Aoling is the main festival of the Konyaks from northern Nagaland. It is celebrated in the first week of April every year, this year Mon will be witnessing the celebration from 1st – 6th April.
The Aoling Festival differs from the more famous Hornbill Festival which is usually held from 1–7 December and takes place at the Kisama Heritage Village which is 12 km from Nagaland’s capital Kohima. The Hornbill Festival is a major tourist attraction and is arranged by the Tourism and Art & Culture Departments to preserve the cultures of all the different tribes in Nagaland.
The Aoling Festival is an authentic tribal festival arranged by the Konyak tribe only. The celebrations for the Aoling Festival are spread across a week. The main purpose of the Aoling Festival is to welcome the spring and new year and to pray for a good harvest. During the Aoling Festival many rituals take place including dancing, feasting and sacrifices that are meant to appease the divine spirits in order to bless the land with a good harvest.
The Hornbill festival is one of the grandest festivals celebrated in Nagaland followed by Aoling festival in terms of importance and grandiosity. The Hornbill festival celebrates the cultures of all the seventeen tribes in Nagaland. However, Aoling is celebrated by a single tribe of Nagaland. The festival is celebrated by the Konyak people. The Konyak tribe is the largest of the seventeen tribes dwelling in Nagaland.The Aoling festival is the biggest festival celebrated in the district of Mon. It signifies the culture of the Konyaks.
Nagaland’s most well known occupants are the people of the Konyak tribe better known as the infamous head hunting tribes. The Konyaks live in the Mon district, a beautiful, wild, hilly area that is the best place in Nagaland to see traditional villages, tattooed tribal warriors and get a fascinating glimpse of a lifestyle so different from the modern world.
One of the highlights of visiting Mon is the intriguing headhunter village of Longwa that straddles the Indo, Myanmar border. The traditional houses display animal skulls, where they would have once displayed human heads and you can visit the opium smoking Angh (the chief/ king).
Every Konyak village is ruled by one king, who obviously displays the more and biggest skulls. This main king can have from 3 to 6 other sub-kings, according to the village size, in order to maintain his social and war supremacy. Every sub-king is in charge of a different part of the village and reports to the main king. All kings are easily recognisable because of the clear blue beads on their legs. The more blue beads layers they wear, the most powerful and respected they are. In the past, kings used to get bribes from the conquered villages all around, even sometimes 50km away from their own village, beating drums on huge carved dead trees to pass messages from villages to villages.
With the exception of these behaviors, the tribal members maintain a very disciplined community life with strict duties and responsibilities for every individual.
Head hunting was prevalent back in the past and the last head hunting was reported to be in the 1969. Severing the head of enemies was a sign of bravery and symbolically represented capturing the enemy’s spirit, which earned the warriors tattoos. Human skulls were often seen stacked around warriors house, but not much a common sight today.