Arunachal Pradesh: its origin in legends and myths

Arunachal Pradesh: its origin in legends and myths

Oral history says that the Monpas came from Bhutan and Tibet, the Sherdukpens claim that they are descendants of a local prince and a princess from the South (possibly an Ahom princess). The Akas say that they migrated from Upper Assam. The Adis believe that they migrated from across the Himalayas. The Tagins are believed to have migrated from Penji, a village in Tibet. The Khamptis migrated to this region from Burma (now Myanmar). Like the Ahoms of Assam, they are a Shan tribe and moved to Arunachal sometime in the 18th century. Being a Shan people, they enjoyed certain privileges and were allowed to settle along the Tengapani River.

The Singphos made their way across the Patkai Pass and, after some confrontation with the Khamptis, settled on the land between the Buri Dihing, the Noa-Dihing and the Tengapani rivers. They often raided the Assamese areas and the 19th century saw a great deal of conflict between the Singphos and the Ahoms, as well as the British and the Burmese.

Every group in Arunachal has a story about their migration to this land. The rich mythological heritage of Arunachal, transmitted orally from generation to generation, tells us about the origin of Man and describes his relationship with the environment. While there are different myths among the tribes, they all speak of Man’s relationship with nature and animals. Among the myths of origin, the Akas of West Kameng speak of their coming to earth from heaven on ladders. According to them, each race had a different ladder, the Ahoms and the Aka kings came on golden ladders, other Akas by silver ladders. The Monpas came by iron ladders, the Nyishis and the Adis came by bamboo ladders, and the Cacharis and Khowas came by grass ladders.

The Mishmis, who inhabit the eastern corner of Arunachal, believe that God penetrated the womb of the first woman and the child born of this union is the father of the first Idu Mishmi. The Mishmis trace the strength of their tribe to the only man and woman to survive devastating tempests and catastrophes. A similar legend traces the origin of the Mukhlom Tsangas to the seven primeval fathers of man who came from the only woman to survive the great snowstorm that once befell earth. Animals also figure in many of the early myths of origin. The Dirrang Monpas, for example, believe that they descended from a monkey and were transformed into human beings by a lama.





References: People of India, Arunachal Pradesh, Volume XIV, 1995, Editor K. S. Singh, Arunachal Panorama, J. N. Chowdhury, 1966.

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