The Origin and Migration of Adi Tribe Part I- Compensated by the oral tradition of the people in the form of Legends, Myths, Folklores and Sayings etc.

The Origin

The Adis do not have any historical records in the want of a language; but this is compensated by the oral traditions of the people in the form of legends, myths, folklores, proverbs and sayings etc. These oral traditions are reflected in Abangs, Ponungs, Abes etc. The oral religious literature of the Adis is mainly represented by rhapsodies known a Abangs, relating to the mythe of creation, origin of social institutions and history of the people. The Ponungs are nothing but legthy ballads, drawing their themes from Abangs, highlighting the origin of different things including the Adis race itself. The Abes may be considered as the political literature of the people and the term is used to mean the introductory speeches given by the Kebang. An elderly person gifted with powers of good oratory is called the Kebang Abu, who traces the origin and migration of the people of the central zone of Arunachal from Uli, Usha and kumting in Tibet in a poetic language. There are dozens of myths currents among the Adis which talk about their origin and migration. The task of tracing the origin and migration of the Adis was taken over by various foreign scholars in the 19th and the early part of the 20th century.

William Robinson was the first European scholar to draw a connected account of the tribes and, as quoted, the difficulty in lifting up “ the dark veil which conceals the origin of the tribes”. John Butler thinks the Adis,“to be the descendents of the tortar race” by observing their physical features. Father Kreek believe that the Padams stood midway between mongoloid and Caucasian race and referred to a popular tradition about the origin of the padam people. He recollected a story that when the earth was full of mud, God came down from heaven and made two brothers and sisters with a handful of mud. The padams descended from the elder and the Miris from the younger brother. E.T. Dalton also tried to trace the origin of the Padams from an older son of a woman in the beginning of the earth. G.W. Beresford believes that all the Adis acknowledge a common origin from the Bor Abors. G.D.S. Dundar has also tried to trace the traditional origin of the tribes. R.C.R. Gumming refers that all the Adis claim their origin form some race tribes settled a Killing in Bomo-janbo country. According to a popular version,” in the beginning there was only darkness, and out of the union of the sky(Melo) and the earth(Sedi) things were born. Pedong nane who descended from Sedi-Melo were married to Yidum Bole and out of their union was born Donyi, the first man”. Dr. Verrier Elwin has collected some myths referring to Donyi or Tani as the first man on the earth.

Different branches of the Adi families however, have their own myths and traditions regarding their origin and migration. The Padam Minyong myths refer that keyum was the first in the line of creation. After a few generations came sedi who is believed to be the creator of the world. Pedong nane was the sixth generation of Sedi who gave birth to different gods, goddesses, spirits and animals and Donyi or tani was the youngest issues of Pedong Nane. This group of the adis regard Donyi or Tani as the common ancestor of the Adis. It is also believed that Pedong’s son was Dobir who had a son named Dirbo, and he had a number of sons. One of the sons of Dirbo was Bome from whom the Padams descended and the other was Banyo from whom the Minyongs descended. This myth of origin is also prevalent amongs Pasis, Panggis, karkos, Shimongs, Milangs and the Eastyern Adi groups.

 The myths of the Galo group of   Adis trace their origin from Sichi. They believed that after a few generations from Sichi, Tani, the first man was born and it was from him that all the sub-tribes of the Galo groups like the Pailibos, Bokars, Ramos etc.., came into being. The Pailibos claims to be the descendents of Sichi, the mother earth and recounts the story of the creation of different clans of the Pailibos from the descendents of Sichi or Sichang. The Bokars claims their descent from the first man Abo Tani and belives that one of the off-spring of Abo Tani was Dungume from whom runs the direct line of descent of the present day Bokars. The ramos attribute their origin to the union of Medoang (the sky) and Seaching(the earth) and consider Donyi (the sun) and Polo(the moon) as their first issues. As per their oral tradition, Donyi and Polo have gone to stay with medong(the sky) but the ramos have stayed back with their mother Seaching(the earth). It is also held that Jomso was the common forefather of the Ramos, Bokars and Pailibos. In the Galo mythology, Jimi is the creator who created Mrdo(the sky) and sichi(the earth) and from their union started the human race. The first child was Sibuk and one of his descendant was Tusi whose son was Rimi or Tani, the father of the man. Tani is the common father of man, as acknowledged by the Galos.



In analysing the religion of the tribal people of arunachal pradesh, it is found that Donyi-Poloism is a channel, through which human aspiration and faith which traditionally cultivated by the Adis, is expressed.

like anybody else they have to face the realities of life, make sense of their exixtance as well as of the nature. in search of the answers to their questions and in an effort to find coherence of the total existance, they have discovered the profoundity of Donyi-Polo. The supreme qualities of Donyi-Polo are expressed through natural symbols such as the Sun and the Moon. the qualities of which are easily understood and realised. Day in and day out they perform their tasks enabling creatures to make their existance possible. the qualities on which these two powerful symbols are based have to be immutable and universally acceptable.

thus, traditionally, Donyi or the Sun is considered to be the principal guide of truth and polo or the Moon symbolises love, kindness, sympathy and compassion. the Adis attempt to accomplies perfection through truth, wisdom and compassion and thus realise Donyi-Polo. Donyi-Polo can therefore, be considered as a philosophy of humanistic faith that is based on natural traditions, ideology of which has evolved out of the belief and practices of the generations of the tribes.

in Donyi_Poloism, the flow of thought is maintained uninterruptedly through direct, personal contacts in which knowledge is believed to be complete and genuine.

It is seen that the Adis are awakening up to their pride in being Adi. They are also trying to rediscover the religion of the Nature. they are interpreting their relationship to the world on the basis of the hermeneutical principles. Thus they cling to the divine universal symbol of the Sun and Moon, which helps to maintain their original identity of the natural religion. as such, a new social order is opening up based on the hierarchy of valyes of which they apparantly had comprehension before.

The strategies adopted for organisation of the tribal oral religion has been to give a call to eliminate all alien beliefs and practices, to revitalise the traditional ritual practices and to produce a new theology.

All these are problematic. The call to eliminate the alien beliefs and practices has no doubt a populist dimension. It is aimed to gather support from within and as well as across groups. the call readily appeals to the emotions of the people and help in mobilisation. In practical terms the call is a kind of reaction to what has been going on in the region. attempts to proselytization at one time may have brought a glorified status but that does not work anymore in the changed political circumstances. Moreover, they realise that proselytizedtion does not fit into their way of life and also undermines. Proselytization can be shunned but what about modernisation which is creeping in. all theis resulted in their search for a coherent order of values which would be capable of conferring meaning and unity in the society. This they found in Donyi-Poloism. Donyi_poloism thus became a symbol of their religion and cultural identity. Not that they have been able to resolve all the problems and oppositions, They confront them and as a result of which Donyi-Poloism is continuously evolving itself.

Rituals make the religious faith visible. But in tribal soceity they are much more than that. Rituals are very closely related with their economic activities, with their social relations and the maintenance of reciprocal behaviour. besides, the ritual reflect their conception of nature, supernatural and also their values.
The elites of the Donyi-Polo faith represent only a small section of the ethnic groups of the state, namely, the Adis, Some twenty years back the ethnic composition of this group officially included just two major tribes, The Gallong and the Minyong from the erstwhile Siang District. Today the group Adi represent other tribal groups which were once sub-tribes of either of the major groups-Gallong and Minyong.

The Adi theologian Always deny their tie with any other religions (like Christiannity, Buddhism etc.), they remain grounded in these religious thoughts. In interpreting the indigenous belief of the Adis, they are looking for the similarities with Semitic religioun, Donyi-Polo has been endowed with such attributes as ‘creator’, ‘almighty’, ‘omnipresent’, ‘omniscient’, etc. The minority but dominant group even succeded in getting a bill enacted in the year 1978, providing legal protection to the indigenous faith.

Oral Narratives and Myth

On the eve of the new millennium, newspapers carried reports of a small and breathtakingly beautiful valley hidden in the hills. The reports said that the valley of Dong,in Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh, and not Katchal of And aman and Nicobar Islands, was the place that would receive the first rays of the millennium sun in mainland India. This fact, further confirmed by scientists and the Survey of India, promoted a rush of visitors to the remote spot in the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh which was dubbed the sunrise village. Part of the Eastern Himalayan range, Arunachal Pradesh is the largest state of India’s North-East Region (NER), the broad term given to the group of 7 states, dubbed as the seven sisters. The state was earlier known as NEFA – the North East Frontier Agency until 1972, when it became a union territory with the brand new name of Arunachal Pradesh, Land of the Dawn Lit Mountains. Arunachal Pradesh became a full fledged state in 1987. It is 83,743 sq km. in area stretching eastwards from Bhutan in the west to the Patkoi Hills that forms India’s boundary with Myanmar. To the north and north-east, the state marks the last frontier of the country with a 1,080 km long international boundary with China along the crest of the eastern Himalaya. It is an area of great scenic beauty with snow peaks falling gradually southwards into pristine forests and valleys crisscrossed by turbulent rivers and streams. These water routes feed the mighty Brahmaputra River in the plains of Assam, providing a unique environmental world which gives the state the honour of being one of the greenest parts of the country. The Himalayan region captures some of the world’s heaviest rainfall and the result is an expanse of lush tropical forest where life breeds in myriad forms. It is estimated that Arunachal Pradesh harbours a minimum of 5,500 flowering species. Arunachal Pradesh is also known for naturally occurring orchids with over 525 species. An orchid centre set up in Tipi in West Kameng district is the largest orchidarium in Asia. The state is also one of the few places in the world that can boast the four big felines – the tiger, leopard, clouded leopard and snow leopard within one area in the Namdapha biosphere reserve of Changlang district.

This, in summary, is a brief introduction to Arunachal Pradesh. A closer examination will reveal that the area offers a complex cultural mosaic characterised by unique features that the state, due to geographical and historical reasons, has succeeded in keeping as one of the last bastions of the tribal world. The tribes of Arunachal Pradesh have always lived off the forest without any threat to the ecosystem. The tenets of traditional practice are deep rooted in environment ethics, supporting a close and harmonious relationship with nature. Arunachal tribes have a tremendous knowledge of the use of plants for native medicine and the instructions handed down from generation to generation are contained in stories and myths that is a unique feature of the different communities living here. The state is divided into 16 administrative districts and is home to 26 tribal groups, further sub-divided into clans and subgroups each with its distinctive traditions and customs. Apart from the Buddhist tribes of the northern boundaries, the tribes of what is termed the central belt of Arunachal Pradesh, viz: the Adi, Galo, Nyishi, Apa-Tani, Tagin and Mishmi comprise the Tani group of tribes that claim ancestry from a common legendary forefather called Abo Tani, the first man on earth. This in turn forms the tenets of indigenous faith called the way of Donyi-Polo, literally translated as Donyi-sun, Polo-moon, that recognises the sun and moon as the cosmic symbolic power through which the supreme spiritual being, the world-spirit, is made manifest. According to this belief, in the beginning there was only Keyum or nothingness. There was neither darkness nor light, nor was there any colour or movement. Keyum is the remote past beyond the reach of our senses. It is the place of ancient things from where no answer is received. Out of this great stillness, the first flicker of thought began to shine like a light in the soul of man. This shimmering trail took shape and expanded to what is known as the pathway. Out of this nebulous area, a spark was born that was the light of imagination. It grew into a shining stream that was the consciousness of man, and from this stage all the stories of the world, its creation, and all its creatures came into being. The myth as primitive history expressed in poetic form is notable among the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. This is an entirely non-script collection, sung or chanted as narrative ballads and epics about the origin of the world, the sky, the heavenly bodies and the mother earth, are recounted by professional rhapsodists on a variety of occasions, especially during the time of the great festivals. Almost all of tribal
belief is tied up with agricultural practice, but though the festivals are agricultural rites marking the passage of the seasons, the religious aspect is always present along with the recollection of a serene and happy co-existence with the natural world that helped man to survive in a harsh environment all these years with very little contact with the outside world. An example of this is revealed in one of the first stories that I heard as a child about a far away land of fish and stars (EngoTakar) and the lost civilization of the Kojum Koja. It is said that at the dawn of human existence, there sprang up on the surface of the earth an ancient human society known as Kojum Koja. Kojum Koja established villages and were a self sufficient, contented and happy people. The Kojum Koja civilization was destroyed by a devastating flood let loose by the ruler of the waters, Biri Bote, whose son was accidently trapped and killed by the people of Kojum Koja during a festival. At this time, a guest appeared amongst the society of Kojum Koja. It was the bat, Koru Ponsung Babu. The guest inquired about the meat and the people of Kojum Koja replied that a fish had been caught in their traps and that they had killed it for the festival. After hearing this, the bat left for the domain of water (Silli Sidong). Arriving in the deepest depths, the bat noticed the wife of the ruler of the watery regime weeping in great sorrow. The queen was asking who had kidnapped her beloved son, Biri Angur Potung. The bat broke the news to her that her son had been killed and consumed in a festival by the Kojum Koja. The news of the killing of Biri Angur sparked off a great war. Message of the tragedy reached every nook and corner of the watery regime and its ruler commanded his war generals to launch a destructive and terrifying attack on the people of Kojum Koja.


With sharp dazzling blades and rattling swords, the combined armies unleashed their fury wave after wave on the land of Kojum Koja. The Kojum Koja defended themselves valiantly but the armies of the great king besieged them from all sides. In the form of rain, storm, flood and erosion, the armies of the waters destroyed the land of the Kojum Koja and buried their civilisation. After this great battle, the world was dark and silent. Everything was covered in water and it seemed all life had ended, until, out of this wreckage a lady emerged like a lonely reed rising taller and steadier inch by inch, like a ray of hope. This was the popular beauty known as Nyangi Myete, celestial bride of the Kojum family who drifted down to humanity to tell the tale of destruction, and to generate new hope for another civilization on earth. Dressing herself in the fashion of a glamorous bride wearing a white silken skirt with a green border, and possessing all the qualities of civilised life, the celestial beauty floated down to bring grace and warmth to the society of humans. Indeed, her arrival generated a new current of life and enthusiasm among the people she visited. Tradition presents her as the most charming and beauteous bride of the Kojum Koja. She is the centre of attraction and the warmth of the society revolves around her. It is Nyangi Myete who pleases guests and friends by pouring out cups of rice wine while her charismatic and entertaining manner maintains the honour and humour of the society. It is her generosity that makes people dance and sing and enjoy life. The land and people of Kojum Koja may be buried in the deluge but because of this celestial lady the memory of that civilised society remains immortal. From the obscure world of myth, this celestial lady came down to live on this earth. Her beauty is present in the form of natural things. The green vegetation on the surface of the earth is the green-bordered skirt that she wears. Her silken white robe is transformed into clouds. The changes of the seasons are her appearance at different social occasions. The water and rain are her sweat and tears. Her melodious songs and music are transformed into the sweet voice sof birds and humming insects. The ever changing and beautiful natural world represents the charming beauty of the Kojum Koja. Thus, mythological belief is projected into present reality through natural surroundings and the interpretation of human imagination. The Land of Fish and Stars (engo takar) is akin to the Dreamtime that is so crucial in Australian aboriginal literature. All the things that we perceive-the sun, moon, hills and rivers were all born out of that mythical place that exists as the dreamtime, the place of ancient things from which the stories of the world, the stories of gods and goddesses and the birth of man and life on earth unfolded since thought and speech began. There are similarities across the world in the first stories of wandering tribes and vanished empires. The ancient Mayan and Aztec civilisations worshipped the sky god and sacrificed to the mighty sun, and stretching from China throughout the Far East and across to the frozen frontiers of Alaska and to the Americas, myths and legends are the basis of traditions and beliefs of communities across the world. So it is with the Homeric legends, the gods of Northern Europe, Hindu mythology, and myths of ancient Egypt and Rome. In the fast-paced global world of today, one may well ask what the worth of these old stories and legends is. The question of direction and destiny has become one of great complexity and soul searching. And the question is ‘Where do we begin? What is the most important thing to start with?’ Perhaps in this, myth and memory have their role too. How do we identify ourselves as members of a community belonging to a particular place, with a particular history? Some of the signs for this lie with our stories. We are here today as members of a community with a particular set of beliefs, by an act of faith, because we believed in the ‘word’ as composed in our myths and legends. It is here that we may find that peculiar, indefinable something by which we recognise each other, and make others see us as a group, a society, a people of a particular community. Today I might say that these stories of gods and demons have no basis in logic, but the storyteller will tell me that they were born out of reason, out of the minds of men. The stories did not come out of nowhere like a bolt of lightning. Life generated it in us, and the significance of songs and stories is that they demonstrate the complex nature of human faith founded on memory and the magic of words in the oral tradition. With time, the collection of myths developed into parables and a code of conduct that became the basis for daily customary practice as observed by the tribes. Everyone knows the stories, in one form or another, and it is this knowledge that links the individual to a group, a certain region and community, but most often the stories are inseparable from the routine of daily life that they are not even perceived as stories anymore. This is why if I asked someone to tell me a story they would say there was nothing to tell. There are no reference books, few recorded volumes in print, and to find out anything you need patience and persistence. For instance, if I approach someone, pointed out as a great story teller, he will inevitably shrug and say, ‘What! What kind of story? How can anyone pull a story out of air, eh?’ And if I turn to the young girls weaving cloth and asked them who taught us to weave, I know they will burst into laughter and say, ‘Who knows about these things. It was here before we were born!’ But if I persist, asking what is this colour, what did we use before this, what is that implement called, I might unearth interesting information about the “cloth of butterflies”, how the wife of a god whispered the secret of weaving to a woman in a dream and how the first cotton plant grew out of the white feather of a kite. Who invented these stories? Who said this should be done? Who gave us these instructions and told men and women to erect a guardian gate at the entrance
to every village? Who told us that the leaves and branches of certain trees are auspicious? One gateway leads to another and a story begins to unfold a storehouse of meanings. Scholars tell us that in the history of literature, the verse form is older than prose. The early history of many countries proves this as recounted in epics, ballads and heroic poems. Our own traditional literature offers similar proof. People here still believe that different clans possess different roots that return to haunt every generation. These roots reveal themselves as the powers of healing, prediction, war and chase, or the root of words, meaning oratory. It is what holds our ceremonies, rites and rituals together. In this context, the role of memory becomes crucial and remembrance of the word became the art of the storyteller, the orator, the medicine man, the priest. This seems to tally with what I now read that: ‘we are the versicles or words or letters of a magic book, and that incessant book is the only thing in the world: more exactly, it is the world.’ (JL Borges) Arunachal Pradesh is a place full of stories. The stories explain observed behavior and natural phenomena and imbue them with sense and order. They also remind the community that it is important to keep our obligations, the reasons for which are contained in the stories. These obligations apply to every aspect of daily life from social behavior, ceremonies, worship and environment to the preparation of food with its associated taboos. In Arunachal mythology, rice is of divine origin. It is a gift of the gods that came to a race of sky dwellers in the land of fish and stars. The story goes that during a great hunt, the faithful dog of a legendary hunter lost his way and strayed into the kingdom of the great mother earth, the goddess of grain. The dog told her how he had lost his way. The goddess heard him out and gave him a few seeds of rice, which the faithful dog carried back to the land of the sky dwellers in the crease of his ear. This is one of the many stories of how grain came to man. The energy of the village is concentrated on the cultivation of rice and every fertile plot of land is given over to growing this crop. Based on the rich store of rice myths, its relevance is associated with all the important rites of life, birth and death, ranging from festivals and community feasts to marriages and ritual offerings. Special rice preparations are required for many occasions. Among the Khamptis and Singphos of Lohit district, a preparation of red rice wrapped in leaf packets is an essential item of offering in weddings. Rice is also the chief ingredient for the local rice beer that is believed to be a gift from the gods. Like any other good wine, making rice beer is an art. A house is lucky if its women make good rice beer for it is the precious ingredient of social life that frees the mind, loosens the tongue and makes people happy. Before rice beer was invented, life was very dull. Men sat about feeling bored; they had nothing to talk about; they did not hold councils or tell stories or laugh.” In parts of Dibang valley, a pale gold local wine is made by the Idu Mishmi from extract of honeycombs. The region is noted for its tradition of honey gathering. This event is associated with the performance of prescribed rituals after which men scale the craggy peaks and caves lined with enormous beehives using bamboo ladders, rope and twine. It is a dangerous feat and only the strong and fearless are chosen. The bees are smoked out with the burning of leaves and long bamboo poles are used to dislodge the hives. The honeycomb is boiled and yeast is added to make a potent brew that is called yu ambey. Sometimes, at the entry of a house a visitor might be surprised to see a dangling honeycomb that is referred to as the devils’s puzzle. An Idu home generally sports this item as a protection against evil spirits. When night falls and spirits are wandering the earth, the honeycomb acts as a spell that diverts their attention. The spirits begin to examine and count the cells of the empty comb. This exercise takes up all their time and soon their power is broken as the night passes and they flee back into their world, and no harm befalls the family. These days we talk about identity, culture, heritage, and what it means. There are many movements to forge regional identities. Everyday we are reminded to uphold our culture. It is a line inserted in every speech, as if culture is the magic word that will arouse attention and endear the speaker to his audience. What then, is myth, identity, meaning and culture? One bright sunny day, a host of school, children drew pictures, worked on paper masks and there, in the shade of the
normally empty and silent state museum, practiced a war dance loud with laughter, battle cries and ferocious footwork. Part of the Tribal Transitions Project,4 the Museum Max workshop was all set to reorient methods of teaching and linking with education. In the process, drawings blossomed on paper, flutes and trumpets were coloured orange and blue, pyramids of mountains rose towards a flock of birds circling a red sun, while a picture of the famous log drum of the Nocte and Wancho of Tirap district showed a smiling face and four legs. In fact, this was the first time I heard the log drum being freely sounded as a group of students tap-tapped on the burnished wood bringing to life the sounds of a bygone era. In the present time when the region is confronted with rapid changes, these ancient tales need not be perceived solely as something of the past, as ‘dead’ literature, that in the process of documentation all the old words are frozen in print and will have reached a dead end. With every new understanding a story will unfold endless doorways. As in the case of the activities at the museum it is apparent that tribal traditions need not be devoted to, or perceived solely as something of the ‘past,’ but instead be the catalysts for the creative instincts of a people that identify their culture. In this way this literature of oral narratives also gives us our sense of identity. In short, like the flute, the gong and the log drum, and the storyteller’s art, culture and identity will mean nothing unless it can be shared.

This article is taken from Glimpses from the North-East Written By Mamung Dai.

About the Author:

mamung dai

Mamang Dai is an acclaimed journalist, poet and author. Born in Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh, she is the author of Arunachal Pradesh-The Hidden Land, Mountain Harvest (a book on the Food of Arunachal Pradesh) and The Legends of Pensam (Fiction-Penguin India 2006) She also has a Poetry collection: River Poems (2004). Her work, The Sky Queen and Once upon a Moontime (KATHA) are among the first illustrated publications of the oral literature of the state for young readers. Currently the General Secretary, Arunachal Pradesh Literary Society, Itanagar, and member- North East Writers’ Forum, (NEWF), she is also a Member ofCouncil of the Sahitya Akademi.

Apatani Old Man Ziro

Apatani Old Man Ziro

Linkages between Bio-Resources and Human Livelihood: A Case Study of Adi Tribes of Mirem-Arunachal Pradesh (India)

Linkages between Bio-Resources and Human Livelihood:

 A Case Study of Adi Tribes of Mirem-

Arunachal Pradesh (India)


The living of man in all societies is largely guided by the availability or otherwise of natural bio-resources. However, the tribal people who are regarded as in the primitive stage and experiencing slow pace of development have a high degree of dependence on the natural resources for their livelihood. Bio – resources consist of all biotic components of environment, which have utility and function in satisfying the individual wants as well as social wants of man. Recently, the importance of the study on man and nature relationship has gained momentum globally and has emerged as main concern for both the developed and developing nations worldwide. As such, the tribal dominated areas by virtue of having the higher percentage of forest cover have become prime area for research in the world context for sustainable use of bio-resources. The State of Forest Report, 2003 has placed Arunachal Pradesh second after Mizoram in terms of forest coverage with 68, 019 sq. km. under forest cover. An analysis of the linkages between the bio – resources and human livelihoods may prove significant and helpful in attaining the first rank in the total coverage of forests in the country. The Adi tribe is a major tribal group of Arunachal Pradesh who mostly inhabit East, West and Upper Siang districts. An assessment of linkages of human livelihood and the bioresources in the Adi inhabited area proved to be helpful in the sustainable management of natural resources. A household survey with the help of suitable structured questionnaire was conducted for Mirem village. Personal interview with the village elders was an important tool for the final analysis. The study finds that these people are forest lovers and they are strongly abated with their existing forests. The traditional folk tales, festivities and myths are strongly linked with nature and deeply influenced by the forest ecology and environment. Economic activities, material culture, food habits, house-building materials, ritual performances and herbal medicine all are collected from the forests. The study found that these people are highly dependent on the bio-resources for their livelihood even in this age of scientific and technological development.


From the beginning of human civilization, primitive human ancestors used to live in the deep jungle and were amiably nurtured by the nature. The degree of their association with the nature signifies the status of change from a rural to urban society. Tribal people form an important component of the natural ecosystem in which they are in a multiplex relationship among population of organisms for sustaining their livelihood within their habitat. The history of human development starts from their intimate association with the natural resources since time immemorial. The bio-resources which forms a major component of the natural resource, occupy a central position in tribal culture and economy. The tribal way of life is very much dictated by the nature right from the birth to death. The nature is not only their home, but also they always like and live in harmony with nature. Most of the tribes living in forests, hills, and mountains are practicing simple mode of production and have socio-political structure and religious system of their own which revolves round the surrounding natural ecosystem. The Adi tribes are a major collective tribe living in the Himalayan hills of Arunachal Pradesh (in northeastern India), and they are found in the temperate and sub-tropical regions within
the districts of West Siang, East Siang, Upper Siang, Upper Subansiri and Dibang Valley. The literary meaning of “Adi” is the Hill or mountain dwellers. The tribe consists of number of sub tribes viz. Padam, Minyong, Pasi, Bori, Bokar, Karko, Milang, Ramo, Pangi, Shimong, Ashing, Tangam, etc. They speak a language belonging to the Tibeto-Burman family. They
are believed to be the descendants of the Abo-Tani (Abo- Father; Tani- Man). The major festivals of these people are Aran, Solung, Etor and Yakjong. Like many other tribal groups, the Adi tribes also largely depend on the bio-resources for their livelihood. The living of the people is intimately linked with the bio-resources. They are dependent on the nearby forest for their daily uses. Various types of timbers, bamboos, canes, roots, leaves and fruits of medicinal value and the bark of trees are commonly used. They have faiths and beliefs linked with these resources. However, in the recent days marked changes have been seen in the relationship of people and bio-resources. The social, cultural and religious life of the Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh is largely determined by the environmental conditions. The social customs, beliefs, faith, tradition, culture, etc. reflect the imprint of the nearby forest resources.

Study Area

 The study area is just 22 Km away from Pasighat, the district headquarters of East Siang district. The latitudinal and longitudinal extension of the village is roughly in between 270 56′ 06″ N to 270 57′ 43″ N and 950 11′ 44″ E to 950 12′ 43″ E. It is one of the important villages under Bilat circle of East Siang District, Arunachal Pradesh. It has the largest number of households and total population as per the Census of 2001. The village was shifted from Mishing (former) to Mirem (present) in the year 1948. The name of the village Mirem has been derived from two Adi terms ASI-MIREM, Asi meaning water and Mirem meaning rich. As the name suggests the village has number of natural source of drinking water in its vicinity. According to the household survey conducted in the year 2008, the village consists of 253 households (household size of 6.3). Out of the total households the Adi Minyong sub tribe has 86.6% household, Gallong sub tribe occupies 5.06% household, Adi Pasi sub tribe has 4.08% household and 3.7% households are occupied by the Adi Pangi sub tribe. Majority of the people believe in Donyi – Poloism, which is a type of animism. About 57.6% of the households believe in the traditional Donyi-Polo religion, 26.3 % beliefs in Christianity and rest of 16% believes in other religions. As per 2001 census the total population of the village is 1605, out of which male constitutes 822 and female 783. The sex ratio is 953 female per thousand male which is higher than the sex ratio of the district, i.e. 937. The total scheduled tribe population of the village is 1473 (91.8 %) 132 others (labourers, nepalis, employees, etc.) and no scheduled caste population. The literacy rate is 68.3%, which is higher than the literacy rates of East Siang district (61.22%) and the state (54.74%) as per 2001 census. The male literacy rate of

76.1 % is higher than the female literacy rate of 60.4 %. However, the gender gap in literacy rate is only 15.7 % which is less in comparison to other parts of the state.


 The basic objective of present investigation is to study the linkages between bio – resources and the livelihood of Adi tribes of Mirem village, Arunachal Pradesh (India). It would also highlight the significance of bio-resources in the economy, material culture, food habits, ethnomedicine and other socio-religious requirements of the people.


Bio-resources and economic activity

 The economy of tribal people is largely based on the bio-resources. Their economic conditions mainly depend on the form of agriculture that they practice. Agriculture contributes an important share in the economy of these people. The nature of the terrain has forced them to follow both Jhum/shifting cultivation and Wet Rice Cultivation. Jhum fields lies away from the villages within a radius of 2-3 km on the convenient slopes of the hills. Nowadays a tendency to move towards lower areas is remarkably observed because of modern facilities and scope for terracing and irrigation. But, still Jhum is the common agriculture system practiced by the people. Wet rice cultivation is mostly found in the lower reaches of the area where there is almost flat surface. The important crops grown in the jhum field and wet rice field are Rice, Maize, Millets, Oilseeds, Potato, Ginger, etc. The agricultural productivity in the area is low, which can be attributed to the old traditional way of agricultural practice with indigenous implements. Collection of forest products, fishing and hunting also form a part of their economy. Shifting cultivation is an integral part of tribal culture. Shifting cultivation grows out of a particular mental outlook of the tribal people and affects all the other spheres of their cultural life. Shifting cultivation is firmly rooted in the religion and mythology of tribal people. They largely depend on shifting cultivation, which has a strong utilization linkage with the natural resources. Food gathering is a supplementary source of livelihood for the people. They depend on the forests for the requirements of vegetables, fruits, barks, edible plants and leaves, etc. Some of the forest products are collected throughout the year while some others are collected for six months only. Collection of edible food items from the forest is done to supplement the shortage of food requirements. Collection of leafy vegetables, mushrooms and other edible items are mainly done by the woman, which is accompanied by their children. Women are considered as the most efficient in collection of vegetables. They have an instinct to locate the place where an edible tuber is available or from where they can get some vegetables. The collection of fruits, roots and nuts are done by both male and female. Fruits are collected in particular seasons. Hunting is one of the important aspects of their food quest. Hunting is mostly done when they are free from engagements in their fields. The animals hunted are Deer, Bear, Monkey, Wild boars, Elephant, Tiger, etc. The thick forest around the settlements compel them to pass through deep jungle and the urge for self defence mechanism against the wild life had made them to become good archers. As such hunting became part of their life and through this they supplement their shortage of food supply. Fishing is also an important part of their economy. Fish form an important item of their diet. Fishing is done either by the community as a whole or by individuals. The rivers or streams of the area are endowed with varieties of fresh water fishes. Besides, fish farming in the ponds provides gainful employment to the people and contributes in the generation of income.

 Bio-resources and material culture

 The material culture of the village is largely dependent on the surrounding natural bio-resources. The climatic condition and edaphic conditions of the area facilitate luxuriant growth of different species of Bamboo, cane and reed that provides raw materials for construction of their house as well as other essential articles of their daily use like basket, bag, cap, etc. The materials are collected from the surrounding forest. The neighbouring jungle and forests provide the materials for construction of house such as bamboo, cane, thatch / hay, palm leaves, wood, etc. except few cemented buildings. The houses are made with the help of wood beam and bamboo structures. Wood is used in the form of posts for which tall, straight trees are cut and the branches and barks are removed. Different varieties of bamboo are used for different purposes. Cane is used to tie the pieces of bamboo and timber together. The roof is thatched with dry tek anne (Livistona jenkinsiana) and ammung (Erianthus sp.) The whole house is a work of bamboo and wood, bamboo sheets forming the floor and the wall and the wooden logs serving as the main pillars over which the structure of the house is raised. Almost all houses are made in rectangular form having two or three doors according to the individual will and fashion. The doors have wooden ladder leading to the ground. The most important feature is the fire place (meram). Over the fire hearth (perap) hangs a square-shaped bamboo shelf used to dry meat, fish, etc. Meram is prepared with the help of bamboo, wood, soil and cane. Some of the varieties of bamboos viz. Dendocalamus hamiltonii, Arundinaria sp., Bambusa tulda, and B. pallida are used for wall, floor and ropes for binding the poles. House is decorated with skulls of Mithuns, jaws of Pigs and wild boars on the wall. The regum (pigsty) is separated by a small platform outside the house. The regum is also constructed with the help of bamboo,wood, cane, and palm leaves. The space between the floor and ground is used to keep Pigs. Granaries (kumsung) are constructed few meters (10-15 m) away from the main village for protection against fire. Present investigation has revealed that all the houses are constructed with the help of natural bio-resources which are collected from nearby forests. Details of the various bio-resources used in the construction of house are given in table 1.

 Table 1: Different species of Bamboo, Cane and Wood used for House Construction

 The various species of bamboo mentioned in the table 1 are used for floor and wall of the house. It is also sliced into small pieces to tie the roof of the house. Rattan species are used as rope to tie the roof and poles. Sometimes the leaves are used as thatching material. The trunks of the trees are used for pillars and poles of the house. Nowadays wooden planks are used for both wall and floor. There are many household articles, which are made of wood, leaves, bamboo, cane, animal bones and skin, etc. These items are collected or gathered from the forest resources. The household materials like handicraft, utensils etc. used by the people are given in Table 2.

 Table 2: Various Forest Products used by Adis in sustaining their Domestic Livelihood System.

 The Agriculture implements of the people, according to their functions and purpose, may be divided into two categories – (i) Implements and equipments associated with shifting cultivation and (ii) Implements and equipments associated with the wet rice cultivation. The implements associated with shifting cultivation are:

 Egin:- This is a big cylindrical basket made of Bamboo split and cane.

Ik:- A loop of Bamboo used for scraping up small weeds.

Lolom:- It is a stick made from bamboo used for scraping up big weeds.

Sokyap: It is small basket for carrying rich seeds at the time of sowing or dibbling. It is made of bamboo           and cane.

Petkok:- Made of small branches of tree and used during clearing of debris.

Eyok-Sobuk: It is made of bamboo or cane used during clearing and felling of trees.

 On the other hand the important implements of wet rice cultivation are Plough (Na-ngol) made of wood, Moi-Nernana, generally used for leveling the soil and clearing the debris. It is made of bamboo and cane. Besides, all the indigenous baskets like egin, epo, epu, ebong, papur are considered very essential during wet cultivation that are made of wood, bamboo and cane.

For hunting and catching animals and birds, people usually used different kind of implements made by them from Bio-resources, like Bamboo, wood, cane, etc. The Hunting implement of the people consists of gun, bow and arrow and other trappers.

 Eyyi (Bow): Bow is made of Bamboo and the string is made of a cane.

Epuk (Arrow): Arrow is made of slender Bamboo split with a pointed end.

 Yokmo: is another kind of Arrow used for killing wild big animals like Boars, Bear, Tiger, and Elephant etc. Its pointed end is fitted with a triangular piece of iron which is smeared with poison called emo (aconite) made from the roots of kinds of herbs.

 Etku: Etku is the most common implements of hunting. This is generally used for catching rat, squirrels, birds and other small animals only. The etku is prepared from Bamboo; string is especially made from ‘tabum’ (other type of Bamboo) species. Besides all these there are innumerable devices for trapping birds and animals such as eda, songkit, egum, etpeng, komang,etc.

 Bio-resources also play vital role in fishing activities of the people. For fishing they are using varieties of traps made of Bamboo, cane, wood, which are locally known as edir, porang, churi, etkong, kodong, tari. Edir is a trapping implement which is made of Bamboo splinted and tied with the help of cane. Porang is also a trapping tool. Porang is prepared from Bamboo.The upside end of the one meter length Bamboo is splinted into many but the other end kept intact. Then the splinted portion is prepared with the help of splinted tabum (other kind of Bamboo species) in such a way that it expands and make an easy passage for the fish to enter in the Porang. The shape of Ponang is conical. Huri is bigger type of Porang which is

prepared from Bamboo. Tari is one form of Porang. It is prepared by inserting thorny plant leaves so that when fishes enter the Porang the thorny leaves / plants obstruct the fishes from coming out of it. Kodong is a conical shape trappers made of Bamboo and cane used by women folk. Bokong is angling stick extracted from forest i.e. from a Bamboo species known a homing (Arundinaria sp.). During sibok (river diversion) lots of hardwood and leaves of plants and plantains (kolung) are collected for diverting the river. After diverting the river, if the river is not completely dried-up, then the leaves, barks and fruits of plants (mostly the roots of Derris scandens Benth & bark of Aesculus assamica Griff.) are used to poison the fish locally known as Tamu. Here barks of poisonous plants are used to poison the fishes for easy

catch. There are many poisonous plants, the bark of which are used in this method namely- Tanir, Taki-sidik, Ripik, Reliom, etc. There are also many toxic plants namely- Marshang (Spilanthes oleracea), Diku-Tamu (Amphineuron opulentum (Kaulf) Holttum, Onger (Zanthoxylum rhetsa), Muyum, etc. used for fish poison.

Bio-resources as food and ethnomedicine

Other than the traditional food items of modern man, like the rice, wheat, millets, etc they have a treasure house of knowledge about potential food plants from the surrounding forests. These includes leaves, stems, bark, roots, fruits of wild plants and a number of animals and insects gathered as food items. The area is very rich in various types of edible and non-edible items found abundantly in the nearby jungles. Nature has provided plenty of edible plants from which leaves, roots, fruits, flowers, seeds, tuber, etc. are taken as food. They collect those edible plants for their own consumption and other uses. If there is any excess quantity of collected materials, they sell those in the market or exchange with some other essential items of daily needs. The various edible vegetables collected from the forests are bamboo shoot

 Dendrocalamus hamiltonii Ness & Arn. ex. Munro), wild banana flowers (Musa balbisiana L.A Colla), Onger (Zanthoxyllum rhetsa DC.), Oyik (Pouzolzia benettiana Weight), Ongin (Clerodendrom colebrookianum Walp.), Rori (Piper pedicellatum C.DC.), Enge (Colocasia esculenta (L) Schott.), etc. Mushroom (Termitomyces sp. Cantherallus sp. Schizophylum sp., pleurotus Pulmonarius, Auricularia sp.) locally known as Tatar are seasonally collected and many more edible plants which are available but scientifically not known. They also eat number of fruits that are collected from the forest such as Tagung (Magnifera sylvatica Roxb.) Tapir (Phoebe sp.), Anke (Unidentified), Hillum (Canarium strictum Roxb.), Tadar (Myristica fragrans Houtt.), Tak-api (palm fruits), etc. Forest is the only source for hunting animals and birds. But hunting is never considered as an occupation. On the other hand it gets more importance as an obligatory recreation especially during some rituals and festivals, when it is performed collectively. Forest of the area provides wide range of animals of different species. Some animals such as Tiger, Wolf and Fox are not killed and consumed. These animals are killed only when they cause danger to the human beings and domesticated animals. Sometimes, these animals kill mithun (Bos fontalis), cattle and pig, etc. The other species of animals commonly eaten by the people includes Deer, Bear, Wild Boar, Monkey, Squirrel, Rat, Porcupine, Pangolin, Rabbit, Elephant, etc. Besides, there are many domesticated animals which supplement the meat requirements of the people like Mithun, Pig, Buffalo, Cow, Goat, etc.

 Table 3: Wild animals eaten by people.

Birds are elegant creatures for the Tribal societies. They hunt birds for various purposes such as to supplement diet with flesh, to procure beaks for decoration in the headgear and to test and develop hunting skills. In fact, hunting birds is a fascination to them. They are predominantly meat eaters and for procuring their meat, they largely rely on hunting. Birds are one of the major attractions to the people for hunting. Various birds eaten by them are wild fowls, hornbills, parrots (small size) (peke), Bulbul, Pigeon, Myna, Dove, etc. Birds like vulture, Sparrow, Crow, Owl are restricted for consumption to the people.

 Table 4: Some common bird species eaten by the Adi tribes.

Fish are beautiful aquatic creatures that form an important part of human diet due to richness in protein, vitamins and essential oils. Fishes are found in a variety of water bodies ranging from stagnant ponds to flowing rivers or streams. The area has diversity in different species of fishes. Different species of fishes eaten by the people are locally known as Talu, Ngopi, Tageng, kadang, Horche, Ribi, Tasum, take, etc. As per the fishery department the following species of fishes are found in the area Rohu (Labeo rohita), Labeo pangsu, Labeo sp. Glyptothrox sp., Garra sp., Abriricthes sp., Psyudochenies sp., Psilorhynchoides sp.nob, eel (Anguilla japonica), prawn (Panoles sp.), crab (Cancer sp.), etc. The surrounding forest provides various species of insects for consumption. Fish resource is declining in the village and adjoining areas since it is felt that there were more fishes in the past than now. Decline in fishes are because of rise in human population and unscientific fishing by blasting & poisoning streams with chemicals such as bleaching powder and use of generator. Besides all these the people also eat different kinds of insects seasonally. During winter season people collect Tari (Stinkbug) (Poisonous Maculiventris) from the banks of rivers. The other insects like grasshoppers, red-ant, etc. are eaten occasionally mentioned food items reveals that bio-resources form an important part of their  diet.Therefore, it can be said that they are very much dependent on the bio-resources. These edible items are important for their livelihood and also for their very existence.


 Ethnomedicine is the belief and practice relating to health and diseases, which are products of indigenous cultural knowledge of the particular communities. Some notable progress has been made in the field of ethnomedicinal research on the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh by various scholars during last two decades and still many tribes are awaited to be explored ethno biologically in the eastern Himalayan region. The Adis of Siang region use their traditional knowledge in health care system where herbs, plants and roots of some trees and plants locally available are used for curing the ailment. They have indigenous method of treatment for different kinds of diseases with the help of local herbal medicines. They also use body parts of animals such as antelopes, bear, etc. for curing diseases of orthopedic, stomach, and liver pain etc. The common diseases what occuring in the village are dysentery, fever, malaria, jaundice, cough, fracture, etc. Villagers of the remote localities are still relaying their traditional medicines for the alleviation of the local ailments. They mostly use herbals and sometime an admixture of plants, animal and mineral substances coupled with local rituals. Some important medicinal plants used by the Adis for curing different diseases are given in the table 5.

Socio-religious life and bio-resources

There is a close relationship between forest and the religious practice of the people. They believe that there is some super natural power in everything. The natural object like mountains, hills, rivers, ponds, the sun, the moon, the earth, etc. are possessed by spirits. Donyi-Polo (The God Sun and Moon) are the main religion followed by the community of the area. Maximum numbers of people are the followers of Donyi-Polo. Besides, there are people who believe in other religion. According to the myths of the Adis, there are many deities or God to control the various parts of universe, such as Sedi-Melo-God of earth and sky, Tusin-Rodong– God of forests and Rivers, etc. The living things like trees, plants, bushes, birds, animals, etc. are all around the village situated amidst forest. The people are god-fearing and they believe that every event in their life is guided and controlled by different kinds of spirits. In present study area there are some specific plants, such as tatkeng, tapi, ta-ok, tuduk raksak, tan, etc. which plays significant role in their religious life. Similarly, ridin a creeper also plays significant role in their socio-religious life. In every religious ceremony they utilize this creeper to protect themselves from the attack of evil spirits. According to their traditional belief all the unwanted spirit are afraid of ridin and kekir (ginger sp.).

The Adis being tribal people depend on the bio-resources for socio-religious life. They depend nature for their fortunes and misfortunes. To avert misfortunes and to bring prosperity to every individual, families and to the society as a whole people celebrate many seasonal festivals like solung, etor, unying-aran, tapu, mopun, etting etc. In order to celebrate these seasonal festivals to appease the God and Goddess they use bio-resources such as plants, leaves, stems, etc. to make altars for the deities. Among the forest resources or produce, the tan, ekkam, toti, kapyum, dibang, tapi, taking, tuduk, raksak are collected and used. To erect sacrificial altar for Mithun and Pig, the trunk of tuduk, sirang, rami trees are collected. Again to prepare the altars for sacrifice or for offering, bamboo species like tabum, eyom, e-e are collected from the forest and useas rope to bind the altars. Sometimes ogik a climber is also used as rope. There are also other plant species such as noki, bumlo, Taje, the skin of which are used as rope. To make the offerings some animals are also used like keka, libo (squirrels), bungka (Rat) etc. The above mentioned Bio-resources are used in the celebration of festivals to bring prosperity to the individual, families and also to the whole community. In the socio-religious life of the people some performers namely-kebang abu (The kebang man), solung, ponung or ettor delong, the narrator of human evolution, origin of plants, animals, mankind, soil, air, water, etc and last one is Ayit-Miri (Priest) which is considered to have super natural power to heal the human sufferings. Kebang is the traditional village council of the Adi community. The role of Kebang is significant in the biodiversity conservation. Uses of bio-resources are under the purview of the Kebang. Illegal extraction of wild bamboo is prohibited by the village council for the sustainable utilization. Modern means of fishing (Blasting, Chemical poison, electric current, etc.) is not allowed as per the norms of the Kebang and violations of these norms are imposed penalty of Rs. 5000 to 10000. For the sustainable use of these resources community extraction once in a year is done under the strict vigilance of the Kebang and equally distributed to all the households of the village. During illness or suffering, the Ayit-Miri is called and the priest sings whole night and while singing he/she tells the cause of suffering and also the plants and animals to be used for making altar or for sacrifices to be made. In such illness or sufferings many different or varied leaves of plants are used according to the nature of illness and sufferings. Wild bamboo (Nyomrang e-e) and plant species locally known as talo, tapi, takeng, singkang, tatkeng, sirang, tan, takang etc. are gathered in enormous amount and used during rituals and festivals. Rodents locally known as keka, libo, bungka, kosung, etc. are used in various rituals. These plant and animal species are used for erection of altar for offering to the deities, so that they may not inflict or cause any illness to the human being. It is believed that sometimes when a person is sick just after returning from hunting or fishing, it is the evil deed of Tusin-Rodong (God of Forests and Rivers). To treat the patient and to cure, the priest (Miri) offers or performs a ritual with some special or necessary plants / bamboo extracted from the jungles. The Miri and some senior persons/experts in the community direct the person who collects the required plants and bamboos for the ritual to perform. Accordingly, the person enters the forests and collects the materials as recommended by the priest. Then the ritual is performed and finally the sick person recovers from the illness. Besides there are many more rituals performed with many other product of forest for different types of illness considered to be caused by different deities of the universe.


The Adi tribes of Arunachal Pradesh largely depend on the bio-resources for their economic life. People’s bio-cultural knowledge about the bio-resources has made them sustain their living through the ages. Agriculture is the main occupation of the people. Both wet rice cultivation and shifting cultivation are practiced for their livelihood. The use of indigenous implements and traditional techniques has resulted in lesser agricultural output. However, wet rice cultivation is becoming significant due to better yield in the recent days. Shifting cultivation is still practiced by the people on large scale to meet their day to day requirements. The staple food of the people that includes rice, maize, millet, vegetables, etc. is grown in the fields for self consumption and commercial purpose. But such a linkage with the forest ecology had led to the degradation of forest resources to a larger extent. There is a need strong realization through awareness campaigns to immediately check the alarming rate of deforestation in the tribal inhabited areas worldwide. Better alternatives in the form of horticulture, terrace cultivation, agro-based industries can be introduced by taking the ethnic communities in confidence to reduce the rate of deforestation. Apart from the agricultural practices these people depend on the supplementary source of livelihood for substenance such as food gathering, fishing and hunting. During the shortage of food supply from the agricultural fields they collect fruits, yams, vegetables, edible mushrooms, roots/rhizomes, stems, barks, etc. to supplement it. However, the process of food gathering is becoming a threat to the loss of important plant species. The indigenous way of forest product in not eco-friendly as some people cut the whole tree to collect fruits. Hunting is another supplementary source of sustenance. Deer, Bear, Monkey, Wild boars, Elephant, Tiger, Birds, Rodents, etc. are the important faunal species hunted by these people. Both individual and community hunting are done by them. During festivals deer, wild boar and rodents are hunted on a large scale for the celebration. As a result such species became rare and endangered in the recent decades. Fish is an important diet of the people. People use different indigenous techniques for fishing such as Sibok petnam, porang tonam, edir tonam, etc. which are eco-friendly. But, due to use of chemical poisons and blasting the population of fish has become less in the area. Very recently a new method of fishing in the form use of electric current in the rivers and streams has further decreased the fish population. The material culture of the people is largely built out of the product of natural bio-resources.wood, bamboo, palm leaves, cane, etc. It is observed in about 95% households the various items are directly collected from the natural bio-resources such as basket, mat, stool, spoon, mug & jug, bow & arrow, hunting trap, fishing tools, etc. They also have knowledge of ethnomedicines for curing various diseases. Different parts of plants and animals are used to cure various ailments such as stomachache, headache, joint / fractures, cough / flu, jaundice, dysentery / diarrhea, orthopaedic, eye infection, snake bites, etc. Bio-resources form an important part of the religious life of the people. They worship the nature viz. hills, mountains, rivers, sun, moon, etc as these provide the various requirements of the people. Such old age have led to the preservation of natural resources to a greater extent in the past. But, due to influx of modernization they are converting to different organized religions which are fading the ethnic belief systems associated with the nature. The indigenous knowledge system can be utilized through active participation of Government and Non-governmental agencies in checking the emerging harsh linkages with the nature. Such an effort can ensure the availability of resources in their vicinity for a longer period of time.


The study of linkages between bio-resources and human livelihood is significant in understanding the pattern of interaction between the people and their surrounding forests. It is observed that most of the tribal people of Arunachal Pradesh prefer to live in forest environment and for their sustenance they utilize bio-resources of their immediate surrounding with their age-old traditional knowledge and technique. The way of life of the Adi tribes is closely associated with physical environment which form an inseparable component in the ecosystem and thus maintain inseparable relationship with the natural resources. The whole discussion is mostly related to the people and their dependence on the bio-resources for economic, material, social and ritual sustenance. They practice jhum/shifting cultivation for requirement of food and during the food shortage they collect various edible plant parts from the forest to supplement it. The women folk play significant role in collection of such edible fruits, roots and tubers, leaves, etc. Besides, hunting and fishing are the other supplementary source of livelihood.They have knowledge of traditional herbal medicine to cure and prevent diseases. Their traditional healing practices are largely dependent on different plants and animal species which are mostly used by few practitioners of the village who have specialized knowledge in ethnomedicines. In addition to the use of bio-resources in material culture, food, medicine and socio-religious life of the people, they conserve bio-resources in their natural habitat through clean forest management system. They narrate myths and legends about certain rare and endangered species of plants and animals at home and in public gathering to educate the younger generation for the conservation and sustainable utilization of biodiversity wealth of their concerned area. They use bamboo, cane, wood, palm leaves, vegetables, etc. for commercial purposes. For instance, bamboo shoots, baskets & mats, firewood, etc. are being sold in the local market in exchange of money. Forest products had been the articles of barter trade of the people in their neighbouring areas during the past which lost its significance at present due to emergence of market economy.

 The present study reveals that for the sake of survival in the area, people use their old age indigenous knowledge where natural bio-resources as well as natural phenomena play an important role in shaping their life and culture. Due to the increase in population leading to the knowledge of market economy the linkages between the people and the bio-resources is gearing up remarkably. Such a study in the tribal inhabited area is essential to create awareness and realization among the forest dwellers about the harsh linkages emerging out of higher level of interaction with the forest ecology. Hence, the paper is significant for the forest dwellers to asses the level of bio-resource utilization and framing strategies for sustainableutilization of forest resources in future continuum.

Article by Gibji Nimachow, Tahong Taga, Hui Tag  & Oyi Dai

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; Abotani had a lot of success in his rice cultivation thanks to his wise wife Aio Diiliang Diibiu; 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; 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 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.

Donyi-Polo (or Donyi Polo, Donyi-Poloism)

literally “Sun-Moon”, is an animist religion followed by many of the tribal groups in Arunachal Pradesh, India (including the Apatani, Adi, Miri Tagin and Nishi tribes). Some anthropologists argue that Donyi-Polo is probably derived from the pre-Buddhist Bön religion of Tibet. Donyi Polo focuses on the worship of the sun and moon, who are considered the eternal watch deities of the supreme gods, Bo and Bomong. Followers of the Donyi-Polo tradition believe that all people of Arunachal Pradesh share a common ancestry from Abotani. The religion has no written scriptures, but has traditionally been passed down orally from each generation to the next. Believers pray to a number of spirits, deities and souls for blessings, but they principally worship the sun (Donyi) and the moon (Polo) as the visible forms of the gods. Donyi-Polo includes religious rituals which coincide with lunar phases and agricultural cycles. A follower of Donyi-Polo believes in the oneness of all living creatures, from the tiniest of organisms to the mightiest of animals, and that every living creature has a role to play in his or her life. They believe that a spirit (or soul) resides within all men, plants, animals,and the land that nourishes them (all of which have a connection with humans). The major deities in the Donyi-Polo tradition, (Kine Nane, Doying Bote, Pedong Nane and Gumin Soyin) play the role of guardians for their devotees. It is there duty to show their devotees, the path which is destined for them, yet decided by themselves. Although generally losing influence with the younger generations, as growing numbers convert to Christianity, Donyi-Poloism has undergone somewhat of a revival subsequent to the efforts of Talom Rukbo, the father of the modern Donyipolo Movement in Arunachal Pradesh. Efforts are now underway to give an organized form to the traditional beliefs and values of the Arunachal Pradesh region, and to protect the locals against coerced conversion to foreign religions

%d bloggers like this: