Hornbill Festival, Nov 26 - Dec 5, 2017
Located in the far reaches of India is Nagaland. Until five years ago this region received few foreign visitors and those who did venture to this northeast Indian state had difficulty believing that it was part of the Indian nation. Head hunting ceased as a practice in the early 1960's but the warrior tradition is still in existence at the Hornbill festival. Only two generations ago tattooed Naga men roamed the countryside wearing hornbill feathers. This signified their manliness and bravery in battle. It is here in early December that sixteen Naga tribes gather for four days to honor their ancestors traditional practices. This patois was initiated in 2000 by Naga officials and it is now a bucket list trip for the adventurous photographer. Photography opportunities are ever present, the hassle factor does not exist and lodging is available and meets western standards.
For four days the lush hills and agricultural region of this Indian state comes alive with music, dance, ceremonial attire and spirit. The men are adorned in beads and ivory armbands, decorated spears are in abundance and traditional head pieces constructed of woven bamboo are adorned with flowers, hornbill feathers and boars teeth. Drumming is constant and traditional dance is captivating and easily photographed. This is not a show for foreigners but a unique indigenous cultural festival that brings people from remote villages in Nagaland together to honor their ancestors.
The sixteen tribes come to the open amphitheater of the festival area that takes place at the Naga Heritage Village, Kisama which is about 10kms from Kohima, the capital city of Nagaland. Traditional Naga huts and Morungs (boy’s dormitories) typical to each of the Naga tribes are built and erected in a way that closely resembles their traditional structures on a small hillock in Kisama. The place itself is scenic and mystical, and the festival is simply epic!
The Hornbill Festival celebrations are marked with a colorful display of traditional dance, sports, and songs of the various Naga tribes. One can easily photograph this colorful and vibrant celebration of a culture that’s so mystic and intriguing. The warrior log drums, the colorful headgear, the soulful war cry, the exquisite costumes are all striking. Delicious local cuisine, and delicacies that are typical to each of the Naga tribes are served in their respective Morungs along with the finest rice beer. The Hornbill Festival of Nagaland, over the years, has evolved from being just a celebration of the culture and tradition of the Nagas into one big cultural event for all the 8 Northeast States. Cultural troupes from all the northeastern states participate during this festival and it is a delight watching all the different cultures coming together under one roof.
The Hornbill Festival is not just about reliving past, it is also a celebration of the present. The biggest Rock Festival of the country is hosted at Kohima every year during the Hornbill Festival. It is believed that singing and dancing is a way of life and comes naturally to the Nagas. Apart from this, an adventure car rally and various other contests and events are also organized.
The Kohima Night Bazaar is also an interesting aspect of the Hornbill Festival. The stretch of the Kohima Main town comes alive at night during the festival with food, music, and fun. The street is crowded with various food stalls serving some of the finest delicacies and it’s simply amazing walking through the hustle-bustle.