The land of dawn-lit mountains

Arunachal Pradesh is an Indian state in Northeast India. It was formed from the erstwhile North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) region, and became a state on 20 February 1987. It borders the states of Assam and Nagaland to the south. It shares international borders with Bhutan in the west, Myanmar in the east, and a disputed border with China in the north at the McMahon Line. Itanagar is the state capital of Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh is the largest of the Seven Sister States of Northeast India by area. Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,129 km border with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

Arunachal Pradesh, meaning ‘the land of the rising sun’ is a state comprising of 24 districts with 26 major tribes including various sub tribes. It is equally rich and diverse in both cultural and ecological aspects, however for a long time much of the world remained elusive to this richness because of the state’s remote location.
An exploration of the cultural roots of Arunachal Pradesh therefore, takes us on a fascinating anthropological journey.

A place brimming with tremendous anthropological richness, Arunachal Pradesh is home to several groups of indigenous people. Broadly speaking there are three cultural groups; first being Monpas and Sherdukpen of Tawang and West Kameng districts who are followers of the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism. The second group comprising of Apatanis, Adis, Galos, Mishmis, Nyishis, Tagins, Akas etc worship the Sun and Moon God while the third group including Noctes, Wanchos and Khampti (tribal communities of TLCN – Tirap, Longding, Changlang, Namsai) follow basic Vaishnavism and Buddhism respectively and are ruled by a hereditary chief. Additionally there are the Galo, Nyishi, Tagin, Apatani and Adi communities who are commonly known as Tani clans due to their connection with Abotani (abu/abo-father, tani-tribes) – from whom the mythical heritage of mankind’s origin is associated.

The people’s languages are mostly derived from Tibeto-Burman language with more than 50 dialects spoken by specific tribes. The Tani clans have similarities within each other’s social languages. Assamese is spoken by most people since prolonged influence of the Ahom dynasty era. Hindi and English are currently the most widely spoken languages for people across the state, besides their own tribe’s language.

living in close proximity with nature since centuries, people were depended on Mother Nature for everything. From traditional handicrafts, fishing and hunting tools etc – the people developed many unique skills over the years and even today many of these skills are passed down. Apong (rice/millet wine) is the prominent drink induced by the people, especially in festivals. People used to drink it to honor the spirit guardians. Dance is an important element of the people’s heritage and traditional dancing along with priest/priestess chants, war dance and ritual dance with Buddhist connection etc are mostly performed by men. Ponu is performed in groups by both men and women for the celebration of joyous and fortunate events in the future. A rich oral collection of folklores and chants, usually in a ballad tone, have been passed down from centuries about the historical events, myths, power of spirits and calling of deities.