For years, I had been wanting to attend the annual Aoling Festival of the famed headhunting tribe of Nagaland in north-eastern India. When I finally got the opportunity, not only was I not disappointed but it whetted my appetite to go back to the state to get to know its tribes better.
For those considering attending the festival, here is some information you may find useful:
* The Aoling festival is the annual ‘Spring Festival’ of the Konyaks, the once feared headhunting tribe who reside in the Mon district of Nagaland, a state in the north-east of India.
* Dates: April 1-6
* The festival marks the end of the sowing season; farmers practice the ‘Jhum’ or Slash-and-Burn form of agriculture on the rolling hills of the state. Crops include rice, yam, pumpkins, chillies, tapioca, cucumber, maize, job’s tears and millet. Sites for these are rotated every two years.
* This is a time for jubilation and making merry; everyone dresses in their traditional best sporting headgear, colourful dresses and ornaments. Dance, music, drinks and food are in abundance all day and well into the night.
* Guns, with real gunpowder, go off at all times – these are symbolic of their headhunting days of the past. Konyaks have been making their own guns and gunpowder long before coming in contact with the outside world.
* As expected, all work stops for the six days of the festival.
* A special Rice Beer is brewed from sticky rice a week in advance which is consumed (in excess) in bamboo mugs.
* People also identify this festival with the blooming of the red Coral tree flowers and red lilies. Our host pointed out to two men in Wanching village singing a song celebrating the blooming of the Coral tree flower in their local dialect.
* The festival is celebrated in villages across the district with no defined schedule. You have to ask around about events taking place when you get there.