Explore The Land of Festivals
Come December and the otherwise rustic yet quaint streets of Kisama, a remote village in the Northeastern state of Nagaland, comes alive with wide-eyed tourists from all over the world. They come here beckoned by the rhythm of the drums accompanied b...
Come December and the otherwise rustic yet quaint streets of Kisama, a remote village in the Northeastern state of Nagaland, comes alive with wide-eyed tourists from all over the world. They come here beckoned by the rhythm of the drums accompanied by a lively mix of dance, traditional music, ancient sports and innumerable other enchanting experiences that sum up one of the most culturally extravagant festivals of the country – the annual Hornbill Festival.
Named after the bright long-beaked bird that is closely intertwined with the Naga culture, the Hornbill Festival is a 10-day-event organised by the Nagaland State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments from December 1-10 every year. With participation from all the 16 major tribes residing in the state, the event offers visitors a unique chance to experience the rich culture from all corners of the state in one spot. In fact, curious souls can have their fill of knowledge of the diverse traditions of every tribe at the festival itself. There are numerous morungs at the festival grounds. A morung can be loosely described as a boys’ hostel where youngsters are sent to learn the traditional ways of the tribe. Visitors can visit these morungs at the festival, interact with members of the tribal community, sample their food and watch them practise their rituals.
Perhaps it is this melange of vibrant cultures along with the thrill and an infectious happiness that charges up the air in Nagaland around this time that makes this event the ‘festival of festivals’. However, the Hornbill Festival is not the only aspect that earns Nagaland the tag of ‘the land of festivals’. The state also witnesses numerous other events throughout the year that each tribe celebrate with equal fervour and dedication. As agriculture was historically the chief occupation of the region, most of these festivals revolve around pre-harvest, post-harvest and sowing celebrations. Some of these festivals include tokhu emong, the post-harvest festival of the Lotha Nagas (November); moatsu mong, a festival celebrated by the Ao tribe after sowing (May); tsungrem mong, another festival celebrated by the Ao tribe on the eve of harvest (August); aoleang monyu, which is observed by the entire Konyak community after the completion of sowing of seeds (April) and mimkuut, the harvest festival of the Kuki tribe (January), among many others.
However, beyond the unforgettable cultural experiences, Nagaland also offers its guests breathtaking scenic beauty along with unique heritage sites and diverse wildlife. In fact, the capital city Kohima itself is dotted with numerous places of interest. Chief among them is the Kohima War Cemetery. Located on the slopes of the Garrison Hill, this cemetery presently contains 1,420 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War and one non-war burial. At the highest point in the cemetery stands the Kohima Cremation Memorial commemorating 917 Hindu and Sikh soldiers whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith.
Merely 50 km away from Kohima city lies another memorabilia of Nagaland’s rich past that mystifies visitors with its old-world charm – Tseminyu. Remains of primeval graveyards and abandoned villages mark this ancient town, which was once a migratory route for many Naga tribes who headed north seeking greener pastures. It was on December 2021 when the Tseminyu subdivision was upgraded to a full-fledged district. A notification issued by the Government of Nagaland read, “The Governor of Nagaland is pleased to upgrade Tseminyu subdivision to a full-fledged district with immediate effect. The jurisdiction of the new district shall comprise of the existing Tseminyu subdivision under Kohima district, Nagaland.”
Adventure and more
For the adventurous spirits who visit the sate in search of an adrenaline rush, Nagaland also boasts of some of the best trekking and hiking routes in the entire country. In fact, the scenic Dzukou Valley that lies just behind the Jadfu Peak is said to be one of the most-visited tourist sites in the region.
Known in popular etymology as the valley of flowers, the Dzukou valley is perched at a height of 2,450 m. Travellers who brave through its challenging trekking circuits are rewarded with an unforgettable sight that remain etched in the mind forever. The best time to visit this valley is between July and September when endless rows of lilies, euphorbias and other vibrant blooms carpet the vast expanse of the undulating valley. Travellers can also extend their trek to the nearby villages of Viswema and Zakhama that are known for their rustic scenery and local craft objects.
Another popular trekking site that makes Nagaland an adventurers’ paradise is Wokha. The third-smallest district of the state, Wokha was occupied by the British Government in 1976 as the district headquarters of the Naga Hills that was then under Assam. Beyond the town lies some spectacular natural yet off-the-beaten-track landmarks – Mount Tiyi, Totsu cliff and the Doyang river. One of the biggest and longest of its kind in Wokha, the Doyang river runs near the state’s southern boundary and is called Dzu or Dzulu by the Agamani people, in whose area it originates.
As one of the highest peaks of the range, Mount Tiyi offers a panoramic view of the surrounding villages that appear like a green canvas dotted with tiny houses from its lofty height. The deep forested paths, along with the ancient folklores associated with it, add a mystical touch to the entire setting. Locals also believe that the peak hides a secret orchard that is found only by a chosen few who are favoured by their luck. Even if one does not find the orchard, the eye-catching scenery along the path is just as memorable for any nature lover.
For the green enthusiast, spotting the exotic fauna at the Intanki Wildlife Sanctuary is another memorable experience that Nagaland has in offer. Glimpses of rare species including hornbills, elephants, sambar and black storks can be had here. What’s more? The sanctuary is also home to the elusive hoolock gibbon, the only species of non-human ape found in the country.
Dance to the tune of lively music, sample the exotic cuisine, walk through paths marked by unforgettably pretty sceneries and spot the amazing wildlife! Indeed, with its many colours and myriad offerings, Nagaland is a piece of paradise that transforms the everyday experience to nothing less than a festival.