One of the biggest cultural extravaganzas of Nagaland, the Hornbill Festival is a beautiful treat that offers a taste of the state’s amazing tribal heritage seamlessly fused with the contemporary lifestyle of the modern world. Held every year in the first week of December; this 10-day extravaganza is also considered to be the biggest rock festival of India with some of the best musicians enthralling and entertaining the crowds everyday.
If you are planning a visit to the east of India this winter, the Hornbill Festival is an event you simply cannot miss. Here is a complete guide to the Hornbill festival so that you can plan your trip to perfection.
Significance Of The Festival
The Hornbill Festival is organized by the Government of Nagaland as an effort to bring forth the rich culture of the different tribes of Nagaland to the world. The festival started on 1st December 2000; to mark the day when Nagaland was first declared a state in 1963.
Initially started with an aim to attract tourists to the state, the festival soon became exotic and spectacular, offering a platform to the 16 different tribes of the state to showcase their culture in all its glory. This is where you see them all – the warriors, the cultivators, the hill tribals, the dancers, and even the much-dreaded headhunters of Nagaland. Colorful costumes, tribal dances, authentic Nagamese food, their beautifully decorated Morungs (Naga huts) and great music turn this event into nothing short of extraordinary. This is where, amidst the thunderous drumming and dancing, you get to experience the heart-warming hospitality of the people of Nagaland.
The Best Of Naga Culture
The Hornbill festival is a ten-day celebration of the Naga culture. It was extended from one week to 10 days in the year 2013 to celebrate 50 years of Nagaland’s statehood. During these ten days, traditional dances depicting fertility, agriculture and war rituals are performed by different tribes of Nagaland.
Spectacular head hunting rituals and war dances are performed by the warrior tribes such as Yimchunger, Konyak, Sumi and Chang. They even showcase mock fights for the tourists to experience the valor and spirit of the tribes. Afterall, the Nagas have been heralded as warriors and the strongest people in the region. All this takes place with gun fires, log drum beats and loud war cries in the background.
One of the most awaited rituals is the stone pulling rituals. This takes place at the Visama village. A giant, two-ton stone is pulled down a road that is 2 km long by the men of the Angami Tribe. As the men pull these stones, women dress up in traditional attire and follow them singing songs to persuade them to keep going. This is a true portrayal of the strength of this tribe and is a grand spectacle to witness.
Hornbill Music Festival And Rock Concert
This is one of the biggest rock festivals of India. Every evening, the ambiance comes alive with the performances by various bands from across the country. A rock concert that is organized by the Music Task Force is an attempt by the government to promote the music in Nagaland.
A rally is held here every year to commemorate the battle of Kohima. The parade promotes the message of peace and has people dressed in World War II costumes, driving along on World War II jeeps.
What everyone looks forward to during the Hornbill Festival are the food stalls. Food is a very important part of the Naga culture. In these stalls you can enjoy meals from the different tribes of Nagaland, sweet and savory treats that are home cooked and of course, the famous local rice beer.
You have several handicraft stores that sell traditional shawls and other handicrafts of the region. Wood carvings, sculptures, different kinds of pickles, handmade flowers, statues, books, and lots more can be bought in these stalls. One also gets to witness fashion shows and literary fests during the show.
The most exciting part of the festival are the many competitive games that are held for everyone. Bamboo pole climbing and pork fat eating are among these games. But, the one game that everyone looks forward to is the Naga King Chili eating contest. This is when people attempt to eat the most number of one of the the hottest chilies in the world.
The festival is held in the Kisama Heritage Village which is about 12 kilometers from Kohima, the capital city of Nagaland.
The festival is held from the 1st to the 10th of December every year.
Tickets And Permits
You can purchase the tickets at the entry and then pass the security check to enter the festivities. Alternatively, you can also book passes online. Usually the tickets available online are a part of a tourist package and will include stay and a few more activities around Kohima.
For foreign Tourists:
- Protected Area Permit is no longer needed by foreign tourists
- They simply have to register with the FRO or Foreigners Registration Officer in the district
- They can also visit the closest police station within 24 hours of reaching the destination to register themselves
For Indian Tourists:
- An inner line permit is required for Indian tourists
- You can apply for one in any Government of Nagaland office
- You can also apply online on www.diw.nagaland.gov.in/
- Documents that are required include two passport sized photos, a valid ID and a copy of the ID.
How To Get There
The closest airport is the Dimapur Airport. A taxi drive of 2.5 to 3 hours will get you to the Kisama Heritage Village
The closest railway station is also Dimapur. You can get frequent trains from Kolkata, Delhi and Guwhati to Dimapur
You can travel by road on the NH 337 from Guwhati to Nagaon. Then take the NH336 to Dimapur. You can then take the NH 39 to Kohima. There are buses plying from Guwhati to Kohima every day. It is just an overnight trip
Where To Stay
There are several options for stay in Kohima. However, in the month of December, finding accommodation can be really hard. So, book well in advance. Some options for accommodation include Hotel Legacy, The Heritage Hotel, Hotel Japfu, and Classic Aradura.
If you are planning a long holiday, you can also visit places like the War cemetery, the Kohima State Museum and the Catholic Cathedral on Aradura Hills. You can also enjoy nature walks, night bazaars, and treks that are organized by local travel companies.