What is Hornbill Festival?
Hornbill Festival is a ten-day cultural extravaganza held every December 1-10 to encourage, nurture, and promote Naga tribes and people’s rich, dynamic, and diversified culture. It is the land of mythology and myths, as well as the valiant warriors and hunters lauded in the land’s folk songs. It is organised by the State Government of Nagaland and is the oldest festival of its kind among all the states of Northeast India, having started in the year 2000.
Every year in the month of December, the state celebrates this age-old celebration. For those who are unaware, this is one of Nagaland’s major indigenous warrior tribes’ ceremonies. The Nagas have a long history of preserving their culture and traditions. Travellers from all over the world go to this festival to experience the tribe’s uniqueness and spend time with the inhabitants to learn about their culture firsthand. The Hornbill festival is held at the Naga Heritage Village in Kisama, located around 12 kilometers from the capital of the Nagaland, Kohima.
A meeting was recently conducted under the chairmanship of Neiphiu Rio, Nagaland’s Chief Minister, to assess the state’s COVID status. According to reports, the Nagaland Tourism Department contacted all tribal organisations in the state and invited them to a conference at the Nagaland Tourism Directorate in Kohima. As a result, the Nagaland government is preparing to host the Hornbill Festival this year, which will begin on December 1st.
Why is Hornbill Festival Celebrated?
The reason for the Hornbill Festival is the first question that any guest has. Or, to put it another way, what is the history of Nagaland’s colourful Hornbill Festival? Hornbill, as the name implies, is the name of a bird that has long been depicted and revered by the Nagas. The importance of this bird is depicted in the traditions and songs sung throughout the event.
Naga people and warriors utilized the feathers of this bird to embellish their headgears. The government attempted to encourage people not to hunt these birds and instead protect them, but all of their efforts were futile.
This species of bird was on the verge of extinction due to widespread hunting, which was a wake-up call for Nagas. Since the festival was first held in the year 2000, it featured folk songs and dancing, traditional games, and even songs from their conflicts while today, it is a great event that attracts people from all over the world to participate.
The Colourful Tribes of Nagaland
There are 16 major tribes of Nagaland namely Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Kachari, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Kuki, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, Yimchunger and Zeme-Liangmai (Zeliang); and then there are sub-tribes as well. We heard that the sub-tribes also have their own dialect.
Highlights of the Festival
- Religious and ceremonial parades are held.
- Each tribe has its unique ritual performance that is both stunningly beautiful and oddly executed.
- The energetic traditional folk dance and musical acts that follow as the activities progress are a close portrayal of Nagaland’s cultural heritages.
- Sports, crafts, dance, fashion presentations, and beauty pageants are all held. During the festival, Naga culture and ethnicity are performed and appreciated to encourage people to compete.
- The event is jam-packed with activities such as food fairs, games, songs, musical performances, and entertainment to keep the party going.
- Traditional art, wood crafts, practical crafts, sculptures, paintings, and wood carvings are all on display. These pieces of art are sold and exhibited. There are also herbal medicine vendors and flower exhibits on display.
- There are a variety of food vendors serving a variety of cuisines, including traditional Naga cuisine, which is incredibly indulgent.
- Traditional archery, Naga wrestling, indigenous games, and other athletic sports are popular.
- The Hornbill International Rock Festival is one of the festival’s main attractions. Indira Gandhi Stadium hosts a variety of local and international rock bands.
- Throughout the night, the celebrations and concerts are carried on.
What is the Importance of Hornbill Festival?
The Hornbill Festival is one of Nagaland’s major traditional warrior tribes’ festivities. The Naga people have a long history of preserving their culture and traditions. As a result, visitors plan their visits and book Nagaland Hornbill Festival excursions in order to experience the tribe’s distinctiveness and spend time with the locals.
Each of the state’s tribes and sub-tribes has its unique means of promoting its culture. There are multi-colored spears and Daos with dyed goat’s hair, in addition to their traditional ceremonial dress, which varies by tribe. Exotic headgears and ivory armlets are two other well-known Naga traditional items that steal the show. Fighters had to prove their bravery in order to wear these in the past.
Despite the enormous amount of modernism that has entered their lives, the people have maintained their traditions and heritage. The state is known as the ‘Land of Festivals,’ and the people who live here like commemorating the exploits of its old warriors and folk heroes. In addition, medleys that immortalise love stories, folk tunes, and gospel hymns are highly regarded. The festival is named after the Hornbill, one of the state’s most revered bird species. The significance of the bird is expressed in numerous tribe cultural expressions, songs, and dances, which is interesting.
Let’s Talk About Food and Beverage
One of the reasons we travel is to eat. After all, sampling local cuisine is akin to getting a flavour of the culture. Hornbill Festival is a celebration of Naga cuisine. After all, Nagaland is a foodie’s dream, particularly for non-vegetarians.Some of the Naga Cuisine delicacies that people can taste at the festival:
- Local rice beer is served in enormous bamboo cups with leaf cooked rice cakes, yam patties, roasted millets, and boiling Naga beans.
- The aromatic brown rice and slow-cooked pork are offered at all Morungs, along with bamboo and beef pickles and, of course, superhot Naga chilli chutneys.
- The way pork is prepared differs from tribe to tribe. The flavour ranges from lip-smacking to taking some getting used to. However, the meat offered is always of the highest quality and juiciest. These guys knew how to cook meat, and we honoured their expertise by feasting in these Morungs every day of the event.
- If you’re a vegetarian or don’t eat pork, the Hortispace, which is located across the street from the main venue grounds, is a good option. At the Hortispace, farmers from all around Nagaland display their produce. You can sample a lot of fresh, local, and organic vegetables, such as local tomatoes, little carrots, and a variety of lemons. During the Hornbill Festival, the season’s fruits include oranges and pineapple. Wild mushrooms and persimmons are more exotic. The native avocado, on the other hand, was the most surprise fruit.
Visit the Morungs
The Morung is a prominent Naga institution that also serves as the social hub for all of the society’s unmarried male members. It is a gathering place for young boys to learn about social customs and beliefs from their elders. The Morung is typically constructed on the edge of a steep slope leading to the settlement’s highest point. It allows Morung members to keep an eye on and safeguard their village from enemy raids and attacks. The Morung has a fancy appearance with an elliptical form of a wide open entrance area with a magnificent piece of single wood log. The designs lavishly carved on the poles and cross beams of the Morung expressed their head hunting practices, fertility culy, emblem of heroism, tectum and sacrifices, and so on. Early in the morning, just before the commencement of the performances, is the finest time to visit them. That is when the performers will dress up, and you will be able to take some wonderful photos. However, before taking any images, please ask them first. Strike up a conversation with the various tribal communities when visiting a Morung. Pose questions to them. Inquire about their lifestyle, culture, and earlier days of headhunting. They will all be delighted to speak with you and tell you some fascinating anecdotes about themselves. The greatest time to engage in conversation with the locals is on the first day of the Hornbill Festival. The first day’s cultural performances are usually in the evening, and everyone is in a good mood.
Nagaland may be remote from the rest of India, but when it comes to fashion and craftsmanship, it is not. This fascinating country is well-versed in both contemporary and traditional design. Nagaland’s craft and art may be traced back to a long line of forefathers, and it is still widely practised in today’s generation. The fact that local artists put persistent stress, time, and attention into untangling each thread or weaving bamboo strands to make a work of art is a difficult task may be what draws to all visitors while shopping in Nagaland.
Nagas wear a lot of traditional ornaments and accessories. Beads, wood, silver, brass, ivory, and animal bone make up the majority of them. Many tribes have a history of hunting and use coloured animal hair to beautify themselves. While you may not be able to purchase bone jewellery, you can certainly purchase and try on some beaded jewellery.
The Nagas wear brightly coloured outfits. Their traditional clothing is produced in the style of their ancestors. Feathers from hornbills are also utilised in headgear and clothing. Each of the 16 tribes have their unique set of outfits. Most importantly Naga shawls can be the best and the most useful souvenir. The shawls are also designed differently for each tribe. In addition, the shawl’s pattern reflects a person’s function in the community.
The Naga shawls are vibrant in colours. The blood of the adversary was symbolised by the red of the shawl. The blue came from the leaves of plants that were grown specifically for this purpose on the borders of the settlement. The Nagas believed that their magical spells might ward off their foes. By looking at the shawl he’s wearing, you can figure out what social rank he has. Besides, these are really cozy and warm which will protect you from shivering at any cold places.
Rock Concert and Music
Nagaland is famous for its western music. In fact, rock music is well-known throughout the Northeast. Hornbill Festival will also feature a few rock music performances.
The Hornbill International Rock Contest has been dubbed The Great Hornbill Rock because it was cancelled in 2019. It used to be held at the Hornbill Festival location, and rock bands from all around India would compete for a reward. While regular performances will be staged in Kisama, additional concerts will be held in Kohima at various venues.
How to Reach The Fest?
First you will arrive at Dimapur that not only has Nagaland’s only railway station but it also has an airport. Dimapur is the border district and town between Assam and Nagaland along the banks of the Dhansiri River. Dimapur once used to be the capital of the Kachari Kingdom.
From Dimapur you have to get to Kohima and will be picked up adjacent to the station. The distance is about 75 km and it takes around 2 hours to reach. It is called the Dimapur-Kohima expressway it is a toll road. The road was previously pretty much undulating or bumpy but it has improved a lot in this year, with a smoother road network you will reach faster than it used to be just some time back.
The festival venue is at Kisama Heritage village, located about 12 km from Kohima. From here, the road network not only connects Kisama, but also towards other villages like Kigwema, Vishwema, Jakhama etc which falls on the same NH2 highway.
The ILP which is mandatory gives a validity of 15-30 days for tourists in Nagaland. Kohima receives a lot of tourist from around the world and it will be crowded. Prices will also be high. However the most popular and economical place of stay are the camps in and around Kisama.