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Fairs & Festivals: North East India Tribal Festivals
HORNBILL FESTIVAL, NAGALAND: Nagaland is a land of diverse tribal culture and all the tribes celebrate their own and unique festivals round the year. Most of the people in Nagaland depend on agriculture and therefore most of their festivals based around agriculture.
Organized by the State Directorate of Tourism, Nagaland, the main motto of the Hornbill Festival is to encourage inter-tribal interaction and to promote cultural heritage of Nagaland. The Festival is named after the globally respected bird - hornbill, which is having a great significance in the folklore, dances and songs of most of the state’s tribes. It showcases a mélange of cultural displays under one roof. This festival usually takes place between the 1st and the 5th of December at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama which is about 12 km from Kohima.
This weeklong festival unites all the tribes in Nagaland and gives them the chance to showcase their diverse and colourful dances, performances, crafts, sports, cuisines and religious ceremonies.
The highlights of the festivals include Traditional Naga Morungs (youth dormitory) Exhibition and sale of Arts and Crafts which include paintings, wood carvings, and sculptures, food stalls, herbal medicine stalls, flower shows, cultural medley-songs and dances, fashion shows, traditional archery, Naga wrestling, indigenous games, and music concerts.
The Hornbill festival has already attracted national and international tourists and it has beesuccessful to a great extend in projecting Nagaland as a unique tourist destination and in the process it is also celebrating the richness of the Naga cultural heritage.
AOLEANG MONYU FESTIVAL, MON, NAGALAND: The Konyaks are one of the major tribes of Nagaland who basically belong to the Mon district. Aoleang Monyu is the main festival of the Konyaks which is observed in the first week of April (from 1st to 6th April). According to Konyak Calendar, it is celebrated in the month of Aoleang Lee. The villagers celebrate the festival to get blessings from God “Yongwan” for a good harvesting. Each day of the celebration has its own particular name and significance, viz, (1) Hoi Lai Yah Nyih (2) Yin Mak Pho Nyih (3) Yin Mok Sheh Nhih (4) Lingnyu Nyih (5) Lingha Nyih and (6) Lingshan Nyih. During the festival the Young and old people wear their traditional dresses and headgears decorated with feathers and wild boar tusks. Accompanied with the log drums they performs folk dances and songs and have a great feast.
SEKRENYI FESTIVAL, NAGALAND : The Sekrenyi festival is celebrated by the Angami tribe of Nagaland in India. Also known as the Phousnyi festival, it is mainly a ritualistic festival that takes place with a series of different and colourful ceremonies. The Sekrenyi Festival celebrates in the month of February and continues for 10 days.
Sekrenyi usually falls on the 25th day of the Angami month of "Kezei". The first ritual of the festival is called "Kizie". On the first day, all young and old men go to the village well for a bath. At night, two youths from the village go to the well and clean it. Later the well is guarded by some village youths so that nobody can use the water. Early morning again all young men from the village go to the well for a ceremonial bath.
From the fourth day of the festival the singing and feasting begin and it continues for next three days. The young men go for hunting on the seventh day. The most important ceremony falls on the eighth day, when the bridge-pulling or gate-pulling is performed, or inter-village visits are exchanged. It is only when the festival ends that people resuming their work on the fields.
The Thekra Hie is the best part of the festival when the young men and women of the tribe sit together, singing traditional tribal songs.
KA POMBLANG NONGKREM, MEGHALAYA : The Ka Pomblang Nongkrem Festival is one of the most significant festivals of the Khasi community of Meghalaya. Popularly known as Nongkrem Dance festival it is celebrated at Smit, nearly 20 Kms from Shillong. It starts in the first week of November to commemorate the harvest season.
An important part of this festival is Pomblang (sacrifice of goats). People offer goats to the 'Syiem' of Khyrem, the administrative head of the Hima (Khasi State). Later the goats are sacrificed and offerings are made to the ancestor and ancestress of the ruling clan and the deity of Shillong peak (ULei Shillong).
On the fourth day, the rituals get over and the Khasi men and women dress themselves up in their traditional attire to perform the beautiful Nongkrem Dance. The women dressed in expensive silk costumes with heavy gold, silver and coral ornaments dance in the inner circle of the arena. The men dressed up in multi hued silk dhotis, coat and a plumed turban form an outer circle and dance to the accompaniment of music of Tangmuri (pipes) and drums. The festival comes to an end on the fifth day with a thanksgiving prayer offered to the almighty by the Syiem.
WANGALA FESTIVAL, MEGHALAYA : The Wangala is the most significant festival in Meghalaya which is performed after the harvesting season generally in the month of November. The festival is a"Thanksgiving" ceremony to Misi Saljong (Sun), also known as Pattigipa Ra'rongipa (The Great Giver) for having blessed the human beings with rich harvest of the season. It is the Garos who consider Wangala to be one of their most popular and sacred festivals. Wangala Festival is also known as the 100 Drum Festivals because 100 drums are played in respect to the god.
The day before the Wangala, a ritual called “Chu – Rugala” is performed by the Nokma (village Chief) and offerings of rice-beer along with cooked rice and the vegetables are made to Misi Saljong.
In the next day, the Nokma performs “Cha'chat So'a” ceremony where rice is scattered all over the house of Nokma, symbolising the rain and hail, the sowing season. Then incense is burnt and the smoke symbolises rain clouds. The drums and gongs (rang) are being played throughout the ceremony. Later a meal is served, followed by dancing in the residence of the Nokma, which continues in the village throughout the night.
The main attraction of the festival is the dance itself. Young and old Garo people, dressed in their traditional costumes and feathered headgear, dance to the tune of music played on long oval-shaped drums and flutes made of buffalo horn. The people perform the dance in a queue of two parallel lines - one of men and other of women.
The first “Hundred Drums Wangala Festival” was successfully organised on December 6 and 7, 1976, at Asanang, 18kms from Tura. Since then, the “Hundred Drums Wangala” is being organised in the second week of November every year under the patronage of the Government of Meghalaya.
MOPIN, ARUNACHAL PRADESH : Mopin is the most important festival of Gallong community of the Adi tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and every year it is celebrated throughout the state with great enthusiasm. It is celebrated for five days during the month of April prior to sowing the paddy which showcase the rich traditional culture and preservation of rich heritage of Gallongs along with the other sections of the society irrespective of caste, faith and race. People worship the deity of welfare and wisdom in order to get rid of natural calamities, evil spirits and for good harvest, health and prosperity.
During the festival the people mostly the women with their traditional costumes, elaborate head gears and multi-coloured beaded ornaments organize the amazing “popir dance”. Forming a circular queue, they create the roaring sound of their rhythmic steps. One group chant the Ja-Jin-Ja and Baryi folk songs and the others complement their songs by dancing.
SOLUNG, ARUNACHAL PRADESH: Solung is a socio-religious festival of the Adi communities of Arunachal Pradesh which is generally celebrated in the month of September. But there is no fixed date for it. Now-a-days in some places, the festival is celebrated with a three day programme. It is an agricultural festival performed after the sowing of seeds. The reason behind the festival is to seek the blessing for a good harvest.
The festival has three main parts. The first day of celebration is called Sopi-Yekpi or Ardo Bado when sacrifices of mithun and pigs are performed and offerings are made to Dadi Bote, the god of domestic animals, for his blessing for welfare of domestic animals. The second part of celebration is known as Binyat when the womenfolk worship Kine Nane, the goddess of crops and food in their respective paddy fields. Ekop or Taktor is the ultimate part of the festival in which people erect Ekop or Taktor, a symbolic bow and arrow in the entrances of their houses for protection against evil spirits. People pray to Gumin-Soyin, the kind and caring household god for his blessing of individual and social wellbeing. At last the Miri or the religious leader gives a ceremonial farewell when the girl's sung and dance.
Every evening during Solung the Miri sings 'Solung Abung' and through the song he narrates the stories about the origin of human, animals and plants, ancestry of the Adis, lives and deeds of the Adi Heroes.

Traditionally, Solung is more religious than all other Adi festivals. It is truly a great occasion where the people re-establish their timeless beliefs and traditions and renew their ties with spiritualism through rituals.

MYOKO FESTIVAL, ARUNACHAL PRADESH: ‘Mloko’ or ‘Myoko’, which is generally celebrated in the month of March, is one of the main festivals of the Apatani community of Arunachal Pradesh. In order to celebrate it all the villages in the Apatani plateau are divided into three major groups namely i) Hong, ii) Hari, Reru, Tajang, Kalong, and iii) Hija, Mudang-Tage, Duta, Michi Bamin. Unlike the other festivals of Apatanis, ‘Myoko’ is performed by each village only once in three years. One of these three groups celebrates the festival in a particular year whereas the other two groups join the celebration of the host group. Preparation for the ‘Myoko’ festivals begins much earlier with the hunting of bi-ding (monkey).

The most important ritual of the festival is the sacrifices of the pigs which lasts for two days. On the first day the pigs are brought to the sacrificial place and the main priest starts performing the prayers which last for many hours. Next day early in the morning the newly married women dressed in their traditional attire sprinkle rice flour and rice beer over the pigs lying on the ground. At the same time the assistant priest sacrifices chickens on the sacred ground. Later the selected pigs receive special rituals in which the assistant priest cuts open their stomach and rip their hearts out when they are still alive.

Nevertheless, the main attraction of the ‘Myoko’ is the erection of the poles which is used for a game of acrobatics performed on strong cane ropes. It is very popular among both men and women. Sometimes, even the elderly men and women show their skills and techniques.

BUDDHA MAHOTSAVA, ARUNACHAL PRADESH: Buddha Mahotsava festival is celebrated in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh in order to preserve the Buddhist cultural heritage and encourage Buddhist tourism as well as to showcase the rich tourism potentials of Arunachal Pradesh. It has been organised by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India in close collaboration with the State Department of tourism, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh.

There are two Buddhist cultural native tribal groups following two sects of Bhuddhism in Arunachal Pradesh since time immemorial. The first and largest group consists of Monpas, Sherdukpens, Khowas, Membas and Khambas who follow the Mahayana sect of Buddhism and practice the Lamaistic traditions and cultures because of their close contacts with Tibet in the north in the past. The second group comprises Khamptis and Singphos of Lohit District who follow the Hinayana school of Buddhism and their culture, traditions and literatures resembles with Thias of Thailand due to their past historic connections.

The festival becomes a mega tourism event in Arunachal Pradesh which tries to showcase the rich traditions and cultures of the Monpas and other tribes. The most exciting and colourful event of the festival is the dance Competition. A mixture of colourful traditional dances from the state as well as from other part of the country are presented continuously for three days. Apart from various traditional dances of the Monpa tribe of Tawang and West Kameng, the traditional dances of other tribes of Arunachal Pradesh like Nyishis, Adis, Apatanis, Mishmis, Akas, and Sherdukpens etc are also performed.

BIHU, ASSAM: Bihus are the biggest festivals of Assam irrespective of casts, tribes or religions. There are three Bihu festivals in a year – “Rongali Bihu” or “Bohag Bihu”, “Bhugali Bihu” or “Magh Bihu” and “Kangali Bihu” or “Kati Bihu”. Each of them is having great significance in the socio-cultural life of common Assamese people.

The "Bohag Bihu" marks the beginning of the harvesting season. The "Kati Bihu" marks the completion of sowing of paddies. The "Magh Bihu" marks the end of the harvesting season. Of all the three the Bohag Bihu is the period of greatest enjoyment, welcoming the arrival of spring season. Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu is the festival of happiness, which fills the heart of the people with new ambitions and aspiration with the beginning of the New Year. By celebrating the Rongali Bihu people welcome the spring after the dry and dusty winter days. It falls on 14th April every year and marks the beginning of the first month of the Assamese calendar known as “Bohag”.

The first day of Rongali Bihu is known as “Goru Bihu” and is dedicated to the cattle. On that day cattle are smeared with turmeric and other pastes, stuck with sprigs of ‘Dighalati’ and ‘Makhilati’ which contain different vegetables. Later they are brought to the nearby ponds and rivers and washed with great enthusiasm.

The Assamese New Year day, the day after “Goru Bihu” is known as “Manuh Bihu”. On that day people wear new dresses and pay reverence to their elder. People offer the hand woven scarf or ‘Gamocha’ to their dearest ones. From this day onwards the celebration begins which lasts for whole Bohag month. People sing Bihu songs and dance with the accompaniment of dhol (drums), pepa (buffalo-horn pipe), taka (split bamboo clapper) and tal (cymbals) which is also known as ‘Husori’.

The folk songs and dances associated with the Bohag Bihu are called “Bihu-Geets” and it mainly symbolises love and romance. The songs and dances are very popular among all sections of Assamese society.


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