the kingdom's east beyond a treacherous mountain.[11]

The northeastern states were established during the British Raj of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when they became relatively isolated from traditional trading partners such as Bhutan and Myanmar.[12] Many of the peoples in present-day Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland converted to Christianity under the influence of British (Welsh) missionaries.

Formation of North Eastern states

In the early 19th century, both the Ahom and the Manipur kingdoms fell to a Burmese invasion. The ensuing First Anglo-Burmese War resulted in the entire region coming under British control. In the colonial period (1826–1947), North East India was made a part of Bengal Province from 1839 to 1873, when Assam became its own province.[13] In 1926,it became a part of Pakokku Hill Tracts Districts of British Burma except Assam, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh until 1948, January 4.

After Indian Independence from British Rule in 1947, the Northeastern region of British India consisted of Assam and the princely states of Manipur and Tripura. Subsequently, Nagaland in 1963, Meghalaya in 1972, Arunachal Pradesh in 1975 (capital changed to Itanagar) (formed on 20 February 1987) and Mizoram in 1987 were formed out of the large territory of Assam.[14] Manipur and Tripura remained as Union Territories of India between 1956 until 1972, when they attained fully-fledged statehood. Sikkim was integrated as the eighth North Eastern Council state in 2002.[4]

The city of Shillong served as the capital of the Assam province created during British Rule. It remained as the capital of undivided Assam until the formation of the state of Meghalaya in 1972.[15] The capital of Assam was shifted to Dispur, a part of Guwahati, and Shillong was designated as the capital of Meghalaya.

State Historic Name Capital(s) Statehood
Arunachal PradeshNorth-East Frontier AgencyItanagar1987 (earlier a Union Territory of India, constituted in 1971)[16]
AssamPragjyotisha, KamarupaShillong (till 1969), Dispur1947
ManipurKangleipak[17]Imphal1971 (earlier a Union Territory of India, constituted in 1956)[16]
MeghalayaKhasi hills, Jaintia hills and Garo hillsShillong1971[16]
MizoramLushai hillsAizawl1987 (earlier a Union Territory of India, constituted in 1971)[16][18]
NagalandNaga hillsKohima1963
TripuraTipperah[19]Agartala1971 (earlier a Union Territory of India, constituted in 1956)[16]

World War II

In 1944, the Japanese planned a daring attack on India. Traveling through Burma, its forces were stopped at Kohima and Imphal by British and Indian troops. This marked the furthest western expansion of the Japanese Empire; its defeat in this area presaged Allied victory.

Sino-Indian War (1962)

Arunachal Pradesh, a state in the Northeastern tip of India, is claimed by China as South Tibet. Sino-Indian relations degraded, resulting in the Sino-Indian War of 1962. The cause of the escalation into war is still disputed by both Chinese and Indian sources. During the war in 1962, the PRC (China) captured much of the NEFA (North-East Frontier Agency) created by India in 1954. But on 21 November 1962, China declared a unilateral ceasefire, and withdrew its troops 20 kilometres (12 mi) behind the McMahon Line. It returned Indian prisoners of war in 1963.[20]

Seven Sister States

The Seven Sister States[21] is a popular term for the contiguous states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura prior to inclusion of the state of Sikkim into the North Eastern Region of India. The sobriquet 'Land of the Seven Sisters' was coined to coincide with the inauguration of the new states in January 1972 by Jyoti Prasad Saikia,[22] a journalist in Tripura, in the course of a radio talk show. He later compiled a book on the interdependence and commonness of the Seven Sister States, and named it the Land of Seven Sisters. It has been primarily because of this publication that the nickname has caught on.


The Northeast region can be physiographically categorised into the Eastern Himalaya, the Patkai and the Brahmaputra and the Barak valley plains. Northeast India (at the confluence of Indo-Malayan, Indo-Chinese, and Indian biogeographical realms) has a predominantly humid sub-tropical climate with hot, humid summers, severe monsoons, and mild winters. Along with the west coast of India, this region has some of the Indian subcontinent's last remaining rainforests, which support diverse flora and fauna and several crop species. Reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the region are estimated to constitute a fifth of India's total potential.

The region is covered by the mighty Brahmaputra-Barak river systems and their tributaries. Geographically, apart from the Brahmaputra, Barak and Imphal valleys and some flatlands in between the hills of Meghalaya and Tripura, the remaining two-thirds of the area is hilly terrain interspersed with valleys and plains; the altitude varies from almost sea-level to over 7,000 metres (23,000 ft) above MSL. The region's high rainfall, averaging around 10,000 millimetres (390 in) and above creates problems of the ecosystem, high seismic activity, and floods. The states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim have a montane climate with cold, snowy winters and mild summers.


Highest peaks

Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain peak in the world rising to an altitude of 8,586 m (28,169 ft), lies in-between the state Sikkim and adjacent country Nepal.

Mountains and hills by state
Peak State Range/Region Height (m) Height (ft) Coordinates
Kangchenjunga (shared with Nepal) Sikkim Eastern Himalaya 8,586 28,169 27.703°N 88.148°E / 27.703; 88.148
Kangto (shared with Tibet) Arunachal Pradesh Eastern Himalaya 7,090 23,261 27.865°N 92.533°E / 27.865; 92.533
Mount Saramati (Shared with Myanmar) Nagaland Naga Hills 3,841 12,602 25.742°N 95.033°E / 25.742; 95.033
Mount Iso (also known as Tenipu) Manipur Senapati District 2,994 9,823 25.531°N 94.085°E / 25.531; 94.085
Phawngpui (Blue Mountain) Mizoram Saiha District 2,165 7,103 22.632°N 93.039°E / 22.632; 93.039
Shillong Peak Meghalaya Khasi Hills 1,965 6,447 25.532°N 91.851°E / 25.532; 91.851
Unnamed peak near Laike Assam Dima Hasao District 1,960 6,430 25.321°N 93.453°E / 25.321; 93.453
Betalongchhip Tripura Jampui Hills 930 3,051 23.810°N 92.261°E / 23.810; 92.261

Brahmaputra River Basin

Tributaries of the Brahmaputra River in Northeast India:


Northeast India has a subtropical climate that is influenced by its relief and influences from the southwest and northeast monsoons.[23][24] The Himalayas to the north, the Meghalaya plateau to the south and the hills of Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur to the east influences the climate.[25] Since monsoon winds originating from the Bay of Bengal move northeast, these mountains force the moist winds upwards, causing them to cool adiabatically and condense into clouds, releasing heavy precipitation on these slopes.[25] It is the rainiest region in the country, with many places receiving an average annual precipitation of 2,000 mm (79 in), which is mostly concentrated in summer during the monsoon season.[25] Cherrapunji, located on the Meghalaya plateau is one of the rainiest place in the world with an annual precipitation of 11,777 mm (463.7 in).[25] Temperatures are moderate in the Brahmaputra and Barak valley river plains which decreases with altitude in the hilly areas.[25] At the highest altitudes, there is permanent snow cover.[25]

Temperatures vary by altitude with the warmest places being in the Brahmaputra and Barak River plains and the coldest at the highest altitudes.[26] It is also influenced by proximity to the sea with the valleys and western areas being close to the sea, which moderates temperatures.[26] Generally, temperatures in the hilly and mountainous areas are generally lower than the plains which lie at a lower altitude.[27] Summer temperatures tend to be more uniform than winter temperatures due to high cloud cover and humidity.[28]

In the Brahmaputra and Barak valley river plains, mean winter temperatures vary between 16 to 17 °C (61 to 63 °F) while mean summer temperatures are around 28 °C (82 °F).[26] The highest summer temperatures occur in the West Tripura plain with Agartala, the capital of Tripura having mean maximum summer temperatures ranging between 33 to 35 °C (91 to 95 °F) in April.[29] The highest temperatures in summer occur before the arrival of monsoons and thus eastern areas have the highest temperatures in June and July where the monsoon arrives later than western areas.[29] In the Cachar Plain, located south of the Brahmaputra plain, temperatures are higher than the Brahmaputra plain although the temperature range is smaller owing to higher cloud cover and the monsoons that moderate night temperatures year round.[29][27]

In the mountainous areas of Arunachal Pradesh, the Himalayan ranges in the northern border with India and China experience the lowest temperatures with heavy snow during winter and temperatures that drop below freezing.[27] Areas with altitudes exceeding 2,000 metres (6,562 ft) receive snowfall during winters and have cool summers.[27] Below 2,000 metres (6,562 ft) above sea level, winter temperatures reach up to 15 °C (59 °F) during the day with nights dropping to zero while summers are cool, with a mean maximum of 25 °C (77 °F) and a mean minimum of 15 °C (59 °F).[27] In the hilly areas of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, winters are cold while summers are cool.[28]

The plains in Manipur has colder winter minimums than what is warranted by its elevation owing to being surrounded by hills on all sides.[30] This is due to temperature inversions during winter nights when cold air descends from the hills into the valleys below and its geographic location which prevents winds that bring hot temperatures and humidity from coming into the Manipur plain.[30]

The southwest monsoon is responsible for bringing 90% of the annual rainfall to the region.[31] April to late October are the months where most of the rainfall in Northeast India occurs with June and July being the rainiest months.[31] Southern areas are the first to receive the monsoon (May or June) with the Brahmaputra valley and the mountainous north receiving later (later May or June).[31] In the hilly parts of Mizoram, the closer proximity to the Bay of Bengal causes it to experience early monsoons with June being the wettest season.[31]

High risk seismic zone

The North Eastern Region of India is a mega-earthquake prone zone caused by active fault planes beneath formed by the convergence of three tectonic plates viz. India Plate, Eurasian Plate and Burma Plate. Historically the region has suffered from two great earthquakes (M > 8.0) – 1897 Assam earthquake and 1950 Assam-Tibet earthquake – and about 20 large earthquakes (8.0 > M > 7.0) since 1897.[32][33] The 1950 Assam-Tibet earthquake is still the largest earthquake in India.



WWF has identified the entire Eastern Himalayas as a priority Global 200 Ecoregion. Conservation International has upscaled the Eastern Himalaya hotspot to include all the eight states of Northeast India, along with the neighbouring countries of Bhutan, southern China and Myanmar.

The region has been identified by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research as a center of rice germplasm. The National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), India, has highlighted the region as being rich in wild relatives of crop plants. It is the center of origin of citrus fruits. Two primitive variety of maize, Sikkim Primitive 1 and 2, have been reported from Sikkim (Dhawan, 1964). Although jhum cultivation, a traditional system of agriculture, is often cited as a reason for the loss of forest cover of the region, this primary agricultural economic activity practiced by local tribes supported the cultivation of 35 varieties of crops. The region is rich in medicinal plants and many other rare and endangered taxa. Its high endemism in both higher plants, vertebrates, and avian diversity has qualified it as a biodiversity hotspot.

The following figures highlight the biodiversity significance of the region:[34]

  • 51 forest types are found in the region, broadly classified into six major types — tropical moist deciduous forests, tropical semi-evergreen forests, tropical wet evergreen forests, subtropical forests, temperate forests, and alpine forests.
  • Out of the nine important vegetation types of India, six are found in the North Eastern Region.
  • These forests harbor 8,000 out of 15,000 species of flowering plants. In floral species richness, the highest diversity is reported from the states of Arunachal Pradesh (5000 species) and Sikkim (4500 species) amongst the North Eastern states.
  • According to the Indian Red Data Book, published by the Botanical Survey of India, 10 percent of the flowering plants in the country are endangered. Of the 1500 endangered floral species, 800 are reported from Northeast India.
  • Most of the North Eastern states have more than 60% of their area under forest cover, a minimum suggested coverage for the hill states in the country in order to protect from erosion.
  • Northeast India is a part of Indo-Burma hotspot. This hotspot is the second largest in the world, next only to the Mediterranean Basin, with an area 2,206,000 square kilometres (852,000 sq mi) among the 25 identified.


The International Council for Bird Preservation, UK identified the Assam plains and the Eastern Himalaya as an Endemic Bird Area (EBA). The EBA has an area of 220,000 km2 following the Himalayan range in the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Nepal, Myanmar and the Indian states of Sikkim, northern West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, southern Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Because of a southward occurrence of this mountain range in comparison to other Himalayan ranges, this region has a distinctly different climate, with warmer mean temperatures and fewer days with frost, and much higher rainfall. This has resulted in the occurrence of a rich array of restricted-range bird species. More than two critically endangered species, three endangered species, and 14 vulnerable species of birds are in this EBA. Stattersfield et al. (1998) identified 22 restricted range species, out of which 19 are confined to this region and the remaining three are present in other endemic and secondary areas. Eleven of the 22 restricted-range species found in this region are considered as threatened (Birdlife International 2001), a number greater than in any other EBA of India.

WWF has identified the following priority ecoregions in North-East India:

Brahmaputra Valley Semi-Evergreen Forests
Eastern Himalayan Broadleaved Forests
Eastern Himalayan Sub-alpine Coniferous Forests
India–Myanmar Pine Forests

National Parks

National parkLocationStateArea (km2)ImportanceVegetation
Namdapha National ParkChanglang districtArunachal Pradesh1,985Largest protected area in Eastern HimalayaTropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, montane forests
Manas National ParkBarpeta districtAssam950UNESCO World Heritage SiteTropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Kaziranga National ParkGolaghat and Nagaon districtsAssam[35] 882UNESCO World Heritage SiteBrahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests, Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands
Khangchendzonga National ParkNorth Sikkim districtSikkim850UNESCO Mixed World Heritage Site and highest altitude wildlife protected area in IndiaSub-tropical to Alpine, Krummholz (stunted forest)[36]
Mouling National ParkUpper Siang, West Siang and East Siang districtsArunachal Pradesh483Tropical to Temperate forests
Dibru-Saikhowa National ParkDibrugarh and Tinsukia districtsAssam350Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests|
Balphakram National ParkSouth Garo Hills districtMeghalaya220Sub-tropical evergreen deciduous forests
Intangki National ParkPeren districtNagaland202Temperate evergreen forests
Nameri National ParkSonitpur districtAssam200Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests
Murlen National ParkChamphai districtMizoram100Montane sub-tropical semi-evergreen forest[37]
Orang National ParkDarrang and SonitpurAssam79Eastern seasonal swamp forests, Eastern Himalayan moist mixed deciduous forests, eastern wet alluvial grasslands[38]
Phawngpui National ParkLawngtlai districtMizoram50Temperate forests[39]
Nokrek National ParkWest Garo Hills districtMeghalaya48Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Sirohi National ParkUkhrul districtManipur41Mizoram-Manipur-Kachin rainforest
Keibul Lamjao National ParkBishnupur districtManipur40World's only floating National parkPhumdi (floating marshes)
Bison (Rajbari) National ParkSouth Tripura districtTripura32Tropical semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forests
Clouded Leopard National ParkSepahijala districtTripura5Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests

State Symbols

Arunachal PradeshAssamManipurMeghalaya
AnimalMithun (Bos frontalis)Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii)Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)
BirdHornbill (Buceros bicornis)White-winged duck (Asarcornis scutulata)Mrs. Hume's pheasant (Syrmaticus humiae)Hill myna (Gracula religiosa)
FlowerFoxtail orchid (Rhynchostylis retusa)Foxtail orchid (Rhynchostylis retusa)Siroi lily (Lilium mackliniae)Lady's Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum insigne)
TreeHollong (Dipterocarpus macrocarpus)Hollong (Dipterocarpus macrocarpus)Uningthou (Phoebe hainesiana)Gamhar (Gmelina arborea)
AnimalHimalayan serow (Capricornis thar)Mithun (Bos frontalis)Red panda (Ailurus fulgens)Phayre's leaf monkey (Trachypithecus phayrei)
BirdMrs. Hume's pheasant (Syrmaticus humiae)Blyth's tragopan (Tragopan blythii)Blood pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus)Green imperial pigeon (Ducula aenea)
FlowerRed Vanda (Renanthera imschootiana)Tree rhododendron (Rhododendron arboreum)Noble dendrobium (Dendrobium nobile)Indian rose chestnut (Mesua ferrea)
TreeIndian rose chestnut (Mesua ferrea)Alder (Alnus nepalensis)Rhododendron (Rhododendron niveum)Agarwood (Aquillaria agallocha)


The total population of Northeast India is 46 million with 68 percent of that living in Assam alone. Assam also has a higher population density of 397 persons per km² than the national average of 382 persons per km². The literacy rates in the states of the Northeastern region, except those in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, are higher than the national average of 74 percent. As per 2011 census, Meghalaya recorded the highest population growth of 27.8 percent among all the states of the region, higher than the national average at 17.64 percent; while Nagaland recorded the lowest in the entire country with a negative 0.5 percent.[40]

State Population MalesFemales Sex Ratio Literacy % Rural Population Urban Population Area (km²) Density (/km²)
Arunachal Pradesh1,383,727713,912669,81593865.38870,087 227,88183,74317
Assam31,205,57615,939,44315,266,13395872.1923,216,288 3,439,24078,438397
Manipur2,570,3901,290,1711,280,21999279.211,590,820575,968 22,327122
Meghalaya2,966,8891,491,8321,475,05798974.431,864,711454,111 22,429132
Mizoram1,097,206555,339541,86797691.33447,567441,006 21,08152
Nagaland1,978,5021,024,649953,85393179.551,647,249342,787 16,579119
Sikkim610,577323,070287,50789081.42480,98159,8707,096 86
Tripura3,673,9171,874,3761,799,54196087.222,653,453545,750 10,486350

Largest cities by population

According to 2011 Census of India, the largest cities in Northeast India are

8DibrugarhUAAssam154,29616ItanagarCityArunachal Pradesh95,650

UA: Urban Agglomeration[41]


Northeast India constitutes a single linguistic region within the Indian national context, with about 220 languages in multiple language families (Indo-European, Trans-Himalayan/Sino-Tibetan, Kra–Dai, Austroasiatic, as well as some creole languages) that share a number of features that set them apart from most other areas of the Indian subcontinent (such as alveolar consonants rather than the more typical dental/retroflex distinction).[42][43] Assamese, an Indo-Aryan language spoken mostly in the Brahmaputra Valley, developed as a lingua franca for many speech communities. Assamese-based pidgin/creoles have developed in Nagaland (Nagamese) and Arunachal (Nefamese),[44] though their use has been on a decline in recent times. The Austro-Asiatic family is represented by the Khasi, Jaintia and War languages of Meghalaya. A small number of Tai–Kadai languages (Ahom, Tai Phake, Khamti, etc.) are also spoken. Trans-Himalayan/Sino-Tibetan is represented by a number of languages that differ significantly from each other,[45] some of which are: Bodo, Rabha, Karbi, Mising, Tiwa, Deori, Biate etc. (Assam); Garo, Hajong, Biate (Meghalaya) Ao, Angami, Sema, Lotha, Konyak etc.(Nagaland); Mizo, Hmar, Chakma etc. (Mizoram); Hrusso, Tanee, Nisi, Adi, Abor, Nocte, Apatani, Misimi etc. (Arunachal). Meitei is the official language in Manipur, the dominant language of the Imphal Valley; while "Naga" languages such as Poumai, Mao, Maram, Rongmei (Kabui) and Tangkul, and Kuki-Chin languages such as Thadou-Kuki, Mizo, Hmar, Simte and Paite predominate in individual hill areas of the state.[46]

Among other Indo-Aryan languages, Bengali is spoken in South Assam in the Barak Valley. Besides the Sino-Tibetan Tripuri language, Bengali is a majority language in Tripura. Nepali, an Indo-Aryan language, is dominant in Sikkim, besides the Sino-Tibetan languages Limbu, Bhutia and Lepcha. Bengali was the official language of Colonial Assam for about forty years from the 1830s.

Official languages

State Official Languages[47]
Arunachal PradeshHindi, English
AssamAssamese, Bengali (in the Barak Valley), Bodo (in Bodoland)
MeghalayaKhasi, Garo, English
MizoramMizo, English
SikkimNepali, English
TripuraBengali, Kokborok, English[49]

Etymology of state names

Name of state Origin Literal meaning
Arunachal PradeshSanskritLand of the rising sun
AssamNative wordName derived from the Ahom people(?)[50], and also from the Sanskrit word asama, meaning "uneven"(?)[51]
ManipurSanskritLand abundant with jewels, adopted in the 18th century
MeghalayaSanskritAbode of the clouds, coined by Shiba P. Chatterjee
MizoramMizo languageLand of the Mizo people; Ram - means land
NagalandEnglishLand of the Naga people
SikkimLimbu LanguageNew House – Derived from the word "Sukhim", "Su" meaning new and "Khim" meaning house
TripuraKokborokSanskrit version of native names: Tipra, Tuipura, Twipra etc. It literally means Land near the Water – Derived from the word "TWIPRA", "Twi" meaning water and "Bupra" meaning near. As Tripura is slightly near the Bay of Bengal

Endangered languages

Given the diverse population in the region with only a few widely spoken ones recognised as the official languages by both the state and central governments, a large number of languages from the North Eastern Region of India have become vulnerable. Without proper teaching and preservation efforts, the already underdeveloped literature of the endangered languages are on the verge of extinction. Additionally, the younger generation are rapidly adopting the widely spoken languages to secure employment and livelihood.[52]


Religion in Northeast India (2011)

  Hinduism (54.76%)
  Islam (25.07%)
  Christianity (17.25%)
  Buddhism (1.37%)
  Jainism (0.07%)
  Sikhism (0.07%)
  Other religions (1.97%)
  Not Stated (0.19%)
Religious population in North Eastern Region, according to 2011 Census of India[53]
StateHinduismIslamChristianityBuddhismJainismSikhismOther ReligionsReligion Not Stated
Arunachal Pradesh401,87627,045418,732162,8157713,287362,5536,648

Ethnic groups

Northeast India has over 220 ethnic groups and an equal number of dialects in which Bodo form the largest indigenous ethnic group.[54] The hills states in the region like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland are predominantly inhabited by tribal people with a degree of diversity even within the tribal groups. The region's population results from ancient and continuous flows of migrations from Tibet, Indo-Gangetic India, the Himalayas, present Bangladesh, and Myanmar.[55]

Major communities



State Staple diet Popular dishes Related article
Arunachal PradeshRice, fish, meat, leaf vegetablesThukpa, momo, apong (rice beer)Cuisine of Arunachal Pradesh
AssamRice, fish, meat, leaf vegetableAssam tea, Pitha, khar, tenga, pura, tamul (betel nut) – paan, rice beerAssamese cuisine
ManipurRice, fish, local vegetablesEromba, u-morok, singju, ngari (fermented fish), kangshoiCuisine of Manipur
MeghalayaRice, spiced meat, fishJadoh, ki kpu, minil, nakham (dried fish), momo, bamboo shootCuisine of Meghalaya
MizoramRice, fish, meatBai, bekang (fermented soya beans), sa-um (fermented pork), sawhchiar
NagalandRice, meat, stewed or steamed vegetablesfermented bamboo shoot, smoked pork and beef, axone, bhut jolokiaNaga cuisine
SikkimRice, meat, dairy productsThukpa, momo, sha Phaley, gundruk, sinki, sel rotiSikkimese cuisine
TripuraRice, fish, meatFish stew, bamboo shoot, fermented fishTripuri cuisine


Sattriya (from Assam) and Manipuri dance (from Manipur) have been listed as classical dances of India. Besides these, all tribes in Northeast India have their own folk dances associated with their religion and festivals. The tribal heritage in the region is rich with the practice of hunting, land cultivation and indigenous crafts. The rich culture is vibrant and visible with the traditional attires of each community.

All states in Northeast India share the handicrafts of bamboo and cane, wood carving, making traditional weapons and musical instruments, pottery and handloom weaving. Traditional tribal attires are made of thick fabrics primarily with cotton.[56] Assam silk is a famous industry in the region.

State Traditional Performing Arts Traditional Visual Arts Traditional Crafts
Arunachal PradeshWancho dances, Idu Mishmi dance, Digaru Mishmi Buiya dance, Khampti dance, Ponung dance, Sadinuktso[57]Cane and bamboo, cotton and wool weaving, wood carving, blacksmithy (hand tools, weapons, ornaments, dishes, sacred bells and smoking pipes)[57][58]
AssamSattriya, Bagurumba, Bihu dance, Bhaona (For more see Music of Assam)Hastividyarnava (For more see Fine Arts of Assam)Cane and bamboo, bell metal and brass, silk, toy and mask making, pottery and terracotta, jewellery, musical instruments making, boat making, paints
ManipurManipuri dance (Ras Lila), Kartal Cholom, Manjira Cholom, Khubak Eshei, Pung Cholom, Lai-HaraobaCotton textile, bamboo crafts (hats, baskets), pottery[58][56]
MeghalayaNongkrem, Shad suk, Behdienkhlam, Wangala, Lahoo dance[59][58] (For more see Music of Meghalaya)Making hand tools and weapons, musical instruments (drums), cane and bamboo work, weaving traditional attires, jewellery making (gold, coral, glass), wall engravings, wood carving[58][60]
MizoramCheraw, Khuallam, Chheih-Lam, Chai, Rallu-Lam, Solakia, Sarlamkai, Par-lam, Sakei Lu Lam[61] (For more see Music of Mizoram)Traditional hand tools, weapons and textile work, bamboo and cane handicrafts[62][58]
NagalandZeliang dance, war dance, Nruirolians (cock dance) (For more see Music of Nagaland)Cane and bamboo crafts, traditional hand tools, weapons and textile work, wood carving, pottery, ornaments for traditional attire, musical instruments (drum and trumpet)[58]
SikkimChu Faat dance, Lu Khangthamo, Gha To Kito, Rechungma, Maruni, Tamang Selo, Singhi Chaam, Yak Chaam, Khukuri dance, Rumtek Chaam (mask dance)[63][64][65] (See also Music of Sikkim)Thangka (showcasing Buddhist teachings on cotton canvas using vegetable dyes)[64]Handmade paper, carpet making, woollen textile, wood carving[64]
TripuraGoria dance, Jhum dance, Lebang dance, Mamita dance, Mosak sulmani dance, Hojagiri dance, Bizhu dance, Wangala, Hai-hak dance, Sangrai dance, Owa danceCane and bamboo, weaving and handloom, sitalpati (mat making), wood carving,[58] string and wind musical instruments


Northeast is a hub of different genres of music. Each community has its own rich heritage of folk music. Talented musicians and singers are plentifully found in this part of the country. The Assamese singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika achieved national and international fame with his remarkable creations. Another famous singer from Assam, Pratima Barua Pandey is a well-known folk singer. Zubeen Garg, Papon, Anurag Saikia are some other notable singers, musicians from the state of Assam. Tangkhul Naga folk blue singer like Rewben Mashangva, who comes from Ukhrul, is an acclaimed Folk singer whose music is inspired by the like of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. Another famous folk singing band from Nagaland popularly known as Tetseo Sisters is one to be noted for their original music genre. However, younger generation has started pursuing western music more and more nowadays. Northeast is witnessing immense rise of musical revolution in the 21st century.


Many of the Northeast Indian indigenous communities have an ancient heritage of folktales which tell the tale of their origin, rituals, beliefs and so on. These tales are transmitted from one generation to another in oral form. They are remarkable instances of tribal wisdom and imagination. However, Assam and Manipur have some ancient written texts. These states were mentioned in the great Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Saptakanda Ramayana in Assamese by Madhava Kandali is considered the first translation of the Sanskrit Ramayana into a modern Indo-Aryan Language. Karbi Ramayana bears witness to the old heritage of written literature in Assam. Two writers from the Northeast, viz., Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya and Mamoni Raisom Goswami, have been awarded Jnanpith, the highest literary award in India.[66] Hence, Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya was the first Assamese writer and from the Northeast India to receive Jnanpith Award for his Assamese novel Mrityunjay(1979).[67] Mamoni Raisom Goswami was awarded the Jnanpith Award in the year 2000.[66] Nagen Saikia is the first writer from Assam and the Northeast India, to have been conferred the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Fellowship by the Sahitya Akademi.[68][69] The last quarter of the 20th century saw the rise of modern literature in the Northeast. Most of the writers, especially the tribal writers, are bilingual, that is, they write both in their mother-tongue and English. Some of the general features of this literature are—retrieval of folklore, celebration of folk culture, identity politics, reaction to the insurgency and counter-insurgency operations, depiction of natural beauty, changes meted out by time, etc. The major writers of Northeast Literature are--(from Assam) Lakshminath Bezbaroa, Homen Borgohain, Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya, Harekrishna Deka, Rongbong Terang, Nilmani Phukan, Indira Goswami, Hiren Bhattacharyya, Mitra Phukan, Jahnavi Barua, Dhruba Hazarika, Rita Chowdhury, D N Bezbarua, Nilim Kumar, Anupama Basumatary, Uddipana Goswami, Anjum Hassan, Aruni Kashyap; (from Arunachal Pradesh) Mamang Dai; (from Manipur) Robin S Ngangom, Ratan Thiyam, Thangjam Ibopishak, Gambhini Devi, T Bijoykumar Singh; (from Meghalaya) Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih, Esther Syiem, Desmond Kharmawphlang, Paul Lyngdoh; (from Mizoram) Mona Zote; (from Nagaland) Temsula Ao, Cherrie Chhangte, Easterine Kire; (from Sikkim) Sudha M Rai, Rajendra Bhandari (from Tripura) Chandrakanta Murasingh. Temsula Ao is the first writer from Northeast India to be awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award (2013) in the Indian English Literature category for her collection of short stories, Laburnum for My Head, and Padmashree (2007). Easterine Kire is the first English novelist hailed from Nagaland. She received The Hindu Literary Prize (2015) for her novel When the River Sleeps. Indira Goswami, alias Mamoni Roisom Goswami, is an acclaimed Assamese writer whose novels include Moth-Eaten Howda of the Tusker, Pages Stained with Blood, The Shadow of Kamakhya and The Blue-Necked God. Mamang Dai won the Sahitya Akademi Award (2017) for her novel The Black Hill.[70]

Administration and political disputes

International borders management

Pan-states development authorities

States and sub-divisions

StateCodeCapitalDistrictsSub-division TypeNumber of Subdivisions
Arunachal PradeshIN-ARItanagar20Circle149
MeghalayaIN-MLShillong11Community Development Block39
MizoramIN-MZAizawl8Community Development Block22
Autonomous Administrative Divisions in North Eastern States
State Autonomous Division Establishment
AssamBodoland Territorial Area DistrictsFebruary 2003
Dima Hasao districtFebruary 1970
Karbi Anglong districtFebruary 1970
Mising Autonomous Council1995
Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council1995
Manipur[71][72]Churachandpur Autonomous District Council1971
Chandel Autonomous District Council1971
Senapati Autonomous District Council1971
Sadar Hills Autonomous District Council1971
Tamenglong Autonomous District Council1971
Ukhrul Autonomous District Council1971
MeghalayaGaro Hills Autonomous District Council
Jaintia Hills Autonomous District CouncilJuly 2012
Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council
MizoramChakma Autonomous District CouncilApril 1972
Lai Autonomous District CouncilApril 1972
Mara Autonomous District CouncilMay 1971
TripuraTripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District CouncilJanuary 1982


The northeastern states, having 3.8% of India's total population, are allotted 25 out of a total of 543 seats in the Lok Sabha. This is 4.6% of the total number of seats.

State Chief Minister[73] Governor[74] High Court Chief Justice
Arunachal PradeshPema KhanduB. D. MishraGuwahati High Court (Itanagar Bench)Justice Ajit Singh
AssamSarbananda SonowalProfessor Jagdish MukhiGuwahati High CourtJustice Ajit Singh
ManipurNongthombam Biren SinghNajma HeptullaManipur High CourtJustice N. Kotiswar Singh
MeghalayaConrad SangmaTathagata RoyMeghalaya High CourtJustice Dinesh Maheshwari
MizoramZoramthangaProfessor Jagdish MukhiGuwahati High Court (Aizawl Bench)Justice Ajit Singh
NagalandNeiphiu RioShri Padmanabha Balakrishna AcharyaGuwahati High Court (Kohima Bench)Justice Ajit Singh
SikkimPrem Singh TamangGanga PrasadSikkim High CourtJustice Satish K. Agnihotri
TripuraBiplab Kumar DebKaptan Singh SolankiTripura High CourtJustice Tinlianthang Vaiphei

21st century separatist unrest

In 1947 Indian independence and partition resulted in the North East becoming a landlocked region. This exacerbated the isolation that has been recognized, but not studied. East Pakistan controlled access to the Indian Ocean.[75] The mountainous terrain has hampered the construction of road and railways connections in the region.

Several militant groups have formed an alliance to fight against the governments of India, Bhutan, and Myanmar, and now use the term "Western Southeast Asia" (WESEA) to refer to the region.[76] The separatist groups include the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak-Pro (PREPAK-Pro), Revolutionary People's Front (RPF) and United National Liberation Front (UNLF) of Manipur, Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) of Meghalaya, Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO), which operates in Assam and North Bengal, National Democratic Front of Bodoland and ULFA of Assam, and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT).[77]


The Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (MDoNER) is the deciding body under Government of India for socio-economic development in the region. The North Eastern Council under MDoNER serves as the regional governing body for Northeast India. The North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd. (NEDFi) is a Public Limited Company providing assistance to micro, small, medium and large enterprises within the northeastern region (NER). Other organizations under MDoNER include North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation Limited (NERAMAC), Sikkim Mining Corporation Limited (SMC) and North Eastern Handlooms and Handicrafts Development Corporation (NEHHDC).



The economy is agrarian. Little land is available for settled agriculture. Along with settled agriculture, jhum (slash-and-burn) cultivation is still practised by a few indigenous groups of people. The inaccessible terrain and internal disturbances has made rapid industrialisation difficult in the region.


Living Root Bridges

Northeast India is also the home of many Living root bridges. In Meghalaya, these can be found in the southern Khasi and Jaintia Hills.[78][79][80] They are still widespread in the region, though as a practice they are fading out, with many examples having been destroyed in floods or replaced by more standard structures in recent years.[81] Living root bridges have also been observed in the state of Nagaland, near the Indo-Myanmar border.[82]

Newspapers & Magazines

Northeast India has several newspapers in both English and regional languages. The largest circulated English daily in Assam is The Assam Tribune. In Meghalaya, The Shillong Times is the highest circulated newspaper. In Nagaland, Nagaland Post has the highest number of readers. G Plus is the only print and digital English weekly tabloid published from Guwahati. In Manipur, Imphal Free Press is a highly respected newspaper. in Arunachal Pradesh, The Arunachal Times is the highest circulated newspaper in Arunachal Pradesh.



States in the North Eastern Region are well connected by air-transport conducting regular flights to all major cities in the country. The states also own several small airstrips for military and private purposes which may be accessed using Pawan Hans helicopter services. The region currently has two international airports viz. Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport and Bir Tikendrajit International Airport conducting flights to Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan. While the airport in Sikkim is under-construction, Bagdogra Airport (IATA: IXB, ICAO: VEBD) remains the closest domestic airport to the state.

Public airports operational in Northeast India
State Airport City IATA Code
Arunachal PradeshItanagar Airport (Under construction)Itanagar
AssamDibrugarh AirportDibrugarhDIB
Jorhat AirportJorhatJRH
Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International AirportGuwahatiGAU
Lilabari AirportLakhimpurIXI
Rupsi AirportDhubriRUP
Silchar AirportSilcharIXS
Tezpur AirportTezpurTEZ
ManipurBir Tikendrajit International AirportImphalIMF
MeghalayaBaljek AirportTuraVETU (ICAO)
Shillong AirportShillongSHL
MizoramLengpui AirportAizawlAJL
NagalandDimapur AirportDimapurDMU
SikkimPakyong AirportGangtokPYG
TripuraMaharaja Bir Bikram AirportAgartalaIXA


Railway in Northeast India is delineated as Northeast Frontier Railway zone of Indian Railways. The regional network is underdeveloped with the states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim remaining almost disconnected till date (11 June 2017). However, projects are underway to extend the network and connect all the capital cities in the region.[83]

Look East Policy

In the 21st century, there has been recognition among policymakers and economists of the region that the main stumbling block for economic development of the Northeastern region is the disadvantageous geographical location.[84] It was argued that globalisation propagates deterritorialisation and a borderless world which is often associated with economic integration. With 98 percent of its borders with China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal, Northeast India appears to have a better scope for development in the era of globalisation.[85] As a result, a new policy developed among intellectuals and politicians that one direction the Northeastern region must be looking to as a new way of development lies with political integration with the rest of India and economic integration with the rest of Asia and Oceania, with North, East and Southeast Asia, Micronesia and Polynesia in particular, as the policy of economic integration with the rest of India did not yield much dividends. With the development of this new policy, the Government of India directed its Look East policy towards developing the Northeastern region. This policy is reflected in the Year End Review 2004 of the Ministry of External Affairs, which stated that: "India’s Look East Policy has now been given a new dimension by the UPA Government. India is now looking towards a partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ASEAN countries, both within BIMSTEC and the India-ASEAN Summit dialogue as integrally linked to economic and security interests, particularly for India’s East and North East region."[86]

Development and connectivity projects

The north-east (NE) region of India lags behind the rest of the country in several development indicators. Although infrastructure has developed over the years, the region has to go a long way to level up the national standard. The total road network of about 377 thousand km of NE contributes about 9.94 per cent of the total roads in the country. Road density in terms of road length per thousand km2. area is very poor in hilly state of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Sikkim, while it is significantly high in Tripura and Assam. The road length per 100 km2 area in NE districts varies from as less as below 10 km (in Arunachal Pradesh) to more than 200 km (in Tripura). Other means of transport such as rail, air and water is insignificant in NE (except Assam); however, a few cities of these states having direct air connectivity in the region. The total railway network in the NE is 2602 km (as on 2011), which is only about 4 per cent of the total rail network of the country. Constructions of roads build the road map for development and road is the only means of mass transport for the entire NE of India. Due to hilly terrain and varied altitudes, rail transport is mainly confined to Assam and water transport is almost non-existent. India's road network has benefited greatly from the articulation of the National Highways Development Project (NHDP). The Ministry has formulated the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for North East (SARDP-NE) for the development/improvement of more than 10,000 km roads in the NE states. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has been paying special attention to the development of national highways in the region and has assigned 10 per cent of the total allocation of fund for the NE region. Another major constraint of surface infrastructure projects in the NE states has to be linked up with parallel developments in the neighboring countries, particularly with Bangladesh. The restoration and extension of pre-partition land and river transit routes through Bangladesh is vital for transport infrastructure in NE states. Other international cooperation, such as, revival of Ledo road (Stilwell road) connecting Ledo in Assam to northern Myanmar and extended up to Kunming in south-eastern China, Kaladan Multimodal Transit Project and Trans-Asian Railways, could open up an eastern window for the land-locked NE states of India. Various regional initiatives, such as, the Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMTTH) project to link the markets of South and Southeast Asia, are in very initial stages. [87]

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