Hornbill Festival 2023: A peek into Nagaland’s colourful traditions

In Nagaland’s misty mountains, the 24th Hornbill Festival beckons, uniting 16 Naga tribes for a vibrant celebration of culture, music and dance

November 24, 2023 03:40 pm | Updated November 25, 2023 11:37 am IST

Tribes of Nagaland at the annual Hornbill Festival in Kohima. The Hornbill is also known as the Festival of Festivals.

Tribes of Nagaland at the annual Hornbill Festival in Kohima. The Hornbill is also known as the Festival of Festivals. | Photo Credit: DAVIDEVISON

Tucked away in India’s North-East lies Nagaland, the stage for a thrilling 10-day festival high up in the mountains. In the first week of December the State’s 16 major tribes come together to celebrate their culture, heritage, and traditions in a vibrant tapestry of colourful costumes, pulsating rhythm, and musical stories at the Hornbill Festival held at the heritage village of Kisama, 12 kilometres from the capital, Kohima.

The festival that began in 2000 is named after the hornbill, a culturally significant bird that symbolises fidelity, beauty and grace in Naga folklore and ritual. The event includes an exhibition of crafts and handloom products, and a food festival featuring Naga cuisine.

Morung being revamped for this year’s festivities

Morung being revamped for this year’s festivities | Photo Credit: Nagaland Tourism on X (formerly Twitter)

The 24th edition will host a wrestling championship in association with the Naga Wrestling Association on December 4 at the spirited grounds of Chiechama, a solo and group dance competition by the Department of Women Resource Development at Hortiscape in Kasima village on December 8 and 9, and a vlogging contest organised by the Department of Information and Public Relations, where vloggers from around the world can participate to capture the essence of the festival through the entire duration of the festival. 

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Nagaland Tourism wrote, “The air is abuzz with excitement as organisers diligently orchestrate events, from traditional dance performances to indigenous crafts exhibitions.” It was also mentioned that Morung, essential cultural centres for the Hornbill Festival, are currently undergoing a lively transformation in preparation for the upcoming celebrations. The renovation endeavours to revive these communal spaces to their traditional splendour, so that they become immersive displays of Naga heritage, according to the statement.

“We have 16 districts and 17 tribes in the State, and each is distinct from the other. December 1 is Nagaland Statehood Day and that’s why the festival begins on that day and goes on for 10 days. We will have a formal event for the commencement,” says Nchumbemo Lotha, Secretary, Tourism, Nagaland, adding that the mornings will be filled with cultural and traditional events while the musical performances will begin in the evenings. Musicians from Bolivia, Korea, Germany, and Israel will be performing at the festival apart from the local artistes. 

Music festival at Hornbill 2019

Music festival at Hornbill 2019 | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Nagaland is known as the land of festivals, and the Hornbill festival is referred to as the festival of festivals. In 2022, 1,026 foreign and 48,413 domestic tourists visited the festival while 90,860 local visitors were recorded, with a grand total footfall of 1,40,299. This year, the officials are expecting a footfall of over two lakh.

On November 15, Deputy Commissioner Abhinav Shivam of Chümoukedima conducted an inspection of the Dimapur bypass via Khatkathi on the four-lane stretch between Dimapur and Kohima NH-29 to ensure the safety of tourists who will soon begin to flock the mountain state for the festivities. 

Passes for the festival can be purchased at the venue at ₹20-₹30 each day, and an additional charge of ₹50 will be levied for a camera. Tourists who are not from Nagaland should also obtain an inner line permit from the local Government.

Nagaland is known as the land of festivals, and the Hornbill festival is referred to as the festival of festivals.

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