• Saptadeepa Bandopadhyay

Discovering Nagaland - At Hornbill Festival and Kohima Town

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

Note: This blog is part of the Travel blog series 'Discovering Nagaland'. The Introductory blog of this series is about choosing Nagaland as a travel destination and reaching Nagaland. This is the 2nd blog of the series.

We reached Kohima Town after a bumpy road journey from Dimapur. Through the half baked dusty serpentine routes, one can never miss the number of billboards welcoming tourists to the Hornbill Festival and the roadside Christmas decorations reminding you of the onset of December.

Once in Kohima, a stop at the Hornbill Festival was an evening ritual of our group to breathe new life into our tired souls after the day's extensive exploration.

The Hornbill Festival 2019-

(The charm of a December tour to Nagaland)

The open-air auditorium of Hornbill Festival. Do not miss the Hornbill bird figurines on the tree branch!

Nagaland is well-known as the 'land of festivals' and rightly so for the presence of 16 indigenous tribes and many sub-tribes celebrating their festivals around hunting and farming season in the state. The festivities multiply to a larger magnitude when all these tribes come together to celebrate the Hornbill festival (which is also called the 'festival of all festivals') once a year.

Hornbill Festival dates -

Hornbill Festival is celebrated from 1st to 10th of December every year.

When and Why was Hornbill Festival first started -

The spirit of this festival at such a huge scale was first started in the year 2000 by the Nagaland State Tourism and Cultural Board with the pretext of preserving the traditions and cultures of the 16 Naga tribes and to provide a platform for exchange of inter-tribal among all the tribes. Ever since then, the Festival has attracted tourists and locals alike.

The Hornbill festival takes place at the Kisama Heritage village which is located at a distance of 12 kilometers from Kohima. The venue of the festival remains the same every year and the setup for every tribe is maintained through the year. The venue has 16 house-like structures unique to every tribe. These are known as Morungs meaning Youth Hostels or Dormitories in the local dialect.

The Angami Morung
The Angami Tribe Morung at Kisama Heritage village

Entrance of the Angami Morung decoraged with animal skulls

Every Morung is lead by a gate with the name of the tribe and a board describing the traditions, food and dressing unique to the tribe. It was quiet fascinating to go around each Morung and know more about the tribes. The interiors of the Morungs are setup to replicate the living styles of the tribe. Also local delicacies are cooked and served in these Morungs. One can try the local authentic cuisines at the respective Morungs of every tribe. People dress up in colourful attires to represent their tribes.

Men of the Ao tribe singing and dancing before the Closing Ceremony of Hornbill Festival

Angami Men Strike a Pose after their performance

The venue also has an open-air auditorium where many cultural folklores, dances and dramas are performed by each tribal group through the 10-day event. Most of these cultural events are part of the day-time performances. The same auditorium is lit-up by the evening and hone some modern Naga artists showcasing their talents.

We could witness some talented and melodious Naga musicians and singers on the evenings we spent at the Hornbill festival. I loved the energy and the vibe of the place. Though the December air gives chills to the nerves, the warmth of the musical concerts easily negates the thin cold air. Nagaland has many young bands and the local crowd is fond of western music as well as songs sung in local dialects. I never had an idea of the Naga music before but ever since I am back from Nagaland, I often find myself searching for Naga talents on the internet.

The closing ceremony at Hornbill Festival

As the night progresses, you will find people outside every morung, sitting next to a bonfire with rice beers in tall bamboo tumblers and enjoying a plate of local delicacy with some background music.

For the ones like me, who was not so comfortable trying a plate of fried worms or Mithun meat, I found solace in cafes serving burgers or Vegetarian Parathas and Samosas with a warm cup of cappuccino. Thus the venue has some option for every visitor.