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Hornbill Festival: One of the Fastest Growing Festivals in India

A Morung belonging to the Pochury tribe of the Nagas
A Morung belonging to the Pochury tribe of the Nagas
A man inspecting Japanese army uniform at the Kohima War Museum
A man inspecting Japanese army uniform at the Kohima War Museum
A miniature replica of tanks used by the Allied Forces during the Second World War displayed at Kohima War Museum
A miniature replica of tanks used by the Allied Forces during the Second World War displayed at Kohima War Museum
Few faces who fought in the Battle of Kohima against the Japanese
Few faces who fought in the Battle of Kohima against the Japanese
A visitor inside the Kohima War Museum
A visitor inside the Kohima War Museum
Dried flowers made from natural products sold at Kisama Heritage Village
Dried flowers made from natural products sold at Kisama Heritage Village
Dried flowers made from husk of maize and other materials
Dried flowers made from husk of maize and other materials
Wood carved decor sold at Hornbill Festival
Wood carved decor sold at Hornbill Festival
Necklaces and other handicraft products sold at the Bamboo Pavilion, Kisama Heritage Village
Necklaces and other handicraft products sold at the Bamboo Pavilion, Kisama Heritage Village
Paintings put up at the exhibition hall at kisama village
Paintings put up at the exhibition hall at kisama village
Naga daos sold at the Bamboo Pavalion during Hornbill Festival
Naga daos sold at the Bamboo Pavalion during Hornbill Festival
Orchid on display during the exhibition
Orchid on display during the exhibition
A tourist posing with the Nagas at Hornbill Festival1
A tourist posing with the Nagas at Hornbill Festival1
Sumi women and men relaxing and singing folk songs in their morung
Sumi women and men relaxing and singing folk songs in their morung
Sumi elders posing for photographers at Kisama Heritage Village
Sumi elders posing for photographers at Kisama Heritage Village
Angami elders drinking rice beer at the Hornbill Festival
Angami elders drinking rice beer at the Hornbill Festival
Most Naga folk songs and dances are inspired or learned from nature
Most Naga folk songs and dances are inspired or learned from nature
Ao cultural troupe performing folk dance at Hornbill Festival
Ao cultural troupe performing folk dance at Hornbill Festival
A man roasting fish at the Hornbill Festival
A man roasting fish at the Hornbill Festival

Hornbill Festival is celebrated from December 1st to December 7th. I arrived in Kohima on the 4th of December and so missed some of the most exciting events. But nevertheless the 7 day festival was nicely sorted out with interesting events for each day. The tribal lifestyle and Morung were daily exhibits and most visitors found that the most entertaining. Just sipping rice beer around the fire and watching the tribal go about their business could be a lot more than one presumed. 

The War Memorial Museum is a rather huge building that housed relics of the past. It is one of the only buildings built with concretes. Dedicated to the ‘Battle of Kohima,’ the museum houses guns, pots-pans, artillery and uniforms all used during the Second World War fought between the Japanese and the British. It is a great place for people interested in knowing more about the history of the war. There are separate entry fees for the museum. 

The Bamboo Pavilion is like a small mall that sells everything; mostly handicraft products. Nagas are known for their colorful art. Even with their limited equipment, Naga’s make some of the best wooden decors and necklace products. It is also here that you’ll get to meet writers in their own pavilions. If you are lucky enough you can get autographed books at their stalls. Lately it has become customary to release books at the festival. Well known Naga Writers like Easterine Kire and Temsula Ao have released their books at the festival. The festival creates a platform for artists, writers, musicians, businessmen and so on. The bamboo pavilion is made entirely of bamboo and is the main souvenir shop. It tries to give you the complete Naga package. 

 At Kisama Heritage Village each participating tribe has their own Morung. And true to their essence they eat, sing folk songs and dance in the Morung. There are around 16 major tribes in Nagaland and most of these tribes have their own Morung at the Heritage village. The purpose of building a Morung is to display their tribal lifestyle while giving visitors the opportunity to interact and be part of that tribe. Each Morung also has its own restaurant which serves their specific tribal delicacy. 

A non Naga friend of mine simply put it this way, ‘Nagas eat anything that moves.’ It was meant to be a sarcastic comment, but when it comes to the Naga choice of food, it’s partly true, but there might also be a new trend to the food choices. The Naga Hills were once dense and possessed treasures of fauna and flora, but deforestation and decades of hunting have left them with nothing much. Now it’s hard to find big game like bear, deer, wild boar etc. Hence, Nagas are turning to smaller animals which were never eaten before.  

 At the heritage village one can try out all sorts of food; pork, beef and chicken are common and more popular food items along with the famed rice beer served in bamboo. But one can easily find uncommon food, like dried squirrel soup, freshly cooked frog, fried silk worm larvae and many weird things you wouldn’t have heard off, let alone put in your mouth. Nagas are discovering weird things to eat; many of these new discoveries are tested out by foreigners and local tourists. It is not necessarily true that Nagas have eaten all of them, but to boost tourism the Nagas are now ready to serve anything that moves; anything weird.  

I was lucky to witness some freestyle wrestling, Naga style. Wrestling is one of the few sports that has survived to this day. I was surprised to see a foreigner in his 40’s among the participants. He did better than I thought he would and survived the initial rounds and seemed to know a few tricks but was later overpowered by the raw energy of the youngsters. In ancient Naga tradition wrestling matches were organized during festivals to display strength and manhood; their biggest pride. 

The festival was organized in such a way that no part of the day was wasted. In the afternoon I watched folk dances accompanied by singing at the small open air theater.

The best part about being in the festival though is going from one Morung to another experiencing different tribal cultures and traditions. It was so good to be able to sit around a fire and listen to them sing folk songs. The strange intonation and music just transported me into another era and place. 

At the Morung one also gets to see the daily ordeals of people. Every Naga house has a mortar for grinding paddy, these are displayed in most Morungs. 

Late in the evening I climbed up to the top of the village, for a last glimpse. The place looked surreal and out of this world. There were people of all races and countries in the same village. This would have been unimaginable a few decades ago. Today the Hornbill Festival is one of the fastest growing festivals in India. 

 

8 Responses to “Hornbill Festival: One of the Fastest Growing Festivals in India”

  1. Sayani Dasgupta says:

    Hi Jim,

    It was lovely reading your articles on Nagaland.I am planning a trip this year 2014 December to the Hornbill Festival with my brother. I have more or less chalked out the trip itinerary. However, would like your help and information on a few aspects. And can I stay with the locals as in a village homestay instead of putting up in a hotel ? Your articles were so engrossing, I had read every one of them twice. Beautiful !

    Hope to hear from you,
    Sayani

    • moitours says:

      Hi Sayani, Thanks a lot for the nice feedback.
      I stayed in Kohima during my trip but I’m also aware that an alternate arrangement like home-stay do exist in villages surrounding Kisama Heritage Village. Kigweman and Phesama are the nearest villages from the venue of Hornbill Festival. All the best with your trip!

  2. Sayani Dasgupta says:

    And is it possible to stay at Mr.Tsile Sakhire’s place ? Am so so so eager to meet him already, and learn from him!

    • moitours says:

      Hi Sayani Dasgupta,
      I think arrangement could be made for a stay in the village. Mr.Tsile would be happy to help you. Best

  3. Sayani Dasgupta says:

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks so very much for your response and for your wish. I would like to be in touch with Mr.Tsile for the bookings and consultation. How is it possible? My email id comes along with the required fields in here. I will be ever grateful to you, if you can drop me a line or send me your email address, so that I can be in discussion with you about the trip and for Mr.Tsile’s contact details.

    Thanks again and again,
    Sayani

  4. Karan Khurana says:

    Hi Jim,
    I want to visit the Hornbill festival this year. I also plan to visit Shillong and Imphal. But I only have just three days to spend at the Hornbill festival. I was hoping if you could help me plan my trip. I would love to hear from you via email (karanelancer@gmail.com). I would be grateful to you for your help. Thanks.
    Karan

  5. Vibha says:

    It would be wonderful, if the tourists,are not allowed to crowd around the performers to take photos, completely spoils the show for onlookers.

  6. Travis Naga says:

    contact me for local guides thank you….

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