The Beginning of the Hornbill Festival
It was in the year 2000, that the Nagaland government embarked upon an ambitious project to promote the cultural aspects of Nagaland, through a weeklong long festival to coincide with the celebration of Nagaland Statehood Day on 1st December. This led to the beginning of the Hornbill festival; which is now one of the biggest cultural extravaganzas in the North East.
What emerged from a local event has now transformed into a national and international festival. It has become a must visit and notable attraction for those looking to explore the North Eastern part of India.
What is the Hornbill Festival?
The Hornbill Festival is one of the biggest cultural extravaganzas in the region and is a week-long event held every year from Dec 1-10 in Nagaland. The objective of the event is to revive, protect, and promote the richness of the Naga traditions. During the event, the Naga tribes come together for a week-long celebration of their cultural and traditional plight, their age-old traditions and come closer to knowing each other.
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The Festival is named after the Indian Hornbill, the large and colorful forest bird which is displayed in folklore in most of the state’s tribes. During the festival, you can get up close and personal with 17 major tribes of Nagaland. These are
Angami – Ao – Chakhesang – Chang – Dimasa Kachari – Garo – Khiamniungan – Konyak – Kuki – Lotha – Phom – Pochury – Rengma – Sangtam – Sumi – Yimchungru – Zeliang
Where does the festival take place?
The main events of the festival take place at the Naga Heritage Village, Kisama. It is located below the lofty spurs of the towering Mount Japfü and about 12 km from Kohima city. It begins at 9 am each day. There are plenty of taxis operating to Kisama from Kohima. You can buy tickets to the event at the Entry Gate and do make sure you get a pass for parking as well.
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Events During the Hornbill Festival
The 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 this festival. It is believed that singing and dancing is a way of life and comes naturally to the Nagas. And the biggest rock event is no doubt a part of the vibrant Hornbill celebrations.
Apart from this, an adventure car rally and various other contest and events are organized during this festival. Some interesting events during the festival are – the Pork eating contest, the King Chilly eating contest etc. The event is full of activities such as cultural performances, indigenous games, craft bazaar, music events, fashion, cycling, motor sporting, events, a kids carnival, floral galleria, food courts, film festival and a series of competitions in various activities.
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The Kohima Night Bazaar is also an interesting aspect of the Hornbill Festival. The stretch of the Kohima Main town comes alive for 7 nights with food, music, and fun. The street is overcrowded with various food stalls serving out some of the finest delicacies and it’s simply amazing walking through the hustle-bustle. Main highlights of the festival include
- Cultural events spread throughout the festival highlighting traditional dances, music, indigenous games
- King Chilly Eating Contest
- Pork Fat Eating Contest
- The Hornbill Rock Festival
- North East Cultural Ensemble
- Hornbill Adventure Rally
- The Kohima Night Bazaar
- World War Peace Rally
Interesting Facts about the Hornbill Festival
- The Indian Hornbill, after which the festival is named, isn’t the state bird of Nagaland
- Contrary to popular notion, the festival is NOT held in Kohima
- Nagaland is a dry state and alcohol is strictly prohibited. However, you can enjoy local rice beer at the event
- If you are open to experimentation with food, try the dog meat, snails and silkworm delicacies. And do not forget the King Chilly
- The nights in the region are longer in December. Kohima usually shuts down by 5 pm except for during the festival when its active till about midnight
- Don’t let the word “tribal” let you form opinions about the locals in Nagaland. Most Nagas are literate, thanks to their Christian schooling, and English is widely spoken
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Tips for Travelers visiting Hornbill Festival
- The festival is one of the top tourist attractions in the state and is thronged with people from all over the world. Therefore, make your bookings well in advance to avoid any last minute hassles and inconvenience.
- Do bargain at the various eateries, souvenir shops, and other stalls as it can always fetch you a good cost.
- Domestic tourists should obtain the Inner Line permit issued by the following authorities: Deputy Resident Commissioner, Nagaland House, New Delhi, Deputy Resident Commissioner, Nagaland House, Kolkata, Assistant Resident Commissioner In Guwahati and Shillong, Deputy Commissioner of Dimapur, Kohima and Mokokchung
- Foreigners are no longer required to possess the Entry Permit to visit Nagaland. However, they must register themselves with the Foreigner’s Registration Office (District Superintendent of Police) inside of 24 hours of their entry into Nagaland. There is a very helpful Information Center located near the festival site from where you can have the brochure which lists the festival events and other attractions in Nagaland.
- RAP/PAP is still a requirement for Pakistani and Chinese nationals.
How To Reach Kohima/Kisama
Kohima has a very good road network and connects to the neighboring states and nearby cities. National Highway number 39 link Kohima to Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Mizoram, and Manipur. First, proceed to Dimapur and then travel to Kohima. From Kohima, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to Kisama.
Kohima does not have a Railway Station of its own because of its tough hilly terrain. The major railhead in the state is in Dimapur, which is connected to the important towns of Guwahati and Kolkata.
Kohima does not have an airport of its own but the state has its airport in Dimapur, which is regularly serviced by major airlines. The city is linked to Kolkata by air with Air India and Indigo Airlines operating the flights.
Where Do You Stay?
Since Kisama is just 12 km from Kohima, you can book your stay in the city unless you find a good tent accommodation near the festival grounds. There are a plethora of good hotel options and you can review these on most travel sites. However, if you are looking at staying on the festival grounds you can try ChaloHoppo or TUTC for booking options.