Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ensuring Sustenance

Spring used to be the time for the children to go around the bamboo gardens and nearby jungles, collecting tree saplings. These saplings were planted in the barren areas. This has been one of the most important traditional forestry practices of the Apatanis. The practice, sadly, is fast disappearing.

However, a groups of schoolchildren are forming themselves into what they call Future Clubs and taking steps to preserve the environment in which we all live. These pictures are of Future Club, Siiro, planting trees in the Siiro School compound.

One only wish people take notice of such constructive initiatives and come forward to lend a helping hand.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring in Ziro Valley

Spring is a special season all over the world. It is especially special at Ziro valley. Takuň appu, sembo appu, piita appu. And now other flowers as those of pears and apples. Of the flowers that bloom at this time of the year in the jungle – wow! Sanji appu and neha appu still are the most significant ones (look out for a posting on wild flowers of Ziro).

Spring at Ziro cannot be missed by anybody. Just look at Lempia village while walking up the Laňkhiiň lembo. Red colored sembo appu, white colored piita appu and pink colored takuň appu adorn the village

Everywhere you look, there are colors. Hija village looks very bright from the main road. So do Michi Bamin and Hari villages. Even the sacred groves – the raňtiis are colorful. This is Tajang raňtii.

A view from Sululya at Old Ziro:

Ziro Putu is rimmed with white:

Outskirts of the villages are the best places to enjoy the glory of nature these days. This is Biirii, looking out from Hanoko:

Wondered how the takuň appu looks? Here it is:

Most winter, Ziro valley remains hidden in fog and mist. Though the vegetation remains evergreen, even the landscape wears a cold look. At such backdrop, sudden burst of color with the advent of Myoko piilo has special significance for the local people. One wishes spring comes every month!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Myoko Piilo

It’s spring time at Ziro. Bright-colored Takuň appu (flowers of plum) can be seen all around the Apatani villages. The outskirts of the villages are adorned with variety of flowering trees, most notably of Sembo (a kind of berry), adding a riot of color to the otherwise sleepy Ziro landscape at this time of the year.

Butterflies of unbelievable variety of colors can be seen all around. Butterflies, by the way, are said to be one of the best indicators of biodiversity of an area. I found this one very proud and dignified:

The numbers of butterflies are, sadly, decreasing these days. In the past, we could see hordes of them playing around on the tracks to the fields and jungles – the aji lembos and yasaň lembos. Not so much these days.

Even without many butterflies, chirping of birds cannot be missed while strolling by a bije lembo like this:

It’s pure magic. A combination of whistling sounds of gentle winds as it wafts by the fine pine leaves and bamboos, the rustle of the dry leaves on the tracks as you walk by and the chirping of variety of birds.

And it is time to join the Apatanis in the Myoko festival – a unique festival of friendship and camaraderie.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Getting Beautiful

The Apatanis love to make themselves up. In the olden days, they used to warm pieces of pork fat and use the oil (kutu) to make up their hair. The women tied the hair at the back while the men tied them into a decorative knot in front on the forehead.

The intricate designs as well as elegance of the Apatani dresses - jilaň, jig-jiro, pyamiň pulye, piisa leňda, etc. are well known. Less known are the ornaments they used. Here are some of the traditional ornaments.

This is called lariň - an ear ring. It was common sight till twenty years back women from rich families with lariň dangling from their ears.

The following two pictures are those of kapuň - bangles.

This is piillo kobyaň, one of the more intricately designed bangles.

Usually, these ornaments were worn during special occasions like festival of Muruň, Subu or Myoko.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Land Use at Ziro

The harvesting of paddy is at the fag end. We can still see some fields being ploughed again immediately after harvest and potato gardens being started. The Apatanis, being meticulous agriculturists leave not even an inch of land unused. Similarly in the above picture, not even a single week in an agricultural calender is left unused. Vegetable gardening immediately after paddy harvest.

I wish this was happening at Ziro. The above picture is in the Kathmandu valley in Nepal where the topography and weather condition is exactly same as at Ziro valley. If this can happen there, this can happen here too.

In winter after harvest in October, this is the picture that Ziro wears:

I am sure someday, somebody will start using the land even in winter and beat a way for the rising sun.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Ziro is known for its calm and tranquil scenery all round the year. Its because of the clean rice paddy in the valley and evergreen blue pine and Apatani bamboo on the gently hills all around.

Rai is on the way to Pine Grove on the Ziro-Daporijo road. This is where the officers’ quarters of the Border Roads Organization (BRO) are located. Constructed on the slopes of the hill full of pine trees and bamboos, they were the most beautiful houses for us children back those days. They still are beautiful. Beautiful also is the rice paddy and the villages one see looking out into the valley.

Get out to Rai for a leisurely drive and then walk around listening to whistling sounds as the winds blow by the pine leaves. One feels one with nature.

Dusu Katu

We trekked to Dusu Katu, 9.5 km from Hari village and at an elevation of 7,971 feet above sea level. It was not so much the trek, but the place that intrigued me. This is the place from where one can have a view of the place where Dusu Duyu lived – somewhere in present Manii Polyang. He later migrated to Hari village where the people of Dusu clan live now. Interestingly, one cannot see Hari village except the Byara where the school is located at present.

We camped at the peak overnight and when I got up at 5.30 AM and looked down, I saw a lake! This is the lake which fooled the neighboring tribe into believing that the Apatanis have drowned.

Slowly, however, the lake which was actually the mist covering the valley down there disappeared and I could clearly make out Hong village, Manii Polyang, Siiro village and Hapoli.

Great trekking route and great place for overnight camping! You feel like you are sleeping in the air, looking down at Ziro valley.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sanji Apu

The lives of the Apatanis have always been inextricably interwoven with nature. Sanji Apu, one of the most beautiful wild flowers is connected with the lives of the people in many ways.

When the parent prepare themselves to go to the jungle to work, the children insist that they too would like to accompany them. The parent cajole the children into staying back promising that they will get Sanji Apu and Neha Apu from the jungle. Here is a picture of the Sanji Apu which I found at Dusu Katu. I will post more about Dusu Katu in the later postings.

Sanji Apu also announce the advent of Myoko festival, the festival of friendship.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Apatani Sacred Groves

The God and man used to live together. Then, the man decided to migrate to a better place to live. The God asked the man to let them accompany to the new place. The man declined, “I want to live alone in peace.”

“You will need somebody to protect you. I will do that,” the God offered.

“In that case, you will live outside my village.”

“Agreed. And you will not disturb my dwelling place outside your village.”

Thus a deal was struck. The God was allowed to build His dwelling place outside the villages of man. This is the place we call rantii – the sacred grove, today. They are located at the periphery of the Apatani villages.

During times of war in the past, the people used to first go to the rantiis and invoke the God, their protector, for the welfare of the village. Offerings were made to the God and horns were blown.

The God till today lives in the tall trees we can see at the periphery of almost all the villages. There are rantii at Tajang, Kalung, Hari, Hong, and Michi Bamin. I still don’t know if other villages have rantiis as well.

In times of peace as well, most of the ritual offerings are made in the rantiis. These places are feared as well as revered. The ecology there is never disturbed by the people. There are instances of adverse events befalling the persons who had occasionally cut trees or damaged the rantii in other ways.

Because the ecology of the rantiis are never disturbed, they are always the primary forests. They retain the trees, plants and shrubs that were native to the place centuries back. This is the significance of these sacred groves from ecological point of view.

We will talk about these sacred groves in different villages as we go ahead in our journey.