Expanding Hornbill Festival’s Horizons
Many might not have imagined that the Hornbill Festival would come this far, when it was first celebrated 24 years ago. What started out with humble beginnings has evolved into one of the most popular festivals in India today, thanks to the unrelenting effort of the Nagaland government and the undying spirit of its people. Despite the criticisms, especially on the budgetary front, the state has not diverted its focus from the vision based on which the festival was initiated- to showcase the unique culture and tradition of different communities in the state to the outside world in celebration, and to preserve the rich cultural heritage by passing it on to the younger generations. This unwavering spirit is paying dividends today in more ways than one. The festival has become a huge tourist attraction over the years, both domestic and international. According to statistics provided by the department of Tourism, a total of 1, 31,526 tourists, including 1, 25,949 domestic and 5577 foreign visited Nagaland in 2019, when it was celebrated in its fullness, before being disrupted by the COVID pandemic and internal matters in the subsequent years. Out of the total tourist inflow during the year, the Hornbill Festival accounted for 58,599 of them — 55,584 domestic and 3015 foreign, indicating that the mega cultural event has become a tourist attraction. The tourist footfall during the festival is likely to increase because of the unique experience and opportunity it offers, wherein visitors can have a glimpse of the state’s rich cultural heritage at one venue and in just 10 days, through performances from more than a dozen tribes. There may not be many festivals as this.
The government of Nagaland may have its share of flaws, but deserves credit where it’s due for pulling off the festival this far. This is possible because of constant innovation and adaptation to market demands while sticking to the essence of the festival. For instance, the state ropes in artistes from other states and countries to perform at the event, as well as diversifying by introducing new concepts, while continuing to showcase the state’s rich culture. This gives even regular goers a reason to attend the event. The state can consider inviting various communities, including Naga tribes from neighbouring states and Myanmar to perform at the festival on a rotational basis. Such a move will not only break the monotony that many local people have been complaining about but also bring about a better understanding with other communities. The popularity of Hornbill Festival will continue to grow as long as the state is open to expanding the horizons while preserving the culture in its rawness. Cultural dilution will prove costly for the state as well as the festival and tourism sector.