01 Dec

Getting Closer to Tribal Culture at the Hornbill Festival 2017

The lush greenery, towering mountains, and mighty rivers: that's Nagaland for you, the land where I was born and brought up. I did my schooling in Nagaland and looking back I feel that growing up in such a culturally diverse land has made me a more of a humble and considerate human being. The state is often called as the ‘Switzerland of the East’ due to its grandeur and untouched beauty. It is the perfect amalgamation of scenic beauty and a cultural heritage. If you want to get a glimpse of the eclectic ethnic scenario of the state, the Hornbill Festival is the place to be. The tribal culture of the state comes alive in this festival that starts from the 1st of December and goes on till the 10th of December.

For the ones uninitiated to the extravaganza: the Hornbill Festival is a pompous festival where the major Naga tribes gather at one place to showcase their culture and zeal through art and dance performances. The State Tourism, Arts and Culture Department are the organizer of this festival. As for me, I have been to the festival about six times and this year I decided I just had to cover it for all of you people.

The journey to Dimapur

My journey started from taking a flight from the Delhi airport with my friend and cinematographer Jassi. It was his first time visiting the Hornbill festival, and he was super excited. After a brief halt in Kolkata, we finally reached Dimapur in Nagaland.

Now the thing is, though the location for the festival is Kohima, the town does not have its own Airport. The nearest airport to Kohima is Dimapur Domestic Aiport which is located at a distance of around 74 km from Kohima. You can easily find taxis and buses from the airport to reach Kohima through National Highway number 29. You can opt for the rail route too and the nearest railway station also happens to be in Dimapur. But since you are anyway going to find the airport on the way to Kohima from the railway station, I suggest you to opt for the flight.

I had a very personal reason for going to Dimapur, and that was not just the location of Airport. Dimapur was the place I grew up in, and my best buddies from Northeast still stay there. Visiting the Hornbill Festival every year gives me a chance to catch up with them and take a stroll down the memory lane.

Onwards to Kohima

Let’s move on before I become too emotional reminiscing my friends and my childhood.
One of the biggest highlights of my journey from Dimapur to Kohima has to be the gypsy ride. Gypsies are something typical to the hilly states like Nagaland and the ride was like ticking one item off from my bucket list. I so wish you could find these cool cars in the cities!
The roads are definitely something that tests your patience as they are highly rutted to say the least. The saving grace of driving through these bumpy roads is the breathtaking views of the mountains greeting you from all sides. We stopped the car at one place where Christmas nativity were already in place with a Big Santa doll, confetti, and candies. Christmas was still a long way off but there is no harm in getting into some Christmas spirit, right?

Reaching the location

The huge gates with tribal motives and hornbill pictures greet you at the entrance. Wondering why the festival is named so? The festival has been named after the great Indian hornbill which is a bird that figures prominently in the tribal folklores of Nagaland. Hornbill is sacred to the Nagas and it seems only legit that a festival which all about Naga culture would have the bird as its symbol

Some of the tribes had begun their singing and dance performances when we reached there. The performers were all decked up in their colorful and vibrant ethnic gears which were a sight to behold. After tapping my feet to the tribal music and enjoying their unique performances, I moved on to interviewing a few of the tribes. The performers of the Sangtam tribe told me that there were seventeen major tribes in Nagaland. The accessories of the tribes were as interesting as their attire and I found some of them wearing neckpieces made of things like the teeth of Wild Pig. A funny incident in all these interactions was that people assumed I am a foreign national, all thanks to my outfit, my flaming blonde hair, and the international touch to my accent. Imagine their shock and my amusement when they heard me speak fluent Nagamese, the local dialect of Nagaland.

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