Arunachal has 26 major tribes and many sub-tribes living in
3, 649 scattered villages. Although a number of tribal groups constitute
the total population, the density of population is very less. People are
Mangoloid stock but each tribe has certain distinct characteristics in
language, dress & costume. Quite content with their rich cultural
heritage, the Arunachali tribals are simple, friendly and hospitable
people. Their colourful festivals are manifestations of their faith and
Managing A Democratic Environment
The society is patriarchal and primogeniture and the 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 is practiced by most of them. The people are highly democratic, and each tribe has its own organised institutions that maintain law and order, decide disputes and take up all activities for the welfare of the tribes and the villages. The people of the tribe only select the members constituting these organisations.
Myths & Fictions
The tribal society is dominated by myths and fictions. These bear the stamp of tribal creativity and imaginations. In one of the stories, earth and sky are spoken of lovers. In Singpho story, God uses rainbow as the ladder to meet his wife on the moon. 'Wiyu' spirits who exercise great influence on human life dominates Adi stories. The stories of Monpas usually have moral.
The tribals of Arunachal Pradesh have highly ordered and organised system of functioning in their villages. All matters relating to the community as a whole are decided at the village level. The socio-administrative structure of the society, as evolved over a period of centuries, recognises democratic partition right down to the level of villages.
The traditional Village Panchayat of an Adi Village is locally, known as "Kebang" which is judicio-administrative body, consisting of mature and influential elders. Kebang looks after the administration of justice in the society by setting all matters of dispute.
Similar such self-governing institution exists among other tribes too. They are variously called as "Jong" among the Sherdukpens, Mel among the Akas, Buliang among the Apaptanis and so on.
The Three Distinctive Cultural Groups
The entire population of the state can be divided into three cultural groups on the basis of their socio-politico-religious affinities. It has been found that the tribes of Arunachal are integrated into groups independant of each other, living their separate lives. The common denominators are that the pattern of lifestyle of each is the same and that they follow the same occupation; the societies are casteless; the societies are governed by chiefs and the adults were grouped according to their age for distinct social functions. The young are organised around dormitory institutions to follow the instructions of the older generation.
The Wanchos (also spelt as Vonchos) inhabit the southwestern part of the Tirap district bordering Nagaland. They are fond of wearing decorated headgears and heavy strings of beads on the neck, arms, legs and ears. These are hardy people known for their strictly structured village society in which the hereditary village chief plays a vital role.
The Noctes inhabit the central part of the Tirap district, to the north of the Wanchos. These people have a long and traditional contact with the people of the neighbouring plains. The Nectes also practice elementary form of Vaishnavism.
Tangsas is a common name of a group of people consisting of the Lungchang, Moklong, Yugli, Lungri, Have, Moshong, Rundra, Takhak, Ponthi and Longphi. Each group is subdivided into a number of exogamous clans. These tribes occupy the Changlang district along the Indo-Myanmar front.
The Singphos live on the banks of Teang and Noa Diking Rivers and extend towards the southeast into the land of the Khamptis. They are a fine athletic race with developed Mongolian features. They are expert blacksmiths and prepare iron implements of quality. The ladies are good weavers. This tribe is a follower of Buddhism.
The Khamptis live to the south of the Lohit district along the Kamlang, Dehing and Tengapani Rivers with the Parasuramkund to the northeast and Tirap district of the south. Khamptis are good craftsmen, enterprising traders and skilful agriculturists. They are also a Buddhist tribe.
There are three main groups of the Mishmis, viz. Idu, Miju or Kaman and Digaru or Taraon. The Idus, also called "Chulikata", by the plains people live in Dibang valley district. With roughly 25,000 members, the Idu tribe is divided into sections, each named after the river by the side of which they live.
MIJIS OR KAMANS
The Mijis tribe (Kamans) lives in the Lohit district, east of the Taraons. Their population number is approximately 18,000. The Kamans unlike the Idus, keep their hair long. Their dress is as colourful as it is durable. The Kaman women have an admirable sense of colour and pattern. Agriculture is one of the main occupations of these people. The Digarus call themselves as "Taraon". They are good agriculturists.
ADIS & THEIR SUB GROUPS
The tribes of the East, West and Upper Siang districts are mainly those classified under the general title of "Adis". They may be divided into three main groups: Galos, Padams, and Miwongs, each of which can again be subdivided into a number of sub-groups.
These tribal people are exogamous. Dances are very popular among the Adis. "Ponung" is their traditional dance, which is also religious in character.
Galos: The Galos weave clothes of highly artistic designs and the finest profit is a beautiful skirt with a central pattern of black yarn netted in regular designs of black and white.
Hill Miris: The Hill Miris inhabiting the lower Kamla valley look attractive in their costume. They tie the hair in a knot just above the forehead. Their women wear attractive "crinoline of cane rings" which serves the purpose of a blouse, but now it is not seen in the urban areas.
Apatamis: The Apatamis (also spelt as Apa Tanis) are settled in a valley in the Centre of the lower Subansiri district around the district headquarters. They live in crowded villages, are expert in wet cultivation and grow paddy and millet in abundance. Apatamis are specialized over centuries in harvesting two crops of fish along with each crop of paddy. They have a stable agricultural economy.
Nyishis: The Nyishis are divided into several exogamous clans. The Nyishi men keep their hair long and tie it in a knot just above the forehead and they wear cane bands around the waist traditional dress.
Hrussos: The Hrussos are commonly called "Akas" which means 'painted' for they have a custom of painting their faces with black marks. They figured frequently in old historical records and are quite good traders.
KHOWAS OR BUGUN
The Khowas (Bugun) occupy 7 villages in Teilga and Bichum valley in the neighbourhood of the Sherdukpens. Buddhism has got a major influence on the Buguns.
PUROIKS OR SULUNGS
The Puroiks (Sulungs) live mainly in the high altitudes of Kameng districts. They dress like the Nyishis. The Mijis call themselves "Dhamai". In appearance and way of life there is little to distinguish them from the Akas (Hrussos).
The Sherdukpens live mainly in the two villages of Rupa and Shergaon in West Kameng district. They are divided into two classes, the "Thongs" and the "Gheos". The Sherdukpens are good agriculturalists and traders. Their religion is an interesting blend of Buddhism and religious beliefs. There are the gentle and cultured Monpas of West Kameng Districts who received Buddhism from Padma Sambhava.