Paradise on earth is Ziro Part II- words and image by Dani Sulu

One of the sweetest moments of our life is home coming experience. Wherever one may be, his home and her native land and neighbourhood is closest to her heart, however ugly or dirty the home and native town may be, it remains perched in the green land of our memory, forever lovely and refreshing. Coming back to Ziro, my home town, is tantalisingly romantic. It still gives me goose bumps when we start to ascend the hills from Yazali. As one drives through hairpin bends, cool breeze is felt smooching your cheeks and gently weaving through your hair as if mother is running her loving fingers through hair while we are asleep in her bossom. One can smell the pine trees and feel freshness of mountain air coursing down your lungs.

          There hardly is a rest period for the people of Apatani Plateau. As the autumn gives way to winter, Apatanis start preparing their field for next agriculture seaon with repair of bunds and irrigation channels. Even on a chilly winter day, when the sun hides behind the clouds from biting winter wind of Ziro Valley, you will find farmers in the fields cleaning and caressing their fields as would a painter feel his canvass before the start of a master piece. Here I post winter scenes of Ziro giving way to Spring…

Nursery bed to sow paddy seedlings is being prepared. After the Myoko, in the month of April, paddy sapplings will be transplanted.

Elsewhere, paddy fields are treated with crystal clear water….

And the flowering of takung apu..announces arrival of Myoko Piilo.

Here is a closer look of flowers of peach…

Looking through the wide fields one can view Ziro blossoming into youthful beauty..of flowers….

Another of visual Vista.

Flower blossom in a far off place is seen from the ground which has borne the winter brunt of Ziro. Grass has turned brown because of cold.

Flowers deck the bamboo gardens and pine groves.

Closer view of the blossoming Ziro.

Care to take a walk with me?

This is a bird’s eye view of Ziro during Winter.

My dear friends, you might delight youselves in the depthness of winter, when the cold becomes unbearable with these poetic sentence.”When winter comes, can spring be far behind?” But I ask you,” If winter be skipped for it’s severity, would spring have appeared so young and beautiful?” The beauty of winter is, that ,it gives spring a backdrop to appreciate it’s magic. On the rugged surface of winter, beauty of spring is painted. Thus Sulu muses.

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Tattooing in Arunachal Pradesh- the culture of tribal tattooing

Tattooing in Arunachal Pradesh- the culture of tribal tattooing:

Many tribes of Arunachal Pradesh used to tattoo different parts of the body as a means of personal decoration and in some cases, certain religious or social taboos were there behind the tattooing. The most famous tribes known for tattooing are the Noctes and Wanchos of Tirap district. Nocte men generally did not tattoo their faces or bodies except for a few cases where men were tattooed on the face and the chest. Tattooing of women was common in all Nocte villages. Women were generally tattoed on the arms and the back and the common design was normally big stars with cross lines joining the ends. In some of the areas, girls were tattooed after puberty and in some other cases it was done by the maternal uncle of the girl. Faces of the small girls were tattooed on chin with a diamond and line through it. Besides face tattooing, other parts of the body such as the chest, naval, thighs and calfs were also tattooed with lines and dots.

Amongst the Wanchos, both men and women heavily tattooed their bodies. Tattooing in fact had a very special significance for the Wanchos. Besides being a personal decoration, it had both social and ritual importance. Apart from the rank and social status of a person, different designs of tattooing on different parts of the body signifies the attainment of different stages in life, particularly in case of women. A man from the chief’s family had very elaborate designs all over body, while the tattooing was rather simple in other cases. They had beautiful designs on the neck, throat, chest, arms, back and the stomach and even round the eyes. A head-hunter had special designs on the face and body as marks of bravest parts of their bodies such as chest, arms, back, umbilicus, thighs and calfs were tattooed. Tattooing was a part of the marriage ritual. The first tattooing was done over the umbilicus at the age of 6 or 7 years. Calves were tattooed when the girls attained puberty. When the girls left the house of the parents after marriage, third tattooing was done on the thighs. The last and the fourth tattooing was done above the breasts during the seventh month of pregnancy, or in some cases, after the first child was born. The girls of the chiefs family also got their forearms tattooed. Tattooing of the different parts of the body had different names; that on the different parts of the body had different names; that on the face was called thun hu, on the chest kha hu, on the neck dino hu, on the back tock hu, on the thighs batan hu and so on.

Amongst the Nishis, the art of tattooing was to be found amongst few people of joram area where a perpendicular line was drawn in the middle of the chin, crossed by two horizontal lines, and one line on each cheek connecting the corners of the lips to the ears. Otherwise, tattooing was not done in the Nishi society.

 The Apatanis, a close neighbour of the Nishis, both men and women, used to tattoo their faces, which distinguished them from their neighbours. The men tattooed the face below the mouth. This was of ‘T’ shape on the middle on the lower chin. The tattooing of the women were perpendicular from the forehead to the tip of the nose and five lines on the lower chin vertically done and one horizontal line on the upper portion of the lower chin. All the children were tattooed at the age of 7-8 years.

The Shingpho men used to tattoo their limbs slightly, and the married women were tattooed on both legs from the ankles to the knees in parallel bands.

Amongst the Akas, the art of tattooing was quite common. The women tattooed their faces in a pattern of straight lines running from below the forehead to the chin where it bifurcated into two directions. Other parts of the body were not tattooed. Tattooing was done generally in the early years of girlhood and always before puberty. Men were generally not tattooed.

Amongst the Adis, though tattooing was not common, some tattoo marks could be found amongst some tribes on the forehead or on the nose. The design of these tattoos was usually a cross having a single or double horizontal beam, the vertical line running from the forehead down to the tip of the nose.

PROCESS OF TATTOOING:

The process of tattooing amongst the tribe was a very painful one and demanded great patience and endurance on the part of the person upon whom it was done. Normally, tattooing was done only on a special day fixed by divination which signified its ritual importance. Designs were first drawn with black paint made from the soot over the body and they were picked by thorns of cane. Then the juice of a particular plant mixed with blue colour was applied over the designs or in some case, the colour made from ashes of straws was smeared over the pricked portions. The juice of the plant believed to have healing effects on the wounds. The wounds sometimes became serious, and usually confined the person who could hardly move about for a few days. No medicine was applied but hot fermentation was given for a few days. The persons who performed the tattooing operations, mostly male but in some cases female were considered to be experts in this art; they were mostly paid in kind such as rice, rice beer and meat. Nowadays, the custom of tattooing has almost been given up by the various tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, probably realising the futility of such painful operations and also because of the impact of the outside world.

Folktale : The Singphos of Arunachal pradesh

The Singphos inhabit the area bounded by the Dibrugarh district of Assam in south and west, the Tengapani river in the north and the east it adjoins Pangasi of the Tirap district on the Indo Burma border. The Singphos were considered as the most powerful tribe in the Indo-Burmese border and played an important role in shaping the history of northeast frontier region.

Singpho tribe

A Singpho Folktale

There was once a very great Raja who had seven wives. One year they all became pregnant at the same time. The six elder wives had human children but the seventh and youngest gave birth to a tortoise. When the raja saw the tortoise baby he was angry and drove the mother, though she was most beautiful, out of his house and made a little hut for her outside the village. Gradually the six elder boys grew up and when they were old enough, they prepared to go down river to trade. When the tortoise boy heard about it he said to his mother, ‘My brothers are going to trade; let me go as well.’ The mother said, ‘your brothers can walk about, for they have hands and feet, but you have none. What do you want to go trading for?’ ‘All the same,’ said the tortoise boy, ‘even if I have no hands and feet, I’d like to go.’ So the mother prepared the tortoise-boy for his journey and put him in the boat with his brothers. When they came into mid-stream the tortoise-boy brought a flute from under his shell and played it. The trees of the forest heard the music and came to the bank to listen and this is why to this day there are many trees along the banks of rivers. The boat went down the river and the tortoise played his flute. After a time he said to the six brothers, ‘Leave me here; you go on and when you return, call me and I will join you.’ He jumped into the water and sank to the bottom. There he found a great store of gold and silver and precious stones and hid them under his shell. He went on a little further and found many different musical instruments. When their brothers had finished their trading they returned and called their tortoise-brother, and he came up from the bottom of the river and clambered into the boat. Then he brought out the instruments from beneath his shell and played them. He gave some of them to his brothers and they all played together very happily. When the boat neared home and the raja heard the music he supposed that his sons must have made a great deal of money and were celebrating their success. He went down to the bank to welcome them with honour and took them home. But he took no notice of the tortoise-boy and left him in the bottom of the boat. But soon his mother came for him.
Presently the Raja made arrangements for the marriage of his sons. The tortoise-boy said to his mother, ‘My brothers are getting married; find a wife for me too.’ The mother said, ‘But you are tortoise, you are not a human being. What sort of girl will you get to marry you?’ The tortoise-boy said, ‘There is a Raja’s daughter in a village not far away and I want to marry her.’ The mother said, ‘But she is the daughter of a Raja and you are a tortoise.’ The tortoise-boy said, ‘that may be so, but what does it matter? Go and ask the girl’s father.’ So the mother went to the Raja and said, ‘Give your daughter to my son.’ The Raja replied, ‘Very well, I will give him my daughter on this condition, that within two days, before the sun rises for the second time, your son must make a boat of gold and  diamonds and bring it to my palace.’ The mother went home and told her son. Now the tortoise had great wealth hidden beneath his shell and he brought it out and called a craftsman who made a boat of gold and diamonds and they took it to the Raja’s palace before the sun rose for the second time. The Raja came down to see it and there the tortoise-boy was sitting in the boat shining like the sun. When the tortoise saw the Raja he changed his shape and became a handsome youth, and the Raja willingly gave him his daughter in marriage.

Reproduced from the book “Myths of the North-East Frontier of India” by Verrier Elwin and reprinted by the Director of Research, Government of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar.

Myth and origin of the tribes Arunachal Pradesh-THE AKAS

The Akas

THE AKAS

The Akas are a small tribal group inhabiting the sub-Himalayan regions of India towards the southern area of the Kemeng district of Arunachal, and they call themselves as Hursso. In fact, the name Aka has been given to them by the people of the plains in Assam, which means a painted, may be because of their custom of painting their faces profusely. Nothing concrete is known about the origin and migration of the Aka Tribe. As per a Hursso tradition, recorded by Dr. Elwin,  long ago there was a man called Awa, who got married to Jusam, the beautiful daughter of the Sun, and out their union were born one son and daughter named Sibji Sao and Sibjim-Sam and they are regarded as parents of all mankind. An Other scholar Sesselmayer remarks that, the Hursso (Akas) do not pretend to be the native inhabitants of the country which they now occupy, and have been unable to account for their real home. He argues that the Akas believe themselves to be the inhabitants of the plains of Assam and that their ancestors were driven out from Partalgose on the banks of the Ghiladhari river, north of bisnath by Krishna and Baral, the famous characters of Mahabharata.

An Other scholar gives another version regarding the original home of the Akas, quoting from an Aka legend that long-long ago all men descended from heaven to earth by means of ladders. While the Assamese and the Akas of the royal blood came down by a golden ladder, the remaining Akas used a silver ladder, besides, the Monpas and the Tibetans were given an iron ladder, while the Nishis and the Adis had to be satisfied with a bamboo ladder. All these people came to the  earth on the Longkapur Hill in the Lohit valley and then scattered in search of land. The akas spent so much time resting and drinking that others got the best of the land and the Akas had to accept what was left. They at first settled at Bhalukpung where on the right bank of the Bhorali river, their two chiefs Natapura and Bayu built their respective capitals. Bayu demanded the beautiful wife of Natapura as a sort of tribute and after a number of adventures the lady with a newly born child arrived at Bayu’s palace. The child Arima grew up to become a great warrior and finally killed his own father by mistake. Overcome by remorse, he migrated to the present country of the Akas and it is from his children that the present day Akas have descended.

It may be noted here that unlike many other tribes of Arunachal, the Aka legends points out that the migration of this tribe followed from south to north. i.e. from the plains of Assam to the Hills.

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.

 

Ballad by the Adi-Gallong tribe of Arunachal Pradesh

The ballad is called Oyo Hoi Ya, describing the life of ‘Mother Village.( English translation of the song)

The song starts:

Come, let us cheer her who toils for us all
night and day of whom we exploit endlessly.
Let us make her life more colorful;
let’s show her we care.
We all come from our mother’s heart,
spring from her bosom like sprouts
The pods of sesame burst and
The seeds are scattered far,
Arrows fly out of view
In diverse directions shot
From the old stem
From the old stock
As new leaves grow,
We too spring from old stock

The tales of Ami Dori : Oral tradition and culture in the Apatani Valley

The tales of Ami Dori : Oral tradition and culture in the Apatani Valley

There was a young girl called Ami Dori. She was an extremely good person, who spoke kindly and never ever had a bad word for anyone. She was also very beautiful, of incomparable beauty. She was as lovely as the rising sun and the shining moon, a girl of good speech, thought and action. Because she was so perfect she was considered the elder sister of the god iipyo wi.
But her brother’s wife became jealous of her perfection and began to slander her. ”Everyone says that your sister, Ami Dori, is good but she’s not. She’s evil. Do you know what she’s done? She had illicit sex with Tadu and with Bume – that’s what they say, she’s done bad things with them.” When he heard all this about Ami Dori, her brother believed his wife and then he, too, began to speak ill of her. And when their parents heard what the brother had to say, they also started to call her names. Hearing what the parents said, others outside the family began to talk ill of Ami Dori.
When she heard all that was said about her, all this horrible talk, Ami Dori felt terrible, very bad inside, and said to herself: ”At first everyone praised me and said I was a good person, but now they say I’m bad.” That’s how she felt. ”I am the sister of iipyo wi and so I’ve never had a bad thought in my heart, never done a bad thing. Not in the past, not even in childhood, not in the present and not in the future would I ever do anything bad. I never had and never will even entertain bad thoughts. You [her family] have prevented me from living my life as I wished.”
Full of sorrow and pain, Ami Dori left her parents’ house then went to a grove where she made the takun tree her mother and the sangko bacho tree her father. Why did she do that? You might ask. Well, her sister-in-law had slandered her, her brother had slandered her, her mother and father had slandered her, the whole village had slandered her. She was devastated and began to think: ”If my mother doesn’t act like a mother, and if I can’t consider her my mother; if she can’t think of me as her daughter, if my father can’t think of me as his daughter, if my brother can’t think of me as his sister, if my sister-in-law can’t treat me as a sister-in-law, if everyone calls me an evil person, then I don’t know how I can live on this earth.”
Then she said to the creator god, ”Since my birth, until this very day, I have done nothing wrong. I did nothing with Biilyi Tado and Bume Tah; I never even looked at them. To say I had illicit sex with them is idle gossip. God, you know everything – the stars, sun and moon, all the gods, souls, including the malevolent giirii wi; you created all the creatures, from spirits to humans and animals, all the insects and reptiles, the flora and fauna, trees, everything little and big. Everything and everyone is your creation. So you know me, what I’ve done and what I’ve said and who I am. I also know and because I know I can no longer live among people. I’m going to leave this earth. They say that I had sex with Biilyi Tado and Bume Tah and I am humiliated/disgraced.”
With these sad words and thoughts, she tied a cane-rope to a branch of the takun tree and then around her neck and committed suicide. There, in that takun grove, she took her own life and left this earth. After her death, her maternal uncle [and his brothers ?] came and said, ”Ami Dori was always a good person. How could you speak about such a good person in such a terrible way? Because she felt disgraced, she killed herself.” [They thought that she died because she felt disgraced?]
Ami Dori’s family replied, ”We all believed what the others said, that she was bad. We believed what her sister-in-law said about her, what her own brother and her own parents said. Asking more and more questions, the maternal uncle found out that her brother and his wife had first said that she was bad, that she had sex with Biilyi Tadu and Bume Tah. He also learned that they were not humans, but snakes, who became humans who turned back into snakes. Ami Dori had played with those snakes. They explained this to the maternal uncle and his brothers. [When they heard all this] the maternal uncle and his relatives spoke directly to Ami Dori, ”You are sister of iipyo wi, the good Ami Dori, but they said that you were bad. But we, in our hearts, do not believe them. All those people accused you of doing evil, but you have said that you did nothing wrong with Biilyi Tado and Bume Tah, that you have been wronged, that you are blameless. But instead of taking revenge, we will bury you. Then you must show us that you are pure and not evil; give us a sign from your grave that you led a good life.”
On the next day, in the early morning, her family and her sister-in-law’s family [?] went to her grave and saw a small shoot growing, no taller than a snake’s fang. On the second morning it was the size of a lizard’s leg. And on the third day a full tree had grown over her grave mound, a big, thick tree with many branches. From her grave, through the power of god, spiritual power, she showed that she really had committed no evil. Different flowers blossomed on the many branches of that tree – a red flower, a white flower, a green flower and a dark flower [this is in nyibo language]. And the tree was called the ”Dori” tree and the necklace tree because different coloured necklaces hung from those branches – the domin, doku, rite, tado, sampyo, santer, ahing paming, and lebu – all these necklaces grew on the tree.
”One person watches and one makes a hole [in the bead]; one person rolls the thread and one puts it through the hole; and plucks the beads from the tree.” [In the same way ?] everyone now knew that Ami Dori was a good woman, that she had done no wrong; that god had made her a pure being. They knew that she had done nothing wrong with Biilyi Tadu and Bume Tah, that everyone had unjustly slandered her. The necklace tree appeared to show this to everyone. When the tree had demonstrated Ami Dori’s goodness to the maternal uncle, the others – her brother and sister-in-law, and her parents stood accused.
In order to show the rest of the world that she was innocent, her uncles took the necklaces [from the tree?] and set out to sell them. This is said to have been the ”first business”. In our miji language we have the saying: ”Tado must go and sell; Haley must go and sell”. [Tado-Haley refers to a generic trader] These two men set out to sell these necklaces, which were created by the creator of all we see [the stars, sun, moon, etc.] They went to sell those necklaces to show the world that Ami Dori was innocent.
They went to the house of Nyime Payang Radhe [a ruler from Tibet?], to try to sell them to his daughters. But they rejected them, saying they weren’t up to the mark. So the uncles took the necklaces and wandered from place to place, trying to sell them, explaining that they were expensive because they were the ornaments of Ami Dori. North and south they went, here and there and everywhere, until they reached the house of Pan Pachi Tari [some kind of title]; to his women folk they said, ”Here are fine necklaces; look at them and see how nice they are.” Then Pan Pachi Tari bought them for his daughters, saying, ”I’ll buy them with my lands.” And so it was that because Ami Dori was a virtuous person, of excellent character, kind thoughts and gentle speech – because she was the best person on earth her sister-in-law, her brother and her parents spoke ill of her, and others did until the whole world slandered her. God made her pure and through the power of meping wi, the necklace tree grew and showed the world [that she was innocent].

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