Hornbill Festival: The Heritage Folk Culture of the Naga Tribes

Nagaland is home to several tribes with their own distinctive traditions, dress, food, culture, folklore and festivals. These tribal groups are the basis of the rich heritage that Nagaland boasts of, and inorder to maintain this heritage and promote inter-tribal interaction the Hornbill Festival is held every year in Kohima, Nagaland. Jointly organized by the State Tourism and Art and Culture Departments of Nagaland, another important reason of organizing this festival is to promote the colorful, magnificent and deeply rooted Naga culture and heritage to the world.

Hornbill Festival Grounds
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The Hornbill Festival is organized from 1st to 10th of December every year at the Naga Heritage Village in Kisama, some 12 kms from Kohima. Visitors and tourists alike visit in large numbers to witness this grand celebration of heritage folk culture of the Naga tribes. The picturesque locations in and around Kohima, especially the Dzukou Valley is another reason tourists visit. The Festival is named after the Greater Indian Hornbill because the bird has been mentioned in many folklores of different tribes and as such is of some significance to its people.

Hornbill Festival, Naga Heritage Village
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Nagaland has 16 recognized tribes: Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Dimasa Kachari, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Kuki, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, Yimchungrü, and Zeliang. Their dresses, folksongs and dances are an integral part of their traditional culture, as also their food. During the Hornbill Festival all these tribal groups join the festivities and display their food, art and craft, dance and songs.

Dress, Headgear and Ornaments:

Naga lady display weaving
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Upon entering the heritage village or even before that, the colorful dresses of the tribesmen with their extensive headgear and ornaments will catch your attention. The costume, the dress color, the headgear, the ornaments are again unique and distinctive of each tribe. And again dresses are different for the men and womenfolk. In fact, these dresses and headgears are their identity and locals are able to differentiate between the different tribes based on their attire. The shawl that they adorn is the most important part of their attire, different for different tribes and also divided into categories and sub-categories. This shawl is further different based on the class and status of the individual.

Weaving is an integral activity the womenfolk engage in. They weave their own dresses in bold distinctive patterns, designs and colors which have tremendous social significance and symbolic value.

Naga couple in their attire
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When it comes to the jewellery of the Naga tribes, they are so ethnic yet modern and appealing, a perfect combination of traditional and contemporary styles. Theirs are beaded jewellery made with materials such as carnelian, glass, coral, bronze, boar tusks, shells, ivory, conch shells and cowries. They also use a variety of colors which again are bright and bold. Jewellery for the Naga people is not merely an adornment but an identity, and both men and women adorn jewellery of different styles. Their earpieces, neckpieces, nose pieces, bracelets, armlets, anklets and everything they wear define their social status and hierarchy.

Food:

Lotha tribe kitchen display
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In the festival grounds tribal food kitchens are displayed which serves you food as well. Naga cuisine is mostly about fish and meat in the smoked, dried and fermented styles. A variety of spices and herbs are used in cooking, and the hottest Naga chilly is part of their everyday meal. The festival, in fact, organises a chilly eating competition every year. Zutho, the speciality Naga rice beer is also served in these kitchens along with a variety of other dishes.

Folk Songs and Dance:

Phom warrior
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Music and dance play a huge part in Naga culture and is a medium of expressing their multi-faceted tradition. The folk dances of each tribe is different and unique, however the War dance and Zeliang dance are known to be the most prominent ones. Most Naga dances are martial arts based celebratory dance that showcases their bravery and strength. The humming, the shouts, the thumping that accompanies their dance movements are so thrilling that one can find grooving to the rhythm joyfully.

Womenfolk of Pochury tribe
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The highlights of the festival includes display of Traditional Naga Morungs, sale of arts and crafts, food stalls, traditional archery, indigenous games, traditional wrestling, songs and dance shows and musical concerts performed every day of those 10 days. One of the major highlight of the festival is the International Rock Concert where both local and international bands perform.

NEARBY TOURIST LOCATIONS:

Kohima and its neighbouring places are scenic which offers much calm and relaxation. So while attending the festival you can visit some nearby tourist locations too.

Khonoma village
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Khonoma village was once popular for wildlife hunting, hunting being an integral part of the Naga tribes. But now Khonoma is known to be the first green village of India with a ban in hunting. This took a lot of effort over the years and the green warriors still put up an endless battle to conserve the rich wildlife for the generations to come. It’s a simple village but the picturesque valleys, the fresh air, the organic life is so much worth than a busy city life.

Dzukou Valley
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Dzukou Valley is undoubtedly Nagaland’s most popular and scenic location with the highest footfall of tourists. This valley is located at the borders of Nagaland and Manipur and is well known for its natural environment, seasonal flowers and a wide variety of flora and fauna. The trek to the valley is popular with adventurers but the pristine beauty you get to witness once you ascend the top is simply breathtaking.

Camping facilities
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Hornbill Festival is a state organized Festival and hence proper security and check-ins are arranged. However, the basic personal security measures to be maintained by a tourist is no different from any other tourist place. Camping facilities are available near the festival grounds and hotels and lodgings are available in Kohima. The Hornbill Festival is one of the largest festivals of folk culture and definitely an event worth attending.

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The nearest airport is Dimapur Airport from where hired cabs are available to Kohima. You can also opt to arrive at Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati and then travel to Dimapur in a train. From Dimapur cabs are available to Kohima and then to Naga Heritage Village.

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By Pallabita Bora Phukon

A non-conformist, a dreamer, carefree by nature, I am an entrepreneur who is ever so passionate about her work. After a series of jobs and few entrepreneurial ventures, blogging came into my mind and nothing better than highlighting Assam could be my priority since I am in love with my state. So embark on this enchanting journey with me to Assam.

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