By Sujit Chakraborty
The Hornbill Festival ‘fever’ has gripped the entire northeastern region with the event’s epicentre – the Naga Heritage Village Kisama in southern Nagaland – in excited mood on holding of the 10-day mega carnival, beginning December 1, after the pandemic.
Kisama, 12 km away from Nagaland capital Kohima, was quiet last year with the celebrations turned online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the original traditional zeal, gaiety and fervour re-emerged this year.
However, due to the outbreak of the new variant of Covid-19 named ‘Omicron’ and Union Health Ministry guidelines, the visit of thousands of foreign tourists to attend the Festival seems difficult.
Nagaland Tourism Department Director Ajanuo Belho said that though due to the restrictions in view of the outbreak of Omicron, foreign tourists might be in very lesser numbers, but lakhs of people from the northeastern and other states are expected to enjoy the 10-day festivity.
“As the festival could not be held last year due to the pandemic, this year we are in a full mood to hold the mega festival in a befitting manner,” Belho told IANS.
She said that the Nagaland government also enforced a revised standard operating procedure from November 11 and set up eight testing centres including in airport and railway stations for screening of outside travellers.
Another senior official of the Tourism Department said that Ambassadors or top diplomats of five countries — Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar – expected to attend the festival, which has been showcasing the traditional life, culture, customs and food of Nagaland for the past over two decades and offering opportunities and prospects for entrepreneurs to grow.
Hornbill Festival is the major platform to promote Nagaland tourism and related business.
“The annual Hornbill Festival has not only lifted Nagaland on the world tourism map but facilitated Nagas to build up their bonding with culture and heritage and promote inter-tribal relations,” state tourism advisor Khehovi Yepthomi said. He said that in 2019, over 2.82 lakh tourists, including 3,015 foreign visitors and guests, came to Nagaland during the Hornbill festival against 1.12 lakh travellers who visited the state to witness the festival in 2016.
Contending that the economic aspects of the annual festival are also enormous, Yepthomi said that against government spending of Rs 7 crore in 2018, the Hornbill Festival accumulated a total revenue and earnings of Rs 45 crore in that year.
He said that in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, the earnings and revenue generated from transport, food, lodging and sale of local products were over Rs 100 crore against government expenditure of Rs 11.52 crore during ten day of the festivities, signifying the magnitude the authority and the people of the state attach to the festival, the biggest in the northeast region.
Since 2000, the Naga Heritage Village Kisama has witnessed hundreds and thousands of footfall of tourists every year to witness the rich and diverse culture of most tribes of Nagas, vividly and colourfully displayed in the form of folk music and traditional dance besides exposition and availability of exotic food, crafts and art and numerous life and customs.
The Hornbill International Rock Contest draws thousands of young music enthusiasts from across the country in 2019 with five countries officially participating in the music festival.
“All 16 major tribes of the state every year have been taking part in the mega festival and displaying their cultural and traditional extravaganza,” another Tourism Department official said.
The beginning of the Hornbill Festival coincides also with the statehood day celebrations on December 1.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])