ARUNACHAL PRADESH (Required INNER LINE PERMITs for Indian Nationals & RESTRICTED AREA PERMITs for Foreign Nationals).
Season: October to April.
The largest state of the Northeast is also one of its most beautiful. Its virgin isolation, due to restricted entry regulations, has been blessing in disguise as Arunachal still retains its centuries old pristine vistas, diverse tribal heritage and geographical features. Reminding again, Arunachal is huge and travelling around its vast and mountainous tracts can be arduous.
Arunachal has 26 major tribes and many sub-tribes living in 3649 scattered villages. Although a number of tribal groups’ constitute the total population, the density of population is very less. People are of Mongoloid stock but each tribe has certain distinct characteristics in language, dress & costume. They have a rich cultural heritage. The People are simple, friendly and hospitable. Their colourful festivals are manifestations of their faith and belief.
The society is patriachal and primogeniture and the fundamental laws of inheritance with variations are not uncommon. They follow endogamy and strictly observe the rule of clan exogamy. Polygamy is socially sanctioned and is practiced by most of them. The people are highly democratic, and each tribe has its own organised institutions that maintain law and order, decide disputes and take up all activities for the welfare of the tribes and the villages. The members constituting these organisations are selected by the people. The entire population of the state can be divided into three cultural groups on the basis of their socio-politico-religious affinities. It has been found that the tribes of Arunachal are integrated into groups independant of each other, living their separate lives. The common denominators are that the pattern of lifestyle of each is the same and they follow the same occupation; the societies are casteless; the societies are governed by chiefs and the adults were grouped according to their age for distinct social functions. The young are organised around dormitory institutions to follow the instructions of the older generation.
Vacationing in Arunachal Pradesh is an adventure – an exciting, enlightening and incredible adventure and travelling can be arduous.
Brief description of some of the Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh
The Adis have two main divisions, (the Bogum and Bomis) and under each there are a number of sub-tribes. The Minyongs, Karkos, Shimongs, Bomdo, Janbos, Paggis, Pailibos, Bogum, Padams, Milangs and so on form one group ; while the Gallong and seven other groups constitute another group of Adis. The Adis by nature are democratic and have organised village council called Kebang. Their traditional dance called Ponung is famous in the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. Dances are very popular among them. Adi villages are situated generally on the spurs of hills. Polyandy is unknown but polygyny is practised. Adi women are very good weavers and weave cloth with highly artistic designs.
The Apatanis are settled agriculturists inhabiting the valley around Ziro-the headquarters of Lower Subansiri district. The older men-folk tie the hair in top-knots and tattoo the faces. Wearing of circular nose plugs and tattooing of faces is the most characteristic aspect of ornamentation of older Apatani women. However, new generation of Apatani men and women have stopped this practice of tying hair knot, nose plugs and face tattooing since early 1970s. The Apatani are good cultivators and practice both wet and terrace cultivation. Paddy cum fish culture is very popular among them. Unlike other tribes of Arunachal their economy is stable.
The Buguns or Khowas are gentle, hospitable and affectionate people. They are agriculturist and perform a number of rites and ceremonies for their welfare.
The Hrusso or Akas have a custom of painting their face with black marks. They figured frequently in old historical records. Their popular belief is that they were related with the Ahom Kings.They are keen traders and trade, mainly in cloth, blankets, swords etc. They have come to some extent under both Hindu and Buddhist influence.
The Singphos represent a section of the Kachin tribe of Burma. They live on the banks of Tengapani and Noa Dehang rivers. They are agriculturists and expert blacksmiths. The ladies are good weavers too. They follow Buddhism but at the same time believe in a host of spirit.
Khambas and Membas inhabiting northern part of West Siang are Buddhist by religion. Polyandry is prevalent among them. But it is more in vogue among the Membas. Agricultural activities are popular among them. Millet and Maize are their staple food. They grow cotton and barley also.
Mishmis form the bulk of the population of Lohit, Upper Dibang Valley and Lower Dibang Valley districts. There are also the Khamtis, the Singphos and a few Adi settlements. The Mishmis are divided into three main groups namely- Idus or Chulikatas, Digarus or Taroan and Mijus or Kaman. A section of the Idu Mishmi is also called Bebejia Mishmi. Their women are expert weavers and make excellent coats and blouses. Agriculture is the main occupation of the people. By nature they are traders. Since very early days the Mishmis had relations with the plains of Assam. The chief items of trade are deer –musk, wild medicinal plants, animal skins, Mishimi – tita etc.
The Monpas are simple, gentle and courteous people. They are friendly and possess a rich heritage of culture. They dress well in artistically designed clothes. Their communal life is rich and happy. They follow Buddhism and profess Mahayana Buddhism which centres round the Tawang Monastery. Each house has a small chapel attached to it.
The Nyishi are the largest groups of people inhabiting the major part of Lower Subansiri district. Their menfolk wear their hair long and tie it in a knot just above the forehead. They wear cane bands around the waist. They believe that after death the spirit of a dead travels to the 'village of the ancestors'. The Sulungs or Puroik are considered to be one of the oldest of the tribes in the area. Their dress and constumes are simple, and the religion is a form of the primitive ' spirit culture'.
The Sherdukpens are a small tribe. They are good agriculturist but their main interest is trade. Their religion is an interesting blend of Mahayana Buddhism and tribal magico-religious beliefs.
The Tagins are main inhabitant of Upper Sunansiri district. Their main occupation is agriculture. Polygamy is customary among them. Their dress is very simple consisting of only one piece of cloth.
The Khamtis are believed to have migrated from the Shan states of Burma. They are the only tribe in Arunachal who have a script of their own, They are Buddhist ( Hinayana cult) by religion, and bury the dead in a coffin. They include Khamyang tribe.
The Wanchos inhabit the western part of Tirap district, bordering Nagaland. They are a carefree, cheerful and hard-working people. Head hunting was customary with them in the old days. It was connected with many of the social activities of the tribe. Their society is divided into four classes the Wanghams (chiefs), the Wangpana, the Wangaue and Wangaas. They have a strict sense of discipline and the law and order of the society is maintained by a village council. The entire tribe is divided into about forty confederacies of villages. Tattooing is a social custom among them. They believe in the existence of two powerful deities, Rang and Baurang. The women are good weavers but the art is restricted to the members of the chief’s families only. They are expert in wood carving also.
The Noctes inhabit the central part of Tirap to the east of the Wanchos. They are organized under powerful chief-those of Namsang and Borduria,They profess Vaishnavism and are disciple of the Bareghar Satra of Nazira, Assam, Naga Narottam who was a close friend of Shri Ram Dev Ata, the founder- satradhikar of the Brehar satra, , become his first disciple, Noctes are famous as salt producers which is their chief item of trade and barter. They are agriculturists. They also cultivate betel leaves on a commercial scale.
The Yobin, also called Lisus, are a small group of people inhabiting the remote easternmost corner of the Tirap district. They are simple and gentle people having their own culture, religion, faith and beliefs and dialect.
Situated on the Apatani Plateau (in the lower Subansiri region) and surrounded by pine mantled hills all around, it is spectacular with dazzling landscapes and tribal culture. The Apatanis are one of most advanced and intriguing of Arunachal’s tribal people. Both men and women tattoo themselves and the women are distinctive with their great nose plugs (dat) made of bamboo and face tattoos. It has now been banned. The Apatanis grow rice by terrace farming; they also have created indigenous irrigation system which is unique amongst the Arunachal tribals.
The Apatani village comprises of long rows of houses with a fertility totem in front of each one. In their cooking, they use an indigenous herbal salt that’s rich in iodine. Living in perfectharmony with nature, for every tree they fell, five fresh saplings are planted.
Driving down to picturesque Along (the district headquarters of West Siang) and on to Pasighat, on the road that hugs the Subansiri river is pure delight.
With its centuries-old great fortress monastery against the dramatic setting of the snow-mantled peaks, Tawang is accessible by car in a dramatic drive through mesmeric alpine country. The sinuous road to Tawang passes through the dragon gates on the awesome heights of the great Sela Pass (13,714 feet). Jaswantgarh located here is a memorial to the brave soldier who single-handedly tried to hold of the approaching Chinese from the Pass during the 1962 Indo-Chinese war.
There’s a strong Tibetan presence in Tawang. Prayer flags flutter in the breeze. Monks in their soft robes slip silently through the market square attending their daily chores. There are 500 of them attached to the great monastery on its dramatic perch on the spur, a short distance from the main town. It is supposed to be the biggest monastery after Lhasa’s Potala. The current Dalai Lama is said to have passed through the township on his escape from Tibet. The Urgelling Monastery here is also associated with the birth of the 6th Dalai Lama. It features his preserved footprints and fingerprints, which are much revered by Buddhist devotees.
The great Tawang Monastery with its dramatic background is eyecatching. A stunning 8 m high glided statue of Buddha dominates the sanctum. The great rotating prayer wheels……priceless tangkhas….. the drone of the monks in prayer……sputtering butter-lamps provide an evocative vision. Its assembly hall is massive – rising 3 stories high. Attached to the monastery is a library with priceless manuscripts, scriptures and literature; there’s a school, huts for the monks and great community kitchen.
The craft centre (closed on Sundays and public holidays) in Tawang sells beautiful masks, hand-woven carpets, jewellery in silver, chubas the local dress.
ENTRY FORMALITIES TO ARUNACHAL PRADESH
Domestic tourists entering Arunachal Pradesh has to obtain Inner Line Permit (ILP).
Foreign tourists can now visit in a group of two or more persons as against earlier requirement of four or more persons. The stay permit for foreign visitors has also been extended to 30 days from the earlier permit of 10 days. Foreign Tourists intending to visit Arunachal Pradesh require Restricted Area Permit (RAP). Foreign Tourists visiting Arunachal Pradesh will have to pay US$ 50 per head to Government of Arunachal Pradesh.