Wednesday, February 27, 2008

District Museum

Talking of history, the District Museum is the place to have a peep at the life that was. The traditional lifestyle is fast changing and many aspects of life have already changed beyond recognition. The importance of institutions like the museum is all the more apparent in such situations.

When we were children, the District Museum at Hapoli never ceased to awe us. Since the shape of the buildings are round, it was difficult to know the starting and ending points of the exhibits - one kept on going round and round. The quality has still been maintained more or less, though no addition has been made in the last few decades.

A special feature of the museum is that lots of implements, weapons and household goods, not only of the Apatanis and Nyishis, but also of all other tribes in other parts of Arunachal Pradesh are also on display.

Have a good time!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tajang School

Some more words on Tajang School. This is the only school in the area with a history and a background of sheer struggle by the people. That may explain the strong sense of ownership the communities have for the school. The school, perhaps, has the most infrastructures built voluntarily by the villagers - the library, cultural hall, the towering school gate, to name a few.

The picture above and the one in the previous post is the memory stone for Ngilyang Grayu who lost his life in the war over the naming of the school. The structure has been built by one of the students of the school, who is now a senior Indian Forest Services (IFS) officer. The following words are inscribed in the stone:
"In memory of
Ngilyang Grayu
s/o Ngilyang Talo
who became immortal
by sacrificing his life
for the future of
on February 22, 1972."

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Last Traditional War

Did you know that the last traditional tribal war in Arunachal Pradesh was fought at Ziro? The war broke out over the naming of the present Tajang Secondary School. The following is excerps from the leaflet released by the organizers of the school's 36th Foundation Day on February 22, 2008:

"Tajang village boasts of a secondary school, located at Lempia, one of the most picturesque spots of the area. The present site of the school is variously known as Sii Lut (grazing ground of the cows), Sojañ Lapañ (community platform) and Riime Arañ (beside the riime tree). The whole hillock of Lempia was originally owned by the three clans of Tajang village namely, Miso-Hajiñ, Tayañ-Milo and Tabyu, and was under dry cultivation where mainly maize and millet were grown. It now forms an extension of the Tajang village.

The history of the Government Secondary School, Tajang dates back to year 1969-70, when the winds of change was wafting by and the importance of education dawned upon the minds of the senior students and the Gaon Buras of Bulla (comprising of Tajang, Reru and Kalung villages). They dreamt of having a common public ground at a suitable place, where a school could be established. The dream was soon materialized when the owners of the agricultural plots at Lower Lempia voluntarily donated their land for the noble cause. An OBT building was constructed on the ground and in 1971, an English medium school was being voluntarily run by Late Millo Pilya, ex-VLW, and Late Tage Dollo, then a student of middle Standards.

Meanwhile, however, a spark of controversy was smoldering concerning the naming of the school. It was being proposed that the school should be named the Tajang School. This was objected to by the people of Reru and Kalung villages. The Bulyañ (the members of the Apatani traditional village council) of Reru and Tajang tried to solve the impasse at several sittings, but to no avail. The case, at last, was referred to the court of the Deputy Commissioner, Ziro.

Due to the delicate nature of the case, the Deputy Commissioner, too was dilly-dallying in giving a firm decision, during which time, the OBT building at Lempia was burnt down by the people of Reru village. As the situation was quickly deteriorating, the Supuñ Bulyañ - the members of the traditional councils of the whole Apatani villages, was called to intervene. The Supuñ Bulyañ sat at Millo Lapañ and condemned the burning down of the building. They instructed the people of Reru village to reconstruct an OBT building at the original site. A building was accordingly constructed, but was rejected by the people of Tajang village on the ground that it was neither at the original site, nor of satisfactory quality.

On February 21, 1972, the Deputy Commissioner, summoned the representatives of the Tajang and the Reru villages, apparently to give a final verdict on the vexed issue. The people of both the villages turned out in large numbers at the District Court with great expectations. But, as ill luck would have it, the magistrate again wavered in giving a decision and the frustrated people of Reru gave vent to their anger by destroying the Radhe Lapañ at Lempia. The people of Taiang retaliated by destroying the Nani Lapañ there.

February 22, 1972 was, ironically, a sunny day. Precipitated by an indecisive judiciary, the people of Reru and Ka1ung villages attacked the Tajang village on that day with traditional weapons. Thus, a gyambo - a war, had been declared which was to be the last traditional war in the area. It was not before at least three hours that the para-military forces intervened and separated the two warring groups. It was, however, too late by then. The war had already taken a heavy toll. A number of people on both sides suffered injuries and a young man from Tajang village, Ngilyang Grayu, had fallen martyr to the cause of his village.

The neighboring people of Tajang, Reru and Kalung, all of whom are intimately bounded to each other by one or the other relationship, experienced a rude shock. When they saw the cruelty of death and the misery of the injured near and dear ones that their adamancy had brought about, better sense prevailed and the institution for which so much of blood had been shed was named the Tajang School.

The present Tajang School has literally risen from the ashes like the Sphinx. A thatched building and an OBT quarter for the teacher were again constructed by the villagers of Tajang on self-help basis in 1972. An initial batch of seventy-seven students was enrolled. An educational institution again started functioning, this time under the able guidance of Late Rubu Tana and Sri Rubu Koyan, who were the seniormost students and the first graduates from the village. Late Millo Pilya and Late Tage Dollo taught the students voluntarily. The school functioned in this way till 1974, when the enthusiasm of the people impressed the government and it was recognized as a Primary School with minimum facilities. Two dedicated teachers, Sri D. Gogoi and Sri Michi Abing, were posted on regular basis and the school started its long Journey.

The School fulfilled the dream of the people by giving quality education to their children and the students fulfilled the expectations of the government and their parent by excelling in various extra-curricular and academic activities. It paid rich dividends when the then Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Sri Gegong Apang graced the school on July 4, 1981 and upgraded it to a Middle School. Late Gyati Takka, who was then the Deputy Minister for Cooperation, took special interest in the upgradation.

As the school continued its hallowed journey, the public continued showing exceptional enthusiasm and the students continued their outstanding performance in all fields, the then Chief Minister, Sri Gegong Apang again did the school proud by gracing here to upgrade it to a Secondary School on August 19, 1995. This time again it was Sri Kuru Hassang, then Vice-Chairman, Khadi and Gramodyog, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, who made relentless efforts for the upgradation of the school.

In the thirty six years of its existence, the Tajang school is proud of having exhibited excellent performance in all spheres. The school celebrated the Silver Jubilee on February 22, 1997. "

Old Ziro

The landmark of Old Ziro is the Ziro Putu. There are dozens of hillocks and dunes in the whole area, but Ziro Putu is the biggest of all. Till 1972, the hill was camp of the Indian Army when they left Ziro to participate in the Indo-Pakistan War. Bangladesh was liberated in the war but the whole battalion of soldiers who lived in this hill is said to have lost their lives.

One can get a very good view of all the Apatani villages from the hill. Now, a government guest house has been constructed on the hill. The picture above is a view of Lempia and Tajang village from near the guest house.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ziro or Hapoli?

When the British administration set its foot in the Apatani valley, they had their camp at a place called Kure, some distance south-west of Ziro. Later, they shifted their camp to a place called Papii near the present Dutta School. Subsequently, the airfield was constructed near the place. Later, the hiilock at Ziro was used by the Indian Army which is still often called Army Putu. It was still later that the administrative offices were built at a place called Hao Polyang. The place came to be called Hapoli. It developed into the small town of today. The area around the Army Putu of Ziro Putu is named Old Ziro.

So, when we speak of Ziro, we refer to both Hapoli and Old Ziro. In other other words, Ziro comprises of Old Ziro and Hapoli. With the expansion of the township today, some government offices are being shifted to Manii Polyang. So, Ziro will comprise of Old Ziro, Hapoli (Hao Polyang) and Manii Polyang.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Kardo Hills

A Nepali worker was felling a tree down in a forest near Hapoli (Ziro). When the tree was falling down, it changed its direction in the mid-air. The worker was dumbstruck! He explored the site where the tree was originally expected to land. A stone was sticking out of the soil at the site. He dug the soil and discovered that it was no ordinary stone but a magnificent Shiva Linga! That was how the little known Kardo Hill has shot to fame in the recent years.

The Shiva Linga in the Kardo Hills is said to be the tallest one in the world. The place is located some 4 km from Hapoli.

Talley Valley

Arunachal Pradesh as a whole contain 40% of the floral and faunal species in India. The Ziro valley has a good share of this biodiversity. Thirty kilometers from Ziro is the famous Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.

At the altitude of 2400meters, Talley is a plateau with dense forest of silver fir trees, pine clad plateau of beautiful grandeur, and a vast wasteland. The area has some of the most important endangered species including the clouded leopard.

Bamboo implements

The Apatanis are known for the meticulous care they take of their agricultural fields. In fact, it is often said they take too much care of the fields. After transplantation of paddy saplings, for example, they have to repeat three cycles of weeding before the paddy is harvested. It ensures that the fields are always clean.

Two days back when we visited Hong village with two American friends, the women had just returned from their works. One of our friends was into farming in Washington. The women asked her whether they do weeding too. Of course they do, but not that much and not in the same way as the Apatanis do.

The Apatanis use an implement called Pallii which used to be made of bamboo. These days, almost everybody use iron Palliis. The method of weeding remains the same.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bamboo and the Apatanis

Last October, I literally walked down memory lane when I participated in a trekking expedition from Ziro to Palin through the old route via Siikhe and Amji. This was the connection between Ziro and all the areas in the present Kurung Kumey district before the motorable road was constructed some 20 years back via Deed. Since then, the track has almost been abandoned. More about this route later...

We were in the Bigyi Camp sitting by the fire listening to the Bigyi stream whistling by. We had just steamed some meat with bamboo shoot in the bamboo (sudu). Firewood, mostly of dry bamboo was keeping us warm. Our tent was constructed of bamboo. "Amazing!" remarked Phil. "Eating bamboo with bamboo spoon from bamboo plate cooked in bamboo!"

The Apatanis, who inhabit the Ziro valley cannot imagine life without bamboo. In fact, bamboo, along with pine and local cabbage (gian haman) is said to have beeen created along with human beings.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What's special about Ziro?

Nothing special. Its just another place. But many features makes one wonder:
1. It is the highest place (5000 to 6000 ft) in the Lower Subansiri district, except, of course Talley Valley (8200 ft). Even Talley Valley is a part of Ziro.
2. The Apatanis, who inhabit Ziro valley are the only tribe who practice wet rice cultivation. The tribes in the surrounding areas - the Nyishis, Hills Miris, Tagins and Adis practice shifting cultivation. It is different matter that the agricultural practices are changing fast today.
3. Other tribes in Arunachal Pradesh are scattered over large areas. The Apatanis were confined only within Ziro valley. One wonders if this is the unique character of the tribe or the place was something to do with this!
4. The place is one of the cosdest in the whole state.
.... more to add...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

One more Tajang

There is one more place named Tajang which is also one of the Apatani villages at Ziro. As I was born in the Tajang village (Ziro) it was fascinating to discover one more place with the same name. It is located in the Philipines, if you were wondering. I even got a map.

What's in a Name?

Many people ask how Ziro got its name. Many even wonder whether it got its name from the shape of the valley - an almost perfect circle, surrounded by hills all around: it would look like a 'zero' from above! I don't think so.

The most credible explanation is that Ziro is the name of the tribe who originally inhabited the area centuries ago. They were already settled when the Apatanis migrated the area from somewhere in the north. The Ziro tribe and Apatani tribe lived together for some time, but the Ziros turned out to be very notorious - committing petty crimes and teasing the women. The Apatanis tried to bring some sanity in them but all in vain. With no alternative to pave way for a peaceful co-existence, the Ziros were driven away from the present area. The place retained its name - Ziro.

The Other Ziro

Before proceeding any further, let us have some interesting information. Did you know that there is a province named Ziro in Burkina Faso in Africa? Its area is 5,139 km² with an estimated population (2004) of 124,600. The provincial capital is also named Ziro. Please find and let us know if there is any other place of the same name.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Starting a Journey

The term 'Zimin Ziro' has always conveyed to me the picture of 'my dream Ziro' for some reason. It gives me a strange sense of nostalgia. I choose this term as the title of this page.

Ziro, the district headquarters of Lower Subansiri in Arunachal Pradesh, India has been hailed as one of the most beautiful places in the state. I will talk on various aspects of 'my dream Ziro'. I know many people who have been born at Ziro, grew up there or lived for a short period at Ziro. They all consider themselves the friends of Ziro. I invite you all to be my fellow travellers on this journey. Onwards!!