Waking up early with the alarm clock and be ready for the same monotonous routine. Suddenly, our minds came across a thought that why not an attempt to ditch the usual hustle bustle city life and be an escapist for sometime. So, we alongwith our friends planned for a short trip. Despite being a travel enthusiast, sometimes out of life’s obligations you need to be hushed up right. Our idea to take a break was not a new one. Sometimes, you really, truly need to float free for a while. But now the question arises, “Where to go?” Let’s pack our bags for the most enchanting and grandeur festival of the Northeast, ‘The Hornbill Festival’ which is now an international eye-arresting event organised by the State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments of Nagaland. So, finally it was confirmed that we were heading to Kohima. The day we confirmed our tickets for the festival and got our ILPs done, my happiness knew no bounds. On 3rd December 2016, our wait was finally over. Me and my husband’s next key was to pack smart. Accordingly, we made a checklist as we were about to leave for the hills. But no matter how much we stuff ourselves with woolens, the most important thing we need to carry is our medicines which is a very smart move yet mandatory for a traveller. Okay, fine everything is ready. Both of us would travel from Dibrugarh and the rest of our friends would leave from Guwahati Station. And at Dimapur Station, there would be a common point to meet up and leave for Kohima together. Our train for Dimapur was at 11.30 pm and then from Dimapur we would book a local taxi for Kohima. That was our plan. But all the plans turned out to be a disaster at that moment because of the sudden delay of our train which played a spoilsport to our journey. The train which was supposed to depart from Dibrugarh Station (Assam) departed at 5.30 am, the following day. We spent the night at the waiting room. I didn’t close my eyes for a second out of desperation waiting for the train to depart. The clock struck 5.20 am, and the railway authority gave an announcement of the departure of the train (ufff). What a relief! We were finally on the train. And there I felt so sleepy that I struggled to raise my eyelids still heavy with sleep. So, I gave a power nap. By 12 pm, we reached Dimapur followed by extreme hunger cues. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any proper place or hotel to fend off our hunger. Somehow, we noticed a small food joint nearby and there we took our lunch. Though not satisfying because of its poor quality of food and cost but okay for the time being. Now, the next plan was to book a ticket for a local taxi which would take us to Kohima. Meanwhile, we saw a long queue at the ticket counter and on enquiry, we came to know that we have to travel on shared taxis as taxis are not available due to the heavy/huge rush of the visitors for the Hornbill festival. And I was like why I choose to come over here. ‘O’ God! Already we were exhausted by the delays of journey/train and now the ticket boy asked us to wait for another two hours. It was so depressing. To be honest, Dimapur didn’t offer much beyond a dusty city with broken roads all around. But, being a commercial hub, the rush was all around. All our enthusiasm and energy for the event disappeared. By 2.30 pm, we were moving towards Kohima finally which is 70 km of road distance. And am just telling you traveling through shared taxis and that too on a poor road which was under construction turned out to be a nightmare. Besides, the horrible and pathetic road condition, the only surreal view was the rugged hills which was definitely a photographer’s delight (smile). By 7 pm, we reached Kohima and checked into our hotel which had been booked 3 months earlier prior to the festival. As it was already dark, obviously we just could not go for strolling or sightseeing. So, better go for the night bazar where many other activities kept the nights alive.
Our next stop was the Khonoma Village, which is 12 kms away from Kohima; where this famous and grandeur ten days carnival takes place every year. After reaching the main entrance of the Hornbill festival, it was an inexplicable feeling and we were so amazed by the affable behaviour of the Nagas.
Everywhere we could see the headgears of the Nagas, their weapons, multi-coloured spears, ivory armlets which stole our minds. It was a melange of cultural displays by 16 major tribes of Nagaland under one roof. It was a huge gathering for merrimaking and celebrating the brave deeds or works of their ancient warriors and heroes in the form of food, drinks, folk songs and traditional dances.
We found that each tribe has got its unique way of promoting their culture. We got to see morungs of the Nagas. Inside the Morungs, people had food stalls where they served their local cuisines. It was a good opportunity for the food lovers or foodies to experience the less oily steamed or boiled chilly smoky food alongwith fried fish placed on a bamboo tray and the dipping juice of the meat alongwith brown rice. We dedicated our entire day strolling and exploring the village. Though tiresome, the festival made it up for us. With different stalls offering “Zothu” and ” Thutse”, there were many other different stalls for showcasing their cultural and tribal festivities. For visitors, it means a closer understanding of the people and diverse culture of Nagaland. Besides, these traditional games and other traditional Competitions were also displayed. During our expedition, we met a group of young Naga girls and an old Angami Naga man and got the opportunity to take a picture with them.
Other than this, we witnessed the war museum, a massive horticulture display and much more. We explored every shop thereby and bought unique antique collections of handmade art-crafts and legendary paintings. All these stalls closed by in the evening at 6 pm but that didn’t limit the show; there were many other eccentric contests and activities organised as King Chilly Eating Contest, Pork Eating Contest, Fashion Shows, etc. But this time, we could not stay for long as it would take an ample amount of time to give a picture of all the events that was happening simultaneously. So, with bagful of memories for a lifetime and a promise to revisit this colourful and enticing festival and that too for a longer period, we returned to our hotel by 7.30 pm. We had our dinner by 10 pm and went to bed early. The next day, we checked out early in the morning at 8.30 am for Dimapur and from there we boarded the trains for our respective destinations. (Photo Credits to Arpandeep Saikia, our travelmate)