Unfazed by thousands of cameras thrust at them, members of 16 tribes in Nagaland have spent the last week performing their traditional dances, offering tourists a taste of their distinctive cuisine and dazzled the nearly 1 lakh visitors at the Hornbill Festival with glimpses of their unique lifestyle. This year, the festival is on till December 10.
The daily cultural performances by the Konyaks, Angamis, Lothas, Aos, Zeilangs, Chakhesangs and others, included displays of sacrificial rituals, farewell songs, war dances, fire-making rituals and more. For those inclined to delve a little deeper into Naga art, the state’s Department of Art and Culture has set up an Artists Corner to facilitate dialogues between the artists and visitors, where apart from art work for sale, there are demonstrations as well as archival photos.
In a shaded bamboo pavilion is the crafts section where Angami tribal shawls with animal patterns, jewellery made of beads and bones, the black pottery by the Phom tribe, thousands of bamboo products, and traditional hunting gear including knives and spears are on sale.
There is also a World War II Museum that houses relics from the 1944 battle of Kohima, which first put Nagaland on the global map. Other events around the festival included a photo festival, a run and a peace rally.
A pineapple eating contest ended in peals of laughter, while a Naga Chilli eating contest is coming up.
But the real action is in the morungs, replicas of the traditional dormitories for young tribesmen. Dotting the hillside of the Kisama Heritage Village, the location of the Hornbill Festival each year, are these hubs of warmth, food and easy camaraderie where visitors can seek out a Naga meal with sticky rice, smoked pork and pickled bamboo shoots, each morung offering its own varieties of meat and spices and zutho, their fermented rice beer.
As temperatures dip with sundown by 4.30 pm, visitors huddle around the coal and wood fires in the morungs, tall bamboo tumblers of beer in hand, as musicians start tuning up for the evening performance at the amphitheatre.