Festival Frenzy! Unveiling 12 Must-See Celebrations in Northeast India
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Exploring the Unexplored: Festivals of Northeast India

Oct 7th, 2023

North East India comprises of the small Himalayan state of Sikkim & the Seven Sisters states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura). It is an unexplored paradise and is renowned for its natural scenic beauty, cultural diversity, rare and unique wildlife, indigenous people and ancient cultures. The unmatched hospitality of its friendly people, pristine nature, cloud laden landscapes, sustainable eco-friendly lifestyles and enriching history of the region will surely make you wander in the distant land at least once in your lifetime. Although the North-eastern states have been getting little importance in the tourist map of India in recent years, it is still considered as a remote corner of India by many travelers. Apart from the popular tourism festivals such as the Hornbill, Ziro Music Festival, Hornbill Festival, NH7 Weekender, Orange Festival Dambuk, Sangai Festival, etc., people are not aware of the rich cultural festivals of Northeast India.
We have handpicked a few top festivals from across North East India which are worth experiencing and will help you plan your vacation accordingly.

1. Festival name: Magh Bihu
Location: Assam 
Time of festival: 15th January


History: The MaghBihu is the harvest festival of the Assamese people and is also referred to as Bhogali Bihu or the festival of feasts. It is celebrated in the month of January at the time of winter solstice as per Indian calendar. It is the time when winter sets out on its last course, making way for spring. The eve of Magh Bihu Festival is called Uruka and is celebrated with community feasts. The next morning, people rise early, gather in the farms and set fire to "mejis" , tall sacred structures made of wood, bamboo and hay. After the burning of mejis, people sit down to offer prayers to Sun God for a better harvest in the upcoming year. Later, they continue the celebrations with traditional Assamese breakfast. In the villages, people can also witness some interesting bullfights and Bulbul bird fights. People also visit the homes of their friends and relatives to exchange pleasantries on the occasion of Bihu.
If you travel to Assam during this time, make sure that you are a part of the celebrations and experience the variety of its culinary fare. Many must try delicacies such as Pitha (Rice cakes) and Laru (sweets) are specially prepared only for this time of the year.

Highlight / Attractions - Meji structures (bonfire) are built in many points where tourists can join in the festivities (date varies every year but it is usually in the month of January)

How to reach:
Assam is a diverse state with incredible cultural heritage and magnificent landscapes of both hills and valleys. Dominated by the mighty Brahmaputra River, it is a gateway to all the north-eastern states. Assam tourism is majorly based on wildlife, luxurious tea stays, river cruises and rural experiences. Guwahati is very well-connected with major cities of the country:

By Air
Guwahati is well connected with Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and other major cities of India by several airlines. Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport also connects Guwahati with Singapore, Bangkok and Paro in Bhutan. Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Tezpur airports in Assam are also well connected with Kolkata.

By Rail
You can travel to Assam with ease as there are direct trains from all parts of India to Guwahati, the main railway hub of Northeast.

By Road
Guwahati is also well connected by road to all state capitals and important towns of Northeast.


2. Festival name: Torgya 
Location: Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
Time of festival: January-end (dates as per Tibetan lunar calendar)


History: 
Tawang is an important center for Buddhist learning and is also the land of 108 holy lakes. The 17th century Gaden Namgyal Lhatse (Tawang monastery) is the second largest Buddhist monastery in the world which houses around 550 monks and it attracts visitors from all over. Torgya is among the most important festivals celebrated in Tawang. It is a religious ceremony held for four days in the Tawang monastery. The monks observe the rituals by performing various Chaam mask dances and pray for the wellbeing of the local Monpa community, who are devout Buddhists since centuries of Tibetan cultural influence. Monpas from many villages around Tawang, Dirang, Bomdila and even from Bhutan come dressed in their traditional attire to see the religious dances and seek blessings. A fair of handmade goods and local edibles is also held within the premises of the large monastery. A ceremonial fire is lit and an effigy of evil is lit on the last day.  

Highlight / Attractions - Masked dance (cham) at Gaden Namgyal Lhatse Monastery, Tawang (date varies every year depending on the tibetan calender but it is usually in the month of January)

How to reach there: 

Tawang is renowned for its beautiful monasteries, sanctified Buddhist trails, stunning lakes and high altitude mountain passes. Arunachal Pradesh is one of India's north eastern states bordering China, Myanmar and Bhutan. Travelling to Arunachal Pradesh requires Inner Line Permit for Indian tourists and Protected Area Permit for foreign nationals.

By Air:      
Tezpur airport in Assam is the nearest airport, 330 km (around 14 hours drive). There are flights from Kolkata. There are helicopter services twice a week from Guwahati to Tawang.

By Train:     
There are no railway stations on this route. Guwahati station in Assam would be the nearest major rail head. It would take 2-3 days by road from Guwahati to reach Tawang.

By Road:
There are numerous shared sumos and few buses available from Tezpur to Tawang early morning daily. Overnight mid-way halt at Bomdila or Dirang is recommended as it is a long journey through the mountain roads. Shared sumos also ply from Guwahati station to Bomdila and Dirang.


3. Festival name: Sekrenyi Festival
Location:  Kohima district, Nagaland
Time of festival: 25-28 February


History: 
Sekrenyi is the main festival of the Angami Naga tribe of Nagaland. It is celebrated at the end of the harvest season. Priests of the indigenous Kruna nanyu religion of the Angamis preside over the animist ceremonies. The festival begins with Kizie purification rituals of a ceremonial bath by the men early in the morning on the first day of Zukophe along with lighting a sacred fire which is brought to the village. On the second day, chicken sacrifices and prophecies are made to ward off evil and enemies. People decorate their homes with bamboo and leaves and also gather to remember their ancestors on the third day, Thekra Hie. On the fourth day, young couples go to the forests to collect stone, wood and wild fruits. The following day, they visit their parents to exchange the gifts collected from the forest. On the sixth and seventh day, villagers wear traditional attire and celebrate with folk dances, community feasts, drink rice beer and distribute cooked meat from the sacrifices. Angamis begin the preparations two days before the festival by collecting wood from the forest, hunting for community feast and cleaning the village wells for the purification bath. The Sekrenyi celebrations continue for almost a week and it is considered a taboo to work in the fields during this time. Each village celebrates on a particular date, the biggest celebrations are held in Touphema village.

Highlight / Attractions - Experience Naga culture, food & dance at Nagaland (date varies every year but it is usually in the month of February)

How to reach:
Kohima district is the homeland of Angami Naga tribe. Angami villages such as Khonoma, Viswema, Jakhama, Kigwema and Touphema are located near the state capital. One can still see the traditional lifestyle and old houses in these villages. Indian tourists visiting Nagaland need to apply for Inner Line Permit.

By Air :
Dimapur is the only airport in Nagaland, which is serviced by direct flights to Kolkata. It is 75km / 3 hours from Kohima.

By Rail :
The only railhead in Nagaland is Dimapur station, which is well connected to Guwahati, Delhi and Kolkata.

By Road :
The state capital Kohima is linked to Imphal, Shillong and Guwahati by regular bus service. There are plenty shared taxis between Dimapur and Kohima. Advisable to hire a private taxi from Kohima to the villages as public transport is limited in rural areas.


4. Festival name: Chapchar Kut 
Location: Aizawl, Mizoram
Time of festival: March 


History: 
Chapchar Kut is the main festival of the Mizo people and is celebrated with great pomp and gaiety. It is celebrated after harvest and clearing the land for the next agrarian season, it also marks the onset of spring. During this period of rest, Mizos observe days of peace and celebrate with folk dances, fishing, hunting, brew local rice beer and settle disputes. Every member of the Mizo society is involved by the community for the celebrations.  The highlight of the festival is the spectacular Cheraw bamboo dance where girls dance between long bamboo poles which are being tapped by boys in either ends and are accompanied by musicians beating metal gongs and cymbals. There are also other folk dances such as Khual Lam welcome dance, Chheih Lam and Solakia war dance during the festival. Chai dance is held at the end when all the people form big circles and slowly dance to the tunes of the folk songs to celebrate the unity of the Mizo people. Almost everyone in the town dressed in colourful costumes gather at the Assam Rifles ground in Aizawl, which is the centre of the biggest celebrations in the state.

Highlight / Attractions - Experience Mizo culture, food & dance at Suaipui (date varies every year but it is usually in the month of March)

How to reach:
Aizawl is the state capital of Mizoram. It is located on a hill top with beautiful views of the Lushai Hills. Although it is a small hill town, the Mizo people are remarkably quite modern in their outlook and yet they have strong beliefs with their traditions of the past. Inner Line Permit is required for Indian travelers visiting Mizoram.

By Air:
Lengpui airport near Aizawl is connected by flights to Guwahati and Kolkata. It is recommended to fly to Aizawl as the long road journey from the plains is tiresome.

By Train:
The only railway station in Mizoram is Bairabi (115km / 5 hours) in Kolasib District bordering Assam.

By Road:
Mizoram is connected through National Highway 54 from Silchar (175km / 7 hours) in Assam. There are also shared sumos and night buses from Guwahati (470km / 15 hours).


5. Festival name: Saga Dawa Festival
Location: Sikkim
Time of festival: May / June


Saga Dawa is a sacred religious festival in Sikkim as well as Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh and the entire Himalayan belt up to Ladakh. It is also known as Buddha Purnima, the birth of Lord Gautam Buddha on a full moon night. Saga Dawa is regarded as the holy month of Tripple Blessing as the Buddha was believed to be born, achieved enlightenment and attained Nirvana during this month of Tibetan calendar. Devout Buddhists of all communities of Sikkim gather in the temples, light butter lamps and offer prayers. Some also release animals and insects in to the wilderness as an act of life giving and compassion. Many communities erect new prayer flags in sacred sites. It is also the auspicious month to embark on the long pilgrimage to Mount Kailash in Tibet. A religious procession of monks carrying the deity and sacred scriptures begin from the royal Tsuk Lakhang monastery and go through the streets of Gangtok, people assemble by the roadside to receive blessings.

Highlight / Attractions - Procession with religious scriptures starting from Tsuklakhang Monastery, Gangtok (date varies every year depending on the tibetan calender but it is usually in the month of May)

By Air
The closest major airport to Sikkim is Bagdogra Airport (125km / 5 hours) near Siluguri in West Bengal. The newly opened Pakyong airport near Gangtok also has direct flights to Kolkata and Guwahati.

By Rail
There are no train stations in Sikkim. New Jalpaiguri (120km / 5 hours) is the nearest railway station to reach Sikkim. 
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By Road
National Highway 31A which connects Gangtok with Siliguri (115km / 5 hours) in West Bengal is the lifeline of Sikkim. There are regular bus service and numerous shared taxis and jeeps from Siliguri to most towns in Sikkim.


6. Festival name: Ambubachi Mela
Location: Guwahati, Assam
Time of festival: June


History:
The Ambubachi Mela is an ancient tradition celebrated at the Kamakhya Temple of Guwahati. The temple is believed to have been built in the 8th century and is a center of Tantric practices related to the Shakti worship cult and Shaivism sect of Hinduism. Ambubachi is observed when the Mother goddess Kamakhya, goes through her annual cycle of menstruation. During this period of three days, the temple altar remains closed for prayers and ceremonies. A big fair is held in the premises of the temple where thousands of pilgrims and holy men visit to seek blessings once the temple reopens. It is then believed that Mother Earth has retrieved her purity. 

Highlight / Attractions - Get blessed by Goddess Kamakhya, who is considered the embodiment of female power and fertility at Kamakhya Temple of Guwahati (date varies every year but it is usually in the month of June)

How to reach:
Public transport is available from most parts of the city to Kamakhya gate at the base of Nilachal hill. Vehicle movement on the Nilachal Hill is restricted due to rush during the festival. Visitors walk uphill to the temple throughout the day by singing and dancing to holy songs and prayers.

By Air
Guwahati is well connected with Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and other major cities of India by several airlines. Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport also connects Guwahati with Singapore, Bangkok and Paro in Bhutan. 

By Rail
You can travel to Assam with ease as there are direct trains from all parts of India to Guwahati, the main rail hub of Northeast. Kamakhya station at Maligaon is located in the vicinity.

By Road
Guwahati is also well connected by road to all state capitals and important towns of Northeast.


7. Festival name: Pang Lhabsol Festival
Location:  Pelling, Sikkim
Time of festival: Mid-August


History: 
Pang Lhabsol is among the popular festivals in Sikkim which is celebrated in honor of Mt.Kanchendzonga, the highest peak of Sikkim. Kongchen Kolho (Kanchendzonga) is the protector deity of the native Lepcha tribe of Sikkim who worshiped nature prior to the advent of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan monk Lhatsun Chenpo, who discovered Sikkim and introduced Buddhism, was guided by the divine vision of the holy mountain to spread Buddhism. The third Bhutia king of Sikkim, Chogyal Chador Namgyal, choreographed the Pang Toed Chaam or warrior dance to appease Mt. Kanchendzonga. The festival has been celebrated by both the Lepchas and Bhutias in the monasteries of Pelling, Ravangla and Gangtok as a symbol of their unity since the 16th century. Monks wearing masks and carrying ritual daggers dance around the mountain deity. Monks from the old Pemayangtse monastery of Pelling also perform the ceremonial dances at the royal TsukLakhang monastery in Gangtok and Karma Thekchen Ling Monastery in Ravangla in front of large crowds. 

Highlight / Attractions - Masked dance at Tsuklakhang Monastery, Gangtok (date varies every year depending on the tibetan calender but it is usually in the month of August-September)

By Air
The closest major airport to Sikkim is Bagdogra Airport (125km / 5 hours) near Siliguri in West Bengal. The newly opened Pakyong airport near Gangtok also has direct flights to Kolkata and Guwahati.

By Rail
There are no train stations in Sikkim. New Jalpaiguri (120km / 5 hours) is the nearest railway station to reach Sikkim. 
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By Road
National Highway 31A which connects Gangtok with Siliguri (115km / 5 hours) in West Bengal is the lifeline of Sikkim. There are regular bus service and numerous shared taxis and jeeps from Siliguri to most towns in Sikkim.


8. Festival name: Ziro Festival of Music 
Location: Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh
Time of festival: September-end.


History: 
The four day extravaganza of Ziro Festival of Music started in 2012 through the efforts of Bobby Hano and guitarist Anup Kutty from the band Menwhopause. Ever since its inception, the festival has drawn huge crowds, mostly youngsters from all across the country and also abroad to listen to the amazing artists and their unique expressions and renditions. The Ziro Festival is widely known to be the one of the greatest outdoor music festivals in India. Celebrated with much fervor and energy, it is also a wonderful opportunity to see the musical talent of the local artists of North East India. The popularity of the festival has reached far and wide, reputed singers, musicians as well as international bands such as Steve Shelley, Lee Ranaldo, Indus Creed, Peter Cat Recording Company, Barmer Boys, Menwhopause, Lou Majaw, Sha’air and Func, Guru Rewben Mashangwa, etc. have performed in the concerts over the years at Ziro. Camping is another interesting experience and attraction of the event. Campsites pitched in the beautiful lush green countryside near the concert venue makes the stay equally memorable as the melody of the musical performances.

Highlight / Attractions - Top music band performanes at Ziro (26th - 29th September)

How to Reach:
By Air
Lilabari airport in North Lakhimpur, Assam is the nearest airport (135km, 5 hours). However, there are limited flights to this small airport. Guwahati or Dibrugarh airports, which are connected by frequent flights to major Indian cities, would be better alternatives.

By Rail
Although North Lakhimpur would be the nearest rail head, Naharlagun station near state capital Itanagar (100 km, 5 hours) would be convenient as it has direct connectivity with trains from Delhi and Guwahati. 

By Road
Ziro Valley can be reached through direct buses which are available from Guwahati, Itanagar and North Lakhimpur.


9. Festival name: Shad Nongkrem
Location: Smit, Meghalaya
Time of festival: October


History: 
Shad Nongkrem is the autumn festival of the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya. It is celebrated in Smit (15km, 45 mins) from the state capital Shillong at the site of the old Khasi Dorbar, a historic meeting court of the Khasi chiefs.  The Nongkrem dance is the main highlight of this festival. Women wear the colorful traditional Jainsem while men dance with swords and shields. It is performed by the small group of followers of the native Seng Khasi religion who have strongly held on to their ancient roots in the Christian majority state. Goat sacrifices are also part of the animist ceremonies when the people pray for a good harvest in autumn. Celebrations are also seen in Shillong which feature a number of events like fashion shows, music concerts, food festivals, flower shows and sports events. 

Highlight / Attractions - Khasi traditional dance at smit, Shillong (Date varies but it is usually in the month of November)

How to reach:
Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya and also the erstwhile capital of the entire Assam province of Northeastern states during British Raj. It was also known as the ‘Scotland of the East’ due to its hilly terrain. Shillong is an important city of the region and a major educational hub. Due to its booming tourism sector, Shillong is well connected by air, train and roadways.

By Air
Umroi airport near Umiam Lake in the outskirts of Shillong is connected by flights from Kolkata. There is also helicopter service from Guwahati.  The nearest major airport is Guwahati (120 km / 3 hours) which is well-connected with multiple cities across India is in Guwahati.

By Train
The closest railway station from Shillong is in Guwahati. There are numerous trains from Guwahati to most parts of the country.

By Road
There are regular bus and taxi services from Guwahati to Shillong throughout the day. Plenty of shared taxis are easily available outside Guwahati station and airport.


10. Festival name: Sangai Festival
Location:  Imphal, Manipur
Time of festival: 21st to 30th November


History:
Sangai Festival is an annual cultural extravaganza organized by the Government of Manipur to promote tourism in the state. The festival is named after the shy and gentle Brow-Antlered Deer, popularly known as the Sangai Deer, which is found only in the state’s floating Keibul Lamjao National Park in Loktak Lake. The events are held at several venues all over the state capital Imphal and also at Loktak Lake. Cultural programs showcase the uniqueness of Manipuri culture which comprises the Meitei community of Manipur valley along with the Naga and Kuki hill tribes. Classical Manipuri dance, pre-Hindu Lai Haraoba dance, Dhol Cholom, indigenous Thang-ta martial arts along with Naga and Kuki folk dances can be seen during the festival. Traditional architecture of the different tribes, their arts, handicrafts and cuisine are also a part of the display and celebrations. 
The game of Polo originated in Manipur, a special international tournament was also held during this time at Imphal along with adventure sports activities to attract tourists. Evening concerts, film screenings, public seminars and art exhibitions are also part of the event.

Highlight / Attractions - Witness traditional Manipuri dance performances including the famous 'The Ras Leela' at Moirang Khunou, Bishnupur  (21st - 30th November)

How to Reach:
Imphal is one of the largest towns of Northeast India. The city has been of historical importance since ancient times and even during World War II. Visitors can enjoy sightseeing during the day and enjoy the festival in the evening. Manipur has recently started the Inner Line Permit system for Indian nationals, foreigners need to register at the Immigration counter at the airport.

By Air
Imphal is easily accessible by air. There are direct flights from Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati daily. Special flights sometimes operate between Imphal and Mandalay in Myanmar during Sangai festival.

By Rail
There is no railway connectivity yet. The nearest railhead is Dimapur (205km/ 9 hours) in Nagaland.

By Road
Manipur is accessible by road. There are buses from Guwahati, Shillong, Dimapur and Kohima.


11. Festival name: Hornbill Festival
Location:  Kohima, Nagaland
Time of festival: 1st to 10th December


History: 
The Hornbill Festival, also known as ‘Festival of all festivals’ is indeed the most popular tourism festival of the Northeast. It has been organized by the Tourism Department of Nagaland since 2001 and is now famous all over the world. The event showcases the cultures of the sixteen different tribes of Nagaland. It is held at Kisama Heritage Village in the outskirts of Kohima. Each tribe has their own pavilion in the form of a traditional wooden Morung (community hall) where they perform folk songs, war dances, beat log drums, showcase their handicrafts and also offer their ethnic cuisine. Indigenous games such as traditional wrestling, fire making and chili eating competition are held center stage in front of large cheering crowds. The festival is a spectacular delight for photographers as they can see all the different tribes dressed in their traditional costumes, exotic headgears, beads and ivory armlets at a single venue. Events in Kohima town include evening concerts, vintage car rallies, art exhibitions and fashion shows along with the Carnival Night Market in the city center.

Highlight / Attractions - A feast of Naga Food and culture with a modern twist (1st - 10th December)

How to reach:
Kohima is the capital of Nagaland and is a historic town which grew into prominence during the Japanese invasion of 1944 during World War II. Mary of Help cathedral, World War II cemetery and State Museum are few other attractions of Kohima which can be visited while traveling to Kohima for the Hornbill Festival. 

By Air
Dimapur is the only airport in Nagaland, which is serviced by direct flights to Kolkata. It is 75km / 3 hours from Kohima.

By Rail
The only railhead in Nagaland is Dimapur station, which is well connected to Guwahati, Delhi and Kolkata.

By Road
The state capital Kohima is linked to Imphal, Shillong and Guwahati by regular bus service. There are plenty of shared taxis between Dimapur and Kohima. Mountain roads in Nagaland are mostly in bad condition as they’re prone to landslides during the rainy season.


12. Festival name: Losoong Festival
Location: Sikkim
Time of festival: December-end


History:
Losoong, also known as Namsoong, is the harvest festival and traditional New Year of the indigenous minority Lepcha tribe of Sikkim and neighboring Darjeeling hills, Haa valley in Bhutan and eastern Nepal. The Lepchas were the original inhabitants of this region prior to the migration of the Bhutias from Tibet and Nepalese communities. The Lepchas later came under the influence of Tibetan culture and celebrated Losoong with similar festivities as Losar, the Tibetan New Year, as celebrated by the Bhutias and other Tibetan tribes in February. Along with animistic rituals of their Mun religion performed by their Bongthing shamans and native priests, Buddhist ceremonies are also an integral part of the celebrations. The religious Chaam Dance is performed by monks at the Buddhist monasteries. Both the Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate this festival with equal fervor after the harvest season. People rejoice with feasts and drinking the local Chang millet brew.

Highlight / Attractions - Kagyed (masked) Dance at Enchay Monastery, Gangtok (date varies every year depending on the tibetan calender but it is usually in the month of December)

How to Reach:
In spite of being a small mountainous state, Sikkim is well connected by air, rail and road as it is a popular travel destination in India. Visitors traveling to North Sikkim require a special permit. Foreigners visiting Sikkim need to apply for Inner Line Permit.

By Air
The closest major airport to Sikkim is Bagdogra Airport (125km / 5 hours) near Siliguri in West Bengal. The newly opened Pakyong airport near Gangtok also has direct flights to Kolkata and Guwahati.

By Rail
There are no train stations in Sikkim. New Jalpaiguri (120km / 5 hours) is the nearest railway station to reach Sikkim. 

By Road
National Highway 31A which connects Gangtok with Siliguri (115km / 5 hours) in West Bengal is the lifeline of Sikkim. There are regular bus service and numerous shared taxis and jeeps from Siliguri to most towns in Sikkim.


Written by Pintso Gyatso: Unveiling the Hidden Gems of Northeast India

Pintso, a native of Gangtok, Sikkim, isn't just a travel writer – he's a seasoned explorer. Years spent trekking and mountain biking across the region honed his intimate knowledge of Sikkim and Darjeeling's hidden treasures.

Co-founding OurGuest, Pintso's passion extends beyond travel. He champions sustainable tourism, working with local homestays and communities to create enriching experiences that benefit both travelers and the region. From building eco-lodges to collaborating with local guides, Pintso's expertise ensures you discover the authentic Northeast India, one adventure at a time.

For a customized tour experience you can contact us at +91-7669503993 or email to contact@ourguest.in



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