An annual jamboree that sweeps the whole of Nagaland every December for 10 days is the Hornbill Festival. Hosted at the Kisama Heritage Village, on the outskirts of Kohima, it brings together the culture variety of the tribes of Nagaland. The festival hosts almost 16 tribes of Nagaland along with thousands of visitors, who come to watch the grand tribal spectacle unfold in a mesmeric array of activities.

One of the largest gatherings in the state, the festival sees a sea of tribal community members dressed in red and black hues, coronets, beads, cowries and kilts. Though from a distance they all look the same, at a closer look, one can distinguish the distinct features of each tribal ensemble. While the  Sema Nagas don a necklet, called aminihu, that consists of pairs of boar tusks strung together with strings of cane, the Angami wear a precious necklace, called tsubo, which is made of multi-hued glass pieces and bone spacers and pearls engraved with geometrical patterns. In fact, patterns, motifs and colours on shawls and skirts, which differ from tribe to tribe, also tell stories of their history, valour and traditions. They can also be indicators of accomplishments or marital status. Some of the most fascinating performances are the stunning show of the headhunting rituals of Konyaks of Mon, the elegant dance moves of Ao women of Mokokchung, the longest daos (swords with wooden hilts) of Changs from Tuensang, the single-stringed musical instrument (tati) of Chakhesang Nagas of Phek and Angami Nagas of Kohima - made of dried bottle gourd - and the artistic dance of Zeliangs.

A perfect balance between art, history and culture, the extravaganza features extraordinarily beautiful objects displaying the tribes’ history. The performances that complement these are works of art in motion. While what might have been wars in ancient times, are recreated as mock-fight dramas and are huge crowd pullers. With war log drums, blazing shotguns, backswords with bevels (dha), dao and spears, performers stage full-blown mock fights, dressed in warrior costumes. The shape, pattern and carvings on traditional Naga weapons differ from tribe to tribe. Most of the performances are accompanied by live music and rhythmic war cries.

Organised by the Government of Nagaland to promote cultural heritage and encourage inter-tribal interactions, the Hornbill Festival is the best way to experience the rich culture of the state. Some of the highlights of the festival are the traditional Naga Morung exhibitions, flower shows, herbal medicine stalls, fashion shows, Naga wrestling, indigenous games and musical concerts, among others. 

Other Attractions in Kohima