Tucked away in a corner of Northeastern India is a small state which celebrates its people’s ethnicity and diversity. Nagaland is famous for the annual Hornbill Festival that’s celebrated for ten days from 1st December to 10th December. During this celebration, tribes from all over Nagaland come together to showcase their traditional games, craftsmanship, attire, music, dances, food, and all things special and unique about their culture!
Tourists, both national and international come to be a part of the ‘Festival of Festivals’. It is held at Kisama also known as the Naga Heritage village, which lies south of Kohima town. Although I could not commit to the whole ten-day event, I finally made it for the last two days. The traffic was bad but we managed to reach our destination and also got a convenient space to park our vehicle. Whew!
There are campsites around Kisama that are at a walkable distance from the venue. They provide all the necessary amenities and also have the most exciting activities lined up for their guests. These campsites have their own itinerary prepared or as one would say – plans for the ‘after party’!
After buying our entry tickets, we headed towards the event. Everyone was in a festive mood, with tourists in their Naga earrings, necklaces, neckties, scarves, and waistcoats; looking very vibrant and sticking out from the crowd. I felt a sense of pride when I saw them decorated in such ethnic pieces. It is always a joy to see people appreciating your culture!
There were stalls in the Bamboo pavilion selling Naga ornaments, Naga food items, and a few other stalls selling ornaments brought from different parts of India. There was a section for organic vegetables and fruits, where people could purchase the best bunch they wanted; the art gallery was set up right next to the World War II museum, and the artworks of various talented Naga artists were put up on sale.
As we walked on further, we reached the main arena where people were seated in the gallery watching the cultural troops perform their dances and songs. A whole cultural show was put up where the Naga warriors performed their war dances. Special performances were showcased by the Arunachalis of Arunachal Pradesh, the Pnar or Jaintia tribe of Meghalaya, the Karbi of Assam, the Manipuris, the Bhutia community of Sikkim, and Mizoram. This left the tourists curious and keen to know more about the Northeastern States of India.
Towards sundown, the cultural troops packed up and left for their respective Morungs. My friends and I went Morung hopping, tasting rice beer at each hut. Your visit to Nagaland is never complete without gulping down rice beer served in a bamboo mug. The Morungs of course had much more to offer than just the rice beer!
Each Morung had their own tribe’s specialty prepared, at the Angami Morung, the main delicacy was galho (porridge) and snail or nula(in Angami). We then headed to the Ao Morung where they had ‘Anishi’ cooked with smoked pork/beef, and most popularly the Amsu (porridge cooked with chicken) which was in high demand. After devouring two to three plates, we continued with our Morung hopping.
The Lotha Morung had the famous pork dish cooked with bamboo shoots on the menu, meanwhile, we could get the aroma of Axone/Akhuni (fermented soya bean) coming from the Sumi/Sema Morung. Besides the main dishes, there were other specialties like the hamuk/nula (snail), grasshoppers, e.t.c. which added more to our list of cravings! Hey! What’s a Naga festival without relishing the traditional food, right?!
As you step into each Morung, you will see our Naga men and women in their traditional attire, with the men looking majestic in their warrior gear and the womenfolk looking dainty in their intricate wraparounds. Each tribe has a distinct way of wearing their traditional clothing, and the design of the ornaments also differ making each tribe look unique.
After trying out the rice beer from each Morung, we came to the conclusion that the beer from the Ao and Lotha Morungs was the best! So you know which Morung to go to if you ever attend the festival *wink wink*.
What’s even more exciting was that the famous Chef Gary Mahigan was the guest judge in Nagaland’s very own cooking competition ‘Naga Chef- Season 9′. Lucky for us, my friends and I ran into him and got some pictures taken. A very polite man who really enjoyed his stay in Kohima and I’m pretty sure he enjoyed the local cuisine as well.
Bands from different parts of India took over the stage performing their hits as the crowd cheered on. You will get to experience the best music here during this festival, be it rock, pop, punk, or rap, they’ve got it all!
As we neared the end of the Hornbill festival 2022, the cultural troops which are inclusive of the Naga tribes circled around the bonfire as it was being lit and performed the Unity Dance.
Apart from these events at Kisama, there were different activities that were carried out in parts of Kohima such as the city walk, and village walks in Kigwema, Khonoma, Tuophema, and Phesachodu. Treks to Dzukou were organized as well.
The annual Mr & Miss Nagaland is also held during this period. The WW-II peace rally is conducted every year in commemoration of the Battle of Kohima. During this 10-day event, the heart of the town is filled with stalls run by entrepreneurs to earn themselves some pocket money for Christmas. You will find varieties of stalls such as face painting, games, lottery, food stalls, stalls selling crafts, and other items.
As for me and my friends, we headed back to town early and did not stick around for the concert too long. Luck was favoring us that day, we escaped the heavy traffic and got home safely and on time for the World Cup screening. We had an eventful December overall! Looking forward to the next Hornbill festival. See you there??
Morungs are huts made of bamboo with thatched roofs. A Morung in the early days served the community as a school, an institution for young boys to learn social practices and beliefs from their elders. It emphasized more on educating the younger generation about their customs, traditions, and warfare practices.
Planning to visit Hornbill Festival in 2023?
Let our experts at Greener Pastures plan a perfect trip for you, covering the festival along with other highlights of Nagaland such as experiencing the quaint village life of the Angami and Ao peoples.