The Hornbill Emblem

The effigy of the hornbill is used by the Zomi as National emblem. The emblem was adopted in identification of Zomi cultural life with the noble image of the hornbill.

All sources of Zomi tradition commonly say that hornbills are noble birds. According to tradition they lead a married life just as men are doing. Like man, the bride is taken from the distant place and brought to the bridegroom. While laying egg the female bird is enclosed within a fence so that it cannot move and it is fed mouth by the male bird. If any sign of destruction is found with the fence the female bird is accused of being unfaithful and is pecked to death by the male bird. It is said that if one of the couple died the living one also killed itself. Hornbills are never known to destroy the crops in the field nor live on flesh; but they live only on fruit.

Therefore, they are viewed as sacred and noble – sacred in the sense that they live a simple life. They are noble because they live the beautiful life characterized by love and faithfulness. Thus hornbills are much respected and honoured by the Zos. According to tradition marriage is regarded as a kind of contract tied with love and loyalty. Thus a marriage is considered to be ‘unbreakable’ or ‘inseparable’ except by the event of death. A wife cannot be divorced so long as she remains faithful to her husband. The idea of a faithful life expressed in the married life of the hornbill is taken as a symbolic expression of the love for one’s wife who is likened and referred to as a hornbill. Zo people proudly put on hornbill feathers on important occasions in self-identification with the dignity and honour that the hornbill exemplifies. J. Suan Za Dong once described the cultural beauty of the hornbill in identification with Zomi and their nation as thus:

Two hornbills stately and dignified,
For loyalty and honour so proudly pose
Symbolising ZOMI in culture rich and sound
Splendours of our State; fresh like a rose
Scenic beauties and flowers in our land abound.

Based on this traditional background, the physical image of the hornbill has been adopted to symbolize the dignity and honour that the Zo’s simple life expressed. The emblem has been chosen to signify the ‘inseparable tie’ existing among the Zomi in India, Burma and Bangladesh.

(Source: Sing Khaw Khai, “Zo People and their Culture,” 1995, p.194)



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