ABOTANI: the primal ancestor of the Tani group of NORTH EAST INDIA

Abotani is considered the primal ancestor of the Tani group of people in Arunachal Pradesh – Apatani, Nyishi, Adi, Tagin, Hill Miri. They follow the Donyi Polo belief system and they consider Abotani as the one who firstly introduced the technique of rice cultivation.

The following story is told orally through priests Miri among the Adi people:

In older time Abotani Abo “father”, tani “human” has wandered in forest for want of food. Once he went to Takar-Taji’s place Tatar-Taji marriage ceremony where a gaur Mithun was sacrificed. Due to a trick of Abotani, Takar-Taji could sacrifice only one gaur, which was meagre for distribution to the guest. Abotani’s dog Kiipu and the deer Duumpoo shared a packet of rotten soya seeds staple food in olden days, as the use of rice millet and maize was unknown in those days. This led to quarrel between Kiipu and Duumpoo. Duumpoo the deer kicked the soya seed packet and ran away. Angry, Kiipu the dog chased the deer. Abotani had to follow both them. After many days Duumpu the deer landed in the world of Digo Ane “Keeper of Land”; digo “land”, ane “mother” where people were scattering the rice powder set on sun for drying. Duumpoo the deer was caught by these people; Kiipu the dog followed and was caught; Abotani followed them and was also caught by the peoples of Digo Ane. The three were imprisoned. After many days Abotani played a trick: he put a dead mole rat in his armpit and acted as if he were dying. This worried the Digo Ane people, lest the act may anger the Takar-Taji people, and they freed Abotani and granted him the gift of rice, millet and maize seed.

Many other legends between the Tani people speak about Abotani’s stories: a woman in the Digo Ane region told him how to cultivate the rice seeds http://wakling.com/abotani-and-the-quest-for-rice; Abotani had a lot of success in his rice cultivation thanks to his wise wife Aio Diiliang Diibiu http://arunachalipr.gov.in/StateFestival_Dree.htm; however, he divorced from her to marry another woman, and this brought disgrace to his wealth because the new wife was too much after leisures http://arunachaldiary.blogspot.com/2008/05/myoko-celebration-of-apatanis-photo.html; when Abotani realized this, he left also the second wife and continued the cultivation on his own, but still he had to ask for the help of his sister to be saved from the danger of falling from the top of a high tree where he had climbed http://arunachalipr.gov.in/StateFestival_Dree.htm. Events in the legendary life of Abotani and in his quest for rice are part of the traditions of the Tani people and are celebrated in different periods of the year following the rice cultivation season. Abotani is a symbol of the struggle of humankind for food and prosperity though in difficult situations, and of the need for harmony between man and woman to bring wealth to the family.

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