The Hornbill cries louder

The Hornbill cries louder

The annual Hornbill Festival has secured for Nagaland a place on the world festival map

Shahwar Hussain
March 24 , 2014
02 Min Read

Whoever coined the phrase ‘Festival of Festivals’ to describe the annual Hornbill Festival at Kohima, hit the nail on the head. The 13-year-old annual festival, held at the Kisama Heritage Village, sure is a feast for the senses — it’s a riot of colours, aromas and sounds. The amazing culture and tradition of the Nagas, coupled with a sense of the exotic and the mysterious, draws in the crowds by the hordes every year. This year, the Hornbill Festival was extended to 10 days (December 1-10) from the usual seven days to coincide with the 50th year celebration of Nagaland’s statehood.   

Nagaland has 16 major tribes and numerous sub-tribes, each of which celebrate some festival or the other every month. The idea behind the Hornbill Festival was to bring the tribes under one roof, for the world to see their rich culture, tradition and rituals, to create a sense of unity among the tribes and to resurrect some of the traditions that were dying a slow, but sure, death. And from the look of it, things are moving in the right direction.  

The tribes present everything from their dance forms to their literature and cuisine. Over 10 days, the different tribes displayed their traditional dance forms based on agriculture, fertility, game and war rituals. Warrior tribes such as the Konyak, Yimchunger, Chang and Sumi displayed some amazing war dances and head-hunting rituals that were practiced in the days of yore...complete with log-drum beating, mock fighting, lots and lots of gunfire and loud piercing war cries. Ethnic Naga cuisine, exquisite handicraft and handloom displays, a car rally, motorcycle rides, night bazaars, music — both traditional and contemporary — a literary fest, fashion shows, beauty contest and games (such as climbing a greased bamboo pole, pork-fat and Naga-King-Chilli eating contests, which saw a whole lot of contestants crying “FIRE”) all added to the experience. Stalls with Naga cuisine drew the crowds like moths to a flame. Never mind the fire chilly when you have sweet rice beer to wash it down!

Of particular interest was the stone pulling ritual at Viswama village, which features men from the Angami tribe pulling a stone weighing two tonnes down a 2-kilometre road. The womenfolk, wearing traditional attire, accompany their men and egg them on with their songs.

Other events of interest included the rock contest organised by the Music Task Force set up by the Government to promote music in the state and a peace rally to commemorate the battle of Kohima, with WWII Jeeps and their crew in period costumes.

The 10 days of festivity were over in a flash and the finale was a grand affair. As the sun dipped over the hills at Kisama, the bonfire lit up the arena and the skies were filled with the war cries of the tribes as they all danced the Unity Dance around the fire. The Hornbill Festival can only get bigger and better. With over a lakh tourist visiting the festival this time, the event has already become an important feature in a tourist’s schedule. A ‘must see’ event indeed!

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