Here Are Some of the Most Alluring Festivals Celebrated in Nagaland -
1. Hornbill Festival
Borrowing its name from the State Bird of Nagaland, that is the Hornbill, this festival is meant to celebrate the spirit and the cultural diverseness of the state. The Hornbill Festival is also called the 'festival of festivals', because of its grandness and festive charm. The festival was first organised by the Government of Nagaland in the year 2000 to encourage inter-tribal interactions. Since then it has been held for seven days from December 1 to December 7 every year. The festival is held at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama, a town 12 kilometres ahead from the capital city of Kohima.The main highlights of this extravaganza celebration of culture include regional delicacies, ethnic dance performances, sales of tribal artworks ( paintings, sculptures and wooden carvings), games and religious ceremonies. This seemingly cultural jamboree also has as its part The Hornbill International Rock Festival where numerous artists from across the country and outside India perform. This festival has something for everyone in its bosom, from culture explorers to the urbanite blood.
2. Aoleng Festival
Celebrated by the Konyak Naga tribe in Mon district of Nagaland, the Aoleng festival is celebrated during the first week of April every year. Rooted in agrarian beliefs, the Aoling or Aoleng festival marks the onset of the spring season. The Konyak Naga tribe is famous for its headhunting practice and is spread over a vast region of Mon and even Myanmar. The month of April also marks the new year according to the Konyak calendar. Hence, the Aoling festival is actually a double celebration of the new year and the arrival of spring.
Immensely religious as this tribe is, its starts celebration with sacrifices and religious rites with a profound belief that the gods will bless the land with great harvests. These are followed by feasts, dances and music. The first three days are devoted to preparations. In these three days, new clothes are woven, the food and traditional beer is prepared and beer and animals are chosen for the sacrifice. The fourth day is the most significant. Tribal people dress up in their best clothes and jewellery and perform folk dances. For anyone who wants to witness Konyak culture, visit the district on the fourth day and it will be all worth it. The last two days are devoted to cleaning the houses as well as the village area.
3. Sekrenyi Festival
Sekrenyi meaning ‘sanctification festival’ is a ten-day long festival observed by the Angami Nagas. Locally the festival is known by the name ‘Phounsanyi’ and is celebrated around February 25. The festival is of great spiritual importance as it aims at cleansing the soul and the body off of all the sins. Sekrenyi festival is linked with agricultural practices and with the initiation of ‘adulthood’ for the young members of society. The celebration lasts for about ten to fifteen days.
On the first day, the older men and women sprinkle holy water on themselves and purify themselves. Similarly, on the second day, adolescent men sprinkle the sacred water followed by sacrificing a cock. On the fourth day, all the young people, with their heads shaven, gather at one place and sing and dance with men dressed in their traditional attire holding spades and swords and womenfolk holding baskets. The fourth day is also the new year for the tribe. On the seventh day, young men set out for hunting, and as all these festivities come to an end, the people gradually get back to their fields and daily lives. The belief is that one must not cultivate or harvest the fields until he or she has cleansed himself.
4. Moatsii Mong
Locally known as Moatsu, the festival is observed by the Ao people and is linked to agricultural practices. Unlike other festivals, this one is celebrated after cleaning the field and sowing of seeds. It is a three-day long festivity observed in the first week of May. This is the merriest time of the year for the Ao people. They light a fire called sangpangtu, and the men and women sit around it dressed in their best of their attires, as women serve wine and meat to everyone. The festivity is marked by exuberant songs and dances.
Other rituals involve prayers and expressing gratitude to the forests and their ancestors. Young people come forward and tell funny stories, and incidents about their elders and everybody cracks up in unbridled fits of laughter. This extremely rejoicing session of storytelling ends with a tug of war game between the men and the womenfolk, in which the womenfolk always win. The men say that their womenfolk’s beauty is so enchanting that they get absorbed in it and forget about the play.
5. Mim Kut Festival
Celebrated in various parts of Nagaland as well as Mizoram, Mim Kut is a harvest festival observed by the Kuki Nagas. The festival is celebrated following the successful harvesting of the last crop of the season, that is Maize called Mim in the local language. The belief is that the departed souls come and visit their families during the festival to bless them. In honour of these deceased ancestors, the people prepare rice wine, homemade bread, fresh vegetables and even handmade jewellery.
The festival is observed in late December every year and lasts for two days. The main attractions of the celebration are the rejoicing dance performances on the pulsating music of large traditional drums, longhorns and other elegant instruments performed by the locals dressed in the most exquisite if their cultural attires. Numerous games, contests, fairs and food stalls are organized to keep the spirit of festivity going.
6. Bushu Dima
Bushu Dima is one extravagant festival observed by the Dimasa tribe on the completion of the January harvest. The celebration begins with offering the yield of the paddy fields to the Supreme God by the name Brai Sibrai Madai preceded by erecting an elegantly designed gate at the entrance of the village called Phangsla. A Gajaibao is appointed to supervise the ordeals of the festival which also includes looking after the adequate supply of meats of animals and birds that are to be consumed on the day of the great community feast.
Tribal men sing songs on the beats of drums traditionally known as Kharam. The first night of the celebration is spent dancing and feasting in their traditional attires. The second day is all about sports and games. Games like long jump, high jump and stone throw are organized. The last day of the celebration marks the welcoming the guests with bugles and drums. It is the most important festival for Dimasa as the joy is taken as a reward for their hard toil in the fields of paddy.