Arunachal Pradesh Culture

Hidden in the North-Eastern region of India, Arunachal Pradesh is a state which is unlike any other state in India. Surprisingly unspoilt, it is a land of captivating scenery, majestic Himalayan backdrop, abundant greenery, soaring waterfalls and pictorial lakes. It is a haven for travellers looking for a tranquil environment to get away from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan life.

Arunachal Pradesh is well known for its ancient culture. Known as the 'Land of Rising Sun',  Arunachal Pradesh finds mention in prominent scriptures of India, such as the Kalika Purana and Mahabharata. Sage Parashurama washed away his sins in Arunachal which was then known as Prabhu Mountains. Sage Vyasa meditated in the forests of this region and Lord Krishna married Rukmini at this legendary site of India.

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The cultural elements of Arunachal Pradesh are highlighted below:

Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh truly renders a distinctive culture as it is comprised of 26 different tribes including various sub-tribes. Each tribe follows its own traditions and customs. There are mainly three cultural groups in Arunachal. The first group is made of Monpas and Sherdukpens of Tawang and West Kameng districts. They are the followers of the Lamaistic tradition of Mahayana Buddhism. The second group comprises of Adis, Akas, Apatanis, Bangnis, Mijis, Mishmis, Nishis and Thongsas, the worshipers of Sun and Moon God. The third group comprises of Octes and Wanchos tribal communities of the Tirap district. They follow basic Vaishnavism and maintain a strict village society which is ruled by a hereditary chief.

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Religions of Arunachal Pradesh

Mostly, the residents of Arunachal follow their own indigenous religions which are highly inclined towards nature. However, around 30% of the population of Arunachal practice Christianity. Some small communities of the region have traditionally been Hindu. Tibetan Buddhism is the dominant religion in the districts of West Kameng, Tawang and regions adjacent to Tibet. Near the Burmese border, Theravada Buddhism is the central faith. 


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Art and Craft of Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh is gifted with traditional craftsmen skills that have been passed on from generations to generations. Local men are skilled in weaving, carpet making, wood carving, painting, pottery, ornament making, cane and bamboo work, smithy work, basketry and many others. The women are expert in making handicrafts and handlooms.

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Food of Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh is situated in the farthermost north-eastern border of India. The influence of tribal communities and nearby Himalayan civilisations is quite evident in the local cuisine of this area. Rice and meat are the staple food of Arunachal. Lettuce is quite popular among locals and it is cooked using green chillies, coriander and ginger. Boiled rice cakes, Thukpa and momos are the traditional dishes devoured by people. The food is less on spices and is generally mild. Various forms of rice beers are prepared by local communities, one of them being Apang which is prepared by fermenting rice and millet. Due to the high amount of variedness among local communities, the food preparation methods differ slightly from district to district.

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Festivals and Celebrations

People of Arunachal celebrate various occasions and for various reasons, be it religious, socio-cultural or agricultural. The tribal people are simple living people and derive happiness out of small things in life. Since agriculture is the main occupation, there are various festivals where people pray and thank god for a good harvest.  Some of the prominent festivals celebrated in Arunachal Pradesh are Losar, Solung, Boori-Boot, Mopin, Dree, Nyokum, Reh, Si-Donyi, etc.

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Famous Dance Forms of Arunachal Pradesh

Dance and music are an essential part of the life of Arunachali tribes. They dance and sing on important occasions and during the time of festivities and weddings. Various dance forms are seen in different parts of Arunachal. From elaborate religious dance dramas of the Buddhists to the martial arts and colourful dance performances of the Noctes and Wanchos, dance forms of Arunachal come in various formats. They can broadly be divided into four categories- Festive Dances, Ritual Dances, Recreational Dances and Dance Dramas.

Some popular folk dances in Arunachal Pradesh are Aji Lamu, Chalo, Hiirii Khaniing, Popir, Ponung, Pasi Kongki, Rekham Pada, Roppi, Lion and Peacock dance. Most of the dance forms are accompanied by chorus songs.

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Languages Spoken in Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh is perhaps one of the most linguistically diverse states in Asia. More than 50 dialects of the Tibeto-Burman language structure can be observed here. Nyishi, Apatani, Bokar, Galo, Tagin, Adi are common languages which fall under the Tani dialect. Mishmi language is popular in the eastern part of the state. Digaru, Idu and Miju fall under mishmi and have been recognised as endangered languages. In the western and the northern districts, Bodic language is commonly spoken which is sub-divided into Dakpa and Tshangla.

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Wedding Celebrations

Arunachal Pradesh being a tribal-state has unique social customs. These include the many rituals performed during a wedding celebration. These rituals continue for a time span of four to five days and are meant to invoke love and trust in the relationship of not just the couple, but the two families involved. The marriages can be of two types, either an arranged marriage, known as Aaw Lang Aaw or a situation of eloping known as Thok No Chaii. In the latter case, the groom is allowed to enter the village only after performing the sacrifice of the native fauna, which is conducted by a priest. The wedding celebrations start with the groom's family gearing and packing up for spending four nights at the bride's home. As per the customs, they move to the hilltop on their way and shout 'Ho' to indicate their arrival. They are welcomed with a grand treat. A grand luncheon is arranged by the bride's family, on the first day. Night boogie and party follow this luncheon. There are women in disguise of men, in these parties. On the second day, it is the groom's family who arranges a grand treat, as a reciprocation of love. The third day, which is the day of the wedding, they splash coloured paints on each other as a way to celebrate the marriage. After these three days, the groom departs with his family, with the hope of a long-lasting relationship and the bride goes to the groom after a year. Some of the rituals include the groom adorning the bride with a yellow coloured chain, mostly made of bamboo which is considered sacred. The bride is welcomed by the groom's family with an offering of sugar (Hopha) and a plate full of blooms (Ban Moya). The groom's parents have to present before the bride smoked fish (Pha) and cooked sticky rice (Khaw Tom).

Beliefs

The state is home to 26 major tribes and 100 distinct sub-tribes, which brings into the picture a plethora of religious and superstitious beliefs. 40% of the population in Arunachal Pradesh follow Donyi Polo and Rangfrah religions, while the remainder is a majority of Buddhists. Donyi Polo is based on the beliefs that Sun and Moon are the greatest deities of all. The tribes that follow Donyi Polo believe in nature-worshipping and in maintaining harmony with the natural world. They believe that every man has a role to play and a purpose to live. The role is relative to use by the man. They believe in some mythical deities like Kine Nane, Doying Bote, Gumin Soyin, Dadi Bote and Pedong Nane. The common belief among all these is that life evolved out of nothingness. The nothingness got transitioned into creating Sedi Melo, the origin of all living and non-living things in the world. They follow highly complex rituals that have been passed down by the earlier generations. Endogamy between tribes and exogamy between clans is practised in societies. Polygamy is also accepted and followed. Next, to Donyi Polo, another popular belief is Buddhism, which is again categorised into distinct subforms. The West Kameng and Taiwan District are mainly inhabited by the Tibetan influenced Monpa and Sherdukpen tribe. In Lohti, it is Khampti and Singhpo tribes. Other tribes in the state predominantly believe in animal worship and many such ancient beliefs. It is also known that 80 odd tribes of Arunachal Pradesh still hold to some superstitious beliefs such as the fact that the life of human beings are governed by spirits which can be malevolent or benevolent and the only person who can mediate with these spirits is the dandai. Every disease, every misfortune is due to a particular evil spirit. Dandai's services are sought in every case of misfortune, even when someone falls ill. The dandai determines the evil spirit and then decides which animal to sacrifice to propitiate it.

Main Occupation

Agriculture is the main occupation of people in Arunachal Pradesh. Jhum cultivation is the major occupation practised by the farmers. Jhuming involves cleaning a portion of the forest by cutting down and burning the trees and then sowing seeds on those areas with the help of poker. Many farmers have been relying on this form of agriculture for their livelihood for years now. Majority of the land in the state is covered with dense forest and lands. These forests provide products and industries are based on processing them, which gives employment and income to a large number of population. Most of the industries in the state are based on natural products from forests like timber and plywood. Other industries also include tea, petrochemical and cement. Fruit cultivation is also practised in some parts of Arunachal. It has become a significant sector for fruit cultivation and horticulture. This sector has been providing income to many farmers too.

Starkly different from the commercial tourist destinations of the country, Arunachal Pradesh is just the right place for travellers looking for rejuvenation and peace in the lap of Himalayas. Apart from its breathtaking natural beauty, what makes this land truly magical is its vibrant and distinct culture. In a highly westernised world today, Arunachal Pradesh is a proud state in India, still preserving its ancient culture and traditions.

This post was published by Shubham Jain

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