Festivals – Arunachal Pradesh

Festivals form an essential aspect of the socio-cultural life of the people of the state. As a matter of fact, festivals are the mirror of the people’s culture. Since agriculture is the mainstay of the population , naturally, the festivals celebrated by the people are closely connected with their occupation. Such festivals are celebrated at a larger sale for thanking the Gods for their providence and for saying a prayer a prayer for a bumper crop. Throughout the year festivals are celebrated by some tribe or the other. Some of the important festivals are Solung, Mopin, Losar, Boori Boot, Dree, Nechi Dau, Khan, Kshyat-Sowai, Loku, Longte Yullo, Mol, Nyokum, Ojiale, Reh, Sanken, Si-Donyi and Tamladu. Animal sacrifices are a common ritual in most of the festivals, particularly in the non-Bodic tribes. The festivals have been firmly blended with the lifestyle of the people of Arunachal Pradesh. For some communities like the Mijis these are occasions to bring all people together who might otherwise be scattered in far flung villages. This serves as a reminder of the richness of their cultural heritage.

 

Festival Calender
District Headquarter Festival Date & Month
(approx)
Tawang Tawang Lossar (Monpas) 11 February
West Kameng Bomdila i) Lossar (Monpas) 11 February
    ii) Khan (Mijis) Feb/March
East Kameng Seppa i) Nyokum (Nishings) 26 February
    ii) Gomkum gompa (Sulungs) 15 April
Lower Subansiri Ziro i) Boori Boot (Hill Miris) 6 February
    ii) Nyokum (Nishings) 26 February
    iii) Dree ( Apatanis) 5 July
Upper Subansiri Daporijo i) Si-Donyi (Togins) 6 January
    ii) Boori Boot(Hill Miris) 6 February
    iii) Mopin (Adis) 5 April
West Siang Along i) Mopin (Adis) 5 April
    i) Solung (Adis) 1 September
East Siang Pasighat i) Aran (Adis) 7 March
    ii) Mopin (Adis) 5 April
    iii) Solung 1 September
Lohit Tezu i) Tamladu (Taroon & Kamman Mishmis) 15 April
    ii) Sangken (khampti) 14 February
    iii) Shapawng Yawng Manau Poi (Singpho)  
Lower Dibang Valley Roing i) Reh (Idu Mishmis) 1 February
    ii) Solung (Adis) 1 September
Upper Dibang Valley Anini i) Reh (Idu Mishmis) 1 February
    ii) Solung (Adis) 1 September
Kurung Kummey Laying Yangte Nyokum (Nishings) 26 February
Tirap Khonsa i) Oriah (Wanchos) 16 February
    ii) Chalo-Loku (Noctes) 25 November
Changlang Changlang Mol (Tangsas) April
PapumPare Itanagar Nyokum (Nishing) 26 February
Upper Siang Yingkiong i) Mopin 5 April
    ii) Solung 1 September

SOLUNG -Adi Festival

The ‘Solung’ is the main festival of ‘Adis’ and is a manifestation of the Adis festival cult. There are various stories about its origin, but the most commonly accepted one is that the Adis were asked by Kine-nane, the Goddesses of wealth and prosperity to perform the Solung Puja. The story goes like this. One ‘Doying-Bote’ (god of heaven) came in contact with Kine-nane and become sexually excited. When he was about to copulate with her two monsters Totel-Mone and Dubeng-Mone, intervened and snatched off his testicles to destroy it and in the process scattered the divine sperms over different places from some of which sprouted paddy plants. This was found by Kine-nane. Finding human beings starving for want of food, she sent the paddy seeds through a dog. Since then men have been producing paddy in plenty to meet their requirement of feed. Kine-nane asked the men so helped by her to offer Puja in the name of Solung which they were only too willing to do. Kine-name also helped them to acquire Mithun, and pig, the two animals which are sacrificed at the time of Solung. In the Solung they try to propitiate both Doying-Bote and Kine-nane and if they are pleased and satisfied the former will appear in the form of clouds and rains and latter will appear in the form of great fertility of soil. They land together on the surface of the earth where ultimately their union take place. It is believed that their successful union will lead to high yields of crops, more animals like mithun, pigs etc and ultimately wealth and prosperity for men.

Solung celebration continues for five days, first day is called, ‘Solung-Gidi Dogin’ or the day of preparations, second and the main day of the celebration is called Doreph-Long (the day of animal sacrifice), third day is ‘Binnayat Binam’ or worshipping the goddess of plenty and prosperity. Fourth day is Yaktor of Ekoph when the villagers remains busy preparing bows and arrows and other weapons of war. On the fifth day the Miri (religious leader or priest) is given a ceremonial send off when the girl’s sing and dance. During Solung festival, every evening the Miri sings ‘Solung Abung’ and through the song he relates the stories about the origin of man, animals and plants, ancestry of the Adis, lives and deeds of the Adi Heroes. Solung is celebrated in the month of August or September but there is no fixed date for it. Now-a-days in some places, the festival is celebrated with a three day programme. Solung is celebrated to reap a rich harvest after sowing of seeds and transplantation of paddy plants, to raise more mithuns and pigs and also to be free from natural calamities, fire, accidents, diseases etc.

Mopin- Adi Festival

Mopin is another popular festival of the Adis, mainly of the Gallong community of the Arunachal Pradesh. This is normally celebrated in order to get rid of natural calamities diseases, effects of evil spirits and for good harvest, health, wealth and prosperity. In this festival Mopin, the Goddess of welfare, peace, wealth, prosperity and wisdom is propitiated in grand celebration. The festival lasts for five days from the eighth of April before, sowing of paddy. The popir dance is the most popular dance during the festival.

Myokoh -Apatani Festival

It is the most highly solemnized community festival of the Apatani society. It is purely a religious ceremony which is observed for the general well being of the whole Apatani society and is participated by each and every Apatani with great enthusiasm, devotion and respect. It is celebrated every year during the month of March and lasts for the whole month. For full participation, the whole Apatani villages of the plateau have been divided into three major groups-the first group consist of villages like Hija Duta, Mudangtage, Bamin and Michi. The second group consist of Hong village alone and the third group consists of Hari, Kalong , Tajang and Regu. The actual solemnization ceremony is conducted alternatively among the three major groups and then the other groups take full participation with the villages who actually perform the ceremonies.

Dree- Apatani Festival

The Apatanis observe a series of agriculture rites and festival by sacrificing domestic fowls, animals and eggs in different times, starting from the sowing to the harvesting periods for ensuring of bumper yield of crops in the year such as Dree, Tamu, Metri, Chandii and Yahung etc. Chandii Tamu rite is performed during the sowing period, Dree during every growing periods of crops and Yahung just before the harvest. The literary meaning of ‘Dree’ is one who borrows or purchases food grains from others in order to meet out the shortage by addition to one’s old and new stock of food grains.

During Dree festival, a few rites are performed to worship and appease Gods and Goddesses, who protect the crops, and ensure well-being of man. These divinities include Tamu God, Metii God, Sky God and Danyi Pilo (sun and moon). They are worshipped by offering sacrifices of fowls, dogs, pigs, chickens, eggs, mithuns and cows. The divinities associated with Dree are collectively knows as ‘Dree or Dri Wuhi’ (Gods).

For conduction of ritual of Dree, one or two persons are appointed permanently or temporarily from each clan of the village. These persons are known as Dree Kholi or Dree Gora. They collect small quantity of rice or millet from each individual in order to meet the expenditure of the ceremony. The collected rice is kept by these persons. When the time of festival approaches, they prepare rice beer and collect the sacrificial animals, fowls, chicken and eggs for sacrifices. After completion of these preparation they inform the people about the date of performance so that they could store the required food grains and fire woods etc for the taboo period observed after the festival.

On the appointed day, the priest, his assistant and other Dree Kholi or Gora sit on the oldest clan ‘lapang’ of the village after being dressed up as warriors. They recite incantations called Dree Barni for a day. For instance, Hong village priest sits on the lapang of Nami clan, which is one of the oldest clans of the Hong village. After the completion of the recital of incantation, they go round all the clans lapang of their village along with sacrificial animals, fowls and eggs and sacrificial structure (Yuygyang). All these things are taken to the place of sacrifice. The sacrifice-place is generally located near the river of Apatani valley. The sacrificial structure or Yuygyang is cut into pieces and thrown into the river and it implies that the pests and insects are to be flooded out from the agricultural fields.

The Yuygyang for Dree is constructed from a particular plant called ‘pemupello’. Only two pieces are required for the construction of sacrificial structure for Dree. The Yuygyang for Tammu God and Metii are constructed from bamboo decorating it nicely with bamboo shaves and basket (Byodungchukha). The children and women are not allowed to take the meat of sacrificed animals and fowls. On the festive occasion of Dree, every individual prepares rice beer and women present a vessel of rice beer to their elderly bothers, sisters, son-in-law etc, as a symbol of love and affection. They reciprocate by presenting a piece of bacon or roasted meat of mithun-cow to them.

On the same day, the woman and children are involved in rejoicing and merry making singing traditional songs called ‘Damingda’ which is associated with Dree festival. This song basically welcomes man and god on this occasion, describing the greatness of Apatanis of the past and present, sketches the geographical location ‘Khallo Sanii’ of the Apatanis and their neighbouring tribes, and recalls beautiful memories of love affairs of man and woman exemplifying their ancestors Loder-Byai and Umi-Ubyang etc.

After observing Dree, seven days taboo period is strictly observed in every village with effect from the date of festival. During this period, people are not allowed to work in the field or garden nor they can bring green vegetables and fire woods. It is believed that if the observance of these taboos is violated the performance at the time of festival may not be successful.

Dree festival has been modernised with increasing popularity all over the state as well as outside. The joint celebration at a central place was started in 1967 at Nenchaya near the old Ziro town by the initiation of intellectual group of Apatanis. Since then the date of celebration of the festival was fixed from 4 to 7th July for every year. They not only introduced folk-song and dance competition, but also introduced various games and sports.

On the appointed day, mithun, cow, goat, fowls and eggs are sacrificed at altar of Dree. In olden days, these were not sacrificed except fowls and eggs. The meat of these animals are cooked and offered to the guest along with rice, cucumber and beer.

One of the most important change of the Dree celebration is, singing of ‘Dree Flag song’ in the inaugural function at altar of Dree and modern songs, dance, games and sports introduced which gives great gaiety of enthusiasm. Now-a-days, they do not strictly follow the religious taboos of Dree. It is celebrated as a seasonal festival of joy and glee when plantations of all crops are over, for the well being of the seasonal crops like paddy, millet etc. This celebration is done to appease the gods and goddess to ensure better crops and prosperity to mankind. The season is marked by maturity of strawberries and cucumber which are the only two fruits utilised in the celebration of Dree. In this community festival the children normally takes maximum part.

Reh Festival – Idu Festival

Reh is one of the most important festivals of the Idus. The Idus believe that they are the sons and daughters of the divine mother ‘Nanyi Inyitaya’. But none can get her blessings and keep alive bond of brotherhood and social feeling strong, unless one performs the puja or celebrate the Reh festival. But it is so expensive that only a few people can afford to celebrate the festival for propitiation of the supreme creator, the great mother ‘Nanyi Inyitaya’

The festival is celebrated during February-August. The people who inhabit snow fall areas viz. Talo, Amru, and Dri villages of the Dibang valley celebrate it during summer and monsoon i.e. during June-August, when the climate is moderate and shoal of fishes are available in streams and rivers. The Idus in the other parts celebrate the same during February to May.

The festival requires a number of sacrificial buffaloes for offering to the great mother ‘Nanyi Inyitaya’. Presents such as money in cash and pigs are given to the relatives. The festival being very expensive, all arrangements and preparations for the festival have to be made four or five years before the actual celebration of the festival. As such a person wanting to celebrate this festival has to take resort to the system locally called ‘Ada’ which is nothing but collection of mithuns, pigs, cash, money etc., even by way of loan from others. When ‘Ada’ is completed a tentative year is fixed about one year ahead of the actual celebration. The preparation of rice beer in large scale locally called ‘Yunyiphri’ is under taken, three to four months before the actual celebration.

After all necessary arrangements and preparations are made, ‘Tayi’ a form of calendar is served to all kith and kin as an invitation to come to the celebration on scheduled dates. The ‘Tayi’ is counted by knots on a string and each knot is cut off as a night passes on, one after another. The invited kith and kin arrive at the place of celebration when two knots remain on the string.

The Reh festival is celebrated for 6 days. The first day is called ‘Andropu’. It is observed by offering prayers so that the festival may pass off smoothly. The mithuns are brought and tied near the house. The ‘Naya’ dance is held during the night. Eyanli is the second day and may be termed as killing day of animals such as mithuns and buffaloes. The guests are entertained with rice, meat and rice beer. The third day is called ‘Iyili’ and on this day heavy feast is arranged and everybody is entertained. Presents of meal-rice are also supplied to the neighbouring villagers who fail to come to the festival.

Ilyiromunyi is the fourth day of the festival. There is not much feasting on this day. The priest only performs the rituals in favour of worshiper for bestowing upon him wealth, all round prosperity and for general well-being. Omen is observed by pouring ‘Yu’ rice beer into the ears of a pig, bound and laid on the ground. If the pig does not fidget, it is considered evil and result in bad crops, epidemic etc otherwise it is good.

The fifth day is called Aru-Go. On this day the remaining food stuff and other drinks are prepared for the feast and taken with co-villagers. The sixth day is the concluding day of the festival is known as ‘Etoanu’. On this day the blood smeared seeds are sown in the fields and rice beer is poured at the trunk of the stump for the goddess of the house hold.

Mlokom Yulo- Bangni Festival

This is one of the major festivals of Bangnis. It is the only festival which is celebrated annually in every village on a community basis in the Bangini months of Lakhang & Leehar corresponding to the English month of March & April. The festival is celebrated for five days, but occasionally the period may extend to seven days depending on the result of divination performed prior to the fixation of the date of celebration. The divination is done by a local priest (Nibu) by examining the liver of a foul and the yolk of an egg respectively. The site where the festival is celebrated is called MLKOM-YULO-NYENGENG’. They do not have a permanent festival place. On the previous day of the festival, the villagers keep themselves busy in collecting rice beer, rice making rice powder, egg and silk cloth. Sacrificial animals such as mithun, cow, pig, goat and fowl are usually purchased either from their common village fund or by collecting money or paddy from each house hold.

The festival is started with a worship in the name of god-Doni-Yulo where rice beer, rice powder and white cock are offered. Another God called Kamio-Yulo is also worshipped in the same place by offering only rice beer. When the prayers are over, the white cock is brought down to examine its liver with a view to knowing the omen of the festival. Different worships are performed on different days in the name of different gods and goddess by offering and sacrificing different animals in accordance with the result of divination. At the end of the festival, the villagers observe taboo for five days during which period they do not go out of the village. The observance of taboo is known as MLKOM-Arina. The people of all areas both local and other including tribals and non tribals irrespective of caste clan and creed uniformly participate in the Mlokom Julo festival.

Murung

It is a festival of abundance and richness of wealth and is generally celebrated in the month of January every year. Although this is an individual family festival, the entire Apatani as well as others are also openly invited to take part with a liberty to eat and drink and enjoy freely.

It is being celebrated for the well being of the individual family members alone, specially with a hope to be blessed with more wealth and prosperity for that individual family members.

Siron Molo Sochum- Nishi Festival

The biggest festival of the Nishi is called Siron Molo Sochum and is celebrated in the Nishi month of ‘Ram Po-Lo’ every year. Before this festival all houses and granaries are rebuilt and all the crops like dry paddy, millet, maize are harvested and stored in the granaries. For the festival, house holders cook rice, meat and prepare apeng and entertain guests and receives blessing for more abundant crops next year. It is believed by the Nishis that the more guests are satisfied with food and drink, the more crops will grow in the coming year.

On the day of the festival, all singers of the village sing old history of the Nishi people. In the song, it is described that the God Nima Teni did not worship the goddess of crops and goddess therefore moved away to the land of summer and entreated the goddess of crops and ultimately married her. Nima Teni got all kinds of seeds from the goddess and learnt the method of cultivation from her. Prayers are offered to the goddess of crops requesting her not to go away but to fill the granaries with the crops. If some food-stuffs disappears over night or food prints of some animals are seen, it is believed that the goddess came to the people and the crops will be abundant.

The Si-Doni Festival- Tagin Festival

It is the most significant festival of the Tagins and is celebrated in January. Si signifies the earth and Doni is the sun. They believe that, the sun, the moon, the earth and the natural elements around them play a vital part in their day to day functions. It is with these factors in back ground that their important festivals are performed. During the festival ‘Etting’, rice powder mixed with Apeng (rice-beer) is made to a paste and everyone liberally applied with it. Everybody contributes in kind and cash. Si-Doni festival being conducted on a large scale cannot be performed individually due to huge expenditure involved. Hence it is celebrated collectively. The local youths work day and night for about a month in preparation of the festival. The elderly person who form the members of the Si-Doni committee direct the operations and the selected Nibu (priest) guides and performs the Si-Doni festival like 1) Sune-Rabo, 2) Takar, 3) Gene Koni Bakar and Hoye Penam. It is understood that by celebrating the Si-Doni festival the creators Si and Doni would not only be satisfied but also bless the people with good crops and prevent diseases. In fact Si-Doni festival is the festival for prosperity, plenty and success. During this festival boys and girls in colourful dresses and split bamboo head gears (Donger) sing and dance.

The Bori Boot Festival- Hill Miris Festival

The Bori Boot festival is exclusively performed by the Hill-Miris. The festival usually falls in February. Bori Boot means to get together irrespective of age, sex, caste to hail the spring and successful harvest. The festival also invokes the spirit of Bori Boot to bless them with prosperity and free from diseases of any kind. The festival is performed collectively. The young members do all the work under the elders guidance. The Nibu (priest) performs Puja as well as conduct sacrifice. ‘Etting’ is co piously applied on one and all. The festival is of three days duration.

Nyokum- Nishi Festival

The month of August every year is the time for celebrating Nyokum or the worship of goddess of crops (Lakshmi) and other Gods and Goddess. On the first day, before an altar of images and symbols of the gods and goddess, the priest starts the Puja by chanting prayer and girls dance and sing to propitiate the unseen god and goddess. They sing about abundant crops and good will, health and unity among all the people, joy and mutual co-operation and peace and plenty every year. On the second and concluding day, the villagers of the neighbouring villages perform their Puja in their villages and come in long procession. The sacrificial animals like dogs, pigs and chicken are either carried or hung in long bamboo poles. On the arrival at the place of worship the people go round the altar chanting and the atmosphere seems to be sur-charged with a feeling of devotion and godliness. The animals are sacrificed and after invocation of the blessings, the Puja comes to a conclusion.

Yulo

The Nishis perform a number of religious ceremonies of which one called ‘yulo’ is important. Yulo is performed for the welfare of the society. The ceremony is marked by a sacrifice of ‘mithuns’ in which the priest collects the blood of animals in a bamboo tube and hangs it in front of his house as a mark of distinction.

Losar Festival – Monpa Festival

Losar is one of the important festival of Monpas. The festival is celebrated to commemorate the advent of new year. Before the commencement of Losar, they make arrangement for a feast with local drinks where all the relatives and friends are entertained and wish each other happy New Year (Tashi Delek) of the 15th day of the same month they bid good bye to Losar festival with merry making.

Jomu Festival

A religious festivals of the Monpas, this is a get together sort of festival which is observed after the completion of sowing of seeds between the 5th and 6th months of Monpa, Lunar calendar. In this festival the villagers go to the Gompa in their traditional dress. The function is graced by the oldest member of the village.

Chosker Festival

In this religious festival of Monpas, the Lamas (Buddhist priests) read religious scriptures in the Gompa (Buddhist temple) for a number of days. Thereafter the villagers carry the religious books on their back in a procession under the guidance of senior Lama. The procession goes round the cultivated fields which fall within the jurisdiction of the village. The significance of this performance is to ensure better cultivation and protect the grains from the insects and wild animals and also for the prosperity of the villagers. Normally this festival is performed during the months of April-May, after the Jhum fields are prepared. The ritual involves the suspension of all outside activities for a definite period.

Other Festivals

The Khamtis celebrate ‘Sangken’ a Buddhist festival annually once in a month of April and similarly ‘Nunhak’ is also celebrated on the full moon day in the month of May. The other ceremonies such as Khau-A, Catang-Cale and Nyin-Cam-Meijung are celebrated in the Buddhist way by offering flowers, vegetables and rice at the village monasteries in the last part of July for Khau-A in the middle September for Catang-Cale and before the start of winter for Nyin-Cam-Meijung.

The Mijis believe in many gods. Jang-Langnui is the most powerful of all of them. A festival is observed in honour of the spirit in the month of October. Each village has a deori who officiates in the ritual. A new shed is put up for Jang-Langnui every year in a selected spot. On the first day a cow is sacrificed in the morning and a pig at night. Any villager can perform the sacrifice of a cow but the pig is killed by the deori himself. The villagers celebrate the occasion by feasting, dancing, singing etc for sever days.

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