Hornbill Festival – Rendezvous with the tribes of Nagaland

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The Hornbill Festival, which is held every year from December 1 to 7, is one of the most popular tribal festivals held in India, and certainly the biggest festival in Nagaland. The Hornbill Festival is celebrated in honour of the Hornbill bird, which has a sacred spot in the Naga mythology and is revered by the people of Nagaland. While the festival is usually a week long festival, 2013 witnessed a grand 10 day carnival to celebrate 50th Anniversary of statehood of Nagaland. The Hornbill Festival is a grand celebration of the rich tradition and culture of the Naga tribes, a chance to relive and explore the richness of the Naga heritage and traditions.

Where is the Hornbill Festival held?

The Hornbill Festival is held at the Kisama Heritage Village, which is at a distance of 10 kilometers from Kohima, the capital of Nagaland.

How to get to the Hornbill Festival?

To get to the Hornbill Festival, one may take a flight from Delhi or Kolkata to Dimapur, which is the commercial capital of Nagaland. Or, one could reach Dimapur by train from Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkatta or Delhi. Once there, one may catch a bus to Kohima, which is about three hours away, and from Kohima hire a private taxi to the Kisama Heritage Village, where the festival is held. Tourists can also reach Guwahati via flight or train and travel to Kohima directly by hired taxi and enjoy the scenic view of the countryside and hills on the way.

Accommodation at Kohima

Most of the hotels and lodges stay full during the festival season, and advance hotel booking is definitely recommended before you travel. Since Kohima is a small town with limited luxury and budget hotels, finding accommodation might be difficult at the last minute if not pre-booked.

Permits for Tourist

In the past, foreigners visiting Nagaland needed entry permits from the Indian government, because of the prevalence of militancy in the state. Now that the militancy has been clamped down and the state is largely peaceful, no such entry permits are required, and Nagaland is officially open to tourists. Also, the people are very warm and friendly and keen to make tourists welcome in Nagaland. However, foreign tourists still need to register themselves at the Foreigner Registration Office on entering Nagaland and tourists from the rest of India need to get an Inner Line Permit.

Domestic tourists should ensure that they obtain a Inner Line Permit beforehand to avoid any hassles during their stay. Permits can be obtained from New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Dimapur and Kohima.

More detailed information regarding permits can be found here.

What really happens at the Hornbill Festival?

Nagaland is a highly traditional state with a largely tribal population. There are 16 major tribes in Nagaland. The Hornbill Festival is attended by all major Naga tribes. The Festival is marked by great revelry, dance and celebration. Traditional Naga arts are displayed, folk songs are sung by groups belonging to each tribe. And many traditional games are played.

Naga architecture is celebrated as replicas of tribal settlements are displayed by each of the 16 tribes according to its traditions. Also, the tribal artists use this occasion to display their lovely wooden art, carvings and sculpture. Love tribal beats from from a hollow log drum instrument can be heard all day, with wonderful music, which is accompanied by the most graceful dances by young Naga men and women.

Riders from across the state and country get together and showcase their unique rides. Bike and car rallies are held during the event which is another major attraction of the festival.

Great fun for tourists!

Tourists love visiting Nagaland during the Hornbill Festival to become a part of all the fun and celebration. Tourists may also get to choose from the most exquisite of Naga handicrafts from the stalls that are put up. Tourists should try bargaining in traditional Naga style in the market at Kisama Heritage Village, otherwise risk being taken for a ride by the shopkeepers. Tourists should always remember to bargain for the price of each item to be halved before buying it! The bargaining is half the fun of shopping!

Also, tourists would enjoy the wonderful and unique Naga delicacies, especially unique flavours of meat dishes which are made differently by each major Naga tribe. The traditional intoxicants such as the Naga rice beer may also be indulged at by tourists. The Naga rice beer really makes one see the world in a whole new light, to say the least!

Hornbill International Rock Music Festival and Contest

The best part of the Hornbill Festival though is the Hornbill National Rock Concert – this is held every evening during the festival after sunset and is the center of attraction of not just Nagaland, but of the whole country. The Rock Concert is often referred to as the ‘Woodstock of North East India’ and is revered by every rock music lover in the country. Some of the funkiest rock bands from all over India come to the Hornbill National Rock Concert to take part in a highly competitive contest to decide the best rock band at the Festival. The 2013 winners of the rock concert, Underground Authority from Kolkata walked away with a cash prize of cool 10 Lakhs rupees!

Then, after a great evening of dance and great music, if tourists would like to challenge themselves, they could participate in the Naga chili eating competition in which the spiciest chilies from the whole of the North-East are made available. The person eating the most chilies could justifiably claim himself or herself to be the hottest man or woman at the Hornbill Festival!

The Hornbill festival is definitely a must visit event and one of the places to see in India before you die. The event is meticulously planned and organised, with utmost care given to tourist to ensure they can enjoy the biggest cultural extravaganza in North East India.


A self-described travel enthusiast...

1 Comment

  1. Amitabh Sarma

    October 16, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    If you intend to visit Hornbill Festival 2014 this December and you have trouble finding accommodation there, do give a call at +91-7896010068 or send me an email at amitabh.s.jti@gmail.com. I have booked a few rooms at Hotel Vivor (http://www.niathugroup.com/) and you will get these rooms at very competitive prices.

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