When you are visiting the Cultural Extravaganza of the Largest Traditional Festivals in the World at the ‘Festival of Festivals ~ the Hornbill Festival‘ we prefer to choose your halt at a location very close to the venue site so that you do not miss out on the activities of the Festival. Camp Hornbill near the Kisama Heritage Village is our preferred stay option on your visit to the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland.
An initiative of the local youths of Nagaland and Assam, Camp Hornbill offers you a stay by the lush green valleys of Kohima. The Hornbill Festival being an offering of the Traditions of the Tribes of Nagaland, Camp Hornbill offers you to live these traditions better by relishing local savories and tribal beverages of the Tribes of Nagaland.
The Hornbill Camp at the vicinity of the Kigwema village just a short distance ahead of Kisama Village and 14 (fourteen) kilometers away from the town of Kohima in Nagaland.
For our travelers Camp Hornbill provides an alternative option instead of staying at a Hotel/Resort at Kohima to spent more time at the Festivities of the Hornbill Festival at Kisama. Already in their 6th year of operations at the Hornbill Festival the accommodation category at Camp Hornbill includes tented accommodations (3 Person Coleman Tents) available in single, twin and triple sharing options along with complimentary breakfast. Hygienic and well maintained toilets accompany the tents with a supply of running water. The Bathrooms at Camp Hornbill are a permanent structure with running water and the owners ensure a supply of Hot water to their guests served in buckets to beat the chill of Kohima weather along with toiletries like soap and hand wash available. Other facilities available at Camp Hornbill include mobile charging points with solar system, continental breakfast and traditional dinner with Barbecue and Bonfire. Visitors to Camp Hornbill at Kisama have always had a pleasant stay and taken back memories to be cherished for a lifetime!
The Campsite of Camp Hornbill is located 100 meters away from the main stage of the Hornbill Festival grounds and just behind the Hornbill Festival Police Outpost. Camp Hornbill is situated atop a terrace overlooking the beautiful town of Kohima.
Facilities available at Camp Hornbill ~ Kigwema ~ Kisama ~ Nagaland
- Accommodations in Coleman Tents (3 PAX) with single, double and triple occupancy
- Lunch and Dinner available
- Buffet Dinner
- 24 Hour running water
- Hot Water for Bath on request
- Jamming Sessions
- Mobile Charging points (Common)
- Common Lobby
- Baggage Room
- Car Parking
- Sleeping Bags
- Live Music
- Local interactions with people of Nagaland
- Arrangements for Trekking to Dzukou Valley (additional cost)
- Arrangements for Trekking to Japfu Peak (additional cost)
- Arrangements for Trekking to World’s tallest Rhododendron Tree trek (additional cost)
- Guide Assistance
- Transfers from Kohima, Dimapur
- Tour of main venue area of Hornbill Festival
- Local sightseeing in Kohima and nearby villages namely Khonoma village, Mima village and Viswema village
Charges for Accommodations at Camp Hornbill with Complimentary Breakfast ~
Single Tents – INR 2,000 per head per night
Twin Sharing Tents – INR 1,500 per head per night
Triple Sharing Tents – INR 1,000 per head per night
For Bookings please Email us at email@example.com or Call us on +91 7086873676
We also provide options of Bring Your Own Tents (BYOT) at Camp Hornbill based on availability of space at our Camp grounds during the Hornbill Festival. For inquiries on BYOT at Camp Hornbill please Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on +91 7086873676
For our travelers choosing to stay at a Modern Hotel/Resort, we will make the requisite arrangements at the town of Kohima.
(Please Note: Accommodations in the vicinity of Kohima town get booked by the month of August. Hence we would request you to kindly plan your visit to Hornbill Festival much ahead of the schedule)
You may fill in the form below for bookings at Camp Hornbill and we will get in touch with you:
Please note we are also offering packages for visiting Hornbill Festival in groups. So if you are in a group of 4 or more please find below the package details for Hornbill Festival and stay at Camp Hornbill ~
Testimonials from our Guests at Camp Hornbill ~ from Google reviews
- Anush Ghosh ~
Awesome campsite. Very polite organizers. Top class service.
- Riddip Das ~
- Adam Gnirn
It was just amazing to see the dormitories of different tribes,
It is helping us(anyone who visits)to know and understand more about the rich culture and heritage of the Naga society.
- Adole Yhokha
- Siddhant Roy
- Ketuoravi Tepa
Awesome place to be in
- Ao- Sung
- Shiraz Nadaf
- Amit Roy
Camp Hornbill is about 20 min walking distance from Kisama. The cleanliness of the camp was quite appreciable. Supporting staff were jovial and energetic. The location of the camp was impressive but the place where ⛺ were placed, has rough surface. Blanket or sleeping bag provided by the camp requires improvement. At the temperature of 3-4* C,these r not enough. The bonfire was awesome. Overall I may give the camp 3.8 out of 5
- Saurav Kumar Sinha
Thanks Kaushik for such a wonderful experience. Will surely visit again.
- Vaishak Jai
Been to the hornbill fest camp only only. Its near Kisama village and maintained and organised quite well.
- Monoj Das
- Vimal Ravanan
Our young Guests at Camp Hornbill at leisure ~ Kisama ~ Kohima ~ Nagaland ~ India
A camping experience at Camp Hornbill during Hornbill Festival 2017 ~
Over the years, the tribes of Nagaland had always fascinated me and I was not aware that there were around 16 major tribes and their sub tribes as well of the Naga people. I heard about the Angami Naga people, the Ao Naga people, the Pochury Naga people, the Sumi Naga people and the Konyak Naga people from my friends and the delightful attires they wear during traditional ceremonies and their rich traditions and cultures, their cuisine (Naga cuisine has always been my favourite because of tits natural ingredients and the spicy taste brought in by adding the Naga King Chilli or the Bhut Jolokia the naturally hottest pepper in the World). For many years I had stayed at Tipong Colliery area in Assam and at Tipong there is a sizeable population of the Sumi Naga people outside of Nagaland who stay at the Lalpahar Sumi Naga village in Tipong. I used to play cricket after school and it was then I used to know many of the Sumi Naga boys and girls at this village who used to tell me about the rich heritage and culture of the Sumi Naga people. The Sumi Nagas were considered to be one of the most fierce head hunting tribes of Nagaland and as a young boy who was into Marvel comics hearing about these practices really fascinated me as to how the local men used to go out on expeditions to expand their territory and encounter resistance from other tribal clans and a war used to break out and one clan used to kill the person from the other clan and chop off their heads and bring them back to be kept at the courtyard of their house.
Though it might sound barbaric now but in the earlier days this was a common practice and to expand ones territory in search of food and power that time the only option was to win over the territory of other people. This was headhunting practiced among the tribal clans of Nagaland and the Sumi Naga people were considered to be the fiercest among all these headhunting tribes along with the Konyak Naga warriors. Over the years since headhunting was abolished after the British took over, the Angami Nagas are now the most influential people of Nagaland. My days spent with the Sumi Naga boys at Tipong learning about their culture, their tricks of hunting, survival in the wild, their food, traditional beverages, pretty girls, all interested me to visit Nagaland once and even though we stayed in Assam that shares a border with Nagaland, I never had an opportunity to visit Nagaland mostly as my parents were scared to visit the place because they often heard rumours that the Naga people are very rude and the most likely cause would be that the Naga people used to eat dog meat and considered it to be a delicacy.
One story my mother used to narrate long back was of how a few of her colleagues at work had visited Nagaland and they were around ten members and they had split into two groups of five members each. They didn’t know that dog meat used to be a delicacy in Nagaland and served across the restaurants there and so they had visited two separate restaurants to have their lunch. They had a sumptuous meal of a Naga thali and meat curry and they seemed to love the food as it was quite delicious but only when they came out and met each other they had realized that one group was charged INR 100 more than the other group even though they had the same food. It was in the 1990s and INR 100 back then was a lot of money and so the group who were charged more headed back to the restaurant as to why they were charged INR 100 more though they had the same food. The owner replied them that the meat they had was from a home raised dog while the other restaurant served meat of stray dogs to which the group felt a shock of their life because they had dog’s meat. To the owner it was something nothing to be surprised about because it was the way of life in Nagaland. The group returned back to Assam immediately with a promise never to visit Nagaland again.
This was story my mother used to narrate to my family members whenever the topic of a visit to Nagaland, the Naga people or a plan to visit a Naga restaurant used to come up. Even though it made everyone laugh but I knew that deep inside it looked like a cooked up story to me and it was perhaps a way to keep me away from visiting Nagaland and learning about the rich history and admiring the most beautiful landscapes of North East India. It was not until I came back to Assam after spending many years in Bangalore (pursuing my higher education and job) and I heard about the “Festival of Festivals – the Hornbill Festival” – a congregation of the various tribes of Nagaland highlighting their practices, culture, traditions, food, handicrafts and handlooms, traditional warrior dance, war tactics combined with modern celebrations of horticulture, rock shows, fashion shows, vintage car rally, pork fat eating contest, King Chilly eating contest, traditional game competitions, etc. Hornbill festival is the largest festival of North East India that sees almost 2.5 lakh visitors from across India and abroad. To be a part of this Hornbill Festival of Nagaland is a once in a lifetime experience. Exclusively promoted by the Tourism Department Gov. of Nagaland, the Hornbill Festival has been successful over the years to create a brand entity for itself and people can associate themselves with the Hornbill Festival as being a part of the rich and diverse culture of Nagaland.
Attended by dignitaries like the Hon President and Prime Minster of India, Hornbill festival is a true example of how tourism can drive the economic growth of a state because with over 2.5 lakh people visitors coming to the place it is an immense source of revenue generation for hotels, homestays, our operators, taxi drivers, restaurants, local guides, the local people, etc. A visit to the Hornbill festival was on my bucket list since long and also as I had started my travel company, I had travelled across Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh but a trip to Nagaland to admire the landscapes and the rich cultural heritage of the people of Nagaland was not yet fulfilled. I was well aware that to plan your visit to the Hornbill Festival I had to plan much ahead in advance because of the number of people visiting and especially people from abroad it becomes necessary to plan your stay and travel much ahead of the scheduled festival dates from Dec 1st to Dec 10th. I did speak to a few of my friends to visit the Hornbill festival and though they were interested most of them were into jibs and they couldn’t plan much in advance for at tour because the situation at work would need to be at first as well.
The month of September 2017 arrived and still my friends were not able to confirm whether they would be visiting the Hornbill Festival or not and so I thought without our accommodations and travel arrangements in place we would most likely need to drop our plan to visit the festivities of Hornbill Festival this year as well. I planned on travelling solo but again I was not sure about finding accommodations and also I had two tours at that time (first week of December) but they had not yet been confirmed yet. It so happened in the month of November 2017 towards the mid of the month our group visited the Chandubi lake area near Guwahati. We made a night halt at the naturally beautiful Campsite here – Chandubi Jungle Camp and the co-owner of the place Kaushik Das welcomed us to Chandubi. A delight to escape the hustle and bustle of the city life, Chandubi Jungle Camp is located adjoining the Chandubi lake and overlooks the Chandubi Reserve Forest area. Bamboo cottages and tents welcome visitors here and the Rabha co-owner Diganta is known to churn out some delightful traditional food at the local kitchen here. We explored our day at the forests of Chandubi and took a boat ride as well. In the evening we spent time by the bonfire and had our drinks of the local Rabha rice wine and our plan of not being able to visit the Hornbill festival came up.
My friends we telling me that they would be able to take leave towards the end of the festival days from December 6th and I thought what was the point now when finding an accommodation option during the Hornbill festival days would be a problem. This was when the owner Kaushik joined us and he told us that he had overheard our conversation and he asked us as to why we were cancelling our plan to visit the Hornbill festival. To which I said that the accommodation would be a problem to find with the expected number of visitors coming to the place and not many hotels and homestays available in Kohima and the vicinity areas. This was when Kaushik told us about Camp Hornbill and the unique camping experience we can enjoy during the Hornbill festival days near the venue grounds at Kisama. He was the co-owner of Camp Hornbill as well and every year in the month of December along with his partner they setup the makeshift campsite that accommodates travellers to the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland. Located alongside a gorge area with beautiful views of the mountains Camp Hornbill is the best way to experience the Hornbill Festival even if you make a last minute plan to visit the Hornbill festival. The camping setup is made with various tent accommodations.
They have a permanent bathroom setup that has Western toilets, Indian toilets and shower that has 24 hours running water facility and there is also a provision for hot water as well that is charged at INR 20 per bucket. A dedicated kitchen team gathers during the Hornbill Festival days and offers various cuisines and recipes on each day for breakfast and dinner as most of the visitors have lunch and booze (rice beer and rice wine) at the Hornbill Festival grounds itself. The dinner is served as buffet option and there are options for campfire and barbecue as well and it is a complete experience of camping during the days at the Hornbill Festival. This year they had come up with a homestay setup as well that had two rooms for the comfortable stay of the guests and another room to store luggage and kitchen equipment’s. But unfortunately the place was already booked and so were the other homestays at Kisama, Kohima and Kigwema villages. We were sure that the temperatures during the Hornbill festival days could get quite cold especially at the night time and so we asked him about the comfort level inside the tents and Kaushik told us that inside the tents it is warmer than it is in the rooms and also there are provision of hiring extra sleeping bags to keep us warm in addition to the blankets.
With these assurances coming in directly from the owner of Camp Hornbill itself we decided to make our trip to the Hornbill festival and Kaushik told us that it would be better for us to take the Jan Shatabdi train from Guwahati to Dimapur and from Dimapur we could wither take a bus or a taxi to travel to Kohima and take an auto to come to Kisama (the venue of the Hornbill festival) and Camp Hornbill is just situated behind the venue grounds at a walk able distance. Also as we were visiting towards the end of the festival there would be slight less reduction in the crowd as most of the visitors are expected to attend during the opening ceremony of the Hornbill festival viz. Dec 1str week. We thanked him and asked him to book two tents for us at his campsite as we were four of us and we would book our tickets as soon as we reached Guwahati as there is no network coverage at Chandubi. It was all thanks to Kaushik that we could make our travel plan finally to attend the ‘Festival of Festivals – the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland’. After a nice traditional dinner at the Chandubi Jungle Camp the next morning we headed back to Guwahati after thanking Kaushik and told him that we would see him at his Campsite in Kisama during the Hornbill festival coming December.
After reaching Guwahati I took the responsibility of booking our train tickets to the Hornbill festival from Guwahati to Dimapur. It is a very early morning train and it starts at 6.30 AM from the Guwahati railway station travelling to Dimapur and further connecting to Jorhat. We were scheduled to arrive Dimapur at 10.30 AM in the morning and from there it would be another two and half hours to travel to Kohima and another 12 km to the Kisama Heritage village. So I booked the tickets and we were expected to reach Camp Hornbill before sundown. The next thing was to buy some adequate clothing to suit the weather at Kohima and also to arrange for the ILP. I called Kaushik to ask on how to go about arranging for the ILP and to mu good luck he told me that ILP is not required to visit Nagaland during the Hornbill festival days and it came as a relief because I did not want know about the process and it would mean spending a day at the Nagaland house in Guwahati to arrange for the permit. So we went about shopping for our good and I had to make alternate arrangements for a tour to be executed that was scheduled in the first week of December covering Kaziranga National Park and Arunachal Pradesh and my colleague Krishna would assist me to execute this tour. With this we were all set to experience the dram of visiting the ‘Festival of Festivals – the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland.’
We had originally planned to stay for 4 nights but due to some urgent work we had to plan our visit to the Hornbill festival in Nagaland for four nights but at the end we had to settle for three nights only so this meant that we would be travelling on Dec 8th morning to Dimapur from Guwahati and further ahead to Kohima to reach the Kisama Heritage village (venue of the Hornbill Festival) before sundown and spend the evening camping at Camp Hornbill (As the hotels and homestays would be full). But again it was towards the end of the festival days and so we might stand a chance to find rooms at some hotel so we thought of trying the camping experience at first and if the weather didn’t turn out to be too cold for the four of us then we could perhaps stay at Camp Hornbill itself and If it was very cold we could perhaps check if the homestay setup at Camp Hornbill would be available for us or else perhaps shift to another one nearby the Hornbill festival venue ground because Kohima has a reputation of having bad traffic conditions during the festival time and so commuting in case you are not having your own taxi or a private car becomes a challenge. So we decided it would be better that we stayed near the Hornbill Festival venue grounds and one day head to Kohima to witness the night festivities of the Hornbill Festival and a tour of the Kohima city as well.
On Dec 8th morning we boarded our train from the Guwahati railway station and our journey to witness the festivities of the ‘Festival of Festivals – the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland’ started. The beautiful countryside of Assam welcomed us and as the train was a superfast train it did not make a halt at each and every railway station like the passenger trains. The Janshatabdi express is fully air-conditioned train but owing to the fact that we were crossing such beautiful landscapes it would have been better if we had the option to roll down the windows and breather in the fresh air. We did not have our breakfast as it was quite early in the morning and my friend suggested that we grab something to eat at the Lumding railway station as the train halts here for a while. The train offers pantry service and we had some black tea before our scheduled arrival at Lumding at 9.30 AM. The train was well on time and after the stops at Chaparmukh and Hojai stations we reached Lumding. A very big railway junction the train stops here for five minutes and my friend got down to buy some breakfast for us. Many trains cross the Lumding junction and so this place sees many hawkers who come here every day to sell their stuff either food or daily needs and earn a living.
My friend came back hurriedly and he had brought four packets in hand and the hawkers here are aware that trains do not halt for a long duration and so they keep the food packed in newspapers and hand it over to their customers as quickly as possible. Once the train leaves they prepare another batch and wait for the arrival of the next train and this way they are able to do some brisk business and also sell their produce at less cost so that it suits the needs of various passengers. Inside the packets there were four rotis, one sabji made with potatoes and chick peas, some pickle and chutney made of tomato and garlic. This way of packaging helps in easier disposal as well, because you open the paper, eat from it and wrap it up and put the paper in the dustbin. The food was delicious and it just cost INR 20 for a packet meaning for INR 80 the four of us had a hearty breakfast and in a hour our journey would end at the Dimapur Railway station so we did not mind of or not our stomach was full because once we got down we would have many options to eat. The train started again and in some time we finally arrived at the Dimapur railway station. This was good option of travelling because it just took us four hours to reach Dimapur and if we had to travel by road it would have taken us easily around 7 hours considering we stopped for breakfast and breaks.
We headed towards Dimapur town to catch our onward journey by either bus or taxi to Kohima. If it was not during the Hornbill Festival days there is an ILP counter that validates the documentations of visitors entering Nagaland and without a valid ILP, Indian Nationals are not allowed to enter Nagaland as this is a protected state and would need to return back from where they came. But thankfully we were not screened for our documentation and instead we were welcomed with huge hoardings welcoming us to the Hornbill Festival 2017. My friends wanted to visit the Hong Kong market at Dimapur as this is a very famous market in North East India and any visitor to Nagaland is sure to make a stop here to buy some imported goods from countries like Myanmar and other South East Asian countries and the ones to look out for are the electronics and shoes that are available here. It was a 2 minute walking distance from the Dimapur railway station to the Hong Kong market and the bus stop was close by along with the shared taxi stand and so we decided to spend thirty minutes at the market before we started on our journey to Kohima.
The Hong Kong market is a bustling and vibrant market in Dimapur area and many shops dealing in various imported good are present here like electronics, clothing, shoes, accessories, etc. We did not plan on buying anything and mostly to see the shops around but my friend ended up buying a pair of shoes as he thought the price was right. After this we went to the shared taxi stand where the drivers were waiting for the passengers and as the vehicle is full they start on the drive. We took four seats in the Tata sumo vehicle and it was a good fare for us and we occupied the back seat and the front seat and we paid the driver for one additional person so that he doesn’t cram up the place by asking one person to sit and as the behind was filled with good that he was transporting so the passengers were not filled in the back seat. There is no train station at Kohima mostly due to the mountain terrain and hence goods need to be transported by trucks, busses and these shared taxis. While the bigger traders can afford to hire the services of trucks and busses for the transport of goods the small traders rely on the services of such shared taxis to transport goods from Dimapur to Kohima and vice versa.
The drive started and the taxi driver was a local Naga person from Kohima who comers to Dimapur every morning ferrying passengers and goods and the drive from Kohima to Dimapur is downhill and it takes less time but for us as we were travelling from Dimapur to Kohima, the distance of around 70 km would take us about 3 hours to cover owning to the road conditions, the hilly terrain and the traffic once we are about to enter Kohima city. The lush green mountains around made us feel in the heart of Mother Nature and the taxi driver had put on some nice country music along our drive. Nagaland has a dominant Christian population owing to the fact that missionaries who came here helped the local people with education and a better way of life compared to how they used to live earlier and gradually a majority of the people started to embrace Christianity as their faith. They however preserved their ancient traditions and practices and still continue to practice them. This led to many of the people learning English as their language and today the Naga people are fluent and even if they are not they are very music into Western music. They Naga boys and girls are very stylish and they adopt fashion styles from all over the World.
In North East India we say that a style of wearing clothes that is worn by the Naga boys and girls in only adopted by the rest of the people in the country after 10 years. For example, low waist jeans came to be a fashion statement across India after the 200s but the Naga boys used to wear them during 1997. Today Nagaland has some of the most beautiful churches in India and the Baptist Church at Mokokchung is the largest in Asia as well. So in the Hornbill festival during the day time a visitor gets to witness the ancient culture, traditions, attires and war practices of the tribes of Nagaland at the Hornbill festival venue grounds of the Kisama heritage village but in the evening once you visit Kohima town you can get to see a altogether different and modern world with various concerts, rock shows, fashion shows, modern fast food, etc. The fusion of foods is must see experience at Kohima because the vendors who setup stalls during the Hornbill festival are local people who know their ancient culinary traditions and they mix this with the fast food delicacies like noodles, pasta and come out with a delightful snack. With all these expectations in mind we continued on our taxi ride towards Kohima and the driver kept telling us as to why we came late and instead we should have come at the beginning of the Hornbill festival as most of the festivities happen during that time.
We had to tell him how our work schedule was busy and so we couldn’t make it at the beginning to which he kept saying that we missed all the fun. One thing about the local Naga people is that they are very good at heart and if they like you they go all the way to do the best to make your stay comfortable. Naga people are known for their hospitality and as a matter of fact once you travel across the villages in Nagaland you will realize that even though people might not have all the luxuries and modern lifestyles but they have an open heart and treat their guests with utmost hospitality and offer them whatever they can as a token of their way of welcoming. This experience of visiting Nagaland was my first and then many more that followed later guiding visitors across the various parts of Nagaland at Dimapur, Kohima, Khonoma, Dzukou Valley, Mokokchung, Mon, Longwa, etc. One important place that drew my interest was Longwa in Mon district (the land of the legendary Konyak warrior tribes of Nagaland). The Konyaks are the last of the surviving head hunters of Nagaland and they are easily identifiable (mostly men) with their ceremonial tattoos all over their body and faces. These tattoos symbolized their victory over the wars with other clans during the olden days and they were renowned and feared for their head hunting skills.
Mon district today is a very important tourist centre of Nagaland and people from across the World come to Mon district to visit the Konyak warrior tribes of Nagaland and understand their way of life. The Konyaks are known for their open use of opium and chewing of charcoal that makes their teeth black in colour. Though it might sound a nightmare to any practicing dentist but actually it helps to make their teeth stronger. One important Konyak village in the Mon district is that of Longwa that is located at the border of India and Myanmar where one half of the Longwa village is in Indian Territory while the other half is in Myanmar territory. The head of the Konyak village is called as the Angh and the house of the Angh of the Longwa village is an important place because one half of the house is in India and the other half in Myanmar. Though we were expecting to see a bit of the culture and practices of the Konyak Naga tribes on display at the Hornbill festival in the two days we were here but I would discover the mysteries in detail about the Konyak Naga warriors in my later tours to Nagaland.
We were feeling hungry as it was in the afternoon and the walking around Dimapur digested our breakfast and the taxi driver halted a little ahead of our arrival at Kohima to have our lunch at 1.30 PM. He was hungry too because they do not have a fixed time table of having food as they are always on the move. We ensured with him that the place didn’t serve dog meat to which he laughed heartily and told us that we should eat dog meat as it a good source of strength. But thankfully he revealed that he neither eats dog meat and he was just pulling our legs and assured that this restaurant only served chicken and beef to which we had to disagree again as we did not eat beef so he took us to another place that served only chicken and pork meat recipes. We people of Assam consume pork meat and so we readily went to have out lunch here. We ordered for a Naga thali that is an assorted blend of various recipes either in vegetarian or non-vegetarian styles available. One thing about the Naga food is that it doesn’t contain much of oil and spices and instead it is cooked mostly boiled with lots of natural herbs and ingredients. For example, the pork with lai xaak (a herb) is a recipe where the dish is cooked by boiling water and the fat from the pork is used for the dish to cook in itself. Flavours are brought in from the use of ginger, garlic, green chillies, herbs and the Naga coriander (naga dhania). Our thali was the pork thali and two of my friends ordered the chicken thali and the vegetarian accompaniments were the same that had rice, dal with potato, a boiled cabbage curry, some stir fried beans and carrots, a sweet dish made with black rice, a spicy tomato chutney and the pork was with lai xaak and the chicken cooked with sesame seeds. We also ordered a smoked pork chutney that was made by pounding dried smoked pork, garlic, naga coriander and the naga king chilly. The naga meal starts with a bland taste but as you gradually eat it all the flavours of the natural ingredients come bustling out in your mouth and you can feel a food orgasm in your mouth.
The dal looks very pale yellow but once you eat it with the rice and the tenderness of the potato added to the dal brings out a fresh starchy flavour mixed with the aroma of garlic. The stir fried vegetables also tasted quite good mostly because the beans and carrot were completely organic mostly brought in fresh from the local garden. The boiled cabbage curry was more or less like a soup infused with the flavour of the Naga dhania and king chillies. The pork with lai xaak (spinach) is again a boiled recipe infused with natural flavours of ginger, garlic, chillies, lai xaak and the meat (a mix of fat and pork meat) and the flavours of the meat had infused into the leaves of the lai xaak. The chicken with sesame seeds was very flavourful and this sesame seed is said to play a very good role in digestion and keeping the stomach clean as well. But the highlight of our lunch was the smoked pork chutney and the flavours of the fresh spices and the smoked meat infused quite well and even though the quantity was not much but that is how one should eat this chutney in but sized quantity otherwise it is bound to get you an upset stomach because of the spiciness. We finished our lunch and with about an hour left to reach Kohima we were nearing our dream of coming close to the festivities of the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland.
I called Kaushik and told him that we were about to reach Kohima and he told us not to worry because our tents were ready and he advised us to explore a bit of Kohima town and the evening festivities at the area near the post office and come to Camp Hornbill by late evening for dinner buffet because as we were staying not for long so going again to Kohima tomorrow to witness the festivities won’t be a good choice and so it would be better that we wind up exploring the festivals of the Hornbill Festival today itself in the evening at Kohima. Also we could get a chance to explore the Kohima World War II cemetery and relive the memoirs of the win of the Allied Forces over the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese army at the Battle of Kohima a part of the Burma Campaign. We gradually approached Kohima town and we asked the taxi driver to drop us near the Kohima War cemetery area and he could move on to his drop off point from there as he conducts only two trips per day viz. from Kohima to Dimapur in the morning and back from Dimapur to Kohima. Kohima is a beautiful city in Nagaland and it is also the state Capital of Nagaland. Though Dimapur is a larger city with accessibility to air, rail and roadways, Kohima was chose to be the capital as it is located more towards the centre of Nagaland thereby allowing people from the other districts come to the state capital easily for official work because is the capital had been Dimapur then it would mean local people had to traverse another three hours distance by road.
Kohima is a beautiful hill station of Nagaland and has temperature climate across the year. Kohima has been of importance since long ago at first being home to the Angami Naga warriors and later by being the administrative town during the British rule. The Britishers had to face a tough resistance during their conquest of Nagaland as the Naga warriors had provided stiff resistance to the British forces. The Khonoma area was a place near Kohima where the Angami naga warriors put forth a brave resilience to the British and was on for a long period up to 1880. With more and more Naga warriors joining hands to fight against the British they had to call in their artillery and only then they could capture the land of Nagaland. The British had brought in the missionaries who later introduced Christianity and the people of Nagaland looking into the brighter side of a good life embraced Christianity as their faith. Today 80 percent of the population of Kohima are Christians and Kohima has residents of all the 16 tribes of Nagaland with a majority of the Angami and Lotha tribes. All across Kohima town one can see various churches and cathedrals and the Kohima church (Mary’s help of Christians Cathedral) is the most visited and architecturally beautiful church of Kohima and the crucifixion cross here is said to be the largest in Asia.
The market at Kohima or the Kohima bazar is one of the very beautiful and vibrant markets in Nagaland as well in North East India. We got down at the Kohima war cemetery and the as we didn’t have much time in hands to explore the place as it gets dark early and night fall in this part of the country is quite early and during the winter season it easily gets dark by 5 PM. So we planned on exploring the Kohima war cemetery and then explore the evening festivities of the Hornbill festival and then catch an auto rickshaw to take us to Camp Hornbill site. Kaushik told us that we could call him once we reached the Hornbill festival venue grounds and he would guide us to come to Camp Hornbill in case we were having problems finding the directions. Camp Hornbill is marked clearly on the Google maps and so one can follow the directions on the map to easily reach to the place. The Kohima war cemetery is located on a sprawling campus and from here one gets an aerial view of Kohima city. Beautifully aligned graves and burials of the brave soldiers who laid down their lives for our freedom can be seen here at the Kohima war cemetery and the place was filled with tourists who had come to witness the festivities of the Hornbill Festival.
Just like the other war cemeteries across North East India at Digboi, Guwahati and Imphal, the Kohima war cemetery is also built and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Mission. The entire campus is filled with a huge and well-kept lawn and it looks entirely green. After spending half an hour at the Kohima war cemetery we came out and went towards the venue of the Hornbill festival evening grounds at Kohima. Across the town we could see various hoardings and signage’s welcoming visitors to the Hornbill festival and tourist taxis from Assam and Meghalaya were plying all across the town some ferrying tourists back from the Kisama Heritage village back to their hotels. The rush had however decreased owing to the fact that it was towards the end of the festival days and most of the tourists had now moved on to other locations in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya or Manipur continuing with their tours. Most tourists start their journey from Guwahati and come to Kaziranga National Park and after their safaris they head to Kohima to witness the Hornbill Festival and later continue to Majuli Island in Assam and head further to destinations in Arunachal Pradesh at Ziro and even got to Meghalaya to return to Guwahati and continue to their onward destinations.
We reached the site of the evening celebrations of the Hornbill festival and preparations were on for the beginning of the concert where local and international bands would be performing and a street food area was setup serving various local delicacies in a modern presentation style. Today was the finals of the rock band competition and so many local people of Kohima and tourists had gathered to witness the festivities. Also today was the finals of Miss Naga contest and it was about a time of huge celebrations because these bands and fashion models are a youth icon in Nagaland and so people admire and respect them because it is a sort of a fashion statement and people of Nagaland are very conscious about their fashion lifestyle. We thought of staying ‘til the festivities begin and later leave to Camp Hornbill as we were more interested in witnessing the traditional tribes of Nagaland and their culture and traditions at the Hornbill festival venue grounds and we were feeling a bit hungry as well so we decided to eat something at the stalls of the fast food outlets here. There were assorted recipes ranging from momos, noodles, Chinese fast food dishes, smoked pork, smoked beef, dried fish, etc. and we definitely went with the momos that happens to be a snack that is loved by all across North East India. It is a dumpling that is made with flour and stuffed with meat offerings of chicken, pork or beef.
The Naga people eat both the meat of pork and beef and so one need not be surprised if they come to Nagaland and see that beef is being consumed (because selling and consumption of beef is not allowed in some states of the country). We ordered for the pork momos and along with it some fried chicken that was marinated and spiced with a King chilly marinate. The Naga king chilly or the Bhut Jolokia has to be handled with great precaution because if the chilly by mistake gets into your eyes then you are in for a harrowing experience as it burns like hell. Sometimes even medical attention is needed to cure the person. But if consumed in small quantities then this chilly is very beneficial for health and helps to clean the stomach and for various other ailments of the human body. The momos were quite delicious and juicy and the soup served with the dish was extraordinary and loaded with the flavours of garlic, pepper, naga coriander and the meat off course. The chicken turned out to be spicy and it seems once you prepared a dish with the Naga king chilly marinade and later fry it the spiciness increases and we could feel the heat in our mouth. We had to leave the chicken half on the plate and relished the momos itself.
It was getting late and dark and the other activities were not yet starting and so we took a call to go to Camp Hornbill and if time permits come again tomorrow to witness the festivities here at the evening. We went to the auto stand near the market area and hired an auto to take us to the Hornbill festival venue grounds from where we would call Kaushik for directions. The auto could fit only three of us in the back seat and so one of us had to sit in the front along with the auto driver and he would charge us an extra amount for it which was way cheaper than hiring a taxi to take us there. The ride was bumpy and it turned out that I was the unfortunate one to share the seat with the auto driver and even though he tried to provide enough space for me to sit I could still feel the bump on the roads on the seat. The roads are bad in between and this was where the most uncomfortable part was in the journey. Anyways we kept on going and as it was festival time the roads were all lit up and there was continuous movement of vehicles on the roads. The Kisama Heritage village is operational only during the Hornbill festival days and so it is during this time that lots of people visit here otherwise the rest of the year it is it mostly empty and movement of people and vehicles are less as compared to now.
There are various villages ahead on this route like Viswema, Kigwema, Zakhama, etc. and the route to Dzukou valley and some movement of tourists occur during the tourist season time. Dzukou is another pristine paradise located atop the mountains of Nagaland and the Dzukou valley trek is a renowned trekking destination in North East India. During the Hornbill festival, the temperatures get quite cold and so the vegetation is great to see at Dzukou and the best time is during the monsoon season in July and August when the flowers start blooming and Dzukou is famous for the rare Dzukou lily that is only found here. In sometime we reached the Kisama Heritage village and the festivities of the Hornbill festival had come to an end for the day and the workers were busy cleaning the place and preparing it for the next day. Tourists were seen to be dispersing from the venue grounds towards their campsite, hotels, homestays, etc. and I called Kaushik from here and he asked us to get down here and walk to the campsite which was about 10 minutes walking distance from the Kisama Heritage village. He also told us that the other guests too were returning after the festival and we can join them and come to Camp Hornbill. We paid the auto driver and asked a group the way to Camp Hornbill and it turned out they too were staying at Camp Hornbill and they asked us to come along with them.
The group had a mix of people coming from various parts of the country and few foreigners as well and they too had come in either yesterday or today morning to Camp Hornbill and they had gone to visit the festivities of the Hornbill festival at the venue grounds of the Kisama Heritage village. There is a slop that leads downwards from the road to Camp Hornbill and thankfully we did not bring the auto along because he would have surely charged us more money. We finally reached Camp Hornbill after a long day of travel and explorations and Kaushik along with his partner welcomed us to Camp Hornbill. We headed to the cloak room to keep our luggage and then to freshen up after the long day. The bonfire was up and the guests had started to take their places by the bonfire. Barbecue was getting ready and the place was bustling with the boys running around getting the meat from the kitchen and the dinner preparations going on as well. The tents were all laid out and setup in rows. There are three cliff like areas at Camp Hornbill where on the top two land areas the tents are setup and the third level is where the bonfire was going on and people were sitting there sipping in coffee and rice beer.
The bathrooms at Camp Hornbill are the ones that are quite different from the other campsites around. While most campsites are temporary and are built only during the specific period of festival/event days so their bathroom setup is also temporary and this is when one finds it a real problem because as these bathrooms are makeshift there would be some sort of minute problems or the other and the question of hygiene too comes. But with the permanent structure here the walls of the bathroom are nicely cemented and the floor is sturdy as well. The bath sections has a shower as well but unfortunately due to the cold weather no one think of taking a shower at least in the evening or the early morning time. The hot water is available in the morning time and the boys at Camp Hornbill help the guests by providing them with a bucket of hot water in front of the bathroom. I just cleansed my face and wiped the body with wet wipes to avoid catching a cold and we headed to the bonfire area where the guests were enjoying their barbecue. Nice music was played on a sound system that was loud enough so as to not disturb the ecology around. Dinner is served early at Camp Hornbill by 7 PM because the boys at the camp need to be free by 9 PM and retire early to bed to prepare for the next day and the people of Nagaland follow a custom to retire to bed early after an early dinner.
Adole Yokha – the co-owner of Camp Hornbill arranges for rice beer that is brewed locally at his home at Kigwema village and the rice beer is brewed with special rice grown at his village. Although Nagaland is a dry state but tipplers find their way and I could see bottles of IMFL pouring in amongst few groups. When you are at the largest congregation of people at the ‘Festival of Festivals – the Hornbill festival of Nagaland’ celebrations is a part of life and it can be seen at Camp Hornbill with the Barbecue going on and people savouring some of the most juicy meat chunks of chicken and pork being barbecued. For the vegetarians there is an option of paneer and vegetable barbecue as well. We asked Kaushik if we could find some rum nearby and he had kept a bottle for himself and he happily gave it to us and we too found ourselves a place to blend ourselves with the festivities of the Hornbill Festival at Camp Hornbill. The chicken barbecue was quite tasty and the marinade was made with special herbs and greens and the meat was roasted to perfection. The paneer barbecue was also very good and so were the pork sticks.
Dinner was laid out at 7 PM and it was a buffet dinner with a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies. There was fried rice, plain rice, dal, chicken Manchurian, paneer matar, pork dry fry, pickles, salad and papad and the food was prepared very hygienically and tasted quite good as well. Kaushik and his partner ensures that guests have their dinner on time post which they clean up with the boys and this is what makes Camp Hornbill as the ideal camping destination during the Hornbill festival because the owners are always there to take care of your needs while in some other campsites where the hosts get drunk themselves and the entire customer experience goes for a toss. Everything is very well organized at this campsite and no wonder Camp Hornbill has been seeing guests to the Hornbill festival since 2012 (the past five years) and strives to continue to serve guests much longer. With the new homestay setup up and running Camp Hornbill has now become more or less an operational accommodation here in Nagaland around the year and visitors who go for trekking to Dzukou valley can come directly to Camp Hornbill on their day of arrival in Nagaland instead of staying at Kohima thereby avoiding the morning long drive to the Viswema village to start their trek to Dzukou valley.
After our dinner we spent some time by the bonfire and later went in to change and then check into our tented accommodation that would be our home for the next three nights at the Hornbill festival. The tents are three person tents and so the size is adequate to accommodate two fully grown men inside in comfort. Each of the tents at Camp Hornbill comes with a mattress, pillows, bed sheets, pillow covers and blankets to keep you adequately warm. There are options of hiring sleeping bags from Kaushik at INR 250 per sleeping bag but we had brought along adequate warm clothing and so the blankets itself sufficed to keep us warm. The rum effect also was in our body so we did not feel much cold and surprisingly inside the tent it is warmer then how it would feel inside a room. I was very tired after a long day and I feel asleep immediately on hitting the bed. The next morning I got up to the chirping of the birds all around and I walked out of the tent to get a view of the area around Camp Hornbill and I must admit it was a view to die for.
Surrounded by the mountains of the Japfu range, the area overlooks a valley and the sound a stream flowing nearby is like music to your ears. The sun was rising and the rays covered the valley and the view was spectacular. Few of the guests were up and they were having tea and coffee at a counter near the kitchen and the hardworking kitchen staff were already busy at work preparing the breakfast that would be served by 7.30 AM and the guests would head to the Hornbill festival venue ground at the Kisama Heritage village to spend their day of fun and frolic witnessing the festivities of the Festival of Festivals – the Hornbill festival of Nagaland. Boys were preparing the fire to heat the water in a large vessel that will be used to supply hot water to the guests. I went to pick up a cup of tea and Kaushik came to speak with me. He asked me when we were planning to go back to Guwahati and I told him on the 11th morning and he too would be leaving and he had brought his car along with him and as the others who came along with him had to leave early because of some emergency he was alone and he asked whether we could join him and this way we could share the fuel expense and also he would get company for the 12 hour long drive to Guwahati from Kohima.
It seemed like a good bargain for us because we could easily enjoy our drive back home and would spend one third of what we would be spending. By the time the other guests were also getting up and they were admiring the natural beauty around. I quickly thought of having my bath as I just wiped my body last evening and with the sun up bathing was as no longer a challenge in the cold weather of Nagaland here at Camp Hornbill. One of the boys kept a bucket of hot water outside the bathroom and each bucket is charged at INR 20. The timing is specific up to 8.30 AM in the morning post which the hot water is not available and also the weather get favourable to have a cold shower. I conveyed Kaushik’s proposal to my friends and everyone agreed to it and thanked me for agreeing to go with Kaushik before he had asked others to accompany him. With this breakfast was served and again it was a buffet breakfast and had various dishes on offering. There were cornflakes, pasta, bread toast with butter and jam, maggi and boiled eggs along with tea/coffee. After enjoying our breakfast we walked around the campus for a while admiring the beauty of nature around us.
The Naga hunters were earlier very adept in their hunting skills and they would go out deep into the forests in search of food and hunt animals and birds. Also the head hunter warriors used to wear elaborate head gears and one very important requirement to build there headgears was the beak of the Hornbill bird. The naga warriors at one time hunted down many of the hornbill birds to an extent that the species was on the brink of disappearing from the ecology of Nagaland and the government had to step in to abolish this practice. But even though they needed the beaks of these birds to put on their headgears it was not out of hatred towards the bird but out of respect for the grandeur of this bird. The Naga warriors actually revered the Hornbill bird species for its special hunting skills. Today the Hornbill species is the State bird of Nagaland and to celebrate this grandeur of this species the Hornbill festival is held every year in Nagaland to showcase the rich and vibrant culture of the people of Nagaland. After spending some time around the area of Camp Hornbill we got ready to visit the Hornbill festival venue grounds at the Kisama Heritage village. The other guests too were getting ready and all of us planned to leave to the Kisama Heritage village together.
The presentation of the culture and dance forms of the tribes of Nagaland would start at 10 AM and so we had to ensure to be present inside the venue grounds before that so we left at 9 AM from Camp Hornbill to walk towards the Kisama Heritage village. We would be spending our entire day at the festival grounds today so we ensured to put our belongings in the tent and carry the requisite stuff to the festival grounds like our cameras and gadgets to capture our moments at the ‘Festivals of Festivals – the Hornbill festival of Nagaland.’ We walked for about 15 minutes as this time we had a climb to cross and reached the venue grounds. This year the trend was slightly different because in general most of the crowd comes to witness the Hornbill festival during the end of the festival and witness the closing ceremony instead of the opening ceremony and it might have happened due to the introduction of the Sangai festival in Manipur that started in November end and continued to the first of December thereby tourists had at first visited the Sangai festival and later come to take part in the festivities of the Hornbill festival in Nagaland. This is just my speculation and cannot be an exact determinant of the number of people visiting the Hornbill festival towards the end of the festival days.
Yet the crowd was not as much as it would have been during the opening ceremony of the Hornbill festival 2017. Visitors need to purchase an entry ticket that is nominally priced and this is a way of revenue generation through Hornbill festival and after purchasing our tickets we went inside the premises of the Kisama Heritage Village in Nagaland. Built across a sprawling area, the Kisama Heritage Village houses many Morungs (traditional village courtyard homes of the tribes of Nagaland) and across each Morung, the Naga tribes sit dressed in their traditional attire showcasing their ancient tribal culture and traditions. These Morungs are also open to visitors who can go inside any Morung and get a glimpse of the Naga tribe way of life and witness the construction from inside and even savour the traditional cuisine and rice beer of each of the tribes of Nagaland who have their Morung setup here at the Kisama Heritage village during the Hornbill festival. To sum in brief the prominent tribes of Nagaland are:
- Angami Nagas:
The Angamis are a major Naga ethnic group who inhabit the major parts of Dimapur and Kohima and also some parts of the North Eastern State of Manipur as well. Since long the Angami Nagas of Nagaland have been respected and feared by the other tribes of Nagaland mostly due to their tactical warfare during headhunting and being hill people who have believed in cultivation and livestock rearing the Angami Nagas have now been able to possess much of the major property in and around the two prominent cities of Dimapur and Kohima. Today the Angami Nagas hold major positions in the government and administrative jobs in Nagaland. The Angami Nagas today practice Christianity as their faith with the blend of their ancient cultures that can be witnessed in their traditional festival of Sekrenyi. Celebrated every year mostly during the month of February, the Sekrenyi is basically a 10 day harvest festival that sees the Angami Nagas celebrate in merriment with lots of food and rice beer.
- Ao Nagas:
Another major tribal ethnic group of Nagaland are the Ao Nagas who inhabit the Mokokchung district of Nagaland bordering the state of Assam. The Ao Nagas are believed to be the first to adopt Christianity as their faith in Nagaland and this led to adoption of western education amongst the Aos much prior to any other tribe in Nagaland thereby allowing them to excel in various educational fields. The Ao Nagas too hold respectable posts in the government and administration of Nagaland. Mokokchung, the district headquarters of Mokokchung district is home to the largest Baptist Church in Asia. Even though the Aos have adopted Christianity, they still believe in the old practices of Animism where ‘Lichaba’ the creator is revered and is to be appeased with religious ceremony and sacrifice.
- Chang Nagas
Inhabiting the Tuensang district of Nagaland, the Chang Naga people are another major ethnic group of the State and are believed to have migrated from the east with roots related to the Ao Nagas. The Chang Nagas like the other Naga tribes of Nagaland practiced headhunting earlier to gain territory. Later they adopted agriculture and today they harvest major crops like rice, millets, pulses, vegetables, etc. They are also expert craftsmen in wood, spinning, pottery, basket weaving. Around 99% of the Chang population of Nagaland practice Christianity as their faith and celebrate various festivals based on harvest following the animistic practices. Their major dish comprises of rice, meat and fish.
- Konyak Nagas
Perhaps the most interesting tribe of Nagaland who fascinate every tourist visiting the Hornbill festival and Nagaland are the Konyak Nagas. Known to be one of the fiercest Naga headhunting tribes, the Konyak Nagas of earlier are easily identifiable with their pierced ears, black teeth and tattoo covering their entire body. The tattoos on their face are unique and are very elaborately made especially because it was earned after you took an enemy’s head during the war between the other tribal clans of Nagaland. The Konyak Nagas have other practices that set them apart from the other Naga tribes like brass works, iron smelting, gunpowder making, gunsmitting, and even making of traditional Naga machetes and modern sculptures. The Konyak warriors of Nagaland with a population of over 3,20,000 are said to be the largest population among the Nagas and they primarily inhabit the Mon district in Nagaland and also spread out across Assam in the Sivasagar district along with the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. The Nocte and Tangsa people of Arunachal Pradesh are also closely related in their customs and practices with the Konyak Nagas of Nagaland. Among the Konyak Naga society, the members follow a much disciplined life adhering to their daily duties and responsibilities and the earlier headhunting practices of the Konyak Nagas of Nagaland were strictly based on honour and principles of loyalty and sacrifice that made them a very revered Naga headhunting tribe. The Konyak practiced the way of bringing back the decapitated heads of the enemy and keeping the skulls on the courtyard of a communal house. With the practice of headhunting abolished the Konyak Nagas now resort to other forms of livelihood with their skills and live by the orders of the village head who are called as Angh. The Konyak Nagas celebrate a major festival in the month of April called as Aoling that is marked to see the blessings of the Almighty before the seed sowing. After harvest they celebrate the Lao Ong Mo festival too.
- Chakesang Naga
Inhabiting the Phek district of Nagaland, the Chakesang Naga is another major Naga ethnic tribe of Nagaland. The Chakesangs were earlier a part of the Angami Naga community but now they had separated themselves into two sub tribes majorly the Choki and Khezha Chakesang Nagas. It is said that the name ‘Chakesang’ is originally derived from three other Naga tribes namely Choki, Khezha and the Sangtam Nagas. Though the Chakesang Nagas are mostly concentrated around the Phek district of Nagaland a sizeable population is also found in the Chakesang villages of Jessami and Soraphung in the Ukhrul district of Manipur.
- Phom Nagas
Inhabiting the Yongnyak village in between the territory of the Konyak and the Ao Nagas, the Phom Nagas are another distinct Naga ethnic group who are known to practice Jhum cultivation as agriculture is their major profession. The Phom Nagas have a smaller population of around 15,000 and they also practice traditional pottery, bamboo work and spinning. Among the oldest of the Naga tribes, the Phom Nagas believe that their ancestors originated from stones a similar belief of the Ao Nagas. The Phom Nagas also practice Christianity with animistic traditions and celebrate the major festivals of Monyu, Moha, Paangno and Bongvum. Like the Konyaks and Changs the Phom Nagas bury the dead in the ground.
7. Khiamniungan Nagas
Another major Naga tribe are the Khiamniungan people who population consists of around 1, 30,000 individuals who live in parts of Nagaland and the country of Myanmar as well. Approximately 30%of the population of the Khiamniungan people of Nagaland reside in the Noklak district. It is believe among the Khiamniungan people of Nagaland that their name translates as the ‘Source of great waters’ though nothing could be conclusively said about the origin of these people of Nagaland (as most of their history has not been properly documented and instead passed on as word of mouth across the generations by their ancestors). But since their name translates as from the ‘Source of fresh waters’ this source has been identified as the place near the Lengnyu-Tsuwao villages that are the present day Noklak and Pathso towns. The Khiamniungan people were almost the last people of Nagaland to have converted to Christianity mostly because of their remote dwellings and the missionaries finding it tough to trace the, But today approximately 99% of the Khiamniungan people of Nagaland are Christians and have adopted the new education and social system thereby leading to drastic changes in their lives. The two important festivals of tis Naga tribe are the Miu and Tsokum.
8. Lotha Nagas
Inhabiting the Wokha district of Nagaland, the Lotha Nagas are another major tribe of Nagaland with a population of above 1, 80,000 individuals. The various scholars studying about the Lotha Nagas have laid down several theories about the origin of these Naga people. While some believe that the Lotha originally migrated from eastern China, many believe that they had come from Machuria and some even believe that they came from Lenka. Some scholars state that the Lotha and the Rengma Nagas were once a part of a single tribe. The Lothas today inhabit most part of Wokha town that is the district administrative headquarters of the Wokha district of Nagaland. The Lothas too earlier practiced headhunting like the other tribes of Nagaland but with the introduction of Christianity they gave up this brutal practice and today resort to other forms of livelihood mostly agriculture. The Lothas of Nagaland are known for their colourful dance and folk songs that are widely performed during their traditional festivals. The Naga shawls that are renowned across the World for their craftsmanship are known to be popular among the Lothas and the male members wear shawls that describe their social status. The unique festivals celebrated by the Lotha people ate Tokhu emong and Pikhuchak. Both these are traditional festivals that are based on the harvest and it symbolizes a time of merriment as the harvest of the crop in done and the granaries are full marking the endless days of toiling in the sun and now it’s time to reap the bounties after hard labour among the Lotha Nagas.
The Tokhu Emong is celebrated in the month of November wherein the entire Lotha village takes part in the celebrations feasting and dining. Each household of the Lotha Nagas village prepares food and drinks and the festivities continues for 9 days with members visiting each other’s houses and families indulging in songs, dances and feasting. Each family in the village wear their traditional attires based on their social status and exchange of gifts of food and drinks are a prime highlight of this festival. One unique ritual practiced is the sign of friendship among individuals that is highlighted by the offering of cooked meat pieces. Wherein one friend offers 12 pieces of meat to another symbolizing that he respects their friendship and if the sign is reciprocated by the offer of 12 pieces of meat by the other it means the friendship is treasured from both sides. The village priest of the Lotha village in Nagaland gives the signs of the festivities to begin and if any stranger visits the village during this time he has the option to either leave the Lotha Naga village before sundown or stay across the 9 days of the festivities o this typical Lotha Naga festival thereby symbolizing their hospitality.
9. Pochury Nagas
Inhabiting the eastern most part of the Phek district of Nagaland, the Pochury Naga is another important tribe of Nagaland with a population of around 25,000 people. As per records the Pochury Naga is a composite of three other tribes of Nagaland namely Kupo, Khuri and Kuchu and as per the Pochury historians earlier these villages used to have continuous fights amongst each other and it was only after the elders stepped in and negotiated peace then the people of these three tribes united to form the Pochury tribe. It is also said that the Pochury Nagas are the earliest inhabitants of the Meluri region in Nagaland. Christianity was first introduced in the pOchury Naga communo9ty in 1947 and subsequently led to the establishment of modern schools and roads to Kohima and Dimapur and the introduction of electricity in the Meluri areas. The Pochury Nagas are mostly dependant on agriculture and animal husbandry as their source of livelihood including hunting, forest produce and fishing. Fishing as a community is a big thing in certain villages of Nagaland and the entire community assembles at a village pond to fish with their bare hands. The fish are later kept for drying and used to make spicy chutneys. The cultivation method practiced by the Pochury Nagas is mostly Jhum cultivations.
Rice is a staple food of the Pochury Nagas and rice beer is consumed as a part of the festivals by the entire Pochury family including the children. In the earlier times the Pochury Nagas worshipped spirits and the worship would be performed by the senior most priest in the village. The Pochury Nagas even had sorcerers who practiced traditional medicines for various ailments. Before the advent of Christianity, the Pochury men practiced polygamy and the men who had two wives needed to have two separate households as well. In the Pochury community the status of men and women are equal. With the advent of Christianity however, the Pochury Naga now practice monogamy as they have now embraced a modern society and with education Pochury Nagas are now shifting from traditional occupations like farming and animal husbandry to modern administration jobs. The traditional festivals of the Pochury Naga people are Yemshi and Nazmi but as the entire population are now Christians, Christmas is a common festival celebrated every year in December. Today the Pochury Nagas have a well-defined administrative system where the village council is elected by the people and this council is vested with the various administrative powers responsible for the welfare and development of activities in the village.
10. Rengma Nagas
Inhabiting the area around Tseminyu in Nagaland and also some areas in the Karenga village of Assam, the Rengma Nagas are another major tribe of Nagaland having a population of around 65,000. This Rengma Naga ethnic group of Nagaland are further subdivided into two sub groups namely the eastern Rengmas and the western Rengmas. Originally practicing agriculture as their primary profession, the Rengma Nagas are known to be experts in the terrace cultivation across the region of Nagaland. As per historians, it is believed that earlier the Rengma Nagas and the Lotha Nagas was a single tribe. These Rengma Nagas were in constant conflicts with the powerful Angami Nagas of Nagaland as the had differences of ideologies and it was these conflicts that led to the migration of the Rengma Nagas into the areas of Karbi Anglong in Assam. Even though the Rengmas claimed to be original inhabitants of Karbi Anglong, the other ethnic group of Assam, the Karbi people did not believe them and this had led to several conflicts between these two ethnic groups in the Karbi Anglong region of Assam.
Originally practicing agriculture as their profession, the Rengma Nagas celebrate a major harvest festival called as Ngada that marks the end of the harvest season celebrated towards the end of the harvest season celebrated in the month of November. The festival is marked its beginning by the head village priest and involves a lot of feasting and preparation of rice beer. This festival is the time of paying respect to the deceased and on the fifth day of the Ngada festival of the Rengma naga people, the entire village gathers to cook a feast and rice beer is offered to the deceased and the villagers. It is believed among the Rengma Nagas that only after this feast the spirit of the people who died the previous year goes to the heavenly abode.
11. Sumi Nagas
Considered to be among the fiercest headhunting tribes of Nagaland, the Sumi Naga people are one among the major ethnic groups of Nagaland inhabiting the Zunheboto, Dimapur and Kiphire districts of Nagaland. A decent population of the Sumi Naga people also inhabits the Lalpahar Sumi village in Tipong as mentioned earlier. They have a population of above 3, 00,000 people who are mostly Protestant Christians and they worship at the Baptist churches. Only about 1% of the total population of the Sumi Naga people practice animism until today. As per the Sumi Naga historians it is said that this Naga tribe had their origins at the Khezhakemo village and this place is centred on the Sumi Naga history. As per a story of migration that prevails among the Sumi Naga people is that a person named Khepin started his journey from Khezhakemo village to Makhei and it is believed that it is from Khepin that the Naga generation began, wherein Khepin’s great great grandson Rou had three sons namely – Khrieu (Angami), Leo (Chakesang) and Seo (Sumi). It is said that these three sons led to the formation of these three major clans of Nagaland. The Sumi Naga people of Nagaland too are primarily and agriculture based economy and two of their primary festivals are based on the pre and post-harvest seasons.
The major festival of the Sumi Naga people of Nagaland is the Tuluni that is celebrated every year in the month of July to anticipate a bountiful season of harvest. The Tuluni is a midyear festival that marks a time of harmony and merry making that is celebrated with lots of rice beer (called as Tuluni from which the name of the festival is derived) and a lot of meat is consumed of pigs, cows and Mithun. The food offering that are exchanged among the people of a Sumi Naga village are wrapped in plantain leaves. The Sumi Nagas accept the Tuluni festival as their most grand and important festival and to mark the celebrations not only feasting but a lot of song and dance accompany the merriment as well. Visitors to any Sumi Naga house are welcomed and offered a meal of rice beer with smoked pork and ‘Axone’ with local vegetables and herbs. Sumi Naga cuisine is mostly boiled and their cuisine is richly based on food derived from nature with lots of fresh herbs boiled with meat and lots of garlic and chillies. Smoked meat is also a common dish and this meat is served wither by roasting it over a fire and mixing it with onions, chillies and naga dhania or this is made into a spicy chutney with chillies and garlic. Another important festival of the Sumi naga people is the Ahuna that is a post-harvest festival and it revolves around the idea of invoking the spirit of good fortune in the Sumi New year. Observed in the month of November every year, the Sumi nagas prepare the first meal of rice that is drawn from the harvest of the year and they use resources that are freshly made or cut from available surroundings. Celebrated over three days, in the modern times the Ahuna has been declared as one of the State festivals of Nagaland and it is now become a major public event with lots of songs, dances, traditional sports and traditional food.
12. Yimchunger Nagas
Inhabiting the Tuensang and Kiphire districts of Nagaland, the Yimchunger Naga people are another dominant Naga tribe of Nagaland and the ancient Yimchungers say that their name is meaning that ‘The ones who reached their place of choice.’ These Naga people are also referred to as ‘Yachuri’, ‘Yimkhiungru’, ‘Mongtsohai’, ‘Yanshong’ or even ’Yachungree’. Though not much is known about the origin of this tribe of Nagaland, many historians believe that the Yimchunger Nagas must have migrated originally from Thailand. The early Yimchungers were believed to be a nomadic tribe who kept shifting their base from one place to another in search of greener pastures when it came to land for cultivation to address their growing need of food or to avoid any epidemic disease at one place. The early Yimchungers migrated to India from Thailand via Myanmar and they followed the course along the banks of the river in search of human settlement and in due course of time they arrived in Nagaland. When a group of these people settled at one place and started their life another group among them set out to explore a better place with more natural resources leaving behind one set of the population at the village and this way several Yimchunger villages came to be setup.
It is believed that one group on their expeditions found a place with burnt charcoal and firewood and they realized that there could be other human settlement around. Further ahead they found more human activities like clearing of jungle for cultivation, etc. and that was when the Yimchunger group named this place as ‘Yimkhiungto’ meaning ‘Found it!’ The Yimchungers are a culturally rich tribe of Nagaland who have associated themselves with the traditional work of agriculture and have several hymns and songs devoted to this practice. The Yimchungers are known to create soulful music and have various traditional musical instruments like log drums, trumpets and flutes. The Yimchunger Nagas are the main contributors when it comes to the performance at the Hornbill festival. The stone pulling ritual at the Mima village during the Hornbill festival is a culture of the Yimchunger Nagas. The Yimchungers at the Hornbill festival demonstrate various harvest songs, cultural performances and their traditional culture of finding a bride as well. The major festival of the Yimchunger Nagas is the Metemneo that is a millet crop harvest festival usually in the month of August.
13. Liangmai Nagas
Another major tribe of Nagaland who also inhabit parts of the Indian state of Manipur are the Liangmai tribes of Nagaland. Having a population of over 60,000 people, the Liangmai Nagas inhabit the Peren and Dimapur districts of Nagaland and also the Senapati district of Manipur. It is said that the Liangmai tribes of Nagaland have their ancient roots in Mongolia and they began their migration from there to settle in various parts of Asia at Myanmar, Thailand, China and North East India. Considered to be rich in their culture and language and they believe that their language is the ‘language of God’. The Liangmai word is made up of two words ‘Liang’ and ‘Mei’ where ‘Mei’ means people and translating to the people of ‘Liang’. The common languages among the Liangmai people ‘Liangled’ but the way this language is spoken in Nagaland and Manipur has a variation in the accent. The language is also recognized as one of the endangered dialects as well. The Liangmai Nagas have a very colourful culture and most of their costumes are hand woven. The shawl worn by the Liangmai Naga men and women are very elaborate and there are certain costumes designed strictly towards single and married women. Among the Liangmai Nagas there is also a defined set of attire to be worn at weddings, celebrations and funerals as well. The Liangmai Nagas believe in a fresh cooked diet and their diet comprises mostly of rice, fresh meat and vegetables and also fermented fish and soya beans. Agriculture has always bemoaned the primary occupation of the Liangmai Naga people of Nagaland including animal husbandry but these days they are also engaged in government services and private business. The major festival celebrated by the Liangmai Naga people is the Chang-Ngee that is celebrated in the month of October that showcases their rich heritage and culture. As today majority of them are Christians they celebrate Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.
Coming back to our visit to the Hornbill Festival, we purchased our entry tickets and went inside the premises of the Kisama Heritage village and the place was filled with a lively atmosphere with the people moving around all concerned about the tasks assigned to them during the Hornbill festival. The dance performers were dressed up in their traditional Naga tribe attire and they were ready to perform once their turn came on the open grounds. The Hornbill festival venue grounds of the Kisama Heritage village are very aesthetically designed and the performances are held at the centre and a huge balcony area is built for the guests to take their seats and watch the festivities of the Hornbill festival of Nagaland. At one side various other sections of the Hornbill festival are present like the horticulture section, arts and crafts, and the various Morungs of the different tribes of Nagaland. The Morungs of the Naga people is a communal dormitory that is present across the villages of Nagaland and each tribe has a different Morung style of architecture. It is in these Morungs that young Naga boys and girls are imparted knowledge of their ancient culture and traditions of their tribes and the boys are taught about the various aspects of a primitive Naga life from hunting and gathering food from the limited resources available. The village meetings are organized at these Morungs as well and the elderly Naga people discuss about the problems and solutions of the village. As it is a community hall various other rituals are also held at these Morungs.
At the Hornbill festival venue grounds various Morungs of the different tribes of Nagaland are displayed and boys and girls dressed in their traditional attires can be seen sitting outside these Morungs and visitors to the Hornbill Festival can visit these Morungs and get a glimpse of the culture and traditions of these Naga tribes at the Hornbill festival. Also present are local kitchens inside these Morungs and visitors can get a chance to savour some exotic Naga cuisine at any of the Morungs of their choice. However as we were visiting towards the end of the Hornbill festival some of the Morungs had closed down and about 50% of them were now functioning and we decided to have our food and rice beer once the traditional performance of the tribes was over. We walked across the Kisama Heritage village for sometime admiring the heritage of the Naga people and their traditional attires. The schedule of the Hornbill festival today at the Kisama Heritage village started with the horticulture exhibition and various species of flowers were seen on display at this section. Nagaland is home to various orchid species and across the forest pockets of Nagaland one can find very rare orchids and flowers as well. The Dzukou valley in Nagaland is often referred to as the valley of flowers and one can find abundance of flowers in this region along with the rare Dzukou lily those flowers in the monsoon season.
The Department of Horticulture (Govt. of Nagaland) organizes this section of the Hornbill Festival and various local people bring in their produce and display in this section. Along with flowers various vegetables of Nagaland and also on display and one can get a chance to view them here. There is a section that displays paintings of various flowers and orchids of Nagaland here at the Hornbill festival and visitors can purchase these paintings as a souvenir of their visit to Nagaland. The art and craft section of the Hornbill festival is also present nearby and the expert weavers of Nagaland weave out some very exquisite products made with bamboo and cane and these items range from tables, chairs, baskets, trays, flower vase, souvenirs, etc. All this is a part of the celebrations of the Hornbill festival at the Kisama Heritage village and it was our lucky day today to be a part of these festivities of Nagaland. We took our seats at the balcony like structure built with wood and the place was filled with various spectators at the Hornbill festival. There is an announcement desk that keeps announcing of what is about to happen next and what is going on during the festivities as well. The performance of the tribes was about to begin and today we would witness the performance of the Sumi Naga tribes of Nagaland who would display their ancient war techniques at the festivities. Dressed up in their traditional attires the Sumi naga warriors came on the stage grounds to showcase their ancient art of warfare. Considered to be among the fiercest head hunting warriors the men came in holding machetes in their hand and showcased how they used to go out during the expeditions and fight the other Naga clans to win over the place. The entire demonstration is performed in the form of a warrior dance with the Sumi Naga warriors showing the audience the brisk movements of their warfare. A traditional warrior music is played on speakers across the venue grounds and the announcement desk keeps narrating of what exactly is being depicted.
The bright coloured costumes of the Sumi Naga warriors looked very elegant and the performance went on for about half an hour. After the performance the warriors bowed on the stage and took farewell from the audience. Up next at the Hornbill festival venue grounds of Kisama Heritage village was the demonstration of the Konyak naga tribes of Nagaland. I was not sure whether I would get the opportunity of witnessing the performance of the Konyak tribes of Nagaland at the Hornbill festival but somehow my luck favoured me and today their performance was scheduled. Revered to be the fiercest head hunting tribes of ancient Nagaland, the Konyak Nagas who are identified with the customary facial and body tattoos that were marked on their body once they won a battle against an enemy clan during their expeditions. The Konyak Naga warriors entered the performance stage and they were elaborately dressed in their traditional Naga attire and the elaborate head gears. The main attraction of this performance is the fire eating ritual that is performed by one of the Konyak Naga warriors. The other members of the group perform a warrior dance and depict the ancient practices of hunting and head hunting by the Konyak Naga warriors here at the Hornbill festival venue grounds of the Kisama Heritage village.
Since earlier, the Konyaks practice rubbing of charcoal on their teeth as they believe it helps to strengthen their teeth. The Konyak Naga warrior at the centre of the stage was demonstrating his skill of being able to chew pieces of burning charcoal that he was biting off the burning stick. It was a unique performance of seeing a human being able to endure such a practice because the firewood was literally burning and the Konyak naga warrior directly puts the burning stick into his mouth and chews off bits of the burning wood from the stick. The audience gave a round of applause to this act and next the Konyak naga warrior group demonstrated their warrior dance and warfare as the gathered into a huddle and later spread out to perform the warrior dance. During the head hunting days of the Konyak Nagas, after an expedition was over and the Konyak warriors came back to their local village in the present day Mon district of Nagaland, there used to be a huge celebration marking their victory and it was during this time that the Konyak naga warriors performed this dance ritual and it was being highlighted today here at the Hornbill festival at the Kisama Heritage village in Nagaland. The entire audience was left enthralled with the brisk movement of the Konyak naga warriors and the beating of the drums that allowed the warriors to move in sync with the tunes of the dance.
After the performance of the Konyak naga warriors at the Kisama Heritage village the session of the Hornbill festival was off to a break for a while and visitors had the opportunity to visit the Morungs now. The photography competition of the Hornbill festival viz. the HIPFEST was also going on but we decided to visit the Morungs and savour some rice beer and traditional food of the people of Nagaland and later come back by 1.30 to witness the performance of another tribes and later in the afternoon witness the King chilly eating contest here at the Hornbill festival venue ground at the Kisama Heritage village. We walked towards a Morung and we found the Lotha tribe Morung and thought this would be a good place to try out the food and Kaushik also had recommended that we visit the Morung of the Lotha tribes of Nagaland. It was a large bamboo house built on an elevated platform as this is a traditional home of the tribes of Nagaland who live in remote villages. North East India is prone to heavy rainfall during the monsoon season and the rain water often accumulates on the low lying areas and with the intensity of the rain this water logging almost becomes like an artificial pond submerging the houses of the local people. So to avoid the house being submerged on the rainwater, the Naga locals came up with the innovative idea of building their homes on elevated platforms using bamboo and bamboo being very versatile is used for the construction of the entire house.
Even when you come to the Hornbill festival venue ground you can see bamboo being used for the construction of various objects from guards that build up the frame and the platform where the audience sits, the use of bamboo is prominent at the Kisama Heritage village. Most of the Morungs you will see here are built with bamboo symbolizing the ancient art and craft of the Naga warriors. We went inside the Lotha tribe Morung and it resembled how the community meeting would be held. At the centre there is a place for fire and the young boys would sit around the fire where the adults encouraged them to learn about their ancient art and culture. This fire was now used to cook traditional Lotha tribe food. Various delicacies like smoked pork, barbecue chicken, dry fish, etc. were available for purchase here and the rice beer as well. We took our seats outside the Morung on a table that again was constructed using bamboo and even this place to sit was built with bamboo. We ordered for the smoked pork missed with green chilli, the dried fish chutney and the chicken barbecue along with rice beer at the Lotha Naga Morung.
They also served lunch of the delightful Naga thali in Lotha Naga style and I had seen them bring various green and leafy vegetables that would be boiled and made into a curry to be served with the thali. Our order arrived in sometime and we got down savouring the rice beer brewed in the Lotha naga style. The pork meat was smoked and roasted to perfection and the unique thing about the meat was that it was a home bred pig and not a farm raised. These home raised pigs have a very thin layer of fat and so you do not feel bloated after you consume the meat of this animal. Also as it was allowed to smoke for a decent duration the fats in the meat almost melted away so you are mostly left with the skin and the meat of the animal. Although I do not recommend the consumption of too much meat of any animal but once you are at the ‘Festival of Festivals – the Hornbill festival of Nagaland’ you are bound to try the local cuisine of the people of the state. Next was the dried fish and as the fish has a smell this is masked with the use of lots of garlic and ginger and the naga dhania that helps to remove the smell and you can savour the meat of the fish along with the chilly served along it. The rice beer was a little sweet as compared to others because of the variety of rice used. The chicken meat was a leg piece roasted and served with spicy chutney.
After enjoying our food we thought of taking a stroll around to digest the meal we had before we had our lunch and then head back again to the festival grounds of the Hornbill festival. This time we explored the art and crafts of the people of Nagaland and the naga shawls that has found itself in the World map mostly due to the exquisite craftsmanship of the hand were on display and my friends decided to buy a shawl for their loved ones to take back home. As we would be travelling in Kashik’s vehicle this time place was no longer a constraint and we could buy some souvenirs to take back home in our budget. The naga shawls are often black in colour and they have borders of bright colours and all hand woven with thread that too is weaved out by hand. These shawls are very thick and adequate to keep people warm in the harsh winters. My friends bought a shawl each and these are slightly expensive because it is totally handmade but with the durability, the product almost lasts a lifetime and for that price can be said to be much lower itself. There was another section of the Naga beaded jewellery that is another unique section of art and craft of Nagaland and the exquisite necklaces and earrings are hand crafted with these local beads of Nagaland. I purchased some of these to gift to my cousins back home and next we reached the Morung of the Angami Naga tribe and the place was filled with young Angami Naga boys and girls dressed in their traditional attire and welcoming people at the Morung.
The Angami Nagas had their performance at the venue grounds as well and so the group was getting ready for their performance. We went to the Morung and took our seats and ordered for a lunch of Naga thali and a special pork curry cooked with a lot of green vegetables and it was mostly a boiled dish. The thali contained rice, boiled dal, a greens boiled, a fry of certain local vegetables, spicy chutney, mashed potatoes and the pork curry. The flavours of the King chilly could be felt in our nostrils and the meal was very delicious sand the rice was a sticky rice variety that had a unique taste to it as well. After our lunch we went back to the venue grounds to witness the performance and also the Naga King chilly eating contest that was scheduled later in the afternoon. The Angami Naga boys and girls entered the demonstration area and they would be demonstrating the festivities they celebrate during the festival of Sekrenyi viz. their harvest festival and also the new year of the Angami people that is celebrated every year in the month of February.
The Angami Naga boys and girls were dressed in their traditional attire and the colours of their costumes looked very vibrant and they went around displaying how the festivities of the Sekrenyi festival are celebrated. Many of the Angami Nagas are mostly farmers and they own large agricultural lands that they farm and grow rice. Rice is considered to be a source of survival for the people of Nagaland and after a harvest season they mark it with large celebrations. The Sekrenyi is the New Year festival of the Angami Nagas and as a ritual they use water that is taken from the new rice harvest and pour it on themselves as an act to purify them from any sin they might have committed unknowingly the previous year. The Sekrenyi is a ten day long festival and it also marks the transformation of young naga boys and girls to adulthood. Various rituals are performed during this festival including the one that involves rebuilding of the house to spend another year braving the monsoons of North East India. The transformation to adulthood is marked with a lot of song and dance and feasting as well. The announcement of the PA system allowed the visitors to associate themselves with the acts being demonstrated by the Angami Naga youth and it was a very nicely depicted portrayal of the Angami naga festival of Sekrenyi.
With this the day’s performance of the tribes ended and people gathered to take part in the naga King Chilly eating contest. Now this was what something is to look out for at the Hornbill festival and how will people brave to eat this pepper (one of the hottest in the World) raw. They very aroma of these Naga King Chilly is enough to bring tears to a person’s eyes and I was only wondering how people who chew an entire chilly pod raw. From our lunch we had earlier in the afternoon the Naga King Chilly was added to the boiled vegetables and the curry itself turned out to be so spicy that we could hardly manage to complete eating a bowl of it and here we were ready to witness people eating the Naga King Chilly raw. The contest is not only limited to the local Naga people but anyone can participate from the audience as well at this Naga King chilly eating contest at the Hornbill festival. It was to note that eating the Naga King Chilly is one go and no breaks are allowed and no wonder only a few participants had signed up for this contest. The very look at the Naga King chilly is enough to scare the daylight of any person who is not used to eating this chilly because the chilly pod is plum and thick and the bright red colour clearly indicates the Scoville rating of this chilly is going to be maximum.
Also grown in parts of Assam, the Naga King Chilly is called as the Bhut Jolokia pepper in Assam and it has the same fiery taste to it. The hotness of this chilly is so strong that it is often smeared on the fences of the village homes to ward off wild elephants. The Bhut Jolokia or the Naga King Chilly is used as an active ingredient in the pepper spray and also in grenades to ward of unruly mobs with the tear gas that consists of it heat. The contestants gathered and the King Chillies were brought and the announcement to start the contest began. The first few contestants gave up after trying only one chilly and then few foreign tourists also tried but they couldn’t even finish half of the chilly. When you first chew on the Naga King Chilli pod you get a somewhat sweet taste and once you bite on it once it touches the proper taste bud of your tongue then you feel the heat in your mouth and your throat and nose starts to burn and you can feel the pain sensation raging through your head. Milk helps to pacify the heat but you cannot continue for long. Then came a naga youth and he looked very eager to try it and he successfully managed to eat five chillies at one go and was declared the winner of the contest at the end.
Though it is very spicy, the Naga King chilly has a lot of ingredients that are good for your body especially if you are suffering from any stomach ailments. With this the festivities ended for the day at the Hornbill festival at Kisama Heritage village and the Morung gates were opened for feasting and rice beer. While some tourists headed back to their hotels, homestays at Kohima we had a short walk to Camp Hornbill and we decided to try some more of rice beer and the Naga traditional food at the Morung at the Kisama heritage village. We went to the Ao Naga Morung and ordered for their rice beer and their way of pork that is smoked and turned into hot mashed chutney along with a chicken recipe as well. Many of the tourists joined us at the Morung and the rice beer kept on coming. This is a very good way for the local people to generate source of income because across the 10 days of the Hornbill festival with over 2.5 lakhs visitors the local naga people at the Morungs can make a decent income and not only them but the people associated with tourism in Nagaland as well. After this we started on our hike back to Camp Hornbill thereby ending our day at the Hornbill festival at Kisama Heritage village.
By the time we reached Camp Hornbill it was dark and preparations for the evening bonfire was on and as today was the second last night for a year long wait to start Camp Hornbill again for visitors to the Hornbill festival, the team had taken a lot of trouble to prepare for dinner and the barbecue. Everyone was looking forward for the closing ceremony of Hornbill festival tomorrow evening at the Kisama Heritage village and to bid adieu to the once in a lifetime experience of witnessing the ‘Festival of Festivals – the Hornbill festival of Nagaland’. We went to freshen up after a long day of witnessing the festivities of the Hornbill festival at the Kisama Heritage village and as it was the winter season a lot of dust accumulated around these open spaces due to the lack of rain and as it is always better to cleanse your body for this dirt even if it is very cold to have a shower just wipe of your body and ensure to dust your hair for a sound sleep. The bonfire was ready and the meat pieces were being put up on skewers and getting ready to be roasted over the fire. Today we had a lot of meat and fish and rice beer as well at the Hornbill Festival venue grounds at the Kisama Heritage village so we were not so eager to eat more of the barbecue yet Kaushik called us to accompany a group of people who were spending time by the campfire and they were a biker group who would be leaving early tomorrow morning to go back to Guwahati.
Adventure riding on bikes is gradually catching up across North East India and many biker groups go out on expeditions especially during the festival time where they cover across various states and witness the festivals on their bikes camping across the places. At the Hornbill festival they had chosen to stay at Camp Hornbill and it was a pleasure hosting them and learning that people are appreciating the entire beauty of North East India and not limiting their visit at the main tourist’s places only. I went to the kitchen to oversee the dinner preparations and today the boys were preparing a Chinese menu with various delicacies like veg fried rice, veg noodles, pork chilly, chicken Manchurian, paneer in sauce, salad, pickle, vegetables stir fry, etc. The boys at Camp Hornbill are indeed very hard working and they ensure to rake every step to make your stay at Camp Hornbill a memorable one. At the bonfire another session of rice beer followed and visitors were enjoying their second last day of stay at Camp Hornbill and also at the Hornbill festival with the barbecue going on and the meat being removed from the skewers and put on plates of the campers.
Dinner was served at 7.30 PM today evening and Kaushik went about requesting the guests to finish their dinner and later continue to spend time by the bonfire and the guests obliged. I was too full from all the food at the Kisama Heritage village and so I took time to serve the guests at the buffet dinner area so as to take time to build my appetite and ensured not to eat too much food at the venue grounds tomorrow. The guests at Camp Hornbill were all in praise of the quality and taste of the food and they thanked the kitchen staff and Kaushik as well while making their stay at Camp Hornbill a very memorable one indeed. With this I took my dinner with the kitchen staff and I spoke to the boys who belonged to the nearby villages of Kigwema and who came to join hands with Kaushik and Adole every year during the Hornbill festival to setup and look after the operations at Camp Hornbill. Now with the homestay setup ready as well, two of the boys would stay here permanently attending to the needs to the guests who will come here and enjoy their stay in Nagaland during their visit. Camp Hornbill offers amazing views and if you are travelling in a small group then it is a must visit place to enjoy in the lap of nature and later head on to the top of the mountains of Dzukou valley.
After dinner while the boys got to cleaning and preparing for another day (the finale) of Camp Hornbill for the year 2017 of the Hornbill festival. I headed to the bonfire to join the guests who were now playing the tunes of the guitar and singing to some old classic rock, country, Assamese and naga songs as well. Hornbill festival is a festival of emotions as you see a blend of the ancient and the modern worlds. While the naga warrior tribes display their valour and ancient rituals and traditions, the modern naga youth display various other talents from music, fashion, art, food, etc. It is a time to live in tune with the bounties of Mother Nature all around you and thank God for the gifts of evolution and what better than to do these then choose the language that connects the world – Music. The session lasted for another hour and with the people tired after a long day and intoxicated with the rice beer as well everyone went back to change and retire to their tents to prepare for the final day of the Hornbill festival of Nagaland. The next morning everyone was super excited to witness the grand closing ceremony of the Hornbill festival that would be graced by several dignitaries and also a final performance of all the Naga tribe troops that would mark the end of the Hornbill festival after a 10 day long festivity.
Everyone got ready and breakfast was served at the Camp Hornbill buffet area with pasta, maggi, bread toast, butter/jam, scrambled eggs, tea, coffee, etc. After breakfast we headed ton our hike to the Kisama Heritage village to witness the festivities and the guest registration had started and today as well there was a decent crowd with more number of locals expected to gather in the evening to mark the festival ending. We took our seats and the performances began with the Yimchunger Nagas performing their art and culture and demonstrating the age old practices in the form of a warrior dance and play. The bright coloured attires and shawls worn by the Yimchunger Naga men and women were indeed a treat to be witnessed here at the Hornbill festival at Kisama Heritage village. Primarily a tribe following agriculture as their profession most of their hymns and songs are associated with the agricultural practices and crafts. There was an extensive use of log drums, trumpets; flutes that were playing on the PA system and the warrior Nagas were enacting their art at the stage.
What is attractive about the attire of the Yimchunger naga is their headgear that is made out of cane and painted in bright colours. Along with the headgear they wear a wide range of ornaments that are also made with hands. The Yimchunger Nagas also demonstrated their yearly festival of harvest – the Metemneo festival that they celebrate after the harvest of millet crop in the month of August. It was a sensational performance and the audience loved it and everyone was eagerly waiting for the final cultural performance of the Naga tribal groups that would mark the end of the Hornbill festival. After the performance there was a pork fat eating contest and we gathered to witness this ritual that is another attraction of the Hornbill festival. The pig fat is very heavy part of the meat and your stomach starts feeling heavy just after eating three or four pieces of this meat and to be able to participate in a contest that involves eating more of this fat one has to have a strong digestive system to be able to process this fat pieces. The contest was delight to witness with only a few people being able to eat more than ten pieces of meat. The winner was a local Naga person who had a protruding belly and looking at him one could say that he was huge enough to be able to digest the fat pieces.
After witnessing this contest we headed to another Morung and today the Konyak Morung was open and we eagerly went to taste the rice beer and food of the fierce Konyak Naga warriors of Nagaland at the Hornbill Festival at Kisama Heritage village. From all the stories one reads and hears about the Konyak Nagas and their fierce war tactics during headhunting one can imagine the Konyak Nagas to be very arrogant and hard to talk to but when you meet them in person you will find them to be very hospitable and polite spoken people in Nagaland. This might be because the Morung here was run by youth and with the spread of education among the community, the Konyak people have realized the potential of tourism and the revenue generation and hence they do their best to extend utmost hospitality to their tourists. We went in the Morung and checked out the Konyak way of cooking and here bamboo shoot was an important ingredient used in their cooking and the pork they served here was smoked pork cooked with bamboo shoot. A special chicken curry was being prepared as well and we would eat that with our lunch. The food arrived along with the rice beer and this rice beer too had a different taste from the others we had till now.
It was interesting to realize how a simple ingredient like rice can be used to brew so many different varieties of rice beer and not only beer, rice is an active ingredient across several other local drinks across North East India because in Assam rice is used to brew rice beer, rice wine and even rice whiskey as well. And the rice whiskey that is brewed comes with an alcohol content of 25% and just two glasses of this is enough to get a strong healthy man highly intoxicated. We savoured the smoked pork and the bamboo shoot added to it gave a unique flavour to the meat and it was cooked to perfection. Our lunch had rice, chicken curry and a vegetable broth and the meal was utmost delicious with the various natural ingredients added to the meal. After lunch there was a competition where the contestant had to climb a pole that was rubbed with pork fat and it was a difficult one to attempt because the fat did not allow you to get a good grasp on the pole and the contestant kept slipping done. One winner emerged and he was strong enough to climb to the top of the pole. It was now that the various dignitaries started to come in and they were being welcomed with the announcement over the PA system.
The final dance performance of the Naga tribes at the closing ceremony was approaching and we could see the troops gathering at the stage area to take their places and align themselves with the other groups to set the stage on fire. The performance began and the crowd that had now grown in size with the locals joining in started to cheer and the tribes started performing and enacting their warrior dances. The demonstration even showed how the warriors went in and attacked other villages reliving their times of headhunting. The performance was enthralling and everyone gave the troops a standing ovation. The Hornbill festival concluded with a speech from the dignitaries and huge bonfires were burnt where the Naga warriors performed their final warrior dance and everyone was seen congratulation each other for some being a part of the festivities of the Hornbill festival and to some organizing this mammoth event successfully. The Morung gates were thrown open again and the visitors started to visit these Morungs and enjoy the final evening of the Hornbill festival with food and rice beer to celebrate the successful completion of the Festival of Festivals and also the year long wait for the next edition of the Hornbill festival. Kaushik called us and asked us to come over quickly to help him with the packing as we would be leaving early morning to Guwahati tomorrow and we took a chance to visit one of the Morungs to celebrate with one last round of rice beer and later head back to Camp Hornbill as who knows when we would get the opportunity to witness the Hornbill festival again.
We ordered rice beer and chicken and quickly finished savouring it and headed on our walk back to Camp Hornbill bidding farewell to the Hornbill festival venue grounds at the Kisama Heritage village. The celebrations were great and now it was the job of the great staff here to get the premises clean and keep the things in order to be used again for the festivities of the Hornbill festival the next year. At Camp Hornbill, the final dinner preparations we one and as many guests had opted to leave today morning and afternoon on their onward journey not many were left at the premises packing up seemed much easier. Dinner preparations too were not very elaborate and the meal had rice, dal, paneer matar, chicken curry, salad and pickle. The boys were mostly helping Kaushik to wrap up the tents and only the necessary things needed to attend to the needs to the guests were kept for their convenience. Adole stays at the village nearby and so he takes the responsibility of cleaning up after the festival days and to keep the things in place for next year use at Camp Hornbill for the Hornbill festival.
We sat by the bonfire after the things were done and Kaushik told us that we would need to leave early tomorrow morning as the drive to Guwahati would take us about 12 hours from Kohima keeping in mind the road conditions and traffic in Dimapur and we agreed to start at 6 AM in the morning and then leave early from Camp Hornbill. Kaushik and Adole sat down with the accounts and we savoured some rum and barbecue to mark our end of the festivities of the annual Hornbill festival of Nagaland. We had our dinner and retired to our tents to get up early tomorrow. We started from Camp Hornbill at 6.30 AM as Kaushik had some last minute calculations to be done and we started on our drive bidding farewell to everyone at Camp Hornbill. Our moment of witnessing the Hornbill festival had come to an end and we bid farewell to Kohima to continue to Dimapur. Kaushik discussed with me as to how he could get a footprint on the internet to attract more guests to Camp Hornbill and I agreed to build a website for him where I would send more guests to Camp Hornbill. We drove and reached Guwahati at 7 PM thereby ending our much awaited visit to the Festival of Festivals – the Hornbill festival of Nagaland!