I was floored by the cuteness of the really small Dimapur airport which is the closest airport to Kohima and Kohima is where one mostly bases oneself as a visitor to the Hornbill Festival that takes place annually. The 60 km road journey to Kohima can take anywhere between 3-5 hours, not because of the winding, dual-carriageway highway but because of the very bad road condition 😦
The Hornbill festival village is about 10-12km away from Kohima in a place called Kisama. Traffic jams are common during the festival and can take over an hour in each direction. So bear that in mind when you plan to head out to the village or else you might miss the show you had earmarked to watch.
The festival village is quite large and spread out. There are different sections for exhibitions and cultural shows. There is a large arena where on a given day a set number of tribes put up dance shows at fixed times and on some other days traditional sporting events take place.
The dancers are ready!
The Show begins!!
Get a hold of the festival itinerary and study the daily show schedules. That way you know what to expect and you can choose what you wish to witness, be it dance, music, or sports.
In the festival village you will find many large and fairly grand ‘huts’. These are MORUNGS. Typically in a tribal village, a Morung was a school for the boys where they learnt the ways of the tribe. In the Festival Village, morungs are venues that are used to showcase the dance, exhibit the food, clothing, and give a sneak peek into the daily life of the various tribes.
Inside a morung
Food & Rice Beer! Take note of the bamboo glass for the beer!
There are some activities that are held in Kohima too which are supposed to be fun and entertaining in equal measure.
The North East is famous for its Rock Music and Rock Shows take place in the evenings, in Kohima and in Dimapur.
Spend atleast two full days at the hornbill festival to be able to witness all that it has to offer. Lots of shopping in the handicrafts bazaar, for exquisite bamboo baskets, handmade traditional clothing, food items like pickle. Cash is king, credit cards are rarely accepted.
The night market in Kohima that is on during the festival is interesting if you are a foodie. Lots of local food to try out.
While in Kohima, do make time to visit the Museum and the War Cemetery. Do bear in mind that the Museum is closed on Sundays and the War cemetery is open only till 3.30pm on winter.
Get up close and personal with the members of the Angami Tribe in the Tribal Village at Khonoma. The two hour guided tour gives a beautiful insight into the tribe’s original way of life. Khonoma is about 20kms from Kohima. About 3000 people live in the village. The village has grown beyond the original boundaries. There are about 540 houses with 4 sources of water. Cell phone towers are everywhere and you get the strongest cellular signal here! Houses here and in Kohima are made of tin sheets. Garlic and paddy are alternatively grown in the terraced fields. Mithun (an animal that belongs to the bovine family) is domesticated. They are found in the wild too. People own about 2 or 3 or 5 mithuns. They fetch a good price in the market. A one-year old mithun costs about INR 15000 while a 4-5 year old costs INR 60000. Mithuns apparently like salt!
My general observations about the trip:
I saw more than an usual number of AIDS awareness signboards.
I also saw many waste segregation hoardings and campaign boards. Despite that plastic bags and polypropylene bags were still used.
There are so many pan shops!! Literally every 10-50 m you see one. They sell pan, and also gutka, cigarettes, beedis, and other small value items.
Saw some funny but well-meaning road signs:
1) If you put your arm too much out of the vehicle it may go in another one.
2) This is a highway not a runway.
Remember – to get your ILP before you visit. On the way from Dimapur to Kohima, the ILP is checked and verified at the Chumukedima checkpost.