Every year since 2000, in the first week of December, hundreds of Naga men and women, geared up in their best traditional fineries, make their way to Kohima, the capital of Nagaland, for the Hornbill festival, popularly known as the ‘Festival of the festivals. This festival showcases the rich culture and traditions of the many Naga tribes, including neighbouring Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
Recognising the enormous tourism potential, the Government of Nagaland’s Arts & Culture department initiated the weeklong celebration, coinciding with the statehood day, which falls on the first of December. The festival is considered the longest and most successful cultural festival in the Northeast of India drawing in people from different parts of the country as well as from around the world.
Now in its 18th year, the festival has grown steadily over the years, in size and scope. In 2013, with the success and the demand, the Government decided to extend the celebration for a few more days – from a weeklong celebrations, it now runs as a ten day long celebrations. Considered as the longest and the most successful cultural festival in the Northeast state of India drawing in people from different parts of the country as well as from the rest of the world.
The festival is made up of several themed zones. The main attractions are cultural exhibitions of folk song and dances, indigenous games, and craft demonstrations. Food plays a crucial part in Naga culture, so much so that, it is considered an expression of cultural identity. All the 18 major tribes of Nagaland have their own traditionally designed Morungs (huts) where one can sample their exotic food and drink the local rice beer.
The Bamboo pavilion is where one can shop for local products to take a piece of Nagaland home.
Although named after the Hornbill bird, the revered bird is a rare sight in Nagaland. However, in the past years, the organisers have made an effort to bring in one or two Hornbills, housed in cages much to the excitement of children and amusement of the tourists.
Indian citizens need to get an Inner Line Permit to visit Nagaland. The permits are issued at any Nagaland House in Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong or Dimapur.
Foreign tourists no longer require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) / Protected Area Permit (PAP) to enter Nagaland. However, foreigners need to register themselves at the local Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) of the district they visit within 24 hours of their arrival. FRO is located at the office of the superintendent of police.
Air: The only Airport in Dimapur is connected with direct flights from Kolkata and Guwahati. From there, Kohima is 74km away by road.
Rail: There are regular direct trains from Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati
Road: Regular bus and taxi services are available from Guwahati, Shillong and Imphal to Kohima.
Where to stay:
It is essential to arrange accommodation well in advance since hotels get booked up early. Consider home stays and tent stays
What to pack:
The weather gets nippy in the evening, so pack in some warm clothes. The main event takes place at Kisama Tourist village, which perched on a mountain; hence a comfortable walking shoe is recommended. Kisama tourist village is 12km away from Kohima town.