For centuries, the North-Eastern part of India has been celebrating their traditional and cultural festivals in boisterous style. From rhythm and soul to colour and savour, these festivals are awash with art, folk songs and cultural dances. Most of the festivals here are celebrated either to mark the beginning of a New Year or to worship their deities. These festive occasions are the perfect time for tourists to get a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage of the region.
The Bihu Festival of Assam
The Assamese celebrate Bihu thrice in a year namely, Bohag or Rongali Bihu, Kaati or Kongali Bihu and Maagh or Bhogali Bihu. Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu is considered as the most important Bihu festival. At the time of Rongali Bihu, bands, buskers and dance troupes can be found performing the Bihu Dance donning their traditional outfits. Every household comes together to prepare various delicacies to serve their guests and Pitha is an essential favourite.
The Ambubachi Mela
Held at the Kamakhya temple in Assam in the month of June, it is often called the Mahakumbh of the East. Gates of the temple remain closed though devotees populate the temple in high numbers to seek the blessings of the Goddess. Occult or the tantric practices are a major speciality of this festival.
The Hornbill Festival
Named after their favourite bird, Hornbill is certainly Nagaland’s huge draw card and is attended by all the major tribes. It is quite the spectacle with people wearing colourful headgear, playing log drums and breaking into song and dance.
The Dree festival
The Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh celebrates the Dree festival to mark the beginning of the agricultural year with a lot of pompous cultural performances which includes folk songs, traditional dances and preparation of local delicacies like rice or millet beer and home brewed wine.
The Losar Festival
Losar of Arunachal Pradesh commemorates the advent of the New Year. Losar offers a quintessential combination of ritualistic worship of the Harvest god during the day. People are seen making various offerings; more specifically roast buttered barley which is considered to be a custom among the tribes.
Celebrated by the Ao Tribe of Nagaland, it marks the completion of the sowing season. The tribal people indulge in a lot of cultural activities, where the men perform warrior dances, while the women sing traditional folk songs.
The three-day long Anthurium festival helps in promoting tourism along with the cultivation of the special Anthurium flowers. This exotic flower is the statuesque star of the show. Special tours to the beautiful Anthurium plantations are organized during these 3 days.
In this grand carnival, streets are filled with colour as men and women parade in their traditional outfits to sing and dance to the tune of the flute. It is interesting to see the tribal women indulge in a unique bamboo dance while the men tap the bamboos in rhythmic beats.
This festival brings all the youths together, giving them an opportunity to showcase their talents during this festival. Most of the localities involve themselves in lighting the sacred fire, a lot of folk dancing, traditional log drum beating and other grand merriments.
A procession carrying the Idol of Lord Jagannath, accompanied by ringing bells, gongs, drums etc are led through the streets for every devotee to be a part of it. The devotees actively participate in pulling the massive chariots as these Raths pass through the streets.
Nongkrem Dance Festival
The Khasi tribe celebrates this festival with an edge of religious fervour and the goddess Ka Blei Synshar is worshipped for good harvest and prosperity of the people. Young men and women dress in traditional Khasi outfits and participate in various dance forms. The echo of drum beats and the tangmuri or pipes lingers in the hills for a long time.
Popularly known as the “100 Drum Festival, Wangala is also a harvest festival where the Sun god of fertility is worshipped by the Garo community of the region. The most attractive part of this festival is the beating of the 100 drums which creates a harmonious rhythm and the participants move in lines while playing the drums in a synchronized manner.
This seven-day festival is held in the temple premises by worshipping their fourteen gods. People involve in sacrificial offerings of Goats and Pigeons to the deity during this time. Apart from the religious fervour, large fairs and cultural programs are organized for people to embrace the festive mood.