I am from Assam, basically grew up and lived all through my childhood in this part of the country. It was much later during my higher studies that I have lived in Delhi and Bangalore. But the one thing that always pinches me is that in-spite of being from this part of the country I have hardly traveled or seen much of the virgin beauties that North Eastern part of India boasts of. So during December 2014 when I got an opportunity to travel to Kohima, capital of Nagaland I jumped at the opportunity. The high-point was the Hornbill Festival, a melange of food, culture and art of the various local tribes in Nagaland. It is really sad that we had taken just a day with us to soak in the festival. This is something that one should do with a little time and with a mood for leisure and relaxation. But I guess, like they say, "something is better than nothing".
We started early morning on a cold December day, and reached Dimapur by around afternoon. But for the people who knows about the festival it is like a cult. The journey further from Dimapur to Kohima that should not have otherwise taken more than two hours was completed in almost six hours. The roads were jam packed, hotels were fully booked and people were camped all along. One really has to see it to believe it. People throng from foreign lands to experience the food, art and culture. For us, we reached after seven at night. We were staying at one of the army guest houses and we were lucky to get accommodation. But by the time we reached, the festival was over that day and we decided just to take a little walk. Moreover the day long journey and the traffic-jam had tired us. We had dinner and then we mostly stayed within the campus.
The next day we reached the festival venue again braving throng of jams and traffic. But as soon as one enters the festival one can see a melee of color. Different tribes showcasing their dresses, jewelries and various dance forms. Well, it doesn't stop there and the tribes give you a sneak peek into their homes too. There are sample huts with a functioning kitchen area and furniture thrown in to give an idea about how they live. You can hear screams, war cries and drumbeats. Various areas are created for each tribes separately. Along with this is the crisp, unpolluted December air and the smell of food wafting in the air. All of these are sights to see and soak up. I could not take too many photographs of the festival itself. But I will still share a few. Within the festival there are various competitions like "pork eating competition" that one can participate in. There are art competitions, singing and dance competitions too. Basically it is one place where one wont generally get bored and there is something for everybody here.
We were driving back by afternoon the next day. We were still high with everything we have seen and experienced in the festival. We wanted to go back to the festival again, but since we were travelling back, it did not make much sense. We would have just wasted our time at the traffic jam and would not have managed to really enjoy much of the festival anyway; which was in a way a good thing. Because then we decided to check out the local market. A walk in the local bazaar of Kohima was unlike any I had experienced before. It was fun, colorful and full of quirky stuff that one would not find in most markets. From roasted dragonflies to frogs, the famous bhoot jolokia and the carefully packaged bamboo shoot, the absolutely stunning and colorful veggies- the market was a surprise in every corner. The cheerful ladies selling their daily wares, the cute little boys gleefully haggling with their customers “1 Ka Rs 20, 3 khareedo Rs.50” , aah what fun!! Definitely a food lovers paradise and a place that will appeal and widen ones gastronomic experimentation.
Since I am talking about the local market it would be sacrilege to talk only about the food, and not talk about the local colorful weaves. I did buy a local handwoven wrap-around skirt. And the husband indulged himself by buying himself a hand crafted crossbow.
It was a short trip, opened my eyes to the various delights that this state has to offer. From quirky colorful local jewelries to unorthodox food- this is a must visit place for any adventurous traveler.
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