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Hornbill Festival & 4 Reasons Why You Should Visit Nagaland During the festival


The most colorful and vibrant cultural festival celebrated in North East India is without a doubt, the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland. You must travel to Nagaland and experience it at least once!

Nagaland is one of the seven states in North East India popularly called the Seven Sisters. All of these states are adjacent to one or more countries and have an international border. Until about a few decades ago, this part of India wasn't as popular amongst travelers (across the globe!) as it is, as of today. It was wrongfully considered to be out of touch with the modern world and its independent cultures, rather mysterious.

The various cultural festivals celebrated in the North East have been a large benefactor for the states. Primarily the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland, the Ziro Festival of Music in Arunachal Pradesh and the Bihu Festival in Assam have captivated everyone. During these festivals, the atmosphere is gripping. Coincidentally, I experienced this overwhelming ambiance when I visited Nagaland during the last 2 days of the Hornbill Festival. Here’s why I suggest everyone visit Nagaland at least once, during the festival.

 

1.  Utopia for meat lovers.

Ever desired to taste beef or pork in India but couldn’t due to the stringent rules about these meats?! Well, you can have it at the venue for the Hornbill festival, Kisama Heritage Village without being judged. It can actually be called a meat/food festival as various booths offer the same meat, seasoning, and sides but the taste is completely different at each. The actual secret is in the way they cook the meat and whether they add the seasoning and spices before or after. All of the preparations come with a side of boiled rice and bamboo shoot. In fact, bamboo shoot is the most common seasoning used in many North Eastern states. Locally brewed rice beer called Zutho and a portion of pork stew to chase it down seem like a great combo! I would recommend it to everyone. Every foodie will certainly have a blast at the Hornbill Festival.

Hornbill Festival Food: Bamboo Shoot, Pork Stew and Sticky Rice.


2.  Tribal heritages and cultures come to life.

Nagaland is the home to 16 officially recognized tribes; a number significantly higher than anywhere in the country. But what astonishes me, even more, is that each tribe has its own way of life. A large similarity surely exists but their core values, lifestyles, customs, and traditions are different and quite cautiously hidden from the rest of the world. Untainted by the filth that is filling the world, these tribes meet during the annual Hornbill Festival and proudly display their cultures through various performances. Watching them fill the arena with colors of their traditions will definitely leave you searching for words to describe that experience.


The growth of North East India Tourism

The various north east India tourism boards have implemented their best strategies to draw tourists to these wonderful destinations nestled in the bosom of nature. Even world travelers and explorers Dave and Deb from “theplanetD” urge you to visit North East India in one of their articles. An enthusiastic & avid traveler Tanya Khanijow has shared her wonderful experiences exploring Nagaland on her YouTube channel.

People from India plan their travels to places in other countries because they consider them to be “exotic” destinations. I feel sad at this fact because these people miss out on the exotic places like Dzukou Valley in Nagaland, Dawki & Nongriat in Meghalaya and Majuli Island in Assam to name a few that are even more beautiful than foreign lands.

 

3.  The epitome of fun and frolic.

The overall atmosphere in Kohima during the festival is filled with enthusiasm. Each person you meet is emphatic, friendly and ready to help you out without hesitation. I needed help finding a place to crash and get something to eat as it was almost quarter to one at night. A group of youngsters celebrating the festival helped me get a place to stay and decent food so I didn’t have to starve until the morning. Even though it was pretty late, the streets were filled with people returning home from the festival venue, partying and enjoying themselves. Bikers, backpackers, trekkers and campers crowd Kohima and near-by towns just to experience this ambiance.

Camp with strangers who become friends overnight during the festival


Amazing musicians from all over the country perform at the festival. Great bands play their music alongside the tribal people who perform their traditional dance & music acts leaving you transfixed. One thing I hate is the presumptuous stereotypes people have in mind when it comes to north east India; like the people here only listen to & understand tribal languages & music or they live a “backwards” life disconnected from the world and more nonsense along these lines. The reality is, the music choice, fashion statement, world view, understanding of crucial matters, education and lifestyle (basically everything) of the people of north eastern states is at par if not much better than that of people living in metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi or Kolkata.

4.  New companions to accompany you.

All the people you meet at the festival, at your homestay or your campsite instantly bond with you. I spent just a couple hours with them chatting about my travel experiences and they were ready to show me around. Some were from neighboring states and insisted me to visit certain places of immaculate beauty before I headed back home. A trek to the Dzuleke village and Dzukou valley is a must-try when in Nagaland, but the dense forests and disappearing trails make navigation difficult. The experienced and happy-go-lucky companions you just made will happily join you on your adventure. If not, they will surely connect you with their experienced trekker friends who can help you out.

Read a detailed blog I wrote about my solo trip to the Hornbill Festival and what all it entails for 'budget wayfarers' travel company.

HORNBILL FESTIVAL FACTOIDS


Cultural festivals say a lot about the lifestyle of the people. Visiting any destination during a festival amplifies one’s experience. Like visiting Mathura during Holi, Spain during La Tomatina or Cascamorras, Brazil during the Carnaval, New Orleans for Mardi Gras or Mumbai during the Ganesh festival.

How many festivals have you enjoyed in their home cities?


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