Travel photographer Vaibhav Mehta journeys to the Indian border state for an annual festival.

[Editor’s note: Nagaland is a mountainous state in far northeastern India, bordering Burma. Its people, majority Christian today, still have strong tribal affiliations, with each of the 16 Naga tribes speaking its own distinct language (all related to Tibetan). Last December, Vaibhav traveled to the remote territory, passing through a number of rural towns en route to the Hornbill Festival, an inter-tribal competition and celebration. These are his images.]


Old woman in Nagaland

A 99-year-old woman in Aizuto tries to hide her smile. People seem extremely fit and agile at advanced ages in Nagaland villages, perhaps from all the fresh air and daily hikes into the forest to fetch wood.


Soccer at sunset

Kids in a remote village play football at sunset. Being on the eastern edge of the country, Nagaland experiences very early sunrises and sunsets (4pm IST for the latter) relative to the rest of the country.


Tea estate, India

Green tea estates in Shiong Village on a misty, breezy morning.


Nagaland kids

In a village beyond Tuensang, kids gather to face the camera. Young people in the region don't have much association with the outside world -- their reactions, as shown here, range from excitement to indifference.


Tourist umbrella

A tourist stands in a Khonoma Village bylane on a misty evening.


Fleeing kids

These shy kids in the district of Tuensang make a break for it after they see my camera pointed at them.


Lush landscape

The "Green Village" of Khonoma blooms with flowers after the December showers.


Monkey skull decoration

A Naga tribesman carries a monkey head as a depiction of the head hunting tradition in Nagaland. Until relatively recently, warriors here would collect rival heads over any conflict between the tribes.


At the Hornbill Festival

People from all over the world come to witness the Hornbill Festival. Here's a funny moment when a Naga tribesman looks at the "odd" North Indian headgear of the turban with extreme curiosity!


Naga bamboo battle

Naga men battle with bamboo poles as a part of the cultural festivities of the Hornbill Festival. Chilly December weather has the audience wrapped in layers of wool, while the men fight it out in traditional thongs.


Naga tribesman

This tribesman in his traditional headgear takes a moment off during a break between two tribal performances.


Festival feet

The 16 tribes of Nagaland come together and take circles around the big bonfire as the seven-day festival draws to a close.


Preparing to dance

One of the tribes gets ready to perform its traditional dances around the bonfire on the closing day of the Hornbill Festival.


Festival dancing

A moment of traditional dance around the fires on the final day of the festival.


Fires of the Hornbill Festival

The big bonfire and the 16 smaller fires, representing the tribes, keep burning late into the evening after the festival comes to an end.

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