Nagaland is aptly called the “Land of Festivals”, since its people enjoy celebrating life in all its different aspects. Each month is marked by a festival organized by its various tribes.
Suhkuruhnye Festival of the Chakhesang Tribe in January
Suhkuruhnye is the most important festival of Chakhesang Nagas and is celebrated on 15th January. During this festival the boys and girls are sanctified through religious ceremonies and rituals. The Suhkuruhnye celebrated for eleven days starting from “Nyede”.The first day of the festivity period is known as “Cedu”. On this day animals are killed and the blood of the killed animals sprinkles on the main posts of the house. The first fetched out Suhkuruhnye wine is offered to the deities in banana leaf tumblers and the cooked meat and rice-beer are offered to the High-priest and priests of the village for blessings.The second day is “Suhkruh” meant for men folk. “Suhkruh” signifies sanctification of young, innocent and unspoiled boys for this ritualistic ceremony.
On this day every man is to take a fresh-water-bath and is forbidden to use water fetched by women. To perform this ritualistic ceremony (Suhkruh) everything new is used including utensils and fireplace. The men folk go to the well early morning before any animal or bird touches or partakes of the water and takes a fresh-water-bath immediately after the first crow of cock, which indicates the breaking of a new day, in order to sanctify themselves. Thereafter, the unpolluted water, considered to be holy, is brought home, fire is made out of the fire making method and unblemished cock is killed and cooked with the holy water and eat it to sanctify the boy/boys for the rest of their lives. Even when a new house is constructed “Suhkruh” is performed in order to get his house sanctified. This whole process is called “Suhkruh” and “Nye” is known as festival.
On this day, the entire men folk go for community bird-trapping. The collected birds are hung on a decorated tip of a tall bamboo as a symbol of “Suhkruhnye”. Different kinds of birds so caught are believed to foretell the fortunes for the forthcoming days of the year of the concerned individual.The third day is called “Thuno Nuso” which is meant for women only. The mother performs this ceremonial ritual to sanctify her young innocent daughter/ daughters. “Thuno Nuso” is much simpler than that of “Suhkruh”, they prepare an unblemished young hen and eat it to sanctify themselves for their entire lives.The fourth day is known as “Muthhi Celhu” where social feasts such as Mulelhu or feast of social age groups, Zhotho Muza (Feast of merit) begins. This day is set aside from religious restrictions.The fifth day is known as “Cedu Zhongu” which means accomplishment of the festivals.The sixth day and the last day is known as “Thunye Mukra”. On this day religious pursuits are relaxed and continue feasting, dancing and singing throughout the day and night till dawn. With the coming of Christianity, SUHKRUHNYE’s religious and traditional ceremonies are no longer in practice in most of the villages.
However, Suhkruhnye is still celebrated with great significance and enthusiasm mostly by the Chokris in Phek district.During this traditional festival the indigenous games, folk songs, folk dance and sports fully occupy the festive period of six days starting from January 15 in keeping with the Christian spirit. Suhkruhnye being a festival of sanctification, it is also marked as Children’s Day. Water Baptism can take place on this occasion.
Sekrenyi Festival of the Angami Tribe in February
The Angamis celebrate Sekrenyi festival in the month of February in Tuophema. It normally falls on the 25th day of the Angami month of “Kezei”. This ten day festival is also called Phousanyi. After the first ceremony “Kizie” a number of rituals and ceremonies are performed during this festival. A few drops of rice water taken from the top of a jug, called “Zumho”, are put into leaves, and placed at the three main posts of the house by a lady of the household.
On the first day morning all male members go to the village well to and take bath. In the night, two young men clean the village well and some ofthe village youth guard the well in the night as fetching of water is restricted after the cleaning.Early in the next morning, all the young men of the village wash themselves at the well in a ritualistic manner. Then they perform the “Dzuseva” (touching the sleeping water) ceremony wearing two new shawls, the white Mhoushu and the black Lohe and sprinkling water on their breast, knees and on their right arm to wash away all their ills and misfortunes by the purified well water. On their return from the well, a cock is sacrificed by throttling it with the bare hands. It is taken as a good omen when the right leg falls over the left leg as the cock falls down. The innards of the fowl are taken out and hung outside the house for the village elders to come and inspect it.
A three-day session of singing and feasting starts from the fourth day of the festival. The Thekra Hie is the best part of the festival where the young people of the village sit together and sing traditional songs throughout the day. Jugs of rice-beer and plates of meat are placed before the participants. On the seventh day, the young men go for hunting.
The most important ceremony falls on the eight day, when the bridge-pulling or gate-pulling is performed or inter-village visits are exchanged. Until the close of the festival, no one goes to the fields and all fieldwork cease during this period. The young unmarried girls with closely shaven heads sit down with the youths and sing tunes of bygone ages, recreating a past where no care touched the human soul.
Hega Festival of the Zeliang Tribe in February
The Hega festival is one of the most important and the biggest festivals amongst the Zeliang community. It falls in the month of February fro 10 to 15 every year. It is a festival invoking the Almighty God to shower his blessing upon his people with richness, luck and courage. It is also a festival of joy, rest and get-together. On this day, people pray to Almighty God for protection and guidance. On this festival young couples are united for their future. The festival announced earlier and all the preparations are done before- hand. The festival begins with a variety of programmes and merrymaking.
The first day of the festival called “Hega Teu Dap”. On this day, all the killings of animals for the festival are done in every household and those who have no such animals either buy or share with other members. On this day itself the eldest of the family calls all his grandsons and daughters for a common meal to his house. Here they shared special songs that are composed specially for their grandsons and daughters. The grandsons and daughters have to wear new shawls for that special occasion. In the evening the engage couple, especially the bride, will present all the traditional dresses like shawls and other garments. Together with the boys and the elders there will be a common gathering at the bridegroom’s Morung (the bride and the bridegroom are included).
The second day is called “Herie Kap”. On the second day of the festival, the gatekeeper of the main gate will have a special and separate prayer invoking the protection of the Almighty to the villagers and have to shower his blessing in all walks of life for the year to come. After the prayer, he would go to jungle and there also he will offer a special prayer asking God to show him the right tree for the sacrifice. When it is shown to him the youth will cut it and shape it into a Hornbill and put it up in the main Gate with decoration and other necessary things. In the evening, the elders and the boys will make noise (Nro) and go up and down the whole village for two or three times and at the end they will try to pierce the heart of the wooden Hornbill. If they manage it then it is good luck. Richness and blessing will be bestowed on his children.
After this all men and boys will gather in their own morung to offer special prayer especially for good luck in hunting.The third day is called “Tsing Rak”. On this day early in the morning, the bride will gather all the girls from her khel. They will go to the jungle to cut firewood for the evening. This firewood is split into small pieces and the bark is also taken out. The firewood will be fresh only. In the meantime, the elders and youth from the khel will go to the jungle and cut a big tree that is shaped after which colour is put on the two wooden pieces showing the purity and virginity of the bride. In the evening, the bride will carry the two wooden pieces that signifies her life. The firewood and the wooden pieces are kept in the main gate or the last gate of the village. With these two heavy wooden pieces (ten to twelve feet in height) the bride will start from the gate and the rest of the girls and boys will carry the fire wood and follow the bride to the girls Morung. On this night, the bridegroom will provide food and drinks to the girls in the Girls Morung.
The fourth day called “Rodi”, and the last day of the festival is the important and exciting day of the festival. Here you will see early in the morning people putting on their traditional dress getting ready for the dance. The bride, together with some of her friends will go round the village and give bath to those who are unwilling to join the dance. For the bride it is the last dance in her life (a girl married cannot join the dance again). In this dance only virgin girls are participated. For boys and men, whether they are married or not, they can dance all through their life if their health permits. The dances are performed in the evening with different steps and meaning. After the dances, all the dancers will go around the whole village singing and dancing, at some places they will play games and sing songs together with the bride and bridegroom.
From the first day of the festival the eldest from each khel lights a new fire and this elders have to take only pork throughout the festival. Also, during the festival, no men should sleep with his wife for fear of losing good luck and courage especially in hunting. On the sixth day, elders put off the new fire and celebrate. But the rest of the villagers can start their work from that day onwards with all the blessing and luck from Almighty Good who always care for his children.
Luira Festival of the Tangkhul Tribe in February
This is the main agriculture festival of the year, which lies in the month of February and its celebration spread over a period of about eleven days. It is celebrated to mark the sowing season. The Village Chief sows some seeds in first instance marking the sowing season and then the rest of the villagers start to sow their fields. During all these days, merry-making takes the form of eating, drinking, games, dancing and singing. Dancing and singing usually commence in the evening, tall bamboo and pine resin torches light up the grounds and the dancers dance round the fire. Flickering lights, glimmering dresses and ornaments, flashing spears and daos with background songs add the attraction of the festival.
Aoling Monyu Festival of the Konyak Tribe (April)
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.
Moatsu Festival of the Ao Tribe (May)
Moatsu festival is celebrated during the first week of May every year. Various rites and rituals are performed during this period. The festival is observed after the sowing is done. The festival time provides the tribal people a period of activity and entertainment after the stressful work of clearing fields, burning jungles and sowing seeds.
The Moatsu festival is marked by singing song and dance. The whole festival is observed only for three days. Sangpangtu, is one of the main celebration where a big fire is lit and men and women adorned with best attire sit around it. Women serve the wine and meat to the attendees. Rice-beer is prepared and all the reared pigs and cows are slaughtered during the festival. Women weave the traditional garments and adorn themselves with traditional jewellery. Women join men in dancing, eating, drinking and composing warrior songs.
Songs and dance are performed to express gratitude to the god for helping the crops to grow healthy and well. Prior to the start of this festival, the village gate is declared to be closed and free entry or exit is restricted. This is done to regulate people who do not belong to that particular village. These festivals also provide good opportunities for the budding generations for demonstrating their intellectual skill and physical powers. Tug of war between men and women are also conducted.
Naknyulem Festival of the Chang Naga Tribe (July)
It was believed that in ancient days, during the forefather’s time, the entire world was enveloped with total darkness, day and night could not be differentiated. The darkness was so thick that people could not even go out for collection of firewood and water. They remained inside their home for complete six days and by then they become short of everything. In order to keep the fire burning inside homes they burned out every available things and when nothing was left they are compelled to burn even the horns of buffaloes, mithuns and cows that were hang in front of the houses.
On the seventh day the light came as usual. The people of the earth became extremely happy and by way of giving thanks to the God this Naknyu lum was held. In this Naknyu lum no worship is performed but certain rules are strictly observed.
This festival is held on the eleventh month of Chang calendar which falls during July. The counting of the days and the announcing of the day is made by the Ungshedbou of Oung Clan. It should be a sudden announcement leaving two days gap only. It starts on the last day of the moon, i.e. flour grinding day. Domestic animals are slaughtered, young and old play spinning tops while music and laughter pervades from the women folks as they play the kongkhin (in Chang) made out of bamboo split. Village streets are swept and cleaned so do houses and their surroundings. Firewood and water are stocked.
The second day, which is the dark-moon-day is called ‘Youjem’. On this day no one go out of the village, even for drawing water. There are exchanges of gifts and food items among the friends and relatives. Meat, wine and freshly packed breads are plentifully used. Sports like Top spinning, tug of war, high jump, long jump, climbing of oiled pole and jumping and grapping big lumps of well cooked meat hang in row along bamboo rope. Women play on kongkhin. They too compete with this instrument. Men and women, young and old, all engage themselves in feasting and merrymaking the whole day but no dancing.
On this occasion the footpath and all the houses are decorated by placing leaves; a kind of herbal shrub called ‘ngounaam’ (Eiziholfziablanda) which is a must to plant at every front of the house forward off evil spirits. The people, especially the children, put the leaves in their ear lobes so that no evil spirit will harm them.
In the evening, at the time of sunset, everybody remained inside the house. No man walks and rooms outside. During this hour, in the front and back door of every house a seed called ‘Vui long’ (Tape seeds) are buried inside paddy husks and burnt. Every member of the family remained still to hear the bursting sound of the seed. The tape seed explodes and if the sound and the exploding fragment bounds back towards the house. It is a bad omen and if the sound is good and the fragments bounds off it means good fortune. At this hour, ‘Shambuli Muhgha’, a God from heaven descends and visits every house and any one found outside is harmed. The third day is the day is the day of cleaning the village surroundings and approach roads. After the celebration of this festival other activities like cleaning of paths leading to the fields and neighboring villages starts . A daughter born in this month is named as Monyu.
Tuluni Festival of the Sumi Tribe (July)
The Tuluni Festival of Nagaland is celebrated around the second week of the month of July. It is the most significant festival celebrated by the Sumi Naga tribe of Nagaland is the Tuluni Festival. This festival is celebrated to rejoice the most abundant and fruitful season of the year in Nagaland. The Sumi tribe in Nagaland celebrates the Tuluni Festival with splendour and grandeur. During the Tuluni Festival there are prayers and offerings that are given to Litsaba, who is the deity of fruitfulness who gives life and protection to the crops. During the Tuluni Festival in Nagaland , a goblet is made with the leaf of plantain , to serve the rice beer. Tuluni is the name of this wine that is consumed by the Sumi tribe. “anni’ is another name for ‘Tuluni’ meaning the season of plenteous crops. To make the celebrations much more joyous, it is during the Tuluni festival that the fiancé is invited over to the finacee’s place and the young couples exchange gifts. Engaged couples get married and start their new lives and all are fed lavishly with meat and other delicious food. There are folk songs and ballads that are sung to keep the spirit of the festival high.
Metemneo Festival of the Yimchunger Tribe (August – September)
The Metemneo festival is an agricultural festival celebrated by the people of the Yimchungers tribe in Nagaland. The festival, which lasts for five days, is celebrated after harvesting the millet crop in the region and is a time of great fun and enjoyment.
This is one of the most important festivals observed by the Yimchungers tribe and it is quite common for the tribal folk to become deeply immersed in the festive spirits and merriment which form a part of the celebrations. In addition to being a harvest festival, the Metemneo festival is also believed to be an auspicious occasion for the souls of the departed tribe members. The tribal people also worship various agricultural implements during the festival and seek blessings for a good crop. At the same time they also thank the Almighty as well as their ancestral gods for the good crop they have already harvested.
The festival is also believed to be the right occasion to forget all bitterness and start new friendships with joy and happiness. The tribal people are encouraged to forget their differences and come together to take part in the festivities. Various traditional rituals are required to be performed during which every member of the family thanks the deities for their kindness and blessings. One of the most important and interesting aspect of Metemneo festival are the numerous marriages and engagements that take place during this time.
The five days of the festival are considered extremely auspicious and hence it is quite common for tribal to fix the marriages and in many cases even organize the marriage ceremony during this period.The people of the Yimchungers tribe are especially energetic and enthusiastic during the celebration of Metemneo festival. The elders of the tribe take the initiative of encouraging people to take part in the festivities with great zeal and fervor. For this tribal community, this festival is a time to forgive one another and reconcile and share each other’s joys.In addition to the naturally festive environment, the numerous weddings, engagements and child births taking place also add to the joy of the celebrations. The cheerful ambience helps in ensuring that people are generally in a jubilant mood and not only want to have a great time themselves, but also want to make others feel loved and happy.
The Sangtams celebrate Amongmong in the first week of September when the new crop is ready for harvesting. The main feature of the festival is the worship of the God of the house and the three cooking stones in the fireplace.
The Khiamgan tribesmen celebrate the Tsokum festival during the harvesting season which takes place in October.
With the harvesting over and the granaries full, the Lotha community celebrates the Tokhu Emong festival with prayers and gaiety.
Ngada (November – December)
The Rengma Nagas’ Ngada festival is observed towards the end of November/December. It is a popular belief of the ancient Rwengmas that the spirits of the dead visit their graves and the homes of their relatives once every year, particularly during this festival.
Hornbill Festival (1st to 7th of December)
Nagaland which shares a border with Myanmar, has really embraced the concept of tourism. The Hornbill Festival is perhaps the most renowned and largest of the North East India festivals, and it’s certainly Nagaland’s huge draw card. Named after the state’s most admired bird, the festival showcases the heritage of the 16 tribes there, which in addition to dancing show off their hunting and waring skills. Over the years, the Hornbill Festival has grown to encompass the Hornbill National Rock Concert, which attracts bands from all over India to compete, and a night market.
Loinloom Festival (December)
This unique event taking place in Diezephe, Nagaland celebrates the dying art of loinloom weaving. Loinloom, one of the oldest devices for weaving textiles, is a backstrap loom found in parts of Northeast India, China, Bhutan, and Myanmar. It produces narrow strips of cloth with not more than 18 inches of finished width. To achieve a bigger width, different strips are stitched together. There’s a whole variety of stoles, shawls, and tops in more than 200 designs to shop from here. You can even pick up the rudiments of cotton spinning, weaving and natural dyeing at workshops. Textile traditions aside, the festival is easily a smorgasbord of food, music, art and culture. Here, it’s easy to run in to an eclectic mix of people – bikers, singers, yoga instructors, chefs, folk artists, textile designers, tattoo artists – from all over the world. There is lots to keep you busy, too – you can get inked by Mo Naga, a popular tattoo artist at the festival or dig in to Belgian pastry chef Charles Scarceriaux’s delectable pastry creations, who’s known for giving the local food an interesting Belgian-French twist. The festival is scheduled to take place between 9 December and 11 December.
Christmas Carnival (December)
Every evening, the main market would close and the streets given out to those who set up stalls to sell food, gifts and more. These included youngsters out to make pocket money, business, NGOs and some church bodies. All in all, great fun to walk around interacting with the locals.