The Land of Biodivinity

Know about the deep rooted relationship of cultural traditions and nature nurtured by the ethnic communities of Arunachal Pradesh.

By Banglanatak

Tangsa women with baskets for carrying plucked tea leaves (2022)Banglanatak

Arunachal Pradesh, in north-eastern India, is home to many indigenous communities. The state is endowed with rich natural and cultural heritage embedded in the centuries old traditions of the ethnic peoples, which uniquely connect their lifestyles and spirituality with nature.

Landscape of Arunachal Pradesh (2022)Banglanatak

The Habitat

These communities live in difficult terrains of five prominent river basins - Lohit, Dibang, Siang, Subansiri, Kameng. Their way of life is integrally linked to the dense forest cover of the state, the rivers, and the local biodiversity. 

They are completely dependent on the natural resources, and thus venerate nature.

Adi Bokar Community (2022)Banglanatak

This co-existence with nature manifests in their  architecture, food, dress, faith, rituals, and festivals. They nurture the richness of their natural habitats, and conserve and protect nature through their indigenous knowledge and spiritual wisdom of Bio-divinity.

Traditional Galo Architecture (2022)Banglanatak

Architecture

The architecture of the indigenous peoples of Arunachal are diverse and unique to a region. Most communities  have the knowledge and skills of construction using local bamboo, wood, and leaves that are collected from the forest and processed over a period of time.

Seen here is a house of the Galos.

Traditional House of the Adi Community (2022)Banglanatak

All the communities carry an enormous ancestral understanding of different plant species, natural ways of processing those for durability and strength. 

Men of the Adi community, seen here, can finish a house in 2-3 days. However, they begin collection and preparation of raw materials much earlier.

Traditional Long House of the Miju Mishmi Community (2022)Banglanatak

Long Houses of the Mishmis

The Miju Mishmi community traditionally live in joint families inside long houses . They have multiple fire hearths for cooking, separating each household living there. 

However, it is a dying tradition today and only a handful of long houses exist.

Hong Village of the Apatani Community (2022)Banglanatak

Another unique case of traditional architecture is that of the Apatanis. They are well-known for the architecture and design of their villages which are considered most sustainable. 

A traditional Apatani village is always surrounded by agricultural lands, forests, and mountains, making their village the core of the ecosystem.

Graneries and Sacred Groves of the Apatanis (2022)Banglanatak

The Apatani community's granaries encircle their village houses. Along with these storehouses there are thickets of culturally valued plant species and bamboo groves. These are called the 'sacred groves', and are revered and preserved by them, through generations. 

Rice Fields surrounded by Sacred Groves of the Apatanis (2022)Banglanatak

Since the age-old times the Apatanis have continued their practice of systematic land use, indigenous wet rice cultivation and pisciculture in the same fields, and conservation of natural resources. 

Traditional Bamboo Fencing of Apatani Village (2022)Banglanatak

Use of Bamboo and Cane

Bamboo, of various species is the most used natural resource by all the ethnic communities of Arunachal. This is owing to the abundance of bamboo trees in its forests.

An iconic element of Apatani architecture is their typical bamboo fencing used in village houses, as seen here.

Basketry Craft of the Chakma Community (2022)Banglanatak

Bamboo and Cane Crafts

All communities make their regular utilities out of bamboo and cane including baskets...

Traditional Bamboo Fishing Net of the Chakma Community (2022)Banglanatak

...fishing nets...

Basketry Craft of the Apatanis (2022)Banglanatak

...different types of containers.

Traditional Cooking inside Bamboo Tubes of Tangsa Community (2022)Banglanatak

Cuisine

They even cook with bamboo tubes. Seen here is a Tangsa man preparing their traditional food including rice, meat, fish, all being cooked inside fresh bamboo tubes directly placed on fire.     

Traditional Bamboo Rice of Tangsa Community (2022)Banglanatak

Here, rice boiled inside bamboo tube is being taken out and cut into pieces for consumption. 

Women of the Tagin Community (2022)Banglanatak

All communities have their unique cuisine which mostly involves boiling, smoking, roasting. 

Here two Tagin women are seen, busy in their kitchen. 

Local Vegetables of the Akas (2022)Banglanatak

The diet of the ethnic communities consists of different types of local vegetables which are either cultivated or collected from the forests...

Edible Root spread of Aka Community (2022)Banglanatak

...various roots and plant materials...

Food Platter of the Tagin Community (2022)Banglanatak

...along with meat and fish. 

Mithun of Arunachal Pradesh (2022)Banglanatak

Meat of Mithun, a semi-domesticated cattle of this region, is a favourite! 

Local Beer or Apong making by the Aka Community (2022)Banglanatak

Liquor, locally called 'apong', is loved and consumed daily, made from fermented rice or millet.

Cooking by Idu Mishmi Women (2022)Banglanatak

The traditional cooking hearths of the indigenous communities are found in the centre of their living rooms. These fire hearths are always alive keeping the household warm. The hearth is also the place around which the family members gather to chat, eat, and relax.

Traditional Dress of the Idu Mishmi Community (2022)Banglanatak

Although these communities have modern kitchens and gadgets now, they maintain their traditional fire hearth in every house, which is intrinsic to their culture and way of life.

Seen here are the Idu Mishmi women.

Tangsa man processing tea in their traditional method (2022)Banglanatak

Specialities in Food

Some communities such as the Tangsas and Singphos are indigenous bamboo tea makers. It is one of the most fascinating practices that they actively continue till date. The Singphos are the original tea-makers in India, who introduced it to the British.

here

Salt-making of the Apatanis (2022)Banglanatak

Like smoked bamboo tea, there are other specialities in food that are found only in Arunachal in India.

Seen here are the Apatani women with their indigenous salt wrapped in leaves, which they have been making from a local wild grass for generations. 

Paa Sa Making (2022)Banglanatak

The Khampti community has a traditional fresh fish soup called 'Paa Sa'. It is a special dish, and a unique example of slow cooking and sustainable food.

Take a glimpse of 'Paa Sa' making in this video.

Traditional Noodle making of the Memba Community (2022)Banglanatak

The Memba community has a unique hand operated technology of making their own noodles from a local grain, which is a delicacy.

Rangbang making by the Puroik Community (2022)Banglanatak

Rangbang is a very important dish and a staple diet of the Puroik community. It is made from the Sago palm trees that grow abundantly in the forests. Food is prepared by adding hot water to the flour and stirring it vigorously until the mixture coagulates to form a thick paste. 

It is popularly known as a famine food as it helps communities survive when bad weather or disasters isolate the communities from supply chains.

Monpa Churpi & Chilli (2022)Banglanatak

Churpi or home-made cheese from Yak's milk, seen here, is a regular item in Monpa cuisine. They get the  Yak milk products like butter, and cheese, from the Brokpa community which breeds Yaks in high altitudes.

Handloom Weaving Process of the Aka Community (2022)Banglanatak

Textiles

All the ethnic people have rich traditions of loin loom or back-strap loom weaving. Every community has distinctive designs, patterns and colour schemes that are unique to their cultural and social identities.

weaving

Traditional Water Wheel of Monpa Community (2022)Banglanatak

Indigenous Technology

Similar to the ingenious traditional technologies of noodle-making, or loin looms, some of the communities are known for their age-old knowledge and use of simple water wheels to generate hydro energy mainly for agrarian work.

Traditional Water Wheel of Monpa Community (2022)Banglanatak

Monpas use 'Chuskor', a traditional grinding mill for maize, millet etc. They are constructed near or above a water source. Water is led from the source via a channel extending  towards the mill house through a hollow tree trunk called 'chor' or 'chorong'.

Riverine Landscape of Arunachal Pradesh. (2022)Banglanatak

Faith and Rituals

Evidently, the deep interdependency of man and nature in these cultures have found expressions in their faith and rituals. They are animists and worship nature spirits of mountains, rivers,  forests, the sun and the moon.

Shamans of the Aka Community (2022)Banglanatak

The Shaman or the priest plays a major role in the community and is the most respected person. He is believed to have the power to connect with, and appease spirits, both benevolent and malevolent for maintaining peace and well-being of the villagers.

Idu Mishmi Ritual Dance (2022)Banglanatak

Seen here is a ritualistic dance being performed by the Shaman of Idu Mishmi community, known as the 'Igu'. Family members also join the dance and the chanting. Every musical instrument has its own significance in the ritual.

Menchukha Monastery (2022)Banglanatak

Along with Shamanism, many communities have adopted Buddhism since ages. Owing to the historical connect of Arunachal Pradesh with its bordering countries of Myanmar, China, Bhutan, via trade routes, a strong cultural diffusion is found in their practices of faith and worship.

Statue of Lord Buddha (2022)Banglanatak

The principles of Buddhism, that is, ahimsa and respect for all living beings on earth, also align with the traditional ways of life of these communities, as they continue to worship nature.

Bugun Community led Biodiversity Conservation Park. (2022)Banglanatak

Nature Conservancy

In more recent times, there has been amazing initiatives of the community to actively protect and conserve their unique biodiversity. The Buguns are the foremost people to establish a community led biodiversity reserve in their own land.

Bugun Village Community-owned Reserve Forest (2022)Banglanatak

This biodiversity park is home to various kinds of wildlife such as the  Asian Elephants, Red Pandas, Himalayan black Bear, different small cat species, snakes, and more than 450 species of birds.  

The Bugun liocichla (2022)Banglanatak

Among those the most important discovery was the rare Bugun Liocichla bird - a critically endangered species found only in this part of the World, and named after the community.

Dance of the Galo Community (2022)Banglanatak

Safeguarding of the Living Cultures

All the communities value their traditions and intangible cultural heritage and try to conserve and continue their cultural and social practices. One of the ways in which they ensure participation of young people in celebrating their own heritage is through annual festivals.

Nyokum Festival of the Nyishis (2022)Banglanatak

In this video one can see celebration of the 50th anniversary of the famous Nyokum Festival of the Nyishi community.

Women of the Memba Community (2022)Banglanatak

On the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, let us salute and honour these communities for their ingenuousness of optimal utilisation of natural resources for subsistence, self-sufficiency, minimalism, and living in harmony with nature.

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