Can online formats do justice to mega state specific festivals?

Nagaland's Hornbill Festival shall be hosted next month in the online format. This decision has attracted a lot of attention and arguments and we at Fit Northeast highlight a few concerns

Hornbill Festival is a signature festival of the Naga community. It is celebrated every year in the first half of December and showcases the traditional culture and vast heritage of the Naga tribes.
Regarded as a 'Festival of Festivals', the Hornbill Festival has acquired an international stature and has become a veritable income generator for the state.
There are 14 major tribes residing in Nagaland. The Hornbill Festival does not only provide a platform to the tribes of Nagaland. It also allows other tribes from neighboring states like Assam, Manipur etc. to come and showcase their rich culture and traditions.
During this festival each tribe showcase dances and other conventional practices of their forefathers. Also, during this festival, many entrepreneurs and local artists and small business owners are given the opportunity to showcase and sell the items that they craft.
People open stalls, cafes, restaurants etc. which provide authentic local Naga delicacies and the very popular Naga rice beer. Each tribe has its own recipes and unique ways of making this traditional drink. Therefore once the festival visitors taste the local cuisines and drinks they invariably experience a sense of belongingness with the state.
Needless to say the Hornbill Festival translates to a platform for local entrepreneurs and small business owners to connect with a national and even global clientele. It also  gives them an opportunity to earn substantially during the actual ten days of the festival.
During this festival, many entrepreneurs, local artists and small business owners are given the opportunity to showcase and sell the items that they craft
Hornbill Festival is celebrated every year at Kisama which is also referred to as 'Naga Heritage Village'. Kisama is located at Kohima, the capital city of Nagaland and is known for its scenic beauty and cleanliness. Incidentally, it is also a plastic and tobacco free zone.
Representative image
Image: Representative image
The main purpose of hosting the Hornbill Festival is to revive the old traditions of the rich Naga culture and pass down the oral history and traditions of each Naga tribe. It also showcases the ancient way of life and how their valor and dignity as warriors were honored. This is followed by traditional Naga dances that are a combination of war dances and normal festive dances.
However, this year owing to the ongoing pandemic the Hornbill Festival shall be celebrated virtually. This decision has attracted a lot of attention and arguments. Controversial comments in relation to the mode of celebrating this festival have been doing the rounds on both social and print media. While one political party emphasizes the need to host the festival offline the other party vociferously differs. Opinions are divided among the citizens of Nagaland too.
One wonders whether this year this 'Festival of Festivals' is less vibrant and subdued in spirit or bigger in scale and more vibrant than ever before (after all online formats can sometimes garner much bigger audiences and reach). However, one does hope that this festival shall continue to grow in the years to come and showcase the myriad flavors of Nagaland to the world.
Now, apart from the ramifications on human health, the pandemic has undoubtedly unsettled and rattled a lot of things in the social and economic sphere. Festivals like these are a case in point. When the world at large is grappling to regain its equilibrium in terms of the basic necessities of human life, one wonders if governments, cultural institutions and people at large will continue to engage in and support events and festivals that spread awareness and understanding on culture, heritage, folklore and the finer things of life.
We at Fit Northeast believe that while there are no easy answers, it is definitely a colossal mistake to abandon any effort or initiative that envisages enlightening and uplifting human minds. After all in these difficult times do we not need a closer introspection on how the human race can transcend the existential challenges and connect to a higher purpose? These festivals that reiterate the culture and ethos of our forefathers, at one important level, are helping us move forward in this much needed direction.



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