Friday, September 5, 2008

Heritage Lapang

Lapang and babo are the hallmark of the Apatanis. That made the Myoko festival very special. It is during the Myoko anyangs, which comes every three years, that the babos and lapangs are renewed.

In the days gone by, the lapangs were made out of huge trees. The remains of fallen trees on the ground made best lapangs. Bigger the tree, bigger could the lapangs be made. And prouder were the people of that clan.

Lapang is significant in many ways. One is the tuli - the posts. Each tuli represented a male child. If I have two male children, I would contribute at least three tulis - two for my children and one for myself. It was indeed a brilliant idea to involve everybody in the community works.

In the face of changing village scenario these days, there is one lapang which still retains its original form. The Hibu Lapang in Hong village. Other lapangs today have conrete supporting structures, sawn timber replacing the manually sculptured lapang, or overhead roof to protect the lapang from rain and sun. All these changes have been necessitated by dwindling manpower and decreasing values attached to the traditional institutions.

In this context, therefore, retaining a lapang in its original form speaks a lot. That is why the Hibu Lapang has been declared a Heritage Lapang.

What is still not clear, however, is what exactly a "Heritage Lapang" would mean. Just declaring a structure as having heritage value has little meaning. The Hibu clan who constructs and maintains the lapang need support. The lapangs needs to be promoted and given significance.

Any confusion does not make the significance of Hibu Lapang any less. If you were wondering how an original lapang looks like, visit Hong village.


  1. Kanno, The Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention) was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972 and came into force in 1975. India is party to it. Cultural heritage means - masterpiece of human creative genius; or
    important interchange of human values, unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared, traditional human settlement or land-use representative of a culture especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change. And Hibu Lapang is one such piece. Having identified and listed as heritage site has advantage being publicised in World and also get financial aid for preservation. Same is case for world natural heritage site, which can be proposed and are eligible from Arunachal.


  2. @Tago. Thanks for the inputs. What is your opinion on the modification of lapang construction using concrete and iron materials as is being done now. On one hand, it is seen as environment-friendly since it ensures longevity of the structures and less deforestation. On the other, we endanger our tradition in the process.

    Btw, we had initiated a process for applying to UNESCO to give Ziro (Apatani villages) a World Heritage Site Status way back in 2000. It was hijacked due to short-sightedness of some of our friends. :(

  3. There is ways and means and to exact technologies are available to do in environment friendly. So far as longivity and deforestation is concerned it is ok, but what about the loo? Naturalness has gone and artificiality has taken over. Pillars (tuli), horizontal bar (gembii), concreter slab (lapang) and even the shed with GI sheet and GI pipe pillars could have been so designed to give the impression of wood touch look. It is purely a departmental mind set and driven by finance.
    Even all structures may be made of material other than wood but should give wood touch look, except one over which our 'nyibu' would sit/stand during 'subu hilyiho' because if that is at least not would he would not be able to mention in his hymn. Lapang pulyang is mentioned in his recitation, hence for one plant of wood should invariably be made of wood and should also prepared in traditional method, not the sawn timber from the saw mill. This idea can be well implemented. Much more points may be added in this comment.

  4. Dear Tage,

    I'm a student at MIT, and I'm working with my professor, Mark Jarzombek ( on a book on global architecture. I'm interested in the last photograph of yours in this post to use in our book. The photo will be for use in a survey history of art and architecture. I'm not sure yet how many copies will be printed, maybe a run of 8,000 or something like that - global distribution. If you are interested, please email me at