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Nagaland Hornbill Festival

Naga tribesmen from the Yimchunger tribe gesture as they rest of their Morung on the first day of the state annual Hornbill Festival. Morungs are large youth dormitories constructed at the head of villages, often to guard them but fundamentally for providing an educational foundation in social and cultural values. Boys and girls are admitted into the their respective Morungs upon reaching puberty. Today, the Morung system is endangered as more and more Nagas have moved away from it.

Up close: The Nagaland Hornbill Festival

The Nagaland Hornbill Festival, celebrated every year since 2000 in the first week of December, reverberates with color and pageantry. The festival is a mélange of Naga cultural displays on the same stage. Organized by the Nagaland State Directorate of Tourism in Kohima, the festival intends to revive, protect and preserve the rich and unique Naga heritage and attract tourists to the state. The hornbill, a bird admired by the Naga people, is the leitmotif of this festival. Hornbills, now threatened in the wild due to deforestation, are linked closely with the social and cultural mores of the Naga people, evident in tribal folklore, dance and song. The bird is symbolically displayed in traditional tribal headgear. Photographer CAISII MAO captures the mood at the Naga Heritage Village of Kisama, 15 km away from Kohima, the capital of Nagaland.