Hornbill festival 2017
We were in Dimapur, an underdeveloped city in the plains of Nagaland, hearing about the history of this land from my Aunt who lives in a lavish apartment which is quite uncommon here. Over homemade doughnuts and a perfectly crafted chicken pie, she was educating us about how hunting prevailed in Nagaland about 100 years ago. She frowned as she said how unsafe things were before, how looting and on-the-spot shooting was a random story you would hear from a child not able to attend school because of the unsafe situations. The state still needed attention and the state was craving for its development. As informed by her, situations are far better now; government has toppled only twice this year and not more than 3 bridges have fallen. The looting still prevails but is surely more secretive sparing the innocent child who can now go to school without any fear. This was still a better situation as these timid Naga people were at least protesting and raising their voices which, I guess, is a difference in itself.
Bidding my aunt and her amazing food an adieu at 4:30 AM the next morning, we took off for the Hornbill festival organized in a small village known as Kisama the following day. The bad underdeveloped roads and the dust because of the construction, made it difficult for us to sleep inside the taxi but the diffusion of the light from the middle of the trees because of the dust was a treat.
My mornings at 4:30 am
Entering Kisama and walking around with a rucksack was, for the first time, not a problem. The energy around us shifted our attention from the heaviness of our bags. The Hornbill festival is known as the festival of the festivals in Nagaland and the 18th Hornbill festival was inaugurated by our Honourable President Mr. Ram Nath Kovind. Nagaland is the home to 16 different tribes and each tribe has a rich and unique culture of its own. Nagaland is also the land popular for birds; it is said that the population of the falcons living here is greater than the humans. During the Hornbill festival all the rich cultures of Nagaland and of the northeast is exhibited to the world. Every tribe has an exhibit of its own which showcases its way of living. Our culture is the greatest art we have and thus, Hornbill is the biggest art exhibition of Nagaland.
As we entered we saw different tribes dancing and humming to their own songs with some travelers trying to catch up. There were so many colours and vibrancy around us. There are people singing songs from their mouths at one exhibit and as you walk up the stairs you see a group drumming and dancing to it.
The best thing about Hornbill is that you indulge yourself with the locals and also with everybody across the globe. Every visitor is a traveler and an admirer of culture. You grab your rice beer from a stall and randomly walk into people and chat about their life and interests. The stronger the rice beer, the lighter the conversations! I bumped into a lot of people. Waiting for my friends a person from France, Patrick Frillet, came over for a conversation which started off by exchanging some compliments. The talking went for a couple of hours. I learnt that he is a photo-journalist since the past 40 years with great achievements and extensive knowledge. It was a pure privilege to have made such an encounter. You learn so much like this, you expand your horizon by meeting people filled with talent and experience from across the globe.
Patrick the photojournalist from France
The famous thing about the Hornbill is the food and the rice beer. Though Nagaland is a dry state but during the hornbill you get the rice beer as a respect to the old tradition of the Naga’s. This land is famous for its delicacies like dog meat, silkworms, and snails. If you are a vegetarian then you will miss on the real food experience of this land. The preparation of the meat is rich and unique with the privilege of warm Naga hospitality. The most special thing about Nagaland is its most famous chilly known as Bhut Jolokia, which is one of the spiciest peppers of the world. You are served this in a variety of ways and one of the most unique ways is the chilli-espresso which, tastes weird but is at its best only with banana muffins.
My chilli espresso and muffins
The rice beer
The delicacy of the silkworm larvae
The delicacy of the snails
Till around 4:30 PM you are indulged in the dance performances and exhibits but as the sun sets, the temperature drops and the energy in the festival rises. You shop your heart out at the big bazaar set up for you where you get great Naga bead jewelry, amazing crockery and great sauces as souvenirs. We shopped for about 3 hours and what fun it was talking with those local people, bargaining and knowing about their culture. At around 6:00 PM when the arena gets less crowed and even colder you are delighted with the rock performances of different bands that make you groove in your their rhythm. The rice beer helps you let loose even more. You drink less water and more beer.
The things i bought from Nagaland
The jewellery exhibit at hornbill
One of the shopkeepers at the stalls
Our day at the Hornbill ended with a party with the government officials of Nagaland and then there are some things which should just stay where they happened. As the famous dialogue says, what happens in Nagaland stays in Nagaland and I would like it to be that way. But being more open to you, you cannot really see the true culture of such lands in these festivals. These festivals are just a replica of what they do and if you are a person who wants to experience the culture more and not just be a part of the exhibition you should visit the districts and town to understand them closely. We hardly got a taste of their culture. We just saw the best of what they have. But, well, what is art without imperfections and what is a culture without conflicts?
P.S. We would like to thank insanetravellers.com and especially Mohit Goswami our trip leader cum amazing friend for organising the backpacking trip to Nagaland and being a great host for the 9 day trip. These people provide us with great freedom to explore the lands and most importantly explore ourselves. They truly make you an insane traveller. Nathi Nonsense would highly recommend travelling with these people. Check their website to know more!