The tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are a major part of the state's tourism. The origins of the tribes that currently live in the state remain a mystery. So, whatever little did people know has been passed through generations via oral traditions. People say these tribes in Arunachal Pradesh have come from Myanmar and Tibet. Over the course of several migrations, tribal feuds happened and the tribes scattered across the region.
Tourists who visit Arunachal Pradesh must tell you the stories they heard about inter-tribal warfare. These Arunachal Pradesh tribes have also marked their territories, though there is not a specific line or fence. Tribal culture is fascinating and intrigues travelers all over the world. There are about 20 scheduled tribes in Arunachal
Pradesh and each of them has sub-groups. They have their unique lifestyle, food, practices, customs, culture, language, and folklore are something that keeps the minds of many rolling.
Some tribal communities in Arunachal Pradesh are involved in weaving and in the making of bamboo and cane products. You can see Apatanis practice bamboo cultivation and make products like containers, bags, mugs, and ladles, which are sold in the local markets.
For more information, here is the list of 5 major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh
Monpas live in the westernmost part of Arunachal Pradesh. They follow the Mahayana sect of Buddhism which was adopted by the older generations in the 17th century CE from the Merak Lama. Tawang Monastery has a huge role in Monpas everyday life. They have their own language called Monpa language.
Monpas migrated to Arunachal Pradesh and is said to be the only nomadic tribe in Northeast India. They depend ongoats, yaks, cows, and horses for sustenance as they have no permanent place to stay. You will be surprised to know that Monpas, due to urbanization, has started to build homes in parts of West Kameng and Tawang districts. But they mostly enjoy their time at monasteries as priests and are highly skilled in making thangkas, wooden bowls,bags, carpets, shawls, etc.
One of the most progressive tribes in Arunachal Pradesh is the Sherdukpens. They are a small tribe that lives in Bomdila and the nearby areas of Rupa, JIgaon, Thongri, and Shergaon. This tribe is separated into two groups - Thongs and Chaos.
The Thongs or the upper-class people are said to be the descendants of a Tibetan King and Ahom princess, while the Chaos or the lower class people are considered to be the descendants of the servants of the king and princess. Apart from this, they speak the Sherdukpen language, which is quite similar to the Monpa language.
The Sherdukpen tribal people practice rearing livestock, fishing, and agriculture. They have adopted Tibetan Buddhism through the Mera Lama and almost all their practices still endure pre-Buddhist and are more Animistic.
Nyishi, meaning ‘civilized human being’, are the most populous tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. They reside in the Papum Pare, East Kameng, Kurung Kumey, and the Lower and Upper Subansiri districts of Arunachal Pradesh and are involved in shifting cultivation, producing rice, cucumber, millet, and more. People of this tribe are called ‘Daflas’, a name given by the Assamese of the adjoining plains, which means ‘wild man’. But with the progress between the people of the hills and those of Brahmaputra Valley, education was spread and they asked to be referred to as Nishi, where ‘Ni’ means ‘man’.
They are no longer called ‘Dalfas’ today though some Assamese still continue to call them by the old name. As per tradition, all Nyishi are descendants of a mythical ancestor called ‘Takr’. It is said that his sons become the forefathers of the three branches of Nyishi tribe called Dopum, Dodum, and Dol.
The Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh is among the most significant tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. It is said that they migrated to Arunachal Pradesh from Tibet and now reside in East Siang, Upper Siang, West Siang, Lower Dibang Valley, and Lohit districts. In the 17th century, when Buddhism spread across Tibet, Adis probably migrated here as they were traditionalists and wanted to hold onto their original religious beliefs.
The Adi tribe follows a religion called ‘Donyi-Polo’. In this, they worship gods and goddesses such as Kine Nane, Doying Bote, Gumin Soyin, and Pedong Nane. They represent various elements that are naturally found. The young male and females of the Adi tribe are presented to each other through a system. Men visit women’s dormitories but are not permitted to stay the night. And by occupation, the Adis are wetland farmers and hunters.
Apa Tanis are found in the Ziro Valley of Arunachal Pradesh. This area has a lot of pine hills and mountain rice cultivation. Unlike other tribes in Arunachal Pradesh, Apa Tanis are non-nomadic in nature. The people of this tribe practice permanent wetland cultivation by slicing the hills while others are more into dry land cultivation by cutting down forests.
Women of the Apa Tani tribe are the most fascinating as they wear facial tattoos and huge nose rings. According to the tradition dating back to the pre-modern times, Apa Tani women were considered to be the most beautiful in the Arunachal Pradesh state.
Men of other tribes stole the Apa Tani women and thus men of this tribe make their women wear massive nose rings and cover their faces in tattoos to make them less appealing. For the best experience, visit Ziro during Murung Rituals in January or the Dree Festival in July when Apa Tanis practice animal sacrifice to honor the gods.