Art and CultureTravelogue

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?

Keep reading.

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!

-Manasvi shah

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