Many could have looked at the Hornbill festival differently when the Nagaland government launched it 19 years ago with an aim to boost tourism in the state. It received unprecedented criticism along the way, with some even branding it as a waste of state’s exchequer. But the “Festival of Festivals” survived all the disparagement. It has evolved into a tourist attraction today. All the visionary leaders, who have relentlessly worked towards improving the event despite condemnation from several quarters, deserve praises for taking the festival this far and investing on the idea of showcasing the state’s rich cultural heritage to the world through a single-window event. The festival has certainly brought many closer to Nagaland.
There can be a plethora of loopholes in the Hornbill festival as it is still evolving. Both Tourism department and the people of Nagaland should not take feedbacks lightly but make conscious effort to improve. However, nothing much can be done on cases like the widely-circulated audio recording of a tourist complaining about unavailability of information about the festival and not responding to queries to a website with Hornbill festival domain name as the site in question is said to be owned by an individual, while the Tourism department has its official website where its employees attend to every single email. One also shouldn’t forget that there is not a single festival in this world that is perfect and without problems. Those who make the most out of the ‘imperfection’ enjoy the most at big events where people from all walks of life join the celebration to have some fun and experience something new – certainly not to serve anyone other than those in distress.
The inflow of tourists, both domestic and international, to the Hornbill festival has been increasing over the years in spite of bad road conditions, cold weather and tough terrains. The reason is most people who come to hill stations like Nagaland usually love nature, adventure, and appreciate “originality”. For them these challenges are part of a tour package and would take the rough route through the jungles to reach the hill top rather than zooming on metalled roads. They come to see hills kiss the skies and not skyscrapers. There are certain elements like road and air connectivity, communication system, and tour packages that need to be improved but the traditional feel and touch of the festival should be kept intact even if the locals think that it is getting monotonous because cultural shows like folk dance and songs are an inherent in art of our culture and also a main attraction for tourists. We may be far behind other communities in many aspects but nobody can beat us in our game – our cultural heritage, which is original and pristine. So, the Hornbill festival will survive as long as it is kept raw and authentic.