Myth and origin of the tribes Arunachal Pradesh-THE APATANIS

Apatani Tribe


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.’

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.


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