North East India festivals highlight the region's rich indigenous culture with folk songs, tribal dances, food and crafts. Discover 11 of the most popular ones in this guide.
1. Hornbill Festival, NagalandNagaland, 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.
- When: December 1-7 every year.
- Where: Kisama Heritage Village, in Kohima district.
- Guide to the Hornbill Festival
2. Bihu Festival, AssamMost famous for its tea gardens and rare Great Indian One-Horned Rhinocerous, Assam also has three cultural festivals a year, all known as Bihu, that mark a particular period on the agricultural calendar. The biggest and most colorful of the three is Bohaag Bihu (also known as Rongali Bihu), which is celebrated at seeding time in spring with plenty of singing and dancing. It also marks the start of the new year there. Kaati Bihu, at the completion of paddy transplanting, is a relatively solemn occasion involving the lighting of lamps to guide souls to heaven. The end of the harvest season is marked by Maagh Bihu (also known as Bhogali Bihu), with bonfires feasting, buffalo fights, and pot breaking.
- When: Bohaag/Rongali Bihu (mid April each year), Kaati Bihu (mid October each year), and Maagh/Bhogali Bihu (mid January each year).
- Where: The Assam Tourism Department organizes a special Rongali Utsav at Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra, Guwahati.
3. Brahmaputra Beach Festival, AssamIf you're in Assam for Maagh/Bhogali Bihu, make sure you time your visit to coincide with the Brahmaputra Beach Festival. This two day event combines culture and adventure sports, including traditional Bihu dances, food, crafts, cultural exhibition, paragliding, boat cruises, canoeing, rafting, and beach volleyball. It's a great way to enjoy the outdoors!
- When: January or February each year.
- Where: Brahmaputra river banks (entrance from Sonaram field, Bharalu, overlooking Umananda island).
4. Dehing Patkai Festival, AssamAnother Assamese festival, organized by the Tourism Department around the time of Maagh/Bhogali Bihu, that's worth catching is the Dehing Patkai Festival. Named after the Dehing river and Patkai range in eastern Assam, it offers something for everyone. Attractions include fairs, tea heritage tours, golfing, adventure sports, hiking and wildlife, and trips to Stilwell Road and World War II cemeteries.
- When: January each year.
- Where: Lekhapani, in the Tinsukia district of Assam.
5. Torgya Monastery Festival, Arunachal PradeshA three day monastery festival, Torgya is observed by the Monpa tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. The rituals, including the performance of sacred dances by brightly costumed monks in the monastery's courtyard, are supposed to ward off evil spirits and bring prosperity to the tribe.
- When: January each year. The celebrations are the grandest every third year, known as Dungyur Chenmo (the last one was in 2010).
- Where: Tawang Monastery.
6. Shillong Autumn Festival, MeghalayaOctober-November is the best time to visit the state of Meghalaya, kicking off with the renowned three day Autumm Festival. This festival is the premier event put on by the Meghalaya Tourism Department, and it has both regional and international performers. It includes a street carnival, fashion shows, beauty pageants, food and wine, flower shows, kite flying, traditional and rock music, golf, fishing, and art.
- When: October-November each year.
- Where: Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya.
- 5 Shillong Hotels with a Difference.
7. Nongkrem Dance Festival, MeghalayaThe annual Nongkrem Dance Festival is a five day harvest thanksgiving festival of the Khasi tribe. The traditional dance is performed by young men and women dressed up in exquisite attire. If you're a vegetarian or animal lover, be aware that an important feature of the festival is the 'Pomblang' or goat sacrifice, which you will most likely want to avoid.
- When: November each year.
- Where: Smit, around 15 kilometers from Shillong.
8. Wangala Festival, MeghalayaAnother harvest festival, the Wangala Festival runs for two days and is dedicated to the sun god of fertility. It's marked by community celebrations, including dancing. However, the highlight is the sound of 100 drums (nagaras) being beaten. Hence, the alternative name for the festival -- the Hundred Drums Wangala.
- When: Second week of November each year.
- Where: Asanang village near Tura in the Garo Hills.
9. Chapchar Kut, MizoramChapchar Kut (named after bamboo that has been cut and is drying) is an agricultural festival celebrated before planting begins. The bamboo dance, called Cheraw, is a big part of the festival. Different styles of dance performances take place amidst symbol clashes and beats of drums. There's art, handicrafts, concerts, flower shows, and food as well.
- When: March each year.
- Where: Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram. Also Lunglei and Saiha.
10. Kang Chingba, ManipurThe Kang Chingba is to Manipur what the Puri Rath Yatra is to Orissa. It's an eight day religious festival that celebrates the journey of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra. Thousands of devotees help pull the massive chariots that carry them. Feasting and dancing continue into the night.
- When: July each year.
- Where: Sri Sri Govindajee Temple, Imphal, the capital of Manipur.
11. Kharchi Puja, TripuraOnce a puja (worship ritual) exclusively for the royal family, Kharchi Puja is now one of the most popular festivals in the tiny state of Tripura. It's a week-long event that attracts people by the thousands. There are many legends associated with it that are of tribal origin, including the cleansing of Mother Earth and the worship of 14 gods as prescribed by Lord Shiva. Animal sacrifice is also part of this festival, so those who have an aversion towards such things should be aware to avoid it. However, there are plenty of other attractions such as a fair and cultural programs.
- When: July each year.
- Where: Old Agartala (Puran Haveli), at the temple of the 14 deities, not far from the capital city Agartala.