India, Travel Photography
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Hornbill Festival: In Pictures

Where the stories of Nagaland’s impressive past and an immersive culture is unfortunately slowly dying today, the best way, at least for a tourist, to get closer to its people and their culture, on a fast track, is by attending the 10-day carnival of the Hornbill Festival.

Celebrated every year, between 1 and 10 December, Hornbill Festival is where all Naga tribes (16 in total) come together and exhibit their wears, enact their daily life and re-create their energetic festivals at one place. Imagine spending a year travelling through rural Nagaland, witnessing their way of life and celebrations, and then think about bringing it all together in one go. That’s hornbill festival for you.

And bringing The Hornbill Festival 2017 in pictures, all at one place, here’s what I have for you:

A tribesman from Khiamniungan tribe getting ready for a performance, as he fixes on his helmet. Their traditional attires consist of bright red and bright deep blue coloured dresses, and the ornaments are made of cowries and conch shells

Despite most of the tribesmen attending and performing at hornbill festival, being unfamiliar with the tourists, one thing that makes Hornbill Festival special is the friendliness of local Nagas towards the tourists. Just ask anyone what they’re drinking, and they would all be happier to share a sip

The tribesmen of Yimchungru tribe drinking the local rice millet beer from a massive bamboo cup

Like that of other Naga tribes, the origin of the Khiamniungans (before the British Raj days) is totally uncertain, and the only source of information about their ancestors & oral traditions is in form of folktales and myths. Today, the Khiamniungans occupy the easternmost part of India and northwestern part of Myanmar

A traditional Morung of the popular Konyak tribe. Back in the days, the tribesmen would carve a nearly-possible image of their deceased family members on the wooden frames of doors and windows, as a memory — the only way to remember them

Other than traditional Naga Morungs and various performances, the festival of Hornbill also showcases various art exhibitions, for example, this: An exhibition on the Last of The Tattooed Headhunters of Nagaland

The tribesmen of the popular Kiamniungan tribe laughing and celebrating their victory after a tug-and-war match

A display stall weaving and selling the traditional hats of Agami tribe living in and around the Kohima district

With different stalls offering “Zothu” and “Thutse” (local alcoholic beverages made of rice) and the authentic food of the all the sixteen major tribes of Nagaland, Kisama offers a plethora of options for foodies and the bibulous

Where most food stalls in the Hornbill festival sell a diluted and much lighter version drinks for tourists, the tribesmen often go for something much stronger. Not sure if it was actually a drink or I was fooled, they call it the “ORS”, and it tastes similar to how a neat Whiskey does

The Hornbill festival is a great way to meet the tribes, interact with them, visit their villages and be blown away by their charming hospitality and friendliness. And not be mention, all the fun of the festival, where you’ll be participating in drinking, eating, singing, dancing and merrymaking

A powerful Khiamniungan tribesman posing for the camera

Each tribe at hornbill has their own dedicated traditional Morung, where they perform traditional dance and even sell local food. Don’t feel shy about trespassing anywhere or clicking pictures as they dress-up (though with all the respect!)

The most popular among all tribes remain the Konyaks — better known as the headhunters. Until as recently as 1969 the Konyak tribe had a reputation of being fierce warriors who often attacked nearby villages of other tribes and took great pride in taking the heads of opposing warriors as trophies to hang in the Morung. With each head a Konyak will take, his wife will carve a tattoo on his body. The more the tattoos, the better the reputation

A proud Konyak standing tall, enjoying the traditional games at the Hornbill

 A tourist busy clicking pictures as a group of tribesmen pose together

Yimchunger tribe is another major Naga tribe that dwells inside the Tuensang district in Nagaland and around the areas of Burma

Also Read: A 3 Day Hornbill Festival & Kohima ItineraryKumbh Mela Pictures

Filed under: India, Travel Photography


After my couple of years of corporate career, I left that lifestyle behind, and with it, everything that didn't fit in a backpack. I've learned that this world is too big (and too interesting!) to spend your life working at one place, and that's what inspires me to remain footloose and fancy-free for the rest of my life!


  1. Akhand says

    such lovely pictures Dev. You have the talent of using the camera proficiently

  2. Kishor says

    Oh I just added this to my bucket list. I hope I get to go n a hunt with them. I think the government has interfered and put a stop to inter-tribe fights. But I am sure they have buried the trophies collected somewhere.

    • yes. When the Christianity came and they were taught to respect and love their nature, some tribesmen were ashamed of beheading people (hope you know about the headhunters) and buried the ‘trophies’ in the ground.

  3. I certainly enjoyed the info you have provided with the pictures in the post, also your pictures are so great that I almost felt I was there physically present. Keep up the good work.

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