A United Celebration
The past two years were forgettable for tourists, who had been planning to visit Nagaland during the Hornbill Festival. The COVID-19 pandemic played spoilsport in 2020, before the festivities were cut short last year due to the tragic shooting incident in Mon district that killed 14 innocent civilians. All decks were cleared for the event this year with the pandemic restrictions being lifted and the state government was keen on regaining the past glory, until some civil society organisations from the eastern part of the state passed a resolution not to participate in the event citing “hardships faced by the participants” from the region. This development marred the preparations for the event to some extent but good sense should prevail at the end of the day as the state government has assured to address the issues raised by the civil societies. The Hornbill Festival has come a long way since its inception in 2000. It has become one of the biggest cultural festivals in the country over the years, and tourists, both international and domestic, look forward to the event. If the increase in the number of visitors during the pre-pandemic — 54% rise in 2017, 3% in 2018 and 11% in 2019 – is any indication, the event is gaining popularity and becoming a major tourist attraction. The numbers will continue to grow because of the unique experience that the festival offers to visitors by showcasing the rich cultural heritage and tradition of more than dozen tribes and communities from across the state at one venue and in just few days, which is not even enough to travel the length and breadth of the state considering the difficult terrains.
For people of the state, some may find the festival monotonous while others take it as an opportunity to showcase their products and earn by selling them. What many fail to see is the publicity the state garners from this cultural extravaganza. There is more to the festival than the showcasing of state’s rich culture to the outside world. It is also an occasion for people from different parts of the state to bond in festivities and celebrate brotherhood once a year. Sensing the potential of such a cultural festival in boosting tourism, neighbouring states like Manipur also started Sangai Festival, and more states could follow. Perceived differences and disagreements should not be allowed to disrupt the Hornbill Festival which has become one of the most popular festivals in the country over the past 23 years. We should guard the essence of the event and not let external factors play spoilsport. The show must go on, and on.