One of the most linguistically diverse states in India, where food preparations vary from district to district and where travellers find their haven in the lap of the Himalayas, Arunachal Pradesh is a land of majestic mountains, breathtaking greenery and vivid tribes.
WORDS: SHIFA MEYAJI
IT is one of the last remaining regions where a number of primitive tribes still exist and maintain a harmonious balance with each other and with nature.
Arunachal Pradesh is in north-eastern India and is popularly known as ‘the land of the Rising Sun’. The culture and lifestyle of this state has been heavily influenced by the tribes residing there.
They are divided into three groups, according to their socio – religious beliefs. The Monpas and Sherdukpens of Tawang and West Kameng districts are followers of the Lamaistic ethics of Mahayana Buddhism and worship in temples known as ‘gompas’.
Tribes like Adis, Akas, Apatanis, Mijis and Thongsas worship the Sun and the Moon.
There are also tribes like Noctes and Wanchos which follow Vaishnavism.
Apart from being famous for its tranquility and scenic beauty, Arunachal Pradesh is also known for its colourful festivals. The tribal people find reason to celebrate, be it religious, socio-cultural or agricultural.
Festivals here are like an occasion for people of different communites and regions to come together and celebrate.
Rice is the staple food of Arunachal Pradesh and it is eaten in various forms. One is by wrapping it in leaves and boiling them. Thukpa, a noodle soup and Apong, a refreshing drink, are also quite popular here.
The main occupation of its people differs from tribe to tribe. While some are involved in bamboo handicrafts, weaving or pottery, others are more into jewellery-making or herding. Agriculture is still the most common and popular occupation.
Most people have adopted their rituals and traditions from the tribal customs. Any event, whether it’s a marriage or feast or auspicious, is incomplete without singing the Ja-Jin-Ja song. The Adis, one of the most prominent tribes, migrated to Arunachal with the gradual spread of Buddhism across Tibet in the 17th century.
They follow a tribal religion known as Donyi-Polo and worship gods who represent various elements found in nature.
Young women and men get introduced to each other through the prevalence of dormitories in the Adi tribe. Men can visit women’s dormitories but they aren’t allowed to stay overnight. However, if there is a mutual liking between two people, they can ask their family’s permission and get married after their approval.
The girl is still supposed to live at her parent’s house until the first child is born so that the boy gets ample time to get independent and build their own house.
In the Adi tribe, descent is traced through the father only. There are some in the tribe who make political and social decisions and settle disputes.
They are known as Kebangs. Depending upon their position, they are named as Bane, Atek and Bango.
An interesting characteristic of the locals are their costumes. They wear the most vibrant colours with distinguished patterns. The womenfolk wear silver jewellery adorned with bamboo bits or turquoise beads.
The women also paint broad blue lines from their foreheads to the tip of the nose and five vertical lines drawn below the lower lip along the chin. The men also beautify their bodies with various tattoos and designs.
It is indeed beautiful how Arunachal Pradesh has successfully preserved its ancient heritage and culture in a westernising world. It is a proud state adorned with customs of primitive tribes, the evergreen beauty and solitude of the Himalayas, the rejuvenating and bountiful grace of nature and the overall mystical and mythical vibe of the north east.