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.’

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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.

 

Apatani woman Ziro Arunachal Pradesh

 

Apatani woman Ziro Arunachal Pradesh

Apatani woman Ziro Arunachal Pradesh

 The Apatani tribe live in central Arunachal Pradesh in and around the beautiful, fertile, and for Arunachal fairly flat, Ziro valley. Historically famous for their beauty, Apatani women were all too often kidnapped by warriors of the neighbouring Nishi tribes. As a ‘defence’, Apatani girls were deliberately defaced. They were given facial tattoos, like graffitied beards scribbled onto living Mona Lisa paintings, and extraordinary nose plugs known as dat fitted into holes cut in their upper nostrils. Some men also have tattoos. Peace with the Nishis in the 1960s meant the end to that brutal practice, but many older women still wear that.

Old cultures and portraits::Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.

 

Below are the very rare portraits of the ancient Indigenous Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.
All the pictures were taken when before Arunachal Pradesh was an full fledged state. So, the below picture depicts the History of Arunachalee people, when they first came to the consciousness about the world wide civilization.

Group of Hill Miris ( now called Nyishi's )

Group of Hill Miris ( now called Nyishi’s ) , Arunachal Pradesh

These Hill Miris are from the Kamla River valley, possibly from the settlement of Bidak or another Hill Miri settlement in the lower valley. Their earrings, machete, pipe, animal-skin bag, cane-belt, wrist guard (left arm of the central man) and general hair style are common throughout much of the Subansiri region…. However, the leaf head cover, heavy cane-work arm guard (central man’s right arm), cloth penis cover (man far left in background), grass penis cover (half visible on the far right) and textile (almost a coat, with narrow, dark borders on the central man) were more typical of the Kamla River area. (1945).

Portrait of a Digaru Mishmi woman


Portrait of a Digaru Mishmi woman, Arunachal Pradesh

 

This Digaru Mishmi woman is standing in the plains of Assam, probably near the town of Sadiya. She wears typical Digaru textiles, headband and ornaments, especially the earrings and the necklace of metal discs. She also wears a pair of jungle cat teeth and a key, hanging from her necklaces. (1937).

Sherdukpen dancer

 

Sherdukpen dancer, Arunachal Pradesh, India

This Sherdukpen dancer with a wooden mask is a figure in a version of a yak dance performed widely across the Tibetan Buddhist world. The dance tells the story of three sons, one of whom is dispossessed but is helped by a yak. He is performing for J. P. Mills, Adviser to the Governor of Assam for Tribal Areas. Mills came to meet the Sherdukpen Sat Rajas (‘Seven Kings’) at their winter camp on the Belsiri River, east of Charduar in Assam, where they presented him with an honorary scarf. Each year Sherdukpens (and other Arunachal tribes) came to Charduar to receive annual payments from the government. Charduar was the headquarters of the Balipara Frontier Tract, which included most of the eastern districts of present-day Arunachal Pradesh, where Sherdukpens (Akas, Mijis, Monpas and Buguns) live. Charduar (‘Four-Door/Gate’) was one of several duars along the base of the eastern Himalayas where hill tribes came to transact business with the rulers of the plains. Many tribes received an annual payment (posa) in goods and/or cash in return for not raiding villages in the plains. For some tribes, these payments continued for several years even after 1947. (1944)

Apatani boy during a ritual procession

 

Apatani boy during a ritual procession

This Apatani boy, standing in the paddy fields, is part of a longer procession led by a shaman during a large feast. He carries a brass plate and a bamboo stick, wrapped in cloth, with which to strike it (the only musical instrument used by Apatanis). He also wears a necklace… of expensive conch-shell beads, a man’s hair knot with skewer, a string of metal beads on the hair line and cane rings below the knee. Each year, several Apatani families celebrate this three-week long feast, involving mithun and cow sacrifice, public chanting by the shaman and complex gift-giving between the feast sponsor and various kin and ceremonial friends. During the procession, which takes place more than a week after the large animal sacrifice on the first day, the shaman leads a long line of young boys and men belonging to the sponsor’s clan. Dressed in ceremonial finery, they walk through the entire Apatani valley (only 8 kilometres long and 4 across), visiting all nine villages and each ritual platform in each village. At every platform, they perform a simple dance and are given food and drink.

Leader of Sherdukpen Sat Rajas

 

Leader of Sherdukpen Sat Rajas

This Sherdukpen man is the leader of the Sat Rajas (‘Seven Kings’), the representatives of a few Sherdukpen villages who came to the plains to transact business with the government. (1944) He wears ceremonial clothes and a hat influenced by eastern Bhutanese and Tibetan traditions. J. P. Mills, Adviser to the Governor of Assam for Tribal Areas, met the Sherdukpens at their winter camp on the Belsiri River, east of Charduar, where they presented him with an honorary scarf. Each year Sherdukpens (and other Arunachal tribes) came to Charduar, in Assam, to receive annual payments from the government. Charduar was the headquarters of the Balipara Frontier Tract, which included most of the eastern districts of present-day Arunachal Pradesh, where Sherdukpens (Akas, Mijis, Monpas and Buguns) live. Charduar (‘Four-Door/Gate’) was one of several duars along the base of the eastern Himalayas where hill tribes came to transact business with the rulers of the plains. Many tribes received an annual payment (posa) in goods and/or cash in return for not raiding villages in the plains. For some tribes, these payments continued for several years even after 1947.

Portrait of a Wancho Naga man

 

Portrait of a Wancho Naga man

 This photograph was taken by the anthropologist Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf in 1962 in Mintong, Arunachal Pradesh, Tirap district, India.

Portrait of the Wancho girl(1962)

Portrait of the Wancho girl
Above is an portrait of an Wancho girl (1962)

Portrait of an Apatani man 1962

 Portrait of an Apatani man
Above is an portrait of an Apatani man surrounded with children and having his first click. (1962)

Portrait of a Mingyon Adi man 1937

 

Portrait of a Mingyon Adi man

This Minyong Adi man wears a cotton tunic with a rough texture, the result of the fact that the fibres were roughly spun. He also wears the short hair cut that was distinctive of Adis. He may be the headman of the village. This photograph was taken in Pangin village, Arunachal Pradesh, East Siang District, India in 1937.

Portrait of a Minyong Adi woman 1937

 

Portrait of a Minyong Adi woman

This Minyong Adi woman is standing in the plains of Assam, probably near the town of Sadiya. She wears typical Minyong jewellery, especially the earrings and broad metal ornament. A bamboo comb is also visible. (1937).

Portrait of a Mingyong Adi woman and child

Portrait of a Mingyong Adi woman and child

This photograph, taken in Rengin village, Arunachal Pradesh, East Siang District, India, shows a Minyong woman carrying a child on her back. She wears the high hair line, typical for Minyong men and women. (1937)

Portrait of Minyong Adi Shaman

Portrait of Minyong Adi Shaman

This woman is a shaman among the Minyong Adis in the Siang river area. Anthropologist Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf met her as he and his party were trekking near Yamung village. In addition to her earrings, with tassels, and elaborate jewellery, some of it silver, she wears dried bird skins. Women still practice as shamans among the Minyong Adis, although this is somewhat unusual among other groups in central Arunachal Pradesh. (1937)

Portrait of a Minyong Adi man

Portrait of a Minyong Adi man

The Minyong Adi man in this photograph (taken in Rengin village, Arunachal Pradesh, East Siang District, India) is smoking a pipe with a metal stem and bowl. He wears a handwoven jacket that was typical among Adis.

Mingyong Adi shaman

Mingyon Adi shaman

The Minyong Adi man in this photograph (taken in Arunachal Pradesh, East Siang District, India) is a shaman, as indicated by his elaborate jewellery and hair dress. Minyong Adis have both male and female shamans, who wear similar costumes. (1937)

Apatani Old Man Ziro

Apatani Old Man Ziro

Untitled at Si Donyi fest

Untitled at Si Donyi fest

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