Myth and origin of the tribes Arunachal Pradesh-THE APATANIS

Apatani Tribe

 THE APATANIS

The Apatanis are settled in the lower Subansiri district of Arunachal and are one of the most advancing tribes of the state. There are no literary sources regarding the origin and migration of the Apatanis and the archaeological evidences are too meagre  to throw however, the Apatanis have preserved different myths and traditions, which throw welcome light on all aspects of their life including their origin and migration.

The Kolyung, Kolo, Wachi and Lipyo are considered as the earlier myths of the Apatanis which deal with the creation of the Universe. These myiths reveal that Abotani was the first ancestors of the Apatanis as well as of the world, who was first transformed into a perfect shape of human being on the earth. It is stated in the myths that the earth and the sky mingled with the rays of the Sun and the water and gave birth to gods, called Chatung and chanbha. These two gods mingled with goddess Chankangrima and Dokarimang who gave birth to Tani (Abutani) and Toro. As per the version of the Apatani priests, a series of Tanis were born and the last tani was known as Neha Tani. The priests furthure narrate that these were three forefathers, namely Kibo-Riba, Bani-Baro and Nichi-Nicha, who formed the paternal lines of Abo Tani. As per the Apatani myths, these three forfathers were generated at a mythical place of Apatanis called Mudo Suppung, which believed to be the present Tibet.

The oral sacred literature of the Apatanis reveals that Wuhi and Iipya Supungs were the earliest mythical places of Apa Tani where various tribes were generated. This if followed by another mythical place called Muddo Supung, where the present Tani tribe generated. The Wuhi and Iipyu Supungs are believed to be located somewhere in the belt of China and Mongolia. From Muddo Supung the Apatanis are said to have migrated to their present habitat at different times. The priests chant the mythical migration routes of the Aptanis during prayer from the border areas of Tibet and China, in the north of Subansiri and Siang district of Arunachal, specifically from the present Tunga, Lassa and Shoka passes. Afterwards, the Apa Tanis are believed to have crossed the rivers Kuru and Kime (Kamala), which flows near the Tsaaipo valley and later on reached the present valley where the ancestors of Apa Tanis settled for few generations. Then they crossed Gyayu and Supu rivers and migrated to the present valley. It is also told that after crossing Kuru and Kime rivers, the original Apatanis splits into three groups, each of which took a different route to the Apatani country. The stages on these routes refer to  some localities in the Nishi and the Miri Hills, north of the Apa Tani country. Each of these three groups of immigrants is believed to be responsible for the foundation of different Apatani Villages.

The folk stories of the Apatanis and the Nishis also reveals that the Apatanis came down from the extreme north of Subansiri and Siang districts of arunachal. According to scholars:’ though local tradition speak of an immigration of the tribes ancestors from a northern direction, these memories can only relate to the last stages of a population movement which may well have changed its course more than once.’

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.

 

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 http://wakling.com/abotani-and-the-quest-for-rice; Abotani had a lot of success in his rice cultivation thanks to his wise wife Aio Diiliang Diibiu http://arunachalipr.gov.in/StateFestival_Dree.htm; 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 http://arunachaldiary.blogspot.com/2008/05/myoko-celebration-of-apatanis-photo.html; 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 http://arunachalipr.gov.in/StateFestival_Dree.htm. 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.

FOUR FOLKTALES FROM ARUNACHAL PRADESH

 

  Following four folktales deal with the theme of creation of the world. These stories show the belief of some tribes of Arunachal in this phenomenon. Each folktale belongs to one specific tribe.The name of the concerned tribe along with the name of the Frontier Division to which it belongs has been given in the form of the title of each story. These stories are taken from the book “MYTHS OF THE NORTH-EAST FRONTIER OF INDIA” authored by the renowned anthropologist Dr. Verrier Elwin, first published in the year 1958. It may be noted that the Frontier Divisions mentioned in the book are now known as districts.

 

 

(A) APA TANI – Reru Subansiri

 

At first Kujum-Chantu, the earth, was like a human being ; she had a head, and arms and legs, and an enormous fat belly. The original human beings lived on the surface of her belly. One day it occurred to Kujum-Chantu that if she ever got up and walked about, everyone would fall off and be killed, so she herself died of her own accord. Her head became the snow-covered mountains ; the bones of her back turned into smaller hills. Her chest was the valley where the Apa-Tanis live. From her neck came the north country of the Tagins. Her buttocks turned into the Assam plain. For just as the buttocks are full of fat, Assam has fat rich soil. Kujum-Chantu’s eyes became the Sun and Moon. From her mouth was born Kujum-Popi, who sent the Sun and Moon to shine in the sky.

 

(B) DHAMMAI (MIJI) – Nakhu, Kameng

 

 At first there was neither earth nor sky. Shuzanghu and his wife Zumiang-Nui lived above. One day Shuzanghu said to his wife, ‘How long must we live without a place to rest our feet ?’ Zumiang-Nui said, ‘What can I say to you ? You always live apart from me, and don’t love me. But if you truly love me and will stay with me, I will tell you ‘what to do.’ So Shuzanghu went to his wife and she conceived. In due time Zumiang-Nui gave birth to a baby-girl, Subbu-Khai Thung, who is the Earth and to a baby-boy, Jongsuli-Young-Jongbu, who is the Sky. But there was no place for them. So they fell down, down to where Phangnalomang the Worm and his wife were living, and the Worm swallowed them both. Zumiang-Nui tried to find her children and asked her husband, ‘What has happened to them ? Where have they gone ?’ But he could not tell her. Then she said, ‘Next time I have a child, make a clear flat place where I can keep him safely and set traps all round it.’ Shuzanghu made such a place and when his wife was delivered of her next child, there was somewhere for him to stay. And now when Phangnalomang came to devour the child he was caught in one of the traps. Shuzanghu found him there and split his body open. The two children were still in his belly and the lower part of his body became the Earth and the upper part the Sky. Now Earth and Sky lived together. The Sky went to his wife, the Earth, and she gave birth to a son, Subjang-Gnoi-Rise and a daughter, Jubbu-Jang-Sangne. These were gods but they had the shape of mountains. After they were born Earth and Sky separated and as they were parting Earth gave birth to two other children, a boy, Lujjuphu, and a girl named Jassuju, who had the form of frogs. They mated and from them a boy and a girl in human form, Abugupham-Bumo and Anoi-Diggan-Juje, were born. They were human but were covered with hair. They married each other and in time had three sons,Lubukhanlung, Sangso-Dungso and Kimbu-Sangtung.

 

(C) HRUSSO (AKA) – Buragaon, Kameng

 

 At first there was no earth and sky ; there were only two great eggs. But they were not ordinary eggs, for they were soft and shone like gold. They did not stay in one place, but were round and round. At last, as they went round, they collided and both the eggs broke open. From one came the Earth, from the other the Sky, her husband. Now the Earth was too big for the Sky to hold in his arms and he said, ‘Though you are my wife, you are greater than I and I cannot take you. Make yourself smaller.’ The Earth accordingly made herself pliable and the mountains and valleys were formed, and she became small and the Sky was able to go to her in love. When the Sky made love to the Earth, every kind of tree and grass and all living creatures came into being.

 

(D) SINGPHO – Imbu, Tirap

 

 At first there was no earth nor sky, but only cloud and mist. From it a woman called Khupning-Kuam was born, and since she came from the mist she was a sort of cloud. In time she gave birth to a girl called Ningon-Chinun and a boy called Tung-Kam-Waisun. They had the appearance of snow. When they grew up they married each other and from them were born a girl called Inga (Earth) and a son called Mu (Sky). Inga was mud and Mu, a cloud. These two also married and had a boy called Imbung, the Wind. When he was born, he blew so strongly that he raised the cloud, his father, into the sky and dried up his mother, the mud. In this way heaven and earth were made.

 

 

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