Genesis of ethnic communities in Arunachal Pradesh

R N Koley

Arunachal Pradesh is the largest state in terms of area spread over 83,713 sq km in India’s North-East with lower density of  population i.e. 17 persons per sq km.

The state is inhabited by diverse ethnic communities which may be highest in number in India. They possess own culture, tradition, custom, indigenous faith and religions to bear profound cultural heritage. The territory is the abode of number of mythical and legendry characters of Puranas, Indian tradition and classical literature if we ponder the historical monuments and archaeological findings so far unearthed. There is enough material evidence to speak about the rich cultural heritage of the territory, interlinked with the culture of North East India. These historical monuments and sties are now mere historical evidences; rather these are now strong political evidence when our neighboring country China claims this territory as theirs. Because, widely scattered historical monuments, myths, legends and history around them surely depict the close affinity with cultural tradition of India. In this context, it has become the nucleus of an introspection of the past and vivid testimony to the rich cultural heritage of Arunachal Pradesh. Therefore, Arunachal Pradesh can hardly be considered in isolation as a separate unit so far as the study of cultural ingredients is concerned. It has to be treated as integral and inseparable part of the bigger Indian culture.

The state is obviously the homeland of diverse fascinating ethnic communities of Mongoloid stock with a glorious but vibrating heritage of arts and crafts, enchanting folk songs, folk dances, folklores and colourful festivals still alive. These depict their lifestyle, cultural tradition and custom imbibed with traditional wisdom. These are basic ingredients of socio-cultural life of people of Arunachal Pradesh. Here, people retain an interest in the art of living to maintain their cognac, expressed eloquently in their gesture, motion, song, dance, rituals and religious faiths. Their feelings of nature and nurture are instinctive through centuries. Their indigenous faiths and beliefs have created a profound impact on the temperament of the people. For that matter there has all along been peace, tranquility and complete harmony among the people of various communities and professing various faiths. Thereby Arunachal Pradesh is a land of unity in diversity which signifies socio-cultural fabric of indigenous ethnic groups.

The people who are destined to be born in this soil are the most fortunate ones on this earth as they are living always in close proximity to nature. Their livings, characters, psychology, attitudes, behaviours, culture, society, music, art, customs, traditions and religious faiths, house patterns, food habits, social fabrics, economic pursuits, are all depending upon the nature. Nature pervades over their philosophy and thought. They survive on the products directly obtained from their surrounded habitat.

Theirs persistent economy is obviously nature based. Their economic condition is controlled and determined from the possession of the mithuns, yaks, horses and elephants, sheep, pigs, cows, poultry birds etc. They reared till they lead way of life which is natural, original and spontaneous framed on the simple norms to the extent of indigenous tradition and human faculty. This may be termed as ‘Natural Culture’.

The customs and traditions are directly associated with natural habitat and environment determined by traditional self government mechanism which make them realistic to follow natural way of life. These are golden thread for maintaining the continuity of their generations. Their faith in Almighty is pure and genuine. Animism is the basic tenant of religious beliefs except some Buddhist tribes. They worship mountains, rivers, lakes, trees, sun, moon etc. because they assume the existence of spirit in every object whatever nature presents before them to see. Their tune, voice, and composition of music are interwoven with nature influenced by chirping sound of birds, winds, waterfalls, murmuring sound of brown leaves. People of all ethnic communities have inherited vast oral literary wealth incorporating their stories of origin, myths, legends and folktales and numerous natural objects.

They have owned traditional self governing system in village for rural self administration termed differently by the tribes. The traditional institutions regulate day-to-day activities of community life in maintenance of peace and tranquility of village periphery as pillar of the society.

People are expert in making handicrafts using materials available in their habitat as the gift of nature to cater their domestic needs. Some ethnic communities including Buddhist communities have possessed aesthetic and delicate skill of wood carving. Women are mostly expert weavers, coats, jacketeries, bags, skirts, shawls, blanket etc. are produced with own specific designs. Both men and women folk wear self woven dress in different traditional colours dying from natural objects. Beads, bracelets, wristlets, bangles of brass, wood, silver, bamboo plugs of aluminum represent traditional ornaments. For that matter, Arunachal Pradesh may be considered as the paradise of ‘Folk-Art’ as part of aboriginal tradition of ethnic communities. Folk-arts also includes pottery, black smithy, paper making, constructing cane bridge, making tools, utensils, weapons etc. The influence of ecology over the material and non material i.e. tangible and intangible aspects of culture finds depiction in their glorious and vibrating arts and crafts, customs, traditions religious faiths, house patterns, economic activities and surely indigenous knowledge system.

As occupational pursuits ethnic people are basically agriculturists, rice, meat and green leafy vegetables preferably boiled constitute staple food items. Of the intoxicants home brewed beer is commonly taken. Food habit irrespective of nay community is controlled by the climate. It has to do with the environment and what is available in their habitat.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the indigenous way of life thus unique, simple, natural and custom bound, spontaneity and truthfulness is the fundamental spirit. They are truly amicable, hospitable, cheerful disposition, fond of to enjoy happy-go-lucky freedom but diligent. Thereby they are precious human resources of the country.

(The writer has been serving the people of Arunachal Pradesh since 1988 as an avid sociologist.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *