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Arunachal Pradesh is on the northeastern tip of India, bordering Bhutan on the west, China on the north, Myanmar on the east and the states of Assam on the south. Part of the Eastern Himalayan ranges, this state covers 83,743 sq. km., with climate varying from sub- tropical in the south to alpine in the north. Evergreen forest covers more than 60 % of the state area. Besides the streams, rivers, mountains and peaks, its’ endless variations of scenic beauty are the first to greet sunrise in the country.
It finds mention in the ancient literature such as the Kalika Purana, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. It was here that Parasuram washed away his sins, Vyasa meditated, Bhismaka founded his kingdom, Lord Krishna married his consort Rukmini, and King Balinarayan drew men for his armies from among the hardy people. The 6th Dalai Lama was born and the 13th found refuge on the soil of Arunachal Pradesh.
LIFE STYLE: colours and moods
People: Although a good number of tribes constitute the total population, the density of the population is only about ten per sq. km. The society is patriarchal and primogeniture. 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 practiced by most of them. Their organisational institutions maintain law and order, decide disputes and take up welfare activities.
ART and CRAFT/ DRESS and DESIGN: Artistic craftsmanship in Arunachal has been passed on from one generation to the other. The Buddhist tribes make beautiful masks. They also periodically stage pantomimes and masked dances. They make exquisite carpets, painted wooden vessels and silver articles. People from the central part of the state are expert in cane and bamboo. They weave articles that are in common use in their daily lives. The shawls and jackets, shoulder bags and coats all stand for the perfection that the people have attained in this art. The people of the southeastern part of the territory are famous for their wooden carvings. They weave beautiful bags and loincloths too. Goat’s hair, ivory, beads of agate and other stones as well as of brass and glass are the specialties of the people of this part of the region.
The womenfolk throughout the territory have an excellent sense of colour. The basic colours that dominate the weaver are black, yellow, dark blue, green and scarlet – all put together in the most fascinating combinations. The weaving designs are essentially geometric varying from a formal arrangement to lines and bands.
Most of the domestic requirements are made of cane and Bamboo. Hats, baskets, cane vessels, cane belts – woven and plain, bamboo mugs with carvings, a wide variety of ornaments and jewelry items are all crafted by workmen.
A specialty of the Monpas, the Buddhist community, is carpet weaving, with exotic designs of dragons, geometric and floral patterns. Besides, the Monpa wood carver scoops out beautiful cups, dishes and fruit bowls and magnificent ceremonial masks for dances and pantomimes. The Khamtis carve out beautiful religious images, figures of dancers, toys and other objects.
Crafting ornaments is another art widely practiced by the Arunachalis. Besides multicoloured beads, feathers of birds and wings of the green beetles are also used as embellishments. The Akas make bamboo bangles and ear- rings, which are occasionally decorated with various designs. The Monpas also make papers for writing religious prayers etc., from pulp of trees called susko or the paper trees.
PASSION and RHYTHM
FAIRS and FESTIVALS
Losar is the New Years’ Celebration of the Monpas. During the five days of festivities, prayers are offered, religious flags are hoisted atop their homes; Buddhist scriptures are read in every home and butter lamps are lit in houses and the campuses. Reh is essentially associated with the Idu Mishmis, the six- day celebrations’ special attraction is the Priest dance. During Tamladu, the Digaru Mishmis offers prayers to the God of the Earth and the God of the Water. The supreme God Jebmalu is also worshipped. Khan is significant because of a ceremony where the priest ties a piece of wool around everybody’s neck. During Sangken, people sprinkle water on each other as a sign of merriment. Smearing of rice powder on each other’s face marks the beginning of the five- day celebrations of Mopin.
From highly stylised religious dance- dramas of Buddhists to the martial steps and colourful performances of the Noctes and Wanchos, dances here are the source of real joy. Teams of young girls in perfect rhythmic unison perform the Ponung dance of the Adis. Similar group dances in colourful costumes are performed in the Upper and Lower Subansiri.
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