7 Things To Keep In Mind For The Hornbill Festival
Words by Sarah Merchant
The Hornbill Festival officially opens its gates to the rest of the world in late November. If you plan to attend this grand cultural melange in Nagaland, here are a few things you should keep in mind!
1) The Hornbill Lands At Kisama
Contrary to popular belief, the Hornbill Festival is held in the Kisama Heritage village, 12km south of Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. Initiated to preserve and showcase the unique Naga heritage, the festival gives the region’s tribal communities a stage to display their diverse culture, heritage and traditions. It’s almost like walking through an open-air museum of Nagaland’s hidden treasures, with each tribe setting up a morung or Naga hut at the venue to offer visitors an insight into their lives.
2) 16 Gates, 16 Different Styles
The annual Hornbill Festival is spread out over a huge space and has 16 gates, dedicated to each of the 16 Naga tribes. Don’t be surprised or confused because no two gates look the same. Every entrance is constructed and designed to match the tribe’s signature colours and motifs.
3) The Strict No-Alcohol Policy
If you thought Gujarat was the only dry state in India, you’re in for a surprise because Nagaland is alcohol-free too! The state takes the no-alcohol policy very, very seriously and, in the past, has even employed a Special Task Force to conduct checks at the festival venue. But no alcohol doesn’t mean no fun. The Naga rice beer makes for an interesting alternative and is available all across the venue.
4) Expect Large Crowds
Fun fact: Last year, Nagaland hosted more than 1,70,000 guests for the duration of the Hornbill Festival, and the numbers are only expected to go up this year. So crowds, traffic, people, expect all of this and more.
5) More Than Music & Dance
The Hornbill Festival has many fun, engaging events to offer its visitors. There are wrestling matches, beauty shows, a famous fashion show, and pork-eating and chilli-eating competitions. Before you sign up for the chilli eating, be warned that the fiery Naga King Chilli is said to have bought even the toughest to tears.
6) Rock Concert
The Nagas definitely know how to party! Apart from the traditional dances and music, the Hornbill Festival hosts the country’s longest music event. And this is not your regular concert, international bands and famous singers have graced the stage in the past, and the lineup just gets better every year.
7) Hornbill Is Not Even The State Bird
With all the importance given to the Indian Hornbill, one would think it was Nagaland’s state bird, but it isn’t! The hornbill is a prominent feature and appears in the folklore of almost all Naga tribes. And it is this shared link that gives the Festival of Festivals its name. PS: Nagaland’s state bird is the Blyth’s tragopan, an endangered pheasant species.
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