We fly to Dimapur and continue by road to Kohima. Kohima is the capital of Nagaland. Nagaland is a region of hills and mountains located in the confines of Indo-Burmese land and offers visitors a profound change of scenery in the heart of a fauna and flora of great wealth. Behind the misty green and wet halos are the hills of Nagaland. Nagaland is one of those isolated and unknown lands whose remoteness has nurtured and strengthened the particularities, and remain today, physically and culturally far removed from the rest of India.
Here live a heterogeneous patchwork of Naga tribes, whose main common denominator is their Tibeto-Burman origin. Nagas are divided into thirty tribes like Angami, Chakhesang, Khiamniungan, Rengma, Yimchungru, Zeliang, Ao, Konyak, Sumi, Chang, Lotha, Phom, Sangtam, Kuki, Kachari etc. These tribes are part of the same ethnic group, the Nagas. Over sixty dialects with Chinese accents, Tibetan and Burmese coexist, reflecting the diversity of villages, as well as their mutual isolation.
The Nagas were head-hunters until the arrival of the missionaries. They believed that the soul was in the head and that beheading was the best way to release the body. The trophies accumulated contributed to their good fortune, because the released souls watched over them. The missionaries were able to convince it otherwise.
However, the Nagas kept their warrior spirit. If the introduction of Christianity and openness to others involved change as the import of manufactured goods, the Nagas are proud of their traditions such as weaving, woodcarving, dances and songs.
Kohima is a picturesque town situated in a green environment. Nestled at the eastern end of the Himalayas, Kohima (1500m), the capital of Nagaland is a quiet town, nice and unpolluted. The main bazaar of the city is the place to see the colorful trimmed Naga shawls. People flock from surrounding villages to sell their products. A stroll through the bazaar will also give you an idea of the diet of these fearsome warriors from dog meat to bee larvae. We stay overnight at hotel Japfu.
In Nagaland there is a saying life is like a long festival. As there are 16 tribes in the country, there is a tribal festival at least once a month. These festivals revolve around agriculture, which are connected to the spring, sowing the first crop of the year and are always celebrated with great joy and participation. Festivals are an opportunity for exchanges and gifts, gifts in meat and other good in an atmosphere of brotherhood. It is an opportunity to establish new relationships, to renew or older.
The old values, such as generosity, hospitality, courage, loyalty and camaraderie are transmitted through these festivals, values that grow and are handed down from generation to generation that is why the land of the Nagas today has still very strong sense of hospitality.
Nagas follow Lunar calendar for their festivals as prescribed by their animistic religion. By observing the phases of the moon, the shaman of the village choose the days that fall between the moon and the full moon to celebrate the holidays. The day of the festival is celebrated with a loud voice to all the tribes after they have finished their duties of farmers before winter. Hornbill Festival is usually held the first week of December, and you can attend the meeting in one place of all the Naga tribes in the area. If you are interested in the cultural, social, folk tourism this is the one for you: you will know all the customs of these tribes, their games. sports, dances and songs.
All ethnic groups gather once a year in early December to participate in an inter-ethnic festival three days. This event allows us to approach the incredible diversity of cultures of this unspoilt wilderness. The Hornbill festival takes place in the village of Naga Kisama, 12 km from Kohima. The aim of this festival is to live and protect the rich culture and traditions of Nagaland. The opportunity to attend dances, songs, sports events (wrestling, archery), games, traditional arts like painting, woodwork, sculpture, allows understanding more easy to culture.
Hornbill is the the father of the Naga festivals held for the first time in 2000. All the festivals of the 16 different Naga tribes, normally celebrated in different seasons of the year, are concentrated in this festival for seven days, usually from 1 to 7 December each year. It is not a reproduction of reality naga, but a window on it! The festival is sponsored entirely by the state of Nagaland, which includes in its annual calendar of events. The Hornbill Music festival takes place in the vicinity of the festival itself. In 2007 took place the Hornbill Rock contest.
The Hornbill Festival is without doubt one of the most interesting tribal festival in the world and takes place every year in early December in a small village 15 kilometers from Kohima, the capital of the Indian state of Nagaland. The village throughout the year is a kind of open-air museum where you can see reproductions of the various Naga tribe villages, but during the festival all 12 Naga tribes bring it to life with dances, songs, games.
At the center of the village there is a large arena where every day in two sessions (morning and afternoon) the members of the tribe are performing in various performances. There are obviously stands with restaurants serving typical food naga, with traditional local rice beer, and a small market. In the last edition was also added folkloric performances of the other states of the North East India. The Festival is very interesting especially to learn about this fascinating culture and still partly mysterious, but also offers the opportunity to take pictures truly memorable.
Till a couple of years ago it was rather difficult to visit because they needed special permits, but today is the Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram who are officially open to all travelers, so if you want you can organize your trip completely independently.
The Hornbill festival is a collective celebration that involves all the Naga tribes, and for this reason the event was also referred to as the Festival of Festivals, to indicate the highly local. The celebration is a tribute to the great Hornbill, the bird most admired and revered for its qualities in size and alertness. The majestic bird is closely identified with the social and cultural life of Nagaland, which is reflected in folklore, dances and songs.
Hornbill Festival of Nagaland is a cultural extravaganza to revive, protect and preserve the richness and uniqueness of the Naga heritage, while for visitors to this event, it is a means to the overall understanding of the Naga people, the land and culture. For locals, this festival aims to be a time of gathering and sharing to revive, protect and preserve the richness and uniqueness of the Naga heritage, this event is one tool to understand the overall size of the Naga people, its land and its tradition.
Hornbill Festival is usually held the first week of December, and you can attend the meeting in one place of all the Naga tribes in the area. If you are interested in the cultural, social, folk tourism this is the one for you: you will know all the customs of these tribes, their games, sports, dances and songs.
The place where it is celebrated is the Naga Heritage Village, near Kohima, created especially for the festival. Here are the dormitories where the children are asleep, each built according to his own architectural tradition in order to simulate a real village naga. In these dorms shyest boys are launched into society to break with the age of childhood, are perceived for the first time emotions such as fear of being hunted by an enemy or a wild beast and is transmitted the most important values of life, such as courage, loyalty, honesty, as well as arts and crafts are taught to young people, are narrated the legends and myths of each tribe, handed down from generation to generation.
The village of Khonoma, 20 kms from Kohima, is the local center of the struggle for recognition of indigenous rights. The spreading of the rice terraces along the slopes helps create an extraordinary landscape and just beautiful. The people work hard to protect their environment. We have an interactive meeting with the villagers.
I arrive in one of these villages after long hours of walking, beset by a swarm of Lilliputian children chirping and hopping. Folding me the courtesy naga rule, I have to introduce myself to ANGH, the king of the village. In his house of bamboo, the atmosphere smells of grease and soot, where mingles the fascinating scent of the past. The walls are covered with shields, machetes, spears, monkey skulls and toucans beaks, horns of deer and tiger teeth, fur wallets of hunts and guns.
If the king now reigns over only because the decisions are taken in consultation with the village council, however, retain a ceremonial role and enjoys great prestige. I am invited to dinner that night and his family cooked a giant bear paw he received as tribute. The house is filled with friends, neighbors, cousins, grandchildren, and great-grandparents and anime loud laughter.
Although communication is difficult, few young people speak some English quickly around me to translate the questions from the floor. Each of my answers results in endless discussions, comments, discussions, which inevitably end in collective laughter. I do not have time to finish my plate of rice that is already filled to me, almost forcibly with soup of bamboo and jungle rooster while others in the gathering have their rice with pork fat, dog meat, rat, squirrel and grilled larvae.
The central elements of the village is the morung, large community living room where traditionally lived every young boy until marriage. The morungs could decide the war, conquer lands, and levy a tax on the conquered land. Today they are mainly places for deliberation and decision. When a person dies and has not specified a heir, his lands revert to morung which it belongs, according to his family and his clan, who charge either exploit or sell.
I spend an afternoon in one of the long wooden huts, to soak up its ambiance, where a dozen grandfathers, some centuries old, offer to show me a traditional war dance turning slowly in circles, accompanying their dance of throat singing. Most of them wear traditional necklace with miniature heads in bronze symbolizing the number of heads (human) cut in battle. In each morung is the logdrum, a drum carved from a gigantic tree trunk, traditionally used to communicate with other villages, each specific event (death, birth, war, etc.) matching a particular rhythm reverberating on the ridges and reaching the villages.
After a day, I must go and I look at the last time the Naga hills, where I was greeted with a spontaneous and simple hospitality, leaving behind the faces and laughing eyes, wrinkles tattooed grandmothers and hillside bamboo huts. Back to Kohima. We stay overnight at hotel Japfu and next day depart for the village of Willong Khullen on to Manipur.