Hornbill Festival: A Grand Fusion of Tribes

by admin on November 29, 2012

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Hornbill Nagaland FestivalNagaland has 17 major tribes and various other sub tribes who were martial in their attire and attitude. But there was a reason, being a hill state; they were constantly under attack from the low lands of Assam and Burma and from each other. Territory is always considered sacrosanct. It came under Burmese rule in 1816, then came the colonial British in 1826, by the end of the second world war, even the Japanese tried to invade through Burma(Myanmar) when the famous battle for Kohima (the state capital) took place. Many tribes fended of the British and the Japanese with equal valour. But by and large, each tribe had to fend for themselves. Eventually came India’s independence in 1947 causing a serious identity crisis for the people as it still came to be known as the Hill districts of Assam.  The only binding ties were their similar type of culture, the British legacy of Christianity and their similar attire and weaponry-the famed ‘dao’ or machete, being the crowning glory and headgears made of bird plumage. Thus, the state of Nagaland came into being only on December1, 1964, bringing the major tribes of: Ao, Angami, Chakhesang, Chang, Dimasa, Kachari, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Yimchunger, Kuki, Zeliang, Konyaks, and Sumis, together under one banner. Each tribe had their own festivities, according to their own agrarian months, causing a little disarray. Some of the major festivities include:  Tsukhenyie by the Chakhesangs in January, Mimkut by the Kukis in January, Bushu by the Kacharis in January, Sekrenyi by the Angamis in February, Aoling by the Konyaks in April, Moatsü by the Aos in May, Tuluni by the Sumis in July, Nyaknylum by the Changs in July, Mongmong by the Sangtams in September, Tokhu Emong by the Lothas in November and Yemshe by the Pochuris in October. Thus, for all tourism purposes Nagaland is dubbed “The Land of Festivals.”

To bring all the tribes together, while showcasing their individual war dances and cultural ethnicity the Hornbill Festival was launched on December 1, 2000 at a Naga Heritage village called Kisama, some 12 kilometers from the capital, Kohima. This festival is called the ‘Festival of Festivals’ occurs every year from December 1-7 and is grand spectacle to watch. Each tribe showcases their dances, customs, cuisine, and culture with complete aplomb. The greater Indian Hornbill is a large colorful bird, with which associated in folklore with most of the tribes is another uniting factor.Nagaland Festival

A strong Angami rice beer called zutho, served in hollow bamboo mugs adds to festive spirit and merriment as all the tribes put up their own stalls, displaying their traditional shawls and attires with their own motifs. They even have neckties adorned by the motifs which could become a must buy along with the shawls. In the evenings, the traditional songs rent the air with their beautiful melodies. Huge traditional Naga Morungs or bamboo and thatch houses which were used(and are) as dormitories for boys till they attain puberty are another attraction while stalls display everything, from the early handmade flintlock muzzle loading guns to the masks, spears  and shields used by various tribes. Traditional and modern paintings, sculptures and wood carvings are also display and for sale. In this mesmerizing atmosphere, fashion shows and beauty contests, flower shows, archery competitions, traditional Naga wrestling competitions, indigenous sports,  pork eating competitions, herbal medicine stalls and cultural events, all vie for their own attention. The festival usually ends with a rock contest.

The festival is easy to reach, there are planes flying into Dimapur airport, which is the commercial capital of Nagaland. There is a railway station at Dimapur too, from where there are trains to Delhi, Kolkata, and Bangalore and so on. From Dimapur, its 70 kilometers uphill to Kohima where one can book into a hotel. So go ahead and have fun at this spectacular event.

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