Friday, May 15, 2009


The traditional religion of Arunachal Pradesh is called Donyi Polo.
It means “sun and moon”, in fact the main divinities are the Sun and the Moon which are considered the eyes of gods and nothing can be hidden to them.
People in Arunachal worship also other divinities such as the ancestral spirits. Often each God is linked to a specific aspect of daily life such as agriculture.
Despite the fact that Donyi Polo is deep rutted in local culture, there is a growing preoccupation amongst some members of the society because other religions are spreading into Arunachal Pradesh.
Apart from the Hindus, coming from the neighbouring Assam, there are also many Muslins belonging mostly to the community of Bangladeshi immigrants. Least but not last, a lot of local people are converting to Christian faith and the number of Missions has increased in the last years.
The worry is that the new religions with their rituals, rules and customs will destroy the heritage not only of the Donyi Polo, but also other tribal traditions.

People who still believe in Donyi Polo practice a lot of rituals. For example they build totems as a homage to Gods. There are different kind of totems. Some represent the number of children living in the house, other are very high and their function is to connect the earth to the sky, and men to Gods.
Some rituals are very complicated and long. For example we have assisted to a harvest festival.
All the people were convened in one house, sharing food and wine. Almost everything was derived from rice, including alcohol.
Inside the house a wizard was constantly singing a singsong, holding in his hand some little chicken.

After few time the action moved into an open field, in the middle of the rice field. Here there was a hut. In front of the hut there were some totems and the main offer waiting for being blessed by the wizard: a bull.

The man kept singing his obsessive song, while started killing the little chicken.

At the same time other men rounded the bull and finally, at a wizard's signal, one of them axed the bull. In an eye blink the bull was killed and slaughtered.

The offer was made, the Gods were happy, now it was the time to go back to the house and keep on celebrating.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


For long time Arunachal Predesh has been defined as “tribal area” and until 1994 it was impossible for strangers to enter. Today a special permit is still required also for Indian people and it is only since the 1st January 2009 that is possible for stranger to travel here without a guide.
We have been there in February so we were one of the first backpacker and people were surprised because we did not have any guide. Often they offer to help us and show the beauty of their land.

In Arunachal Pradesh coexist more than 20 different tribes. Each tribe has its own habits and costumes. We have seen some of them. One of the most interesting is the Apatani tribe and we have been near Ziro in the village of Hong to see them.

The villages are build almost completely with bamboo and straw, houses are higher than the soil in order to prevent inundation during the rainy season. The villages are rounded by rice fields and bamboo forests.

People are nice, and looked at us with curiosity, because apparently strangers are not so common in this zone. But this feeling was mutual, especially because Apatani woman use to have unusual features: their noses are pierced and they have tatoos on their faces.

According to the legend, this habit comes from ancient times when Apatani women were the most beautiful of the region. In order to avoid other tribes men to marry them, Apatani women start to tatoo and pierce their faces to appear less attractive. Nowadays only old women can be seen wearing these features because the community decided to ban this practice in the late '70, endorsing people who refused to respect the ban.
But other traditions keep alive in the villages. We have been lucky because we had the opportunity to assist to a tribal religious ceremony...but this will be the topic of the next entry.


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