Sunday, May 3, 2009

TRIBES IN ARUNACHAL PRADESH - THE APATANI

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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