India, Nagaland and the Hornbill Festival

Until well into the last century, Nagaland remained one of very few places that challenged the stringency of the strictest maps. It is one of those blurred areas still to be mapped. Its name did not transcend the closed circle formed by some European geographical societies, eccentric philanthropists or adventurers and explorers. The dense jungles stretched tens of kilometers. It shelters several tribal groups that were largely alien to life outside their green borders. They kept alive a heritage they could not even touch of their own cultural identity.

And the plurality and diversity of this was not small. The ethnic human head hunters exhibited the sliced ​​trophy in the morongs (the communal houses of each village). The geometric motifs were tattooed on their faces proudly for each ravished head. Even those whose elaborate cosmogony intimately related every split of the human soul with some element of nature. There are tribes whose knowledge of the healing properties of local flora continues to amaze anthropologists and other experts.

But nothing lasts forever. In the last decades, missionaries of different orders have gone into the villages of these ethnic groups. Today, the Sunday Mass is celebrated. In the settlements that I visited, they smiled knowingly that in "my town" there are also churches. Although the electric light is as scanty and unstable as the coverage, mobile phones begin to appear. The lighters help to light the fires where the kitchen is cooked and the youth wear jeans and t-shirts with messages in English. Even so, even the most adults flee in terror and the children cry in terror when they see a white-skinned foreigner among their huts.



The second time I visited Nagaland I headed to the capital, Kohima. A few kilometers from it, we follow the route that made it known during the World War II by the bloody battle that was fought in it. Here the Hornbill festival was celebrated called thus by a native bird of the zone today in extinction. It is paradoxical to think that a homologous process affects today the own protagonists of the festival. The sixteen tribes of the state participate to which the opening to the neighboring zones has entailed. They begin to evaporate several of the customs and cultural traits that shaped their idiosyncrasy.

I confess that I walked to the event with some suspicion. I already weighed that do not run those romantic times of expeditions. In which even with the moral and ethical doubts that now arise about them, I would have loved to enlist. There was a decaffeinated show for tourists, with costumed actors performing choreographies. And I was very happy to be wrong. Evidently, the festival did not have the authenticity to see some ritual, ceremony or dance in its original context.

But after some hours among its participants, whom the illusion turned into children with adult bodies, I felt the innocent purity of those who met without more reason than enjoying the legacy that they have inherited genealogically. Each tribe represented in front of the other dances, popular games or various celebrations. Everyone laughed and clapped. Not without some irony, the same Konyaks that cut the last head in 1992 now staged before the descendants of the cut-throat ethnic group the same ritual with which they were raging before. Then they would share food, drink and laughter. And that, in some way, is also evolution.

Those days I become a naga, as the extreme generosity of these people did not make me feel otherwise. More curious for me than me for them, there were invitations to try their spicy dishes. They made sure that the piece of bamboo that was used as a glass overflowed with rice beer. I watched the shows sitting among them, chanting in their unpronounceable languages ​​the songs and hymns they taught me. When it is comfortable, time flies, and thus, almost without knowing, the festival ended. Among friends, I said goodbye to Nagaland the last night surrounding a huge bonfire, dancing with tribes.

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