The Adi, or Bangni-Bokar Lhoba people  is a major collective tribe living in the Himalayan hills of Nyingchi Prefecture, and they are found in the temperate and sub-tropical regions within the districts of East Siang, Upper Siang, West Siang and Dibang Valley. The older term Abor is a deprecated exonym from Assamese meaning ‘uncontrol’. Some of them are found in Southern Tibet (a little more north than South Tibet), around areas near the Indian border. The literal meaning of Adi is “hill” or “mountain top”.
The Adis have two main divisions, (The Bogums and Bomis) and under each there are a number of sub-tribes. the Minyonfs, Karkos, Shimongs, Bomdo, Janbos, Panggis, Palibos, Bogums, Padams, Milangs and so on from one group; while the Gallong and seven other groups constitute another group of Adis. The Adis by nature are democratic and have an unique sense of history.
They have well organised village council called ‘Kebang’. Their traditional dance called ‘Ponung’ is famous in the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. Dances are very popular among them. Adi villages are situated generally on the spurs of hills. Polyandry is unknown but polygamy is practised. Adi women are very good weavers and weave cloth with highly artistic designs.
Origin of Adi Tribes
The Adi tribes trace their origin from Pedong Nane. Pedong Nane was the great grand daughter of Sedi Melo the creator. The Adi is one of the important tribes of the Siang Frontier Division. The Siang Frontier Division is the home of the Adis. The Adis are divided into different groups, such as Padam, Minyong, Shimong, Pangis, Pasi, Asing, Bori, Bokar, Karko, Ramo, Milan, Tagin, Gallong, Tangam and Pailiba. Racially the Adi tribes belong to the Mongoloid stock with well-built features.
Tribes and organisation
The Adi live hill villages, each traditionally keeping to itself (many never leave it), under a selected chief styled Gaon Burra (British era development) who moderates the village council, which acts even as traditional court Kebang. The olden day councils consists of all the village elder and decisions were taken in a Musup/Dere (Village community house) on majority verdict. The tribes include,
- Shimong tribe
- Karko tribe
- Milang tribe
- Minyong tribe
- Padam tribe
- Pangi tribe
- Pasi tribe
- Ramo tribe
- Shimong tribe
The major sub-tribal communities that Adi tribe includes are the Padams, Milangs, Komkars, Minyongs and Pasis. Another group of the Adi tribes comprises sub tribal communities like Gallong and seven other groups. They have broadly divided the whole of the Adi tribal populace into two sections namely the Bomis and Bogums. The sub tribal communities collectively forming the Adi tribe belong under these two divisions. The Adi tribe constitute major group and inhabit the lower part of Lower Dibang Valley district of the state of Arunachal Pradesh especially Roing and Dambuk areas. The sub tribes forming this major group speak a common dialect, claim a common origin and also perform and celebrate same rituals and festivals. Adi tribe is mainly concentrated in the valleys of rivers.
The language spoken by this group is also called Adi, which is distantly related to the Chinese and Tibetan languages. It is spoken with minor variations among all the Adi tribes.
Society of Adi Tribes
The father is considered the head of the family. The adult goes out to the field for cultivation and the young girls bring fuel and water, pound the grain and help in domestic duties. Food production is achieved by cultivation, hunting and fishing. They practice Jhum cultivation. Paddy, maize, millet is sown in the same field. The Adi tribes are known for their amiable and simple nature. The way they carry out the job of administering people, depict their democratic nature. They have nicely organised village council, better known as `Kebang`. The Adi tribe is organized into several clans. This tribe is determinant of the social relationship and kinship. Family is the lowest unit of social organization and nuclear in character. In a family of their community, after marriage, eldest sibling separate and establish new residence while the youngest stay back and look after the old parents. Monogamy is the common form of marriage, though polygamy is socially restricted. A marriage arranged by parents and elders is considered ideal and decent though selecting a partner by initiating a love affair is also popular and common. In the Adi community, dead bodies are buried.
Adi society has two types of dormitories – for the boys it is called Moshup and for girls it is called Rasheng. Moshup is a house for the unmarried boys which are constructed by the villagers. The children of ten years and above can become member of the Moshups. They believe that this system develops the spirit of cooperation, mutual respect and adjustment and fellow feeling among the children. There are different Merum or cells in the Moshups. Each belong to a particular Merum and sleeps in it. Rasheng is comparatively smaller and is constructed in the middle of the village. A senior girl becomes the in charge of this house.
Dormitories play an important role among the Adi tribe, and certain rules are observed. For example, a male can visit the dormitory of a female, although he is not allowed to stay overnight. At times, guardians will have to be around to guide the youngsters.
There is separate dress for women and men which are naturally weaved by women folk of the tribes. Helmets made from cane, bear and deer skin are sometimes worn by the men, depending on the region.
While the older women wear yellow necklaces and spiral earrings, unmarried girls wear a beyop, an ornament that consists of five to six brass plates fixed under their petticoats. Tattooing was popular among the older women.
The traditional measure of a family’s wealth is the possession of beads and ornament and land. Adi celebrate their prime festival, Solung, between in the first week of September every year for five days or more. It is a harvest festival performed after the sowing of seeds and transplantation, to seek for future bumper crops. Ponung songs and dances are performed during the festival. At the last day of Solung, throne and indigenous weaponry are displayed along the passage of the houses, a belief that they would protect people from evil spirits.
Festivals and dances
The Adi celebrate a number of festivals, in particular Solung, in first week of September for five days or more. It is a harvest festival performed after the sowing of seeds and transplantation, to seek for future bumper crops. Ponung songs and dances are performed during the festival. At the last day of Solung, throne and indigenous weaponry are displayed along the passage of the houses, a belief that they would protect people from evil spirits.
Adis dances varies from the slow, rustic and beautifully enchanting style Ponung to the exhilarating, exuberant thumps of Delong. These dances have led to certain forms of dancing which jointly narrate a story, the Tapu War Dance. In the Tapu War Dance, the dancers vigorously re-enact the actions of war, its gory details and the triumphant cries of the warriors. Yakjong is another kind of dance whereby the dancers carry sticks with designs created by removing the barks in certain patterns and then put into the fire for some time, which creates the marked black designs.
The fairs and festivals of the Adi tribe reflect their rich culture and heritage. Their main festivals are Solung, Etor and Aaran. Huge feasts are hosted, offerings are made to deities. Songs and dances are performed in these occasions. Dances performed are in-group lead by a main singer (Miri). Popular dances are the Ponung, Delong, Yakjong and Tapu, which is in-fact, a war dance. Ponung is however most common of all the dances. It is an integral part of the lifestyle of Adi tribes. They have adopted their own style of dancing. The Adi tribes are very fond of dances. They perform group dances. The dancers are linked to one another in a certain manner by the hands, by the waist or the shoulders. The main movements of the dance are confined to legs, arms and central part of the body. The Adis live on the high spurs of hills.
|Name of festival||Dates|
|Aran||March 7||Mopin||April 5|
|Solung Etor||May 15|
The Adi practice wet rice cultivation and have a considerable agricultural economy. Rice and serves as the staple foods for the Adi. Trapping and hunting, increasingly with firearms, supplement the diet; the favorite prey is the abundant rat, prepared in various ways, including pieces of rat and other meat in a rice flour cake wrapped in banana leaves, its served for aran;the Adi keep pigs, chickens, mithuns and grow vegetables. the Adi keep pigs in a very unusual way:The pigs are kept in a fenced area under the house, which is on stilts and feeds on human waste as the pig pen is situated right under the toilet! The pigs are let out in the day. The meat of the toilet pig is actually a delicacy.
The majority of Adi traditionally followed the animist Donyi-Polo religion, which involves the worship of the sun, the moon, and the ancestral god, the shaman, called Miri, can be a female. Other deities traditionally worshipped by the Adi include Kine Nane, Doying Bote, Gumin Soyin and Pedong Nane. Each deity is associated with certain tasks and act as protector and guardian of various topics related to nature which revolves around their daily life. This included the food crops, home, rain, etc.
In modern times many of the Adi have moved away from Donyi-Polo. A growing number of Adi, especially among the youth, have converted to Christianity. Adis in Tibet, in particular the Bokars, have adopted Tibetan Buddhism to a certain extent, as a result of Tibetan influence. But in recent few years there was a revival in the faith and the search for indigenousity on the part of the people made it popular with the youth again. Followers of Donyi Polo faith can also be found in parts of upper Assam among the Mishing tribe; according to available knowledge of history and folklores the Mishings were the Adis who migrated to Assam.
Handicrafts of Adi Tribes
Art works are popular amongst Adi tribal communities. Handicrafts of the Adi tribe are best seen in their cane and bamboo works like baskets, trays, haversacks, mats and hats and headgears with artistic designs are produced for domestic use. Women belonging to the Adi tribal group are expert weavers. They weave several things like coats, jackets, bags, skirts, shawls and blankets displaying their abilities in handloom.