A sneak peek into the culture of Arunachal Pradesh, India
Updated: May 13, 2021
"A walk in nature walks the soul back home."
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Arunachal Pradesh and the beautiful state left me speechless on a number of occasions.
Arunachal Pradesh has a number of untouched places ; one doesn't spot a lot of tourists in Arunachal Pradesh. The state has a rich culture and is a home to a number of tribes. The major tribes of Arunachal are Apatani and Nyishi. Apart from these tribes, there are several other minor tribes ( like Memba , Adi, Wancho ) each with a unique culture , history and language. Some tribes are almost extinct in India with a population of just 1500. Interestingly , these tribes still have their own language with a script too!
While travelling across Arunachal Pradesh , one notices unique stilt houses , all of these are almost identical , these houses are the traditional Nyishi house. In districts like Pakke Kesang , one can easily spot Nyishi homes. These homes constitute of one major room with a fireplace in the middle of it ; the fireplace has a metal box above it where the household stores its meat. Interestingly, the meat remains fresh for 20-30 days after it is roasted and stored above the fireplace.
Primarily these Nyishi homes are made of bamboo and are constructed in such a manner that they can endure earthquakes easily ; around 5-7 members live in these houses.
Mithuns are the endemic species of Arunachal Pradesh ; Mithuns are "semi-domestic" animals and look a "little" like buffalos/ cows. Mithuns eat grass and salt. Most of the families in Arunachal own mithuns; even though these species are free to roam in the open , the families check on their mithuns after certain periods of time and ensure they are safe and haven't crossed the border of the state. Thus, it is best to call them "semi-domestic" animals. Mithuns can be considered "assets" in the families of Arunachal Pradesh ; more the mithuns , wealthier the family. A wealthy Nyishi family gifts 40-50 mithuns during weddings ; sometimes this number even crosses 60. On the other hand, families who aren't very wealthy gify about 5-10 mithuns. Mithun meat is also consumed by families in Arunachal Pradesh and these animals hold a lot significance in the state. In the annual harvesting festival of the Nyishi tribe ( called Nyokum) , mithun is sacrificed. In Nyishi weddings, the groom's family gifts Mithuns to the brides family.
Mithuns are not only the state animal of Arunachal Pradesh but also an important part of the cultural activities of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.
Similarly, while travelling to Ziro in Arunachal, one can spot Apatani houses. The Apatani homes are much smaller than Nyishi homes and are NOT built on stilts. The Apatani utilise their land in the best possible manner ; it wouldn't be wrong to say that the Apatani live sustainably.
Ziro , Yazali , Lucin , Itanagar, Manilinthan - the state has a number of places that are worth visiting.
Stop by a nice spot and have a little picnic- you would find plenty of such spots throughout Arunachal Pradesh. I was lucky enough to know some local people and we cooked our meal in bamboo at the riverside.
If you want to dive deep into the culture of Arunachal Pradesh , you should definitely visit the museum situated in Itanagar.
Other places worth visiting in Itanagar are Ita fort, Gompa (Buddhist monastery) and Ganga Lake. Each of these places have various stories associated with them.
Rice is the staple food in Arunachal and you might find various paddy fields in Ziro and other districts. Subsistence farming is practiced by various families in the state. Generally , fruits and vegetables are expensive in the state since they are transported from other states including Assam which is the nearest.
The people of Arunachal Pradesh are friendly and very hospitable; the state is safe even for solo travelers.
As I travelled back from Itanagar to Guwahati Airport , I thought of all the new experiences that Arunachal Pradesh gifted me ; everyone must explore the state at least once!
Immerse yourself into the culture of Arunachal Pradesh to experience its magic.