India

Hornbill Festival

The Hornbill Festival is a showplace for the culture and crafts of Nagaland’s numerous tribal communities. Rock music abounds, and visitors enjoy real village hospitality set in the Himalayas. It is an event truly deserving of a place on any traveller’s bucket list.

By Vacation India
members of the konyak naga pose for a portrait
Members of the Konyak Naga pose for a portrait. Shells, beads, and feathers are used in traditional Konyak Naga dress and headgear © Ron Ramtang

 

Hornbill Festival

DISCOVER…!
CHECKLIST
NAVIGATOR
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 festival is named after the Indian hornbill, a large forest bird that occur in the folklore of most Naga tribes, and a symbol of respect

The festival is named after the Indian hornbill, a large forest bird that occurs in the folklore of most Naga tribes, and a symbol of respect © Soumitra Pendse


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.

The festival gets its name from the large pied hornbill which is an important feature in the culture and rituals of many Nagaland tribes

The festival gets its name from the large pied hornbill which is an important feature in the culture and rituals of many Nagaland tribes © Wang LiQiang


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.

Nagaland tribesmen in their spectacular traditional attire during the Hornbill Festival

Nagaland tribesmen in their spectacular traditional attire during the Hornbill Festival © David Evison


 

DISCOVER…!

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.

2.Men of the Angami tribe dressed in traditional costume take part in the Stone Pulling Ceremony in the village of Viswema. This ancient tradition has survived through the ages and is still performed today

Men of the Angami tribe dressed in traditional costumes take part in the Stone Pulling Ceremony in the village of Viswema. This ancient tradition has survived through the ages and is still performed today © David Evison


 

CHECKLIST

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!

At a street food stall a Naga chef is hard at work, preparing traditional fare for the Hornbill Festival

At a street food stall a Naga chef is hard at work, preparing traditional fare for the Hornbill Festival © Amit Rane


 

NAVIGATOR

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.

Tribeswomen strike graceful poses during their traditional dance performance in front of an appreciative audience

Tribeswomen strike graceful poses during their traditional dance performance in front of an appreciative audience © bijitdutta.com


 

Some Images From Our Trip To Hornbill Festival

 

A woman serving a member of her tribe during a traditional celebratory feast

A woman serving a member of her tribe during a traditional celebratory feast © Samrat35


A man drinks from a huge horn, to the amusement of his fellow tribe members. Their traditional dress is an eye-catching profusion of colors

A man drinks from a huge horn to the amusement of his fellow tribe members. Their traditional dress is an eye-catching profusion of colors © Samrat35


Characterful portrait of an elderly man from Nagaland. People consider the festival sacred, so participation is important

Characterful portrait of an elderly man from Nagaland. People consider the festival sacred, so participation is important © David Evison


5.Traditional wood-carved Naga necklace worn during the Hornbill Festival Different materials are used to fashion the jewelry and headgear, like beads, wood, feathers etc

Traditional wood-carved Naga necklace worn during the Hornbill Festival Different materials are used to fashion the jewelry and headgear, like beads, wood, feathers, etc © Amitrane


Konyak Naga tribesman with his impressive headpiece of animal teeth

Konyak Naga tribesman with his impressive headpiece of animal teeth © Dhruba Jyoti Baruah


Two men of the Khiamniungan Naga tribe proudly display their interesting headgear. The festival consists of indigenous games, dances, traditional food, sport events and folk music

Two men of the Khiamniungan Naga tribe proudly display their interesting headgear. The festival consists of indigenous games, dances, traditional food, sport events and folk music © Ron Ramtang


Exuberant dance movements by Zeliang Naga tribesmen to impress the audience and demonstrate their skill

Exuberant dance movements by Zeliang Naga tribesmen to impress the audience and demonstrate their skill © VikramjitK


Naga tribesmen in traditional dress pose for a photo at the Hornbill Festival. This event features a wide spectrum of Nagaland arts and crafts, like bone and bead jewelry, shawls sporting animal patterns, bamboo ware, and black pottery. Especially interesting are the manufactures of traditional hunting implements, such as spears and knives

Naga tribesmen in traditional dress pose for a photo at the Hornbill Festival. This event features a wide spectrum of Nagaland arts and crafts, like bone and bead jewelry, shawls sporting animal patterns, bamboo ware, and black pottery. Especially interesting are the manufactures of traditional hunting implements, such as spears and knives © David Evison


The Hornbill Festival aims to revive and sustain the Naga tribes’ rich and diverse traditional heritage and culture. Artists sell handiwork like wood carvings, paintings, baskets and paintings during the festival

The Hornbill Festival aims to revive and sustain the Naga tribes’ rich and diverse traditional heritage and culture. Artists sell handiwork like wood carvings, paintings, baskets, and paintings during the festival © Samrat35


Books on the different tribes and other related topics are on sale at a book stall during the Hornbill Festival, Kohima. The festival starts during the first week in December

Books on the different tribes and other related topics are on sale at a bookstall during the Hornbill Festival, Kohima. The festival starts during the first week in December © Samrat35


Corn on the cob hanging out to dry in Kisama Village. The food fair makes up an important part of the festivities

Corn on the cob hanging out to dry in Kisama Village. The food fair makes up an important part of the festivities © Soumitra Pendse


Dancing to the beat of the drums during the Festival of Festivals in the village of Kisama

Dancing to the beat of the drums during the Festival of Festivals in the village of Kisama © Soumitra Pendse


The main aim of the festival is to celebrate the rich cultural traditions and handicraft of the local tribes. During the festival artists display their beautiful handiwork

The main aim of the festival is to celebrate the rich cultural traditions and handicraft of the local tribes. During the festival, artists display their beautiful handiwork © bijitdutta.com


Gourds have been used to fashion different musical instruments by men of the Kuki Naga tribe

Gourds have been used to fashion different musical instruments by men of the Kuki Naga tribe © Ron Ramtang


Gourds of all sizes and shapes are used to store water, Hornbill Festival, Nagaland

Gourds of all sizes and shapes are used to store water, Hornbill Festival, Nagaland © RealityImages


Members of the Nagaland tribe perform energetic traditional dances during the yearly Hornbill Festival, also known as the Festival of Festivals

Members of the Nagaland tribe perform energetic traditional dances during the yearly Hornbill Festival, also known as the Festival of Festivals © David Evison


The Hornbill Festival bursts with ceremonies, rituals and dances performed by the Angamis, Konyaks, Lothas, Aos, Chakhesangs, the Zeilangs, and other tribes.

The Hornbill Festival bursts with ceremonies, rituals, and dances performed by the Angamis, Konyaks, Lothas, Aos, Chakhesangs, the Zeilangs, and other tribes


Nagaland tribesmen in customary attire perform their traditional dances during the festival

Nagaland tribesmen in customary attire perform their traditional dances during the festival © David Evison


North Indian tribal artists in colorful costume wait to take part in the annual Hornbill Festival in Kohima

North Indian tribal artists in colorful costume wait to take part in the annual Hornbill Festival in Kohima © MD Sharma


Organic vegetables and fruit displayed at a street store in Kohima during the ten-day long Hornbill Festival

Organic vegetables and fruit displayed at a street store in Kohima during the ten-day-long Hornbill Festival © MD Sharma


Rope pulling competition at the Naga Heritage Village, Kisama during the famous annual Hornbill Festival

Rope pulling competition at the Naga Heritage Village, Kisama during the famous annual Hornbill Festival © Soumitra Pendse


Tribal headgear ready for the performance

Tribal headgear ready for the performance © Sushil Kumudini Chikane


Tribesmen building a human pyramid to demonstrate their skill

Tribesmen building a human pyramid to demonstrate their skill © Samrat35


Tribesmen getting ready for a competition of strength, one of the many activities that make up the Hornbill Festival

Tribesmen getting ready for a competition of strength, one of the many activities that make up the Hornbill Festival © David Evison


Two Naga warriors about to entertain the audience. During this cultural extravaganza the ancient heritage of the tribal people are celebrated

Two Naga warriors about to entertain the audience. During this cultural extravaganza, the ancient heritage of the tribal people are celebrated © Samrat35


A local tribe entertaining the audience with age-old dances as part of the activities of the colorful Hornbill Festival

A local tribe entertaining the audience with age-old dances as part of the activities of the colourful Hornbill Festival © EPhotocorp


A tribeswoman preparing traditional food, Kisama Village, Nagaland. The festival is an opportunity for inter-tribal exchange of ideas and cultures

A tribeswoman preparing traditional food, Kisama Village, Nagaland. The festival is an opportunity for the inter-tribal exchange of ideas and cultures © Soumitra Pendse


Share this post

You may also like

Araku Valley Balloon Festival
Araku Valley Balloon Festival
FRIVOLS AND FERVOUR AT THE SONEPUR FAIR
FRIVOLS AND FERVOUR AT THE SONEPUR FAIR