The North East of India is steeped in culture. These unique cultures come alive in the form of song, dance and celebration during the festivals that are celebrated in various states across the north east India.
The vibrant decorations, the music, the traditional outfits and the local delicacies are extraordinary. Visiting the Northeastern states during the festivals will make you appreciate them and see them in a new light altogether.
Most of these festivals celebrate a harvest, a new year or have Buddhist roots. This is when people from various tribes come together to create the most lively ambiance possible.
If you are planning a trip somewhere, here are a few popular festivals of north east India that you should consider attending:
Bihu Festival – Assam
This is a celebration of the Assamese New Year. Bohag Bihu, as it is locally known, is one of the biggest festivals in Assam. It is celebrated thrice a year, i.e, Rongali Bihu or Bohag, Kongali Bihu or Kaati and Bhogali Bihu or Maagh. The festival begins from the 14th of April and is spread across seven days. On the first day, the bulls are fed and bathed. On the day of the main festival, people adorn themselves and present each other with a Gamosa. This is when the youngsters of the tribe perform the Bihu Dance. Several Assamese delicacies are prepared during this festival.
Ambubachi Mela – Assam
This is one of the biggest festivals in the North East. It is held at the Kamakhya temple in Assam in the month of June. This festival has so many devotees attending it that it is often called the Mahakumbh of the East. The temple remains closed, however, as this is believed to be the time of the annual menstrual cycle of the goddess. This is a time when unusual rites are performed by the Tantrik Cult.
Hornbill Festival – Nagaland
This week long festival begins on the 1st of December each year in the Kisama Heritage Village. It is quite the spectacle with people wearing colorful headgear, playing log drums and breaking in to song and dance. There are several interesting contests like pork eating during this festival.
Wangala Festival – Meghalaya
This is a festival of the Garo tribe and is held in the second week of November each year. It is a post-harvest festival that honors Misi Saljong. The ritulas are performed by the Nokma or the Chief of the tribe and the offerings include cooked rice, brewed beer and vegetables. The music is the highlight and the festival is also called the 100 drum festival.
Nongkrem Dance Festival – Meghalaya
This is a harvest festival celebrated in the month of November by the Khasi tribe. Goats are sacrificed to the goddess Ka Blei Synshar. This five day festival includes dance performances by young men and women dressed in interesting tribal garments.
Ziro Festival of Music – Arunachal Pradesh
This outdoor music festival is held in one of the most picturesque remote places in Arunachal Pradesh. It features fold acts, over 30 Indian bands and even camping facilities.
Dree Festival – Arunachal Pradesh
This is the festival of the Apatani Tribe but is celebrated by the other tribes in Arunachal Pradesh too. It is celebrated on the 5th of July each year. This is the largest festival in the Ziro valley and offers prayers to four Gods, Harniang, Metii, Tamu and Danyi. The traditional dance is part of the prayer for a good harvest. Local delicacies include rice or millet beer and home brewed wine.
Mopin Festival – Arunachal Pradesh
This is a festival of the Galo tribe held in the month of April. The celebrations include the Popir dance and the distribution of fresh rice wine. The goddess Mopin is worshipped to drive evil spirits away.
Kharchi Puja – Tripura
This is a festival where all the rituals were originally performed only by the royal families. This ten day festival includes appeasing 14 gods and making animal sacrifice. It takes place in Puran Havely or Old Agartala in the month of July.
Losoong – Sikkim
This festival signifies the Sikkimese New Year. It is celebrated in the month of December. This is a festival that is primarily celebrated by the Bhutia and Lepcha Tribe. Black Hat Dance and Cham Dance are performed and a locally brewed wine called Chaang is served.
Saga Dawa – Sikkim
This is one of the most popular Buddhist festivals in Sikkim. It is celebrated during the Lunar Month of Tibet. Saga Dawa is the name given to the full moon day that occurs half way through the lunar month. It is an auspicious day and the month that it occurs in is called the “Month of Merits” and occurs between May and June. This is when people celebrate the life, enlightenment and the death of the Buddha. Celebrations include large gatherings offering water, bhog and incense sticks at monasteries. The chanting of the mantras during the circumambulation of the Gompas along with the reading of religious texts and turning of the prayer wheels is very serene.
Kang Chingba – Manipur
This is the biggest Hindu festival in Manipur. It is celebrated in the month of July and is an 8 day long festival. The festival includes a Rath Yatra in the honor of Lord Jagannath. People dance all night and large feasts are organized.
Lui Ngai Ni – Manipur
Celebrated on the 15th of February each year, this festival is popular among all the Naga tribes and also some tribes in Manipur. This festival marks the season of seed sowing and is celebrated with a lot of pomp including traditional dance and local delicacies.
Anthurium – Mizoram
This festival celebrated in the month of September is primarily to promote tourism in Mizoram. The celebrations occur in a village named Reiek and include folk music, cuisine and several dance performances.
Chapchar Kut – Mizoram
This is another harvest festival that is celebrated in the month of March each year. A bamboo dance called Cheraw is the highlight of this festival. There are also several other styles of dances like Chheihlam, Sarlamkai and Khullam that are performed to powerful drum beats and sounds of gongs.