Hornbill festival - An Exotic Tribal Experience

By Dr. Yan Murry: Around the end of November, as the winter chill slowly sets in, there is a buzz of activity in Kohima, the hilly capital town of Nagaland. Preparations begin for the annual Hornbill festival which commences from the first day of December. The nearby Naga heritage village at Kisama where the festival is held is all spruced up to accommodate the hundreds who will join the merry making in the next few days. Over the years, Hornbill festival has gone on to be a benchmark event for showcasing the vibrant Naga culture. Organised by the state's Tourism department every year since 2000, it has placed Nagaland’s beautiful mountainous capital at par with other well known North East tourist destinations like Shillong and Gangtok. Nagas are a vibrant and colourful people comprising of over 18 tribes, each having their own  showcase their unique language, dances, customs and  traditions. With  Nagas  descending  at one place to respective tribes, the Hornbill festival has become a window for tourists to peek into the uniqueness of Naga culture. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for anyone who wishes to know the Nagas more. December and January are important months for Nagas from merry-making point of view. With Christmas approaching, the predominantly Christian state wears a festive look. Homes are brightly lit up with decorations and Christmas music fills the air. Tourist friendly: Nagas by nature are friendly people and once they know you’re a tourist and heading for Hornbill festival, they’ll make sure all your queries are answered. English is the official language of the state. Nagas understand and speak Hindi well too. Why Hornbill? :The hornbill is a bird most admired by the Naga people for its qualities of alertness and grandeur. This majestic bird is linked closely with the social and cultural life of the Naga people, as is evident in tribal folklores, dances and songs. The awe and admiration for the bird is symbolically displayed on almost all traditional tribal headgears worn during festivities. Morungs: At the festival venue Kisama, one will find many traditionally built Naga huts called Morungs. The Morung has a fascinating legacy attached to it. The pride of the village, the Morung is embellished with hunting trophies and fine wood carving in its doorway. This all-male dormitory, where a young lad of 6 enters and leaves when he weds, is where the village’s sacred hunting trophies, daos, Spears and shields of the village are kept for safe keeping. It is in the Morung where the boys learn the ancestral folksongs and folktales, where decisions of war and peace are taken, but it is also a refuge for the village culprits. Activities galore : There is never a dull moment once the festival starts. You can choose how to keep yourself busy. One can enjoy the colourful dances, food fairs, indigenous games and ceremonies, flower shows, Cultural medley - songs and dances, Fashion shows, Miss Nagaland beauty contest, Traditional archery and Naga wrestling.  Alcohol is not freely available in Nagaland but you can try the local rice beer. Tribal Shopping: Get ready for some “tribal shopping”. During the day, you’ll find many shopping stalls at the festival venue. Nagas design beautiful handicrafts out of wood and bamboo. Also available are beautiful hand-woven shawls of the various tribes, lovely dried flowers and artwork by local artists. Musical delight: Nagas are a music loving people. If you are a music freak, the Hornbill festival will be a treat. One of the major attractions of the festival is the Hornbill National Rock contest which boasts of being the longest music festival in the country. As the sun sets below the horizon, musicians from around the country belt out their best numbers in front of an enthusiastic and packed audience. 'Joint Family' from Delhi, 'The Hobos' from Kolkata, 'Verbs' from Shillong and local band 'Off' have won previous editions of the contest. The notion that Nagaland is an unsafe destination tucked away somewhere in remote Northeast India is untrue. People with 'limited understanding of the hill state and its people' are to be blamed for focusing more on the “Naga political problem” and not on the cultural richness Nagas have. Thankfully, as more and more tourists visit Hornbill festival each year, Nagaland and its people are being appreciated more. So, if you’re in the mood for some exotic tribal adventure, Hornbill festival should be your choice. Plan your trip well and get ready for a fun filled and exciting journey to the hills of Nagaland. Source: Hornbill Festival

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