Some Images From Our Trip To Hornbill Festival
In December winter descends over India’s extreme Northeast. Yet every December the Naga Heritage Village in Kisama, only 12 km from Nagaland’s capital city Kohima, emits a burst of warmth as it thrums to the beat of countless drums and war dances. It is time for the 19th Hornbill Festival. More than one lakh – 100,000 – visitors are drawn here to experience the diverse cultural spectrum represented by the multitude of tribes that inhabit Nagaland.
Nagaland abounds in festivals that play an essential role in life there. Many of them are centred around agriculture, a crucial part of the region’s economy. The Chakhesang tribe celebrates Tsukhenyie in January. In April, the Konyaks hold their Aoling festival. In May the Aos celebrate Moatsu. In July, it is time for the Sumi to hold the Tiluni. All these celebrations comprise sacred traditions and are taken seriously – they are the lifeblood of every tribe, and every member takes part.
It is no wonder that Nagaland is renowned as the Land of Festivals.
The Nagaland government conceived the Hornbill Festival in 2000 in order to provide the state’s multitude of tribes with a place to gather and display their cultures to a wider audience. The festival’s namesake – the Hornbill – is a bird that plays an important role in Nagaland’s folklore and legends. In 2018, the festival burst with ceremonies, rituals and dances that have their roots in the ancient origins of the various tribes. A multitude of tribes took part, including the Angamis, the Konyaks, the Lothas, the Aos, the Chakhesangs, and the Zeilangs. Among the performances on display were fire-making rituals and war dances, music and songs. Feats of archery skill and traditional wrestling matches are particularly popular with visitors. The chilli-eating contests provide fun and amusement as crowds gather to see just how much ‘heat’ the contestants can stand, and the pineapple-eating competitions held that year provoked cheers and laughter from the throngs of onlookers.
The 2018 Hornbill Festival also hosted mountain bike races that were meant to encourage green means transport and promote ecology in a region especially sensitive to adverse environmental conditions. Traditions, however, still dominate the festival. Visitors can experience Nagaland crafts like bone and bead jewellery, shawls sporting animal patterns, bamboo wares, black pottery. Especially interesting are the manufactures of traditional hunting implements such as spears and knives.
Artist and visitors gather at an ‘Artists’ Corner’ in dialogue and to witness the performance of traditional arts and crafts. Souvenir hunters can visit stalls that offer a plethora of articles such as local cuisines, herbal cures, and art wares, and the kaleidoscope of colors on display at the flower shows always attracts crowds.As the days draw to a close, visitors migrate to the morungs. These are traditional accommodations where people assemble about campfires as darkness and temperatures rapidly descend. Nagas invite festival-goers to sample various dishes of sticky rice, pickled bamboo, smoked pork, and zutho – the region’s traditional, home-brewed rice beer. The amphitheatre there hosts music concerts that attract large audiences.
With the Hornbill Festival, the State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments have succeeded in bringing together Nagaland tribes and showcase Nagaland’s peoples and cultures to a wide and international audience. Anyone who finds themselves in that part of India in early December simply must put the Hornbill Festival on their calendar! The rituals, performances, arts and crafts will give you a close-up look at the fascinating culture that makes Nagaland a uniquely special place.
Morungs – male housing accommodations – are one of the pulsing focal points at the Hornbill Festival. They proved examples of the region’s magnificent traditional architecture and are representative of tribal community culture. They are also wonderful places to experience the best of ancient, tribal drum rhythms. The drums are manufactured by hollowing out logs, and the men of the tribe pound them with wooden sticks. Drumbeating was once employed as a means of communication, and messages were composed using different rhythms and tempos. Just listening to them will take you back in time to an ancient and primal past.
• Attend the Hornbill National Rock Contest. The concert, held in the amphitheatre, is a prime attraction. The programme includes Naga bands, as well as national Indian and international acts. Real rock lovers will find delight in the great music and unique venue.
• The eating contests are an extremely popular festival attraction that you simply must experience for yourself! Contestants strive to prove their fortitude by munching down chillies, pineapples and pork. You will have a great deal of fun enjoying the hilarious entertainment!
• Be sure to try the various local fare of sticky rice, pork, bamboo shoots and other dishes. Noodles and momos are also an essential component of Naga cuisine. The food stalls provide convenient opportunities for sampling and enjoying these distinctive dishes. Do not miss out on the rice beer!
• Visit a morung to experience traditional tribal living. They are great places to enjoy Naga hospitality at its warmest and get a good taste of the local food and beer.
• Shop for souvenirs that are really witnessed to remarkable cultural traditions. The stalls at the festival stock an array of Nagaland arts and crafts like bone and bead jewellery, shawls sporting animal patterns, bamboo wares, black pottery, as well as traditional hunting implements. Bargaining is a norm here!
HOW TO REACH THE HORNBILL FESTIVAL VENUE: Flights are available to Dimapur, Nagaland’s most populous city. It is also well-connected by rail.
WHERE TO STAY: The Blue Bayou in Kohima, Nagaland’s capital, is one of the more expensive hotels. There are, however, accommodations to fit any budget. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital city, then Dimapur, 74 km away, offers a convenient and enjoyable alternative.
WHAT TO PACK: It can get rather cold in winter, so be sure to bring along warm and comfortable clothing. If you plan to add hiking to your schedule while you are in Nagaland, be sure to have some durable and supportive footwear.
SPECIAL TIP: Both Kohima and Dimapur attract a large number of tourists during the HornbiIl Festival, so reserve your flight, transport and accommodations as early as possible.
Some Images From Our Trip To Hornbill Festival