I will be honest, I had not heard of the Hornbill festival till last year, when one of my friends posted some pictures on Facebook.
I was told that this festival happens in December and if you want to avoid disappointment you have to book your Hotel and Air tickets way in advance. Apart from Air tickets, accommodation etc, I had to look for a suitable company who will be free to go with me as I am interested in a photography. Finally we booked tickets in Rajdhani as Indigo ticket was priced at 30K and left for Kohima on a Saturday afternoon.
Earlier I had travelled in train up to Bombay and Calcutta but this was something different, a 35 hours journey, one way. The train left New Delhi on time but reached Dimapur an hour late. There is not much to say about the journey as in 1st AC we were quite comfortable and an exclusive pantry kept us well fed. Met a few very interesting people on board.
After reaching Dimapur, the largest city in the state, past 10.30 pm, we headed straight to Hotel Jal Mahal which is actually a stone’s throw away from the railway station. I mention the time because in North East in winters, nights sets in really early and 10.30pm looked like past midnight. Jal Mahal was a decent hotel but did not have twin beds and my friend found it was quite a task to climb the bed from the side of the wall.
Next morning we took a cab to Kohima, capital city of Nagaland, 74 kms away.
The capital city
India’s diversity is well known and North East is a jewel in that crown. There are 16 major tribes and an equal number of sub-tribes in Nagaland, who maintain their own distinctive cultural traditions and customs, through various forms of performing arts. Each tribes has its own way of cooking which can be very different from another tribe even though the ingredients would be almost the same.
Each tribe wears colourful clothes and intricately designed jewellery made out of beads. The traditional attire is also different. The headgear is made of finely woven bamboo interlaced with orchid stems and decorated with boar’s teeth and hornbill’s feathers. In old times each Naga warrior had to prove to his tribe that he was capable of wearing them.
Nagas are expert warriors and are also famous for their colourful folk dances in which they sing songs praising the brave deeds of ancient warriors and their folk heroes.
About 85% of the population in Nagaland is dependent on agriculture for their sustenance and mostly they get a single crop in a year. Agriculture is also inter twined with festivals and to bring all festivals and tribal celebrations together the Government of Nagaland set up the Hornbill festival, in the year 2000, where all tribes come together and celebrate Naga culture and also pay their tribute to the Hornbill, a bird greatly admired by the Nagas for its alertness and grandeur.
The festival is organised by the Tourism Department between 01Dec -10 Dec in Naga Heritage Village in Kisama, 12 km away from Kohima. The festival attracts both foreign and Indian tourist in large numbers.
This year it was the 15th year and it’s festivities involved traditional cultural performances, music by local and international bands such as Helloween (German band), fashion shows, sporting events, crafts bazar, flower festivals, kid’s carnival, food courts and a Motor Cycle rally.
On a short visit to the state I managed to visit a very important landmark, The Kohima War Cemetery and sample some local food, which I will cover in my next blog.
Overall I had a great time in my maiden North East visit. Hope to do it once again.