What’s in the North-Eastern State Names?

Once an off-beat destination, north-east India is gaining much admiration now. Popularly known as the unexplored paradise, the charm of North-East India is inescapable. I felt the same too. Still feels like it was just yesterday that I had been there. I don’t think that travelling to any other part of India can affect me the way my journey to north-eastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Manipur have. For my countless and awe-inspiring north-east experiences, you surely need to read my upcoming book. However, has anyone ever wondered that what was the history behind the north-east? Why are the north-eastern states called so? You can anytime google thousands of tourist attractions in the north-east or a number of blogs and articles stating the beauty of these states, but will it not be more interesting to know that what’s in the name?

Arunachal Pradesh

Formerly known as the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) during British India, the state was constitutionally a part of Assam until it was made union territory of Arunachal Pradesh in 1972. Later in 1987, it became an Indian state. But why it was renamed as Arunachal Pradesh? It’s not difficult to guess though. Everyone is very well aware that the state lies at the easternmost tip of India. Also, since the Sun rises in the east, it is the first Indian state to witness the rising Sun. And hence, justifies its literal meaning ‘land of dawn-lit mountains’. In other words, Arunachal is made up of two words- ‘Arun’ and ‘achal’. While ‘arun’ in Hindi means ‘sun’, ‘achal’ means ‘to rise’.

Arunachal Pradesh’s capital city ‘Itanagar’ further gets its name from an important historical site in the state called “Ita-fort”.

Posing in front of Itanagar Fort

Do you know, Mechuka is a picturesque valley nestled at the foothill of north-eastern Himalayan range in Arunachal Pradesh? This lesser-known destination is popularly known as The Land of Medicinal Ice-Water. Annually, this valley hosts a three-day Mechuka Festival which aims at promoting adventure tourism in the north-east. Apart from showcasing local cuisine, brew, and local sports, one can indulge in adventure sports like paragliding, quad biking, rappelling and trap shooting. Recently, in 2017, the fourth edition of this festival took place and Rafting on the banks of Yargap Chu was the highlight of this 3-day festival. Check more famous festivals of northeast india .


A scenic view worth-capturing

One of the biggest states in north-east India, Assam is surrounded by crowns of hills and stretches across the Brahmaputra and Barak River valleys. In ancient times, the area was known as Pragjyotishpur and Kamrup. Later, it was changed to Assam. The name ‘Assam’ is believed to be linked to the Ahoms (people from Thailand), who entered the land in the mid-13th century and ruled there for about 6 centuries. Also, it is said that the word ‘Assam’ has been derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Asama’ which means ‘unequal’. While there are many notions about state’s nomenclature, it’s still unclear that what led to the origin of name ‘Assam’.

Do you know, John Abraham is the co-owner of the Indian Super League’s Guwahati franchise North East United FC? The contribution of North-East in the development of Indian Football (the second most popular sport in India after Cricket) is appreciated all across the nation. However, it’s more interesting to know about John Abraham’s newer interests and willingness to promote and work for the growth of tourism and culture of Assam including Assamese cinema. He is also eager to set up a football academy in Guwahati (Budding sports capital of the country). He has assured the Chief Minister that he would ensure participation of players from ASEAN countries in sports activities in Guwahati this year.


Memory is always more beautiful than reality!

It is believed that the origin of name ‘Sikkim’ is in reference to the palace built by the state’s first ruler, Phuntsog Namgyal. The word ‘Sikkim’ is a combination of two Limbu words (Sino-Tibetan language): su, which means “new”, and khyim, which means “palace” or “house”.

Do you know, Sikkim became the fully organic state of India in 2016? Sikkim now follows the path of other organic states of the countries worldwide such as California and Wisconsin, setting an example for the entire nation. Other Indian states in this race include Kerala followed by Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Check more to visit most popular lakes of sikkim in north east india.


Derived from the Naga Language, Nagaland’s ancient name was ‘Nakanchi’ or ‘Naganchi’. While the ancient history of Nagas or the origin of the word ‘Naga’ is unclear, a popular theory says that ‘naga’ is a Burmese word which means people with earrings. The state of Nagaland is inhabited by the total of 16 tribes, out of which, the tribe of Angamis (Naga ethnic group) shares the majority. And hence, Nagaland is called the land of Nagas as the majority of its population is tribal.

Ever heard of Nagaland’s world-famous Hornbill festival? This festival highlights the social and cultural aspects of its 16 tribes. This festival is named after the colourful Hornbill bird, which resides in the region and plays an integral part in the social and cultural life of the tribes. Both national and international tourists can very well figure out the importance of Hornbill in Nagaland’s folk tales, folk songs, dances and even the bizarre ethnic costumes. Curious to know more about this festival? You can read all about it in detail in my upcoming travel book – Early Sunrise Early Sunset, where I have plenty of north-east travel experiences to share.

Hornbill Festival 2017, Nagaland



The native inhabitants of this state were a majority of several ethnic groups, which are collectively known as “Mizos”. The word ‘Mizo’ is made up of two words- ‘Mi’ which means people and ‘Zo’ means hill. Thus, the word means people from the hill or the hillmen. Alternatively, ‘zo’ means cold region, therefore, it may also signify the people from the cold region. Also, the term Mizoram is derived from the words Mizo and Ram, where Mizo means the native population and ‘ram’ means land.

Do you know, even the state of Mizoram equally contributes in popularizing Football across India? The Mizoram Premier League is the highest state-level league in association with Football in Mizoram, which is considered as the 3rd tier of Indian Football.


Born out of Assam, the state’s name was derived from a Sanskrit word which means ‘abode of clouds’. Since the state is blessed with an abundance of rainfall and sunshine the entire year, it perfectly stands true to its nomenclature.

Also, I am sure you too are going to love this state for its being the only state in India where the matrilineal society prevails. Here, women are the head of the family and are responsible for earning a living for their family. Among many tribes in Meghalaya, The Khasi people practice this matrilineal descent. Therefore, as a solo woman traveler, I was way too happy to be here and live have those unforgettable north-east travel experiences .


This north-eastern state of India has its Sanskrit name linked to the deity of Tripura Sundari, which is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. Another was the legendary kind Tripur who ruled in the region. The state got various variants in the name including Tripra, Tuipura, and Tippera. A Tibeto-Burman (official language) folk suggests that twi means water, while pra means near. Therefore, the current name ‘Triipura’ may reflect largely to the vicinity to the sea.

The capital city Agartala is the 2nd largest city in the north-east and is made up of two words- ‘Agar’ which means a valuable oily perfume tree, whereas ‘Tala’ means a storehouse.

Do you know, The Agartala-Akhaura check post is the second-largest trading point between India and Bangladesh after Benapole and Petrapole with West Bengal. Everyone is quite familiar with the Beating Retreat Ceremony at the Wagah Border in Amritsar. But, not everyone is still aware of a much similar ceremony which takes place at the Tripura Bangladesh border. Unlike Wagah border, this Agartala-Akhaura ceremony represents peace and co-operation between the neighbours, something we need to be proud of. You can read in detail about this ceremony and border tourism in my upcoming book.


A beautiful north-eastern state, Manipur is surrounded by nine hills with an oval-shaped valley at the centre, forming a natural jewel shaped structure. And hence, the state is popularly known as the Jewel of India. Manipur is literally made up of two words- Mani (Jewel) + Pur (city or a place).

Sangai Festival, Manipur

Manipur is no far behind when it comes to celebrating festivals. Manipur hosts a 10-day tourism festival every year to promote the state’s art and culture, cuisine, music, indigenous sports, adventure sports, handloom, and handicrafts. The festival is named after the state’s significant animal, the brow-antlered Sangai deer. Unlike other years, the Sangai Festival 2017 introduced separate toilets for transgenders and marked its presence at different locations in Imphal and Bishnupur district.

So, the next time to decide to travel north-east India, I am sure this little information about these 8 states will keep you up-to-date with the region’s relevance and importance in the nation and their continuous outreach and improvements in the north-east tourism industry.

Priyanka Rastogi
Priyanka Rastogi

Priyanka Rastogi is a fervent explorer backed with rich experience in travel and tourism Industry from the grassroots level. Author of 'Early Sunrise, Early Sunset',

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