The Hornbill Festival – Kohima, Nagaland
India’s far North-East region, Nagaland is known as the “Land of Festivals”. One such festival organized in the capital of the state, Kohima and it’s commercial capital Dimapur is the renowned Hornbill Festival. Also referred to as the “Festival of Festivals”, the Hornbill Festival is one of the largest celebrations of all the major tribes of Nagaland. It features traditional dance forms, folk songs, art and indigenous games from the different tribes of the state. This week-long festival is organized by the State Tourism of Arts and Culture Department, Government of Nagaland every year in the first week of December. The Hornbill Festival 2019 commences from December 1st till December 10th.
The Hornbill Festival was started by the government of Nagaland in the year 2000 to showcase and promote the state’s culture and intercultural harmony between different tribes. All the major tribes of Nagaland which are Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Dimasa Kachari, Garo, Zeliang, Rengma, Khiamniungan, Sumi, Lotha, Kuki, Konyak, Yimchungru, Sangtam, Phom, Pochury participate in this event.
Hornbill festival or Hornbill Mahotsav has been named after the bird hornbill, which is considered as a symbol of “respect” and has found its mention in the folklore of most of the state’s tribes. From folk dances, folk songs to traditional arts and crafts, several different activities and events take place during these 10 days of the festival and most of them are held in the Kisama Heritage Village located near Kohima. The Hornbill Festival is returning with its 19th edition in 2019 to cherish and encourage the richness of Naga cultural heritage.
The grand Hornbill Festival has now become one of the most popular festivals in Northeast India and the busiest tourist season for the state of Nagaland. This festival has taken Nagaland on a global platform with people from across the world coming forward to become a part of this vibrant celebration. Also, the other regions of the different Northeastern states are getting inspired by this initiative and now they have started conducting their own regional festivals.
Events and Activities at the Hornbill Festival
This colorful fiesta is celebrated to promote the local culture and traditions of the several tribes of Nagaland. This carnival displays unique rituals, customs, and practices. Most of the rituals and activities displayed in the festival revolve around agriculture. This is because 85% of the state’s population still depend entirely on agriculture to earn a living. The tourists will find themselves surrounded by all the major tribes of Nagaland showcasing their folk songs, dances and various art forms dressed up in their traditional attires. In addition to these traditional attires, each tribe and subtribe has different headgears, spears and ivory armlets.
At the opening ceremony, on December 1st, the festival begins by paying respect to the religious deity with a traditional tribal dance. After this, certain handloom stalls and various competitions are inaugurated. There are some breathtaking performances, events, competitions, ceremonies, and games throughout the day. There are sales and exhibitions of traditional artworks including handicrafts, wood carvings, paintings, sculptures. There are several stalls serving different varieties of local cuisine, the highlight being the rice beer.
Events like beauty competitions and fashion shows are also organized during the festival. Visitors can indulge in various sports activities like Naga wrestling, traditional archery, horseback riding, and athletic events as well. After spending the entire day with the locals and enjoying their performances and cuisine, you will be enthralled to attend the Hornbill Rock Concert. Bands from across the country and even abroad compete with each other at this event. This amazing event is followed by the stunning Night Market.
The prime attractions of the Hornbill Festival 2019 are Hornbill International Photo Festival, Hornbill First Cut, Naga Chef, and Hornbill 4*4 Jungle Jamboree, Traditional Naga Morungs Exhibition among others. There are numerous other events like the flower show, chilli eating competition and herbal medicines sales that draw a lot of crowds each year.
Things to do at the Hornbill Festival 2019
The 19th edition of the enthralling Hornbill Festival has innumerable things to enjoy and explore the traditional culture and heritage of the Naga tribes. Some of the fascinating things to do at the festival are:
- Enjoy the cultural performances of several tribes and sub-tribes of the state at the Hornbill Festival. Also, learn about traditional artworks and games.
- Spend time at the Morungs (wooden house-like structures made of dried grass and leaves) – Morungs are community spaces where boys of different tribes are taught about the history and culture of their respective tribes.
- Know more about the life of the tribals- Have conversations with the people before their performances in the evening.
- Try the delectable cuisine of Nagaland – The delicious traditional food of Nagaland is served in various stalls and at all the Morungs. The staple food is brown rice and pork, which is the juiciest meat. It is served with beef pickles and Naga chutneys. Also, there are several options for vegetarians including local and organic fresh fruits.
- Participate in various events and activities to enjoy the Hornbill Festival 2019 to the fullest. Naga chili eating competition is considered as one of the prime events of the festival.
Hornbill Festival 2019 Entry Formalities
There are certain important formalities that are necessary to be checked upon by both national and international tourists.
- Domestic tourists must obtain the Inner Line Permit issued by the government. This is issued by Deputy Resident Commissioner, Nagaland House in New Delhi and Kolkata, Assistant Resident Commissioner in Guwahati and shillong and Deputy Commissioner of Dimapur, Kohima, and Mokokchung. You can also get the inner line permit online from the official website of the Nagaland government.
- Foreign tourists should register themselves at the Foreigners Registration Office, or the nearest police station within 24 hours of their arrival.
Prices of the Hornbill Festival Tickets
The entry ticket is INR 20- INR 30 and has to be purchased separately for each day of the event. You can get it easily at the entry gate. If you wish to take a camera to the event to capture the bewitching beauty of this vibrant festival, you will have to pay an additional amount of INR 50.
There is also an Information Center located near the festival venue for any kind of help. You can also ask them for the brochure listing the festival events and other attractions in Nagaland. A schedule handbook listing all the events of the festival is also available at the entry gate of the venue.
How to Reach the Venue?
- By Air: The nearest airport to reach Kohima is located at a distance of 74 kilometers in Dimapur. It is a domestic airport with flights from Kolkata and Delhi. Foreign tourists can reach here via Delhi or Kolkata. From here, you can hire a taxi to reach Kohima which will take around 2-3 hours.
- By Railway: Kohima does not have its own railway station. The closest railhead to reach here is at Dimapur. There are regular trains connecting Dimapur to Kolkata and Guwahati. These stations are very well-connected to most of the major cities. The journey to Dimapur via train is a delight with scenic beauty and beautiful views.
- By Road: Kohima enjoys great road connectivity from the other important North-Eastern states like Guwahati and Shillong. NH 39 connects Kohima to Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram. You can either take government-run buses or private buses to reach Kohima. Also, there are regular Nagaland government buses operating from Dimapur to reach the venue.
Accommodations Options Near the Venue
The stunning Hornbill Festival draws a lot of tourists from across the world every year. So, while planning to visit the Hornbill Festival 2019 in Nagaland, make sure to book your accommodation in advance to avoid the last-minute hassle. The events of the festival are scheduled in Kohima and Dimapur. There are plenty of homestays options within a few kilometers radius of the venues. Also, there are several hotels located in and around the city. Choose the one that suits your budget and enjoy the great hospitality of the locals.
Another great option for accommodation in Kohima is camping inside the festival gate. All the essential facilities including tents, sleeping bags, drinking water, eco-toilets, and kitchen are available to the guests. But make sure to carry warm clothes as the weather gets cold at night. The camping starts on November 30, so that the tourists can attend the opening ceremony on December 1st. Since its inception in 2000, the Hornbill Festival has been a great platform for the Naga tribes to showcase the traditional wealth and preserve their culture and history. This festival is at the heart of Nagaland’s tourism and must be visited at least once to explore and experience tribal life and their practices through a series of enjoyable games and activities.
Hey! I'm Gauri. Sagittarius by birth, clumsy by choice. An engineer turned writer. Loves animals tolerate humans. Has a thing for pizza and old books. Expertize in awkward conversations and creepy smiles.
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