Home » Archives

And the Hornbill takes off

Waiting for the action, the inauguration

The bull and the bolero became one. Colour charged the air. You could touch the permeating pride. The fine film of dust that hung about added to the surrealism of a whole culture played out over centuries compacted and capsulated in the confines of a fair ground. Each of the 16 tribes gathered from all over Nagaland put their best foot forward – with a war cry. Strings of tatiphe, the wordless houtho songs of the Angamis and the engrossing mooung songs by the elderly Changs…the first day of the Hornbill Festival featured enough teasers to ensure you hung around for more.

Singing and dancing

The Nagami says that the Hornbill Festival is a show of solidarity among the tribes. But what they don’t know – or say – is that it is also a show of what we are losing, or already lost. This explains the intense media glare – almost every third non-Naga here is a writer or a journalist, a crew member or a blogger. Neither strange nor funny is that not many know that the day also marks the beginning of Nagaland as the 16th state of India.

Warriors, warriors

“Oh yeah? That’s really nice.” Somebody said when I told her.
“Nagaland? Oh yeah, we are in Nagaland, right?” Another one said. As an apology he added he was Polish.
The Nyalipu or Fish Dance of Konyaks, the Bai-Bin or the post-harvest folk dance of Dimasa, the Kuki’s Sagol Pheikai dance imitating the movements of the wild boar and the hornbill dance of Aos, the arena erupted to yells and yodels pregnant with narration. The enthralling display of sinewy stomping over, the tribes retreated to their respective morungs or huts to much-needed bamboo mugs of rice beer.

Action shifts to the morungs

The rhythmic rampage was to continue albeit on a smaller, more informal scale. Newly oiled hunting guns fired empty rounds in the air – their startle effect creating much merriment among tribe and tourist. The ceremonies of the first day held everybody in awe and left different impressions on different people. Dr Sabine from Frankfurt went to an Ao stall and purchased their typical red and black striped shawl; the remainder of the day she went around proclaiming her love for the tribe and her desire to settle in Nagaland. Sister Katini from Manipur was trying hard not to sway to the drumbeats throbbing out of the morungs.

Sister Katini is a Naga from Manipur

“I am basically a Naga but the state division made me a Manipuri. When I come for the Hornbill, it is basically a homecoming for me,” the sister said starting to sing along.
Music and dance continued with gusto well into late afternoon. Pork was the staple that kept every limb moving. And the rice beer ensured there was no dearth of laughter and camaraderie. New friendships were formed, coordinates exchanged as were promises to keep in touch. Blame the ferment.

Wanderink recommends: Prefer homestays when visiting festivals as ethnic as the Hornbill – that way you enhance the experience no end. A word of caution for those new to the scene: Treat homestays like you were in your own home: don’t order around, fetch your tea yourself from the kitchen. Always be graceful and don’t be stingy with smiles and ‘thank you’.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.