Hornbill Festival 2023: Redefining Local Cooperation and Global Integration

Dinesh Sharma
Siliguri, West Bengal

The 2023 edition of Hornbill Festival has set a new benchmark in ‘Festival Tourism’ with its incessant focus on integration and cooperation. With US, Germany and Colombia joining the festival as ‘Country Partners’ and Assam as the official ‘State Partner’, the 2023 edition of the festival has a testimony of the State’s Government’s focus on promoting the festival at the global scale. This year, the Hornbill festival will also have musicians from Bolivia, Korea, Germany, and Israel performing at the festival apart from the local artistes.

The Hornbill Festival is Nagaland state’s Flagship Festival, allowing tourists and visitors to peek into the mystic Naga culture and lifestyle from close quarters. Beginning with the celebration of Nagaland Statehood Day on 1st of December, the festival held annually from December 1st to 10th, the ten-days extravaganza brings together different tribes and sub-tribes of Nagaland under one umbrella.

Uniting Communities and Tribes of Nagaland 
Nagaland is home to over 17 tribes and sub-tribes, making it one of the most culturally diverse states of the country. Festivals and kinship is one of the most important aspects of the Naga traditions as it brings together the community together. Owing to the number of festivals that each tribe celebrates, Nagaland is also called as the ‘Land of Festivals’ because festivals never end in the state.

Communities and tribes of Nagaland serve as the custodians of their rich cultural heritage, passing down traditions, customs, and art forms through generations. They play an indispensable role in the success of the Hornbill Festival, serving as the lifeblood of this vibrant cultural celebration. 

The deep-rooted connection of the Naga people to their ancestral practices ensures that the Hornbill Festival remains true to its roots. All Naga tribes participate in various events, from traditional dance performances to musical performances, culinary displays, and handicrafts exhibitions. Their involvement infuses the festival with energy, authenticity, and a sense of shared celebration.

The Hornbill Festival allows a platform and space for all tribes and communities to display their rich cultural heritage, and the camaraderie during the 10-days transcends internal differences and every tribe strongly comes out to support the festival.

Hornbill festival is also called the 'festival of festivals' as it brings together of all the tribes of Nagaland to showcase their culture and traditions, and marks the culmination of all tribal festivals throughout the year. Within Nagaland, the Hornbill Festival is that time of the year when all communities and tribes unite to celebrate the rich diversity of Nagaland and take pride in Naga identity and culture.

Preserving the Naga Culture
The festival has been instrumental in preserving and promoting Naga culture and way of life and generating interest among younger generations. Different Naga tribes showcase their traditional dances, customs, music, attire, and storytelling. 

The festival showcases traditional Naga crafts, such as weaving, pottery and wood carving. Skilled artisans display their products and expertise, allowing the younger generations to become familiar with the crafts and heritage of their ancestor. 

Every Naga tribe gets a chance to share their culinary traditions, offering visitors a taste of authentic Naga cuisine and fostering cultural exchange. From varieties of rice wine to smoked meats and fermented delicacies, aromatic curries and fresh local produce, the Hornbill festival is a culinary delight and stands testament to Naga ingenuity and hospitality.

Being Local, Thinking Global the Hornbill Festival is a vibrant celebration of the state's rich cultural heritage and diverse Naga tribal communities. But it's not just a local event; it's also a shining example of national integration in India.

Over the years, the Hornbill festival has evolved as a symbol of the state's unity, showcasing the diverse cultures, traditions, and customs of not just the Naga people, but from cultures across the Northeast region. The festival serves as a bridge between different regions of the country, promoting national integration and collaboration.

The Hornbill Festival has played a tremendous role in opening up Nagaland to tourists, visitors and breaking the shackles of militancy that hindered the state’s growth and development for many decades. The 2023 Hornbill Festival is expected to cross 2 Lakh visitors making it one of the most popular events in the entire Northeast.

The Government of Nagaland has played a crucial role in promoting the Hornbill festival and transforming it into a world-class cultural extravaganza. The government has made huge investments in developing the infrastructure for the festival, including the Naga Heritage Village, ‘Kisama’, a specially constructed site that showcases Naga architecture and serves as the festival's primary venue. From funding for venue setup to event management, logistics, artist fees, and promotional activities, the state Government has continuously supported the festival.

This year, the festival is also exhibiting the State animal Mithun and native pig variety called Tenyi Vo. Nagaland Beekeeping and Honey Mission is launching to promote Nagaland’s rich beekeeping tradition and unique practices.  With an economic impact of over 100 crore, the State Government is also using the Hornbill Festival to promote local handloom & handicrafts, artworks, Agri & allied, horticulture produces, films, photo fest, night Carnivals, heritage walk, kids carnival, sports fest and many more. The festival is also extended to locations like Khezhakeno, Zunheboto, Doyang, and Peren where various tourism activities are being held simultaneously.

The government has also invested in improving roads, airports, and other facilities to accommodate the growing number of tourists, which has not only boosted tourism but also facilitated economic growth and development in the state.

As one of the most prestigious music festivals of India, the Hornbill Music Festival attracts musicians and music lover from across the globe. In the past editions, delegations from China, Japan, and South Korea have also participated and the festival is featured in international media such as BBC and New York Times.

The festival is also a shining example of National Integration as it fosters cultural understanding and a sense of belonging and integration, and cultural understanding between people. Business meetings, workshops, seminars, and cultural performances are organized during the festival encouraging dialogue and exchange of ideas between people. It demonstrates the power of cultural celebration and a tool for national integration. It serves as a model for other communities in India and around the world, showcasing the potential of cultural exchange to build bridges and promote unity.

Beyond Nagaland, the Hornbill Festival has become a major catalyst for tourism in the entire Northeast India. It plays a crucial role in promoting awareness of Northeast India's diverse cultures and traditions and visitors experience the vibrant music, dance, cuisine, and customs of the region.