Naga warrior

Flying to Dibrugarh Airport in Assam took us over the devastating flooding of the Brahmaputra river, India’s only ‘male’ river ..pretty as it looked from the air, with the sun glistening on the water, underneath were 500,000 acres of destroyed crops and up to 50 dead. The floods have been a more regular occurrence since the 1950 earthquake and continual deforestation.
Vaivhav Todi of Greener Pastures was there to meet me. He was the organiser of my trip to Nagaland.
Dibrugarh is known as the Tea City of India, and the town is a major trading centre, with street after street of small shops, crowded in the evenings with relatively well off customers.

The next morning we set out for Nagaland, Keviphrulie Iralu my guide , but affectionately known as Aphriilie Iralu, and our driver in the large four wheel drive.

Kids Nagaland

Stopping for lunch of sticky rice I thought it might be my last, a word of advice, drink plenty of water with sticky rice. Early afternoon we reached the border of Nagaland , specifically Mon district. Although there is no restriction on non Indians visting Nagaland one has to go through police control and hand over photocopy of passport.

Naga from Konyak tribe ..Mon district

The roads deteriorated from there on. We stayed the night in Mon village in the middle of Mon District. I stayed in a comfortable Guest House, eating an excellent dinner on the terrace overlooking the countryside and watching the sun going down in total tranquillity.

Mon village Evening view from my guesthouse

It was a year before while in Delhi while visiting the National Museum, I came across, tucked away at the top of the building, in the rather forlorn Ethnographic section, some photographs of the Naga in about 1950..not only did the photos remind me of the Nuba but there was something familiar about the Naga and that took a longtime to work out.
While researching the Naga I came across a link ..Look and Learn January 1964 ‘Headhunters of the Naga Hills’ ..(and it was the only ‘comic’ our school allowed) I can vaguely remember reading and the fear I had of the idea of being decapitated.

Headhunters of the Naga Hills Look and Learn 1964

Early next day we headed up to Longwa, a village on the Burmese border, well in fact half in Burma, and the inhabitants have dual Indian Myanmar citizenship.
Although the village is only about 25 miles away because of the potholed mud roads it is nearly a three hour drive.

Thatched dwellings of the Konyak tribe Mon district

Thatched dwelling of Konyak tribe Mon district

The drive is like taking a trip back in time. We encountered no other cars, only someone struggling on a motorbike. The countryside was of a vivid light green punctuated by beautiful thatched dwellings that blended in so well with the landscape.
We came across occasional groups of villagers, mostly women off down the valley to the rice paddies near the rivers, mostly shy of a westerner.
The Naga leave a very light ecological footprint on the planet.

Konyak villagers off to the fields

Longwa village at about 900 metres has far reaching view into Myanmar and India..At it’s highest point is the enormous thatched dwelling of the King. Konyaks have hereditary chiefs known as Anghs, and the institution of Anghship exists only among the Konyak Naga.
The old king had died a few months before and the new king was a shy gentle man. He ruled over some 70 villages both in Nagaland, Arunchel Pradesh and Burma, although most powers had passed to government institutions on both sides he received help in tending fields and any needed rebuilding of houses. We met his second wife who is a princess from a tribe in northerly Arunchel Pradesh.
There was much smoking of opium among the King’s family I read somewhere it was necessary to curb their tempestuous nature.

The new King of Longwa looking to his lands in Myanmar

Headhunting was part of the tribal culture up until the early 1960’s and ended with the arrival of the Southern Baptists. There are two theories to why headhunting ; the first being the power it ascribed to the warrior who had taken the head , the second that
the fertility of their crops was dependent on the number of heads taken.

Opium smoking Longwa

The new King Longwa

Although it said that headhunting died out by the early 60’s I met a king from another Konyak branch from Myanmar who must have been about 60, who showed me his tattoos that proved that he had taken three heads, and that must have been in the 1970’s.

Konyak warrior king from Burmese Nagaland ..Tattoos for 3 heads taken

The King or Anghs large thatched dwelling is actually half in India and half in Myanmar.

The Kings dwelling Longwa

It is a mini palace to some extent with a large entrance room with a throne chair, old shields on the wall with the heads and antlers of many beasts, a few bedrooms,a opium smoking room, a large kitchen with the second wife at the fire, and at the very back a granary with, while I was there girls grinding some millet. A hive of activity.

Longwa the Kings’ kitchen

The granary ..Kings dwelling Longwa

A large Baptist church dominates a vibrant pretty village with smiling happy Naga.

Had tea with very pleasant Naga lady



Outside of Mon Township we stopped at a little village that apart from the lack of a tarmac road and a public house would not be out of place in the English countryside. Each beautiful thatched house had gardens full of flowers. Everything was so green that photosynthesis must have been on steroids.

Naga man weaving mat

The village reminded me of ‘News from Nowhere’, with the men weaving mats, the children high jumping and the women out walking wearing their handcrafted necklaces..a rural idyll.

High Jump Mon District

Naga from Konyak tribe typical beadwork necklace

Kohima is the urban soul of a predominately rural Nagaland. It has strong connections with Britain, first as the administrative centre of greater Nagaland and secondly remembered most for one of the defining battles of Second World War.

Kohima the Paan shop

I stayed in a small nineteenth century British bungalow now an hotel, but it was first the residence of Captain Butler the first Political Agent to Nagaland. Today in the small lounge hangs the board with the list of all the Political Agents and later Adminstrators up to Independence.

Main Market Kohima The Naga eat most things from bugs to frogs

The battle of Kohima is little heard of these days but it was key to the war in the East. Winning did mean saving India and the Raj. Many Indians from mainly Bengal under Chandrar Bose and even more Burmese, treated apallingly by the British, joined with the Japanese on the assault of India. Nagas didn’t take part in the actual fighting but were guides, porters, spies, stretcher-bearers and even dug trenches for the British and a couple of thousand were thought to have died.
The battle is often referred to as the Stalingrad of the East. In 2013, the British National Army Museum voted the Battle of Imphal and Kohima to be Britains Greatest Battle.

Naga Kohima

Kohima is a hilltop city with both Baptist and Catholic Cathedrals, although the Naga are mainly Baptist and Asia’s largest Christian church ( Baptist) has just been completed near Kohima. It is the real capital of the Naga, with the Administration, schools and a University for the whole of Nagaland.
The doors or gates near the old part of town depict the dates of the proclamation of Independence and the start of the armed struggle for an Independent Nagland, with a gun depicted in the carving.

Old town Gates Kohima 1947 Independence

Old Town Gates Kohima 1976 armed struggle

The city is not too big and although a little ramshackle is a pleasant place better than most Asian cities.

Angami Naga Women

The Angami Naga, one of the largest Naga tribes live in the Kohima district and like most of Nagaland are predominately Baptist.

Baptist Service Kohima

Converted by American missionaries some 60 years ago led to the end of traditional beliefs and headhunting. Nagaland is known as “the only predominantly Baptist state in the world” but there a few, fortunately, who still cling to traditional beliefs.

Gaur heads horns
now rare ..tended with fresh hay on heads ..spirit honour

Traditional Naga religion or tribal belief is a multifaceted religion with the combination of theism, animism, supernaturalism, superstition, shamanism and lycanthropism, (the ability to take the form of a wolf).” The indigenous Naga religion is a belief in the existence of spirits. Every place is associated with a spirit and if there is a place there will be a spirit of that place who is supposed to be feared and propitiated. A plurality of religion makes the world a more interesting place, the Hindu festivals in India are a joyous occasion and so much fun, and the Naga belief system needs to be safeguarded.


There are sixteen main Naga tribes and many subtribes, each with different language and tribal political structure, living in a huge area encompassing both India and Burma. The British on Indian Independence drew a line straight through Naga lands splitting the Naga and some tribes into 2 seperate countries. The Naga see their lands as Naga lands not the Naga in Burma or India. The Naga sensing betrayal by the British, they were promised a land under British Protectorate, declared Independence a day before India was given Independence. The effect of an Independence war and the emergence of the Baptist Church has led to a global Naga consciousness, and a diminution of tribal importance with religion and the English language defining the Naga.

Although the war of Independence is currently on the back burner, the Indian Government has spent more in the North East of India recently, realising that coercion is not the best way to keep this geo politically important region firmly in its sphere of influence, the insurgency has led to some 100,000 deaths since 1947. Naga Independence groups have been funded by both Pakistan and China, initially with leaders being trained in China.

With Religion and Politics out of the way that only leaves football. India has given free satellite subscription to the Naga region and the English Premier league is followed avidly every weekend.

Visiting villages within a few hours drive of Kohima one was aware of the independence of the Naga. Here there are few thatched dwellings but more solid wood houses with typical decoration of bull horns and Naga symbols.

Naga House Kohima

Large store rooms contained huge wicker baskets full of rice.

Huge baskets for storing rice

There is an abundance of cotton and weaving is a mainstay of supplementing income. The Custom in Nagaland is that every girl who attains the age of marriage, should be able to spin and weave.

Traditional weaving

Naga cloth Naga sarong wrap

There is little excessive non essential consumer tat inside houses with the kitchen being the main room of the house. Tea is drunk everywhere and here in the Naga hills along with Assam is where, what is known as milk tea came from, as opposed to green and other teas from China.

My favourite homestay in Kohima district, a few hours drive from the city, was in a small village nestled in the hills with farmers Letso and Sotuno. It was so much fun.

Letso ..the chef at the best homestay

Letso was the cook and the food was excellent. Sotuno was the entertainer and she spent the whole time laughing. With the exceptional Aphriilie Iralu as translator, he stayed as well, it was a memorable time.

Letso and Sotuno

My last stay was in Khonoma village, a model village in a beautiful setting. It is India’s number one green village with a wildlife sanctuary, terraced cultivation and innovative water management for the terraced cultivation.

The view from Khonoma Village

I spent an afternoon watching the local farmers working in the fields, and after, the hard walk up from the rice paddies to the village.

Basket maker Khonoma Village

Khonoma Village Returning home after day in the fields

Khonoma Village Returning home after day in the fields

Khonoma Village farmer

Nagaland is a beautiful tranquil place for exploring and realising that perhaps there is an alternative and different way of life.

Mike Wooldridge doyen of BBC correspondants while covering the Naga fight for independence in 1997 wrote “If you are from Britain, you will be asked by some, with great courtesy, to convey to the Queen a request that she should apologise for Britain letting the Nagas down.”

The Nagas are not Indians their territory is not part of India. We shall uphold and defend this unique truth at all costs and always.

Photos can be seen at click on picture below.



*Naga Conflict: A Long Standing War with Few Prospects of Imminent Solution.. Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit 2004
* The Naga Imbroglio ..Charles Chasie.

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Kashmir Dal Lake

It was a two day drive from Manali to Srinigar, and most of the second day we were driving in Kashmir on the heavily guarded N1, with tanks, police machine gun posts and truck loads of Indian soldiers on permanent convoys along the road. This route just had to be kept open for political reasons.

On the road to Srinigar

The Foreign & Colonial Office advice at the time was only travel to Srinigar by plane , however, friend and tour operator Abid assured me that driving up highway 1 or N1 was perfectly safe. These days the FCO advises against all travel in and to Kashmir.

On the road to Kashmir
tributary to the Indus river

Any insurgents who made it from the border to the highway would have attacked the Indian soldiers first and not a passenger car anyway. That’s what we told ourselves. As the world one can safely visit becomes smaller each year, and as there are more conflicts starting than are solved, there might never be another chance to visit Kashmir.

Dal lake Srinigar

The best place to see the Valley is from the Shankaracharya Temple on top of the Zabarwan Mountain. From this ancient Hindu temple in Srinigar one can see a great part of Kashmir valley. Mountains, the foothills of the Himalayas, on three sides and the lake in front with it’s multi coloured boats. I am not sure if I had mini Stendhal moment because of the beauty of the view or I was feeling a little light headed after the 250 steps to the top; but the prospect in front of me sparked a desire to explore.

Dal Lake

The Kashmir valley has been settled since Neolithic times and one can only wonder what man and woman, over 5,000 years ago thought of this paradise, an amazingly fertile and lush valley with lakes, a river and surrounded by mountains. I can understand why early man needed a plethora of gods to attribute the creation of all this beauty, one would not be enough.

Shalimar Gardens Srinigar

Shalimar Gardens Srinigar

I can comprehend why the Mughal’s called Kashmir ‘Paradise on Earth’, coming from their usual hot dry homelands. Here they laid out a series of formal gardens, amongst them the famous Shalimar Garden, fed by Himalayan streams and nurtured by perfect weather. These gardens are full of beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs. The valley is famous for tulips. There were a few Indian tourists, a perfect place for a honeymoon perhaps, and keeping a watchful eye were the armed soldiers.

Mughal Gardens

Mughal Gardens Srinigar

Although I try not to read about places I visit beforehand, other peoples views often cloud how one actually sees a place, but visiting Kashmir one arrives with with a number preconceptions. The bloody conflict between Hindus and Muslims and the days of hippies on houseboats in the seventies the most notable.

Jhelum River Srinigar

I have friends who had stayed in Kashmir back in the seventies and listened to stories of houseboats, hippies and cheap weed. I’m surprised it wasn’t free as by the side of the road on the drive up to Kashmir enormous clusters of marijuana plants grew wild. A weed indeed.

Bridge over Jhelum River Old Town Srinigar

The houseboats are still there and at around £10-20 a night for a double room they are still cheap and the tranquil life on Dal Lake watching the boat traffic glide by is one of the best ways to pass ones day.
These days though there are no hippies to be seen, in fact I saw no western tourists at all.

Srinigar Old town

Srinigar old town

6The big elephant in the valley so to speak, is the presence of the Indian army and the often fatal riots. It is something that once known dictates the way one sees everything in Kashmir.
But more of that later.

Loose Tea Srinigar


The absence of tourists means the old town of Srinigar has reverted to its pre tourism state with locals a little surprised to see westerners.

Old Town Embroidery

Old Town.. Embroidery

Shops are for the inhabitants not the tourists who don’t come anymore and small businesses thrive with a shoe shop next to blacksmiths, an embroidery shop next a tea merchant, instead of tourist shops. Watching carpet weavers in a local factory, working on old wooden frames in time long tradition is mesmerising.

Carpet weaver Srinigar

Carpet weaver Srinigar

Here it is the men who embroider and weave, age old skills passed down from father to son.
The old town of Srinigar has some spectacular Mosques.

Playing courtyard of
Jamia Masjid, Srinagar

My favourite is the Khanqah Shah Hamdan Mosque, a beautiful building quintessentially kashmiri,
important for the beautiful and intricate traditional wood carvings and painted green exterior.

Khanqah Shah Hamdan Mosque

Khanqah Shah Hamdan Mosque

There was a relaxing atmosphere as I joined the locals enjoying the late afternoon sun while drinking sweet tea that was being given to everyone in the Mosque’s courtyard. Lots of smiles all round.

Khanqah Shah Hamdan Mosque

Dal Lake is a remnant of a post-glacial lake and is classified as sub tropical covering 20 sq kilometres to a depth of between 2.5 to 8 metres.

It is important to the region for fishing, water plant production and tourism with one end lined with carved wooden houseboats.

Dal Lake

The essential tour on a shikara lake boat takes one to the many backwaters where kashmiris live on houseboats as well as brick constructions on banks of land. The fresh fruit and vegetable seller calls on all these little backwaters where also there are floating general stores and even a floating tourist emporium.

Dal Lake back creeks

Life is lived on the river banks with groups of men in the early evening smoking shishas and whewing the fat. Gliding through these little rivers, where all traffic is by boat where it is so quiet that a fish breaking the surface is a loud disturbance. Dal Lake is sometimes called the Venice of the East.

The last 30 years has seen an explosion of both insurgent and domestic attacks on the Indian Army, mostly as a retaliation for a hardline and bloody approach from Delhi.
“The trouble with the English, is that they don’t know their history, because so much of it happened overseas”( Rushdie). Here’s a shortened modern history of Kashmir.
The British desire for a quick handover of India after the second World War lies at the root of Kashmir’s current situation.
It isn’t easy to get to the bottom of why the British forced through partition in 1947, rather than the planned June 1948, and in Kashmir’s situation has led to another 75,000 deaths since.
Throw the stupidity of Mountbatten, right wing Hindu ideology, Nehru’s desire to keep Kashmir with an 80+% Muslim population within India’s borders and Kashmiri muslim’s desire for an Independent state, into a big pot with not a sane man to be seen and you have today’s mess.

Each continues with the same propaganda. The British ignore it, Pakistan wants it, Kashmiris want independence and the BJP will kill to keep hold of it.
Kashmir is another of the end of colonialism fiascos. Mountbatten was chosen as he was perceived as sympathetic towards the new labour government, but he was a weak man and frankly the worst possible choice.
His wife Edwina, the ‘notoriously promiscuous vicereine’, shortly after their arrival started an affair with Nehru, who having been born in Kashmir was determined to keep Jammu and Kashmir in the then planned partitioned India. Edwina put pressure on her husband to acquiesce to Nehru’s plans for India. Both disliked the Muslim leader Jinnah, who was the only player who supported Britain during the Second World War.
The path that Mountbatten went down against the advice of Ghandi, and bringing forward partition by nearly a year without new borders between India and Pakistan being discussed led not only today’s continuing violence in Kashmir but to the mutual genocide that resulted from a hasty British withdrawal from India.

Kashmiris want Independent State

For Nehru fate stepped in when when the Maharajah of Kashmir, Hari Singh fearful of a Muslim takeover ordered his forces to fire upon demonstrations in favour of Kashmir joining Pakistan, burned whole villages and massacred innocent people.
Under Hindu rule the muslim majority suffered oppression in the form of high taxes, unpaid forced labor and discriminatory laws. Consequently a revolt began in the Poonch region against oppressive taxation by the Maharajah who promptly appealed to Nehru and Mountbatten for help.

Kashmir Srinigar Summer capital

This seems to be the key moment in Kashmir history..Mountbatten with Nehru would help as long as Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India. Once the Instrument of Accession was signed the Indian army moved in, and has been there ever since. The United Nations was involved in arbitrating the dispute and after cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of Pakistan troops,India would then have to appoint a plebiscite administrator nominated by the United Nations who would conduct a free and impartial plebiscite.
India has never allowed a referendum on the Independence of Kashmir. Indian intransigence
Karen Sinh , Hari Singh’s son, born Cannes now resident and corrupt Board member of the Aurobindi ashram is a Senator trying to push controversial article 35a on Jammu & Kashmir , disenfranchising women and giving Hindis more residency property rights. Read my blog on Pondicherry and the scandal at the ashram.

The Kashmir valley is achingly beautiful, the peace of Dal Lake and the colours of the sky and mountains ..could have stayed longer much longer.

The History of India by Burton Stein
Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin
By Akbar S. Ahmed
Thanks to Andie.

Dal lake and houseboats

Posted in India 2015, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


La Candelaria Puno. Practising their dance in the streets before the contest

I could see Lake Titicaca in the distance as the plane descended to land at Juliaca Airport, about an hour away from Puno. Although I had been here a few weeks before I hadn’t seen the immense lake from the air and now it stood out, a dark blue, in a never ending near treeless high plateau with mountains in the distance. There is something about these iconic places,the Pyramids, the Pantheon, Everest, New York or Glastonbury Tor that makes you want to pinch yourself to confirm that they are real.

Puno PERU La candelaria 2019 Drummer

As I exited the airport I saw a taxi driver with a placard with the name Mr Mitchel ..It seemed close enough to Michael..So I went up to him and said Puno? As that would have been the only possible destination and hopped in as he nodded. Already there was a couple from Colombia off on a cruise on the lake and when we arrived in Puno and I asked for the Sol Plaza Hotel instead of the port they realised I had engineered a free ride. I tipped the driver and he seemed happy ..I Wonder what happened to the Mr Mitchel.

Puno Peru La Candelaria All ages and ethnic peoples particpate in the festival

I had been in Puno two weeks previously for a trip to the islands on Lake Titicaca and had found out that the ‘Festividad Virgen De La Candelaria’, the second largest festival in South America after Rio and the largest indigenous festival of dance and music was happening in two weeks time. And as luck would have it I would still be in Peru. I managed to book the very last room in the hotel, at very last room rates! and booked a flight back from Lima.

Puno, Peru La Candelaria ..Everyone regardless of age & ethnicity participates.

Puno, Peru La Candelaria ..Everyone regardless of age & ethnicity participates.

Puno , according to colonial history was established in 1668 by viceroy Pedro Antonio Fernandez De Castro ..although I would have thought that given the fact that travel across the lake from Bolivia and that the Quechua (Inca) and Aymara ( pre Inca) ethnic groups had lived here for thousands of years it was more of a case of colonial rebranding.

Puno Lake Titicaca Peru Cathedral de Puno during La Candelaria

Puno, Peru La Candelaria ..Everyone regardless of age & ethnicity participates.

And of course the Spanish built a few churches to satisfy the the conquerors religious needs and the attempt to convert the local people. The Cathedral de Puno in the Plaza de Armas is a beautiful and imposing example of colonial architecture which stands above and overlooking the town and Lake Titicaca. Although not as beautiful as Arequipa or Cusco it has a few pretty squares and of course the lake as a backdrop. The thriving town is a warren of streets with little shops thriving from the black market goods smuggled across the lake from Bolivia.

Puno Peru

According to Inca folklore it was here by Lake Titicaca that the first Incas, the Quechua, emerged to found the Inca Empire. Lake Titicaca has been an important part of Inca mythology and tradition ever since
The other ethnic group the pre Inca Aymara although located mainly in Bolivia live on the islands of Lake Titcaca and in Puno. Both these groups and the Mestizos ( mixed Indian and Spanish blood) energetically take part in the Festival.

Puno Peru La Candelaria

Puno Peru La Candelaria

Legends says that when the native Aymara peoples rose up against the Spanish during the great TUPAC AMARU Rebelluion of 1781 the Spanish of Puno were saved by the Virgin Mary. They took the Virgin from the Church ‘Santuario de la Virgen de la Candelaria’ and as they paraded her through the streets of Puno their Swords began to glow like fire as the slaughtered their attackers.

Puno Peru La Candelaria procession of the Virgin

Since then the ‘Virgen’ has been the patron saint of the city and the inhabitants pay homage to her each year with the ‘over the top’ festival of dance & music full of DANZAS FOLKORICAS, with outrageous costumes and religious processions.

Puno La candelaria the procession of the Virgin.

Puno La candelaria the procession of the Virgin.

The festival is a mix of Catholic, Indigenous Andean and fanciful myth. Why the Quechua and Aymara should celebrate being slaughtered by flaming swords I don’t know. The 10% pure Spanish blood population of Peru still rule little differently from colonial times but that is a story for a later blog.

Puno Local Quechua

All dressed up in outfit that took weeks to prepare

I arrived a few days before the Sunday 10th of February, the day of the big parade and dance contest in the town’s stadium. On the the Friday before I walked the streets of Puno but not much was happening.
In a small square there were some young Spanish hippy looking musicians playing panpipes, and in Plaza de Armas there was a trial run of local Indian group fully dressed in their amazing orange outfits practising their particular folk dance. In general the town was rather quiet and I asked myself if this was the right week!

All dressed up

The streets were quiet so I went to bed about 10pm. I was just drifting off when from the streets below I could hear the loud banging of drums and the sound of about a hundred football referees whistles. I looked out and now there was a constant procession of groups of dancers followed by their incredibly loud musicians. I realised that this was the beginning and it had started when one should really have been asleep.

Puno La Candelaria Dance moves

Puno La Candelaria Dance moves

I dressed, rushed down to street level and was instantly caught up in the crowd and the intoxication of music, dance and singing with lots of loud whooping.
I rushed around looking for the best spot, with some decent street lighting, to photograph the constant procession. Quite frankly it was amazing. It seemed never ending; group after group came by, many of the women in short skirts in the very cold 3900 metre altitude night air. I was beginning to wish it would end but as a photographer I couldn’t go in case I missed something. Finally about 2.30 it petered out.
Next day up I had to get up early as it was the religious procession Of the Virgin.

Puno Peru Procession of the Virgin

It started outside the church and square of St Juan Bautista. The town dignitaries were all on parade dressed to the nines in their best suits and flanked by the army with sharp creases and blancoed belts.
The procession went from the Church, with the effigy of the virgin held aloft, to the Cathedral De Puna in Plaza de Armas, where all morning petals had been strewn in proscibed patterns on the streets.
Here the dancers and musicians accompanying the Virgin were local, wearing ethnic clothes and naturally dyed ponchos and playing Andean pipes, with some wearing feathered headdresses and all holding bunches of flowers. So unlike the night before.

Puno La Candelaria

That evening, the last before the contest in the stadium, the best part of the 80 groups from all over the Andes took part in a spectacular cavalcade through the narrow streets of Puno, practising a looser version of their dance moves while drinking plenty of local spirits. It was a chance for friends who lived far apart to catch up and lovers to meet.

Puno La Candelaria

Puno La Candelaria

The residents of the town bought out chairs and snacks and lined the streets cheering their friends and jumping up for selfies with dancing family members. There were very few western tourists.

Another late night followed by an early start as it was the big day.. the “Gran Concurso de Trajes de Luces” (the Great Competition of the Costumes of Lights).
Walking down to the stadium I bumped into groups of peasants dressed up and holding placards praising El Presidente. I followed them into the towns sports hall. Here the local government officials were herding peasants from nearby villages into seating arrangements in front of the local TV cameras. They were to perform smaller dance routines while the audience waived placards ‘Gracias El Presidente ..Titulos de Propiedad’ Thankyou president for our land deeds ..! As a tourist they wanted to photograph me and I just had enough time to whip out my Che Guevara hat especially for the photo.

Puno Dance in the Sportshall

Puno La Candelaria

I arrived outside the stadium for the festivity that UNESCO recognises as an ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.
Outside the stadium the thousands of dancers and musicians were waiting their turn to enter the stadium to perform their particular dance, which they had been practising for for some months. In general each team choses one of seven traditional dances; usually a variant on the devilishly playful Diablada or the bullfighting dance the Waka Wakawaka Waka.

Puno La Candelaria

Puno La Candelaria

One of the most well-known dances at the festival is called la danza de la Diablada, which translates as the Devil’s Dance. The dance has roots in the Altiplano of Peru, Bolivia and Chile and in 2003 was named a part of Cultural Heritage of Peru. While the Diablada is not exclusive to La Virgen de La Candelaria, it is one of the most popular because of the ornate costumes and the bright masks worn by dancers representing the devil or forces of evil.

Puno La Candelaria

Puno Last minute make up

Puno Last minute make up

Outside the stadium those dressed were having their photographs taken with family and friends, last minute adjustments to masks and perhaps a little twirl to loosen the limbs and all accompanied with a laugh and a drink.

Puno La Candelaria The mural looking on

Puno La Candelaria

I queued to buy my ticket to enter the stadium. However compared to the fun outside I found the formal dance dull and left to join the teams waiting to enter outside on Avenue Simon Bolivar where the sun was shining and everyone was happy and excited.

Puno La Candelaria

Puno La Candelaria

Young and old, all dressed up in their finery.

Puno La Candelaria

Puno La Candelaria Lovers taking a selfie

The girls looking their best smiling at the boys ..there was a frisson in the air with many sneaking a furtive kiss and a selfie ..
It was a coming together, for the most part, of an ethnic and culturally homogenous group that shared a similar past and hopefully an independent future.

Puno La Candelaria Musician

Puno La Candelaria Musician

It was a fiesta I will always remember

A better selection of photographs of La Candelaria can be found here

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September 2018

Hanoi street trader signing

Use panorama for best effect

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Vietnam short video of my trip with Phil from Ethos

Short Video North Vietnamese Highlands

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Mappe Monde Le Rouge 1748


First I wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a Great 2019.
If you are stuck for an interesting Christmas present I have added many interesting and affordable maps to my website that can be sent in time for Christmas.

There is plenty of time to send maps anywhere in the World and last dates are approximately 16th December for outside Europe and 19th in Europe.

Below a few of the new additions from the thousands of maps and decorative prints that can be found on my website















Cook /Benard map of Cook’s voyages Southern Polar 1778 £350



Please email me if you are looking for any map in particular I have many yet to be put on website or be able to find it for you.
For anybody visiting the French Riviera this winter please contact me and I can pick you up from Antibes Cannes etc, and you can join me for tea and peruse the entire stock of maps & prints.
My current travel blog ..Ladakh Indian Tibet

Best wishes
Michael Jennings Antique Maps And Prints
1684 Chemin De St Julien
Biot 06410 FRANCE
Tel: +33 (0) 4936 57252 +33 (0) 4936 57252
Mobile:+33 (0)610 753 988 +33 (0)610 753 988
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SUDAN 1981 1983

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The Palace Leh

It was bizarre and slightly challenging for the senses to move from one culture and region of green rolling hills and thatched dwellings to another with a near barren landscape, Buddhist monasteries, stupas and fluttering prayer flags; but just two days after leaving Nagaland I was 3600 metres up on the Ladakh Tibet plateau.

Indian Tibet near Leh

After collecting my backpack at the airport, struggling a little for breath and surrounded by new faces I sat down to rest at the tiny Leh airport tourist office hoping to get at least a map and whatever information I could glean about the area. It was still only 8 in the morning as the military airport is only open for commercial flights for a brief period each morning. But I got more than I hoped for.Tashi the local tourist officer not only offered me a lift to my hotel but offered, for a very reasonable fee, to act as my guide for the week I was there. Serendipity. And we got on really well together.

Traditional hat

It was some five weeks before, while in Kashmir, that I found out that this year the Ladakh Festival was going to be held after the cancellation the previous year while I was in India.
The Hornbill Festival in Nagaland and the Ladakh festival, promoted by both the Indian government and local states have become important for not only the local economy but in fostering identity in two of the poorest and remote parts of India. In Nagaland it has helped to bring together and encourage inter-tribal interaction of peoples collectively called the Naga but with many different languages, dialects and cultures; and in Ladakh it has helped to maintain traditional dress and culture over a wide area of poor farmers.

Historically these subsistence farmers had provided food and alms for the monasteries, and in return sons were educated and younger sons who couldn’t inherit land joined the monk class, the monasteries also acted as orphanages .. the monasteries were and are also seen as the preservation of their culture and links to an afterlife.

Ladakh Thikse monastery

The next day Tashi, and I had just found out that the name Tashi means auspicious and fortunate in Tibetan culture, picked me up for a tour of nearby monasteries, starting with Thikse.
The first thing one is aware of is the awesome scenery and even a week later one is still dumbstruck by it’s stark beauty.
At 3600 metres one felt more celestial than terrestial, well at least high enough to be above the weather, cheating the gods as every day was sunshine.
Thikse the largest Gompa, monastery, is a twelve-story complex mix of houses and religious buildings and artefacts. One building, the Maitreya Temple was installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to this monastery in 1970; it contains a 15 metres high statue of Maitreya, the largest such statue in Ladakh, covering two stories of the building.
Monasteries are certainly places of peace but also have that ability to make time slow down. Watching the monks prepare the colours and start painting a mandala, a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism representing the universe, I was lost in time until Tashi signalled that perhaps it was time to move on.

Thikse mixing colours for the painting of a mandala

Thikse monastery monks painting a mandala

Hemis Monastery is the largest and most important of the ladakh monasteries and has a beautiful central courtyard where pilgrims sit in the sun after visiting the assembly hall ‘Dukhang’ on the right and main temple ‘Tshogkhang’ on the left hand sides.
Apart from it’s importance it has a dubious claim to fame as ‘the monastery Jesus visited in his missing years’.
In 1894 Russian journalist Nicolas Notovitch claimed Hemis as the origin of an otherwise unknown gospel, the Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men
Notovitch’s book told an astonishing story. He claimed to have discovered an ancient text in the sacred Pali language that revealed previously unknown aspects of Jesus’s life. According to this text, which Notovitch had translated into French, Jesus had spent his missing years – the years between his childhood and the beginning of his ministry – studying Buddhism in India. At the age of about 30, he’d returned to the Middle East and the life that is familiar to us from the New Testament.
Total fabrication but a bestseller at the time.

Monk at Hemis

Young novice monks Hemis

A few days later we drove some 125 kms west through spectacular lunar landscapes to Lamayuru Monastery nestling in a green little valley. The road followed the Indus river for much of the way, Ladakh is the only place in India where the Indus flows. A pretty place with unusually a small cafeteria attached.

Lamayuru Monastery

Peasant woman Lamayuru

I climbed above the monastery, suffering from lack of oxygen, to find a series of prayer flags in a Tibetan landscape. Tashi thought I was crazy but the image will always remain with me.

Prayer flags above Lamayuru Monastery

Over three days we toured Ladakh visiting the Kings Palace at Stok, which has a remarkable little museum, visiting tree planting and agricultural projects and of course wonderful monasteries with thousand year old frescoes, and the viewed life of the monks who lived inside. All the time surrounded by the high mountains of Ladakh.

Monk in Thikse

Indus valley and the ever present mountains

Leh, the capital of Ladakh was once an important town on the trade routes from Tibet in the north and India and east to west, but since 1962 and Sino-Indian War ( which ran concurrently with Cuban missile crisis) the border was closed and it’s significance has waned. With a population of about 35,000 it has about 75,000 visitors a year. The old town is a World Monuments Fund listed site, endangered due to climate change.
There is little change in the old town, a few new hotels, except that the main street is being pedestrianised with seating and flower beds, and apart from a few more tourist tat shops it is much the same as it was 20 years ago.
It is not only dominated by mountains but by the old Palace, which is modelled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa. It is an impressive dun coloured nine story building currently being restored. I looked Leh Palace up on Wikipedia and an entry made me think that without planes the world is still large..
Connectivity…The closest railway stations – Jammu, Pathankot and Chandigarh – are a three-day bus ride away.

Leh and the old Royal Palace

Ladakh festival procession

Ladakh festival

The Ladakh festival is the biggest event in Ladakh each year, and by any standards it is quite small, but it is important for the social and cultural life of the whole of Ladakh. It starts with a large scale procession of several cultural troupes from different part of the region and representatives of schools, sports associations which traverses through Leh town ending up on the large Polo ground at the top of the town and below the Palace.

Ladakh festival Shaman

Ladakh festival Shaman

After the inevitable speeches from local politicians there is dancing, singing, traditional music with people wearing colourful traditional Ladakhi dress. This is important to keep alive the different styles of clothing from the regions.

Ladakh Festival girl from distant village with local headdress

Ladakh festival traditional headdress

At midday and at 3600 metres the sun is fierce and with the slightly atonal tibetan music of drums and trumpet the atmosphere is intoxicating, exciting even. This spreads to the groups of young people from the different villages, some along way away, who because of snow cutting off most areas and the lack of transport do not meet often. The look on their faces is a far cry from the world weary and cynical expressions of teenagers in the west. One gets caught up in, really, the joy and fun of the situation.

Ladakh festival young people meeting

Ladakh festival

The next day is the masked dances in the centre of town..These ritualistic mask dances are often in Ladakh chosen from the life of the Buddha and the moral conveyed is the victory of the good over the evil.

Ladakh festival Masked dance

Ladakh festival Masked dance

I, however couldn’t really understand the significance of the dance or the masks involved, except it was interesting to notice the skulls around the top of the mask were similar to the skulls used in carvings by the headhunters of Nagaland I had seen a week earlier.
The music for the dance was mainly tibetan drums.

Ladakh festival Masked dance The Band!

Ladakh festival Masked dance

The crowd was nearly all local, with only a handful of tourists and the meaning of the dance was obvious to them if not me.

Ladakh festival Masked dance

Ladakh festival at the Masked dance

The highlight for many of the Ladakhis was the polo match and in fact it was closing act of a four day festival that included local handicrafts, lessons in mandala painting and many cultural exhibitions that aim to preserve local culture.

Ladakh festival Polo match
Leh Town against a Ladakh team

I joined the many as we walked through the town up to the polo ground. This large expanse below the Palace is officially called the Polo Ground although it is a general purpose open space and was laid out in 1885, although Polo has been played in Leh since the seventeenth century.

Ladakh festival Polo match

The atmosphere was more like a football match with a noisy, knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowd; loud speakers relaying the state of play and players. I ventured too close to the edge of play only to see through the lens of my camera half a dozen horses heading straight for me…I escaped in time. As usual the team I decided to support Leh Town, lost. But it was interesting to see a game that is seen in the west as elitist is here a sport for anyone who owns a pony (perhaps not that many though)

Ladakh is a special place. The festival is still an event mainly for Ladakhis and although there are tourists for the most part they are from other parts of India. It is well worth visiting during the festival.

I can never forget the landscapes and generally the happy faces of Ladakh

Ladakh .. Happy people











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It was good to see previous and new map buyers at the always fascinating London Map Fair last month.
Even after some forty years buying and selling maps my delight in finding maps I hadn’t seen before hasn’t diminished.
I have acquired quite a few new maps since the last newsletter some below and the rest on my website.
I hope everyone, or those interested have enjoyed the football World Cup..I have!

I hope everyone has a great Summer
Below a few of the new additions from the thousands of maps and decorative prints that can be found on my new tablet friendly website










Please email me if you are looking for any map in particular I have many yet to be put on website or be able to find it for you.

For anybody visiting the French Riviera this summer please contact me and I can pick you up from Antibes Cannes etc, and you can join me for tea and peruse the entire stock of maps & prints.

My current blog of travels and interesting Antique Maps can be found at here

Best wishes
Michael Jennings Antique Maps And Prints
1684 Chemin De St Julien
Biot 06410 FRANCE
Tel: +33 (0) 4936 57252 +33 (0) 4936 57252 FREE
Mobile:+33 (0)610 753 988 +33 (0)610 753 988 FREE

Follow me on twitter @jenningsoldmaps
and at facebook here
https // antique maps & prints

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