[India News]: Hajo (Assam), Jan 15:
Over 300 birds, high on marijuana, fight as thousands of spectators goad them with drum beats and cymbals at the annual harvest festival in Hajo village, 30 km west of Guwahati.

Bird fights, using the red-vented Bulbuls, a 20-cm-long bird of the Pycnonotus Cafer family, are an integral part of the Bihu celebrations at Hajo, with residents training the birds for a fortnight prior to the event.

In the two-day festival that concludes Saturday, at least 300 intoxicated birds are coaxed to fight each other by their temporary owners for a trophy and a cash reward of Rs.1,000.

Locals catch the birds from the forest using bamboo traps, according to a village elder, Chinmoy Das.

For 20 days, the birds are fed an intoxicating concoction consisting of a small amount of marijuana along with other herbs, bananas, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon.

"We feed the birds regularly to make them strong and sharp for the fight," village elder Haricharan Kalita told IANS.

Their legs tied with a string, the inebriated birds are then goaded to fight each other on the precincts of a Hindu temple.

"It is a part of our long tradition and people come from afar during the Bihu season to witness these annual bird fights," said local resident Ambar Bora.

Once the fights are over, the birds are set free. "We treat the birds humanely during the entire period and once the event is over we release them," said Hiranya Das, one of the organizers of this unique bird fight.

The number of bird fights is, however, on the decline with the species, locally known as Bulbuli, moving towards extinction.

"Earlier we had 800 to 1,000 birds fighting each other. But now the birds are vanishing and so this year we have just about 300 birds in the event," another organizer said.

--Indo-Asian News Service