The “Hornbill Festival” finds its name after the colorful and large forest bird, the “Indian hornbill’. The bird is a symbol of ‘respect’ and ‘folklore’ for residents of Nagaland. Nagaland is also known as the ‘Land of Festivals’ and hence, the Hornbill festival was initiated by the State Tourism of Arts and Cultural Department, to promote their cultural heritage and showcase their tribal culture.
Nagaland is one of the ‘seven sisters’ of North-east India, which is home to 16 different tribes. The festival, not only celebrates their culture but also diminishes the generation gap. It helps in bonding the different tribes of the state. The festivities begin in the first week of December every year. Celebrations begin in Kisama Heritage Village which is almost 12 km away from Kohima.
Here are the reasons why you must attend the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland:
1. Find True Art at Hornbill Festival
One thing that is really special about the tribes of Nagaland is that they are born artists. Virgin from modernization, the Nagas are so rich with their art that it will leave you spellbound. They have melodious folk songs that narrate their cultures. Also, their dance performances in traditional attires truly represent their customs and traditions.
Additionally, the Hornbill festival also offers exhibitions of tribal art, live handicraft making, and martial art performances. If you’re an art lover, this is going to be a lifetime experience for you. And if you’re not, this might end up making you one!
2. Find Sports that keep you on the edge at Hornbill Festival
Besides being creative, the folks of Nagaland are also super talented athletes. They have a lot of traditional sports activities that are sure to give you an adrenaline rush. During the Hornbill festival, you can witness their bravery and strength through Naga wrestling. Other traditional sports include archery, martial arts, greased bamboo pole climbing, stilt bamboo walking. The atmosphere is full of loud cheers. Probably the only event where tourists get a glimpse of their age-old skills of martial arts and ancient war techniques.
3, Head bang at the Hornbill Rock Concert
The Hornbill Festival is home to one of the best music events and competitions in the country. It is, in fact, the biggest rock festival in India. Not only rock bands from all over India, but extremely talented rock bands from nearby countries also come to participate in the rock band competition.
If you are a music lover, this is going to be an International level concert experience for you. During this time, the night sky is brimming with high energy. The entire audience can be seen ‘headbang-ing’ in harmony with the performing band.
4. Get Retail Therapy at Night Bazaar
Obviously no vacation can ever be complete without shopping. Nagaland too, like any other place, does offer you it’s market to shop. However, the main attraction is the unique experience of shopping from their amazing Night Bazaar; The Kohima Night Bazaar.
The night bazaar adds glitter to the festive mood. It’s a few miles away from the festival ground, but tourists always find time to visit Night Bazaar. You can shop from the various stalls of handicrafts and souvenirs, buy arts, paintings, and wood carvings. You can also shop for cultural necklaces made of multi-colored beads that represent the Nagaland culture.
The bazaar again tops your shopping experience by combining street shopping with food, live music, dance, and other fun activities. The bazaar is lit up and full of festival vibes throughout the seven nights of the Hornbill Festival.
5. Discover Fun and Adventure at Hornbill Festival
Besides the traditional art and sports activities, the Hornbill festival also hosts a lot of other adventurous activities. The Great Hornbill run, Hornbill Half Marathon, Cycle rally and Car rally, all form a part of the festival. They even have a mountain biking competition in which passionate bikers of all age groups participate.
Apart from all these fun activities one activity which has gained a lot of popularity over the years, is the ‘King Chilli eating contest’. ‘Bhut Jolokia’ one of the 10 hottest peppers in the world, is cultivated in Nagaland. The people of Nagaland are extreme spicy food lovers, and hence the chili eating competition. Tourists who are chili-lovers are also welcome to participate in this competition. One more such competition they have is the ‘pork fat eating contest’.
6. Make your photos go viral with photography at Hornbill Festival
Well if you’re a photographer or enjoy posting on Instagram, the Hornbill Festival is surely for you. It gives you an eclectic array of opportunities to capture into your clicks. Colorful spears, hornbill feathers, duos ornamented with dyed goat’s hair, headgear decorated royally with boar’s teeth are something of the out of the world things that you might never get the chance to capture elsewhere.
Since the festival is a cultural hub with colorful parades, fashion shows, night markets, sports and fun activities, music and dance activities, rich colors and coming together of the tribal cultures and exquisite clothes and makeup of the performers, it’s sure to make the shutterbug in you very happy.
7. Treat your Taste Buds to the best at Hornbill Festival
Each tribe of Nagaland has its own style of preparing delicacies. They deliciously cook fish, meat, and pork in their peculiar Naga styles, where each has a unique aroma. The Hornbill festival offers you all these dishes at one spot without having to search for restaurants or ordering online. Some of the most famous dishes there are pork ribs, pork with bamboo shoots, and chicken rice stew.
In drinks, they have something out of the box to offer that is one of their specialties, “Zutho” – their local rice beer. Traditionally it was drunk by ‘Angami Nagas’ served right from ‘Mithun horns’. Served in authentic bamboo glasses that add to the flavor, Zutho enhances the festive mood and rejuvenates your mind and soul. It is, therefore, a must-try for every tourist visiting the Hornbill festival.
To sum up, the Hornbill festival revolves around the sacred status granted to the Agricultural activities. Nagaland, being agricultural land, celebrates it as a part of the Naga family’s festival. Then again, festivals are ways to bring together a large family and celebrate togetherness. Similarly, the cultural mosaic of multi-ethnicity during the festival is what makes it so special.
Age-old practices, unknown tribes, their hospitality filled with warmth, the lush green villages, night bazaars, display of traditional values and a virgin life away from all the chaos, are surely going to give you a once in a lifetime experience. The festival has offered something different from the entire nation, and being an Indian you should at least once experience that. If you need help with planning a trip to any of these places, hire a Scout. Travel experts from all over will help you #MarkAndEmbark on a journey of a lifetime.