Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

Paddy and millet are the two main crops of the Apatanis at Ziro. And they are the ones which are transplanted from their seed beds to the fields. While the millet seeds are sown in the kitchen gardens - yorlus and balus, the paddy seeds are sown in the midiñs. While the yorlus and balus are excellent examples of multi-crop farming, midiñs could be the opposite of it. It is used only for growing paddy seedlings. So, it is hardly used for two or three months a year. Other times of the year, it rests in a puddle of water and covered with often colorful layers of algae.

The sight of these picturesque midiñs reminds one of the future and of hope. It must be exactly because of this that everybody wishes each other every new year.

Happy New Year, 2010!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas again. Colorful stars can be seen glowing in many houses, though erratic power supply these days at Ziro is spoiling the fun.

I retrieved a statue of Mother Mary, strategically placed at a natural cave at St. Claret College at Salalya.

Merry Christmas to everybody!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wild Fruits

"What would I eat in the town?" a Solung man is said to have remarked when alloted a plot at Seppa and persuaded to leave the jungle. "The jungle provide us all the food we need." No truer words could be spoken. Wild fruits like bachiñ, taro and diirañ-sañkhañ/sañchi flash in the mind.

Diirañ-sañkhañ or sañchi is the favorite fruit for children. If one breaks it, it paints whatever it touches blood-red. When we used to go to jungles during our childhood to get such fruits and did not get as many as we wanted, we would paint our lips with even one or two. This would save face and prevent other friends who stayed back from making fun of us.

It is diirañ-sañkhañ/sañchi time now. It tastes as sweet as it used to decades back when I tasted it last.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jilañ on Indian Postage Stamp

At last, the traditional Apatani design in the jilañ has found its place in the Indian postage stamp along with Varanasi Brocade, Kanchipuram Silk and Kalamkari. More details can be found here.

The traditional textiles of the Apatanis had got the much needed boost in 1997 when the Apatani Cultural and Literary Society (ACLS) organized a traditional fashion contest entitled "Trendsetters". Since then, various designs have been adapted and used in various cloths.
Jilañ is the dress used by the priests during ceremonial occasions like the Murung and Subu. Mythology has it that the designs were copied from the color combinations of the peacock.

Apart from the jilañ, other traditional clothes include jig-jiro, jikhe, piisa-leñda, lañchañ abi, pyamiñ pulye and so on.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Revisiting Talle Valley

Tharr...tharrr...tharrr. The sounds of breaking the ice in the bucket wake me up. It is already after 6.00 in the morning. I get up and peek outside. Gyayu is breaking the ice that had frozen in the bucket. As I look around, everything is coated in white. I am transported back to my childhood when Ziro used to be like this. I cannot help venturing outside and up in the hill nearby.

When we explore the valley in the day, I am certain that the Ziro valley must have been like this before our ancestors converted it into a more habitable place that we enjoy today. A sense of gloom overpower me. How hard they must have worked. What a struggle it must have been! Cutting down trees, aligning the irrigation channels.

This is Talle Valley. I am visiting the place after five years. Lots of changes. The track from Pange is better. The Range Officer is trying to make the road motorable. I doubt this is a good step, though. A beautiful and cosy camp house has been constructed. This, I think, is a welcome sign. It is good to get cosy after four hours of trekking.

Welcome to Talle Valley.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Revisiting Kardo Hills - III

Strange but true - the Shiva Linga in the Kardo Hills is said to be mentioned in the 1893 edition of Shiva Purana.

Shiva Purana was compiled by Sage Veda Vyas and is one of the eighteen important sacred Hindu texts. What lends credence to the claim of Kardo Hills connection with the Shiva Purana is that the discovery of a giant Linga in the Himalayas is predicted in the sacred book. As can be read in the third line from the bottom in the picture, the name Arunachal is mentioned in the text.

Whatever the fact, the site attracts different kinds of visitors and some permanent inhabitants like the pigeon here.

Revisiting Kardo Hills - II

An onlooker on the way to Kardo Hills. A bit tired.

Samples of floral diversity in the area.

A donation box donated by a believer.

Looking around.

Discover something new everytime you visit the Lord Shiva in the Kardo Hills.

Revisiting Kardo Hills - I

The Shiva Linga in the Kardo Hills continue to attract visitors. Apart from the religious ones, even nature lovers take a stroll on the trek for good reason.

Among the things one enjoy are some man-made ones like these:

And the nature has never been far behind. Here are some of its immaculate creations:

Welcome to Kardo Hills again.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Clay pots

December is a time for frantic house constructions in the Apatani valley. It is time also for sacrificing of pigs reared so carefully throughout the year. For children, it is time for keeping an ear for the shrieks of the pigs so as to get a small share of boiled blood in the clay pots. One has, of course, to be from the same clan as the family sacrificing the pig.

Bamin village was known as the place where best quality clay pots were prepared. The art, sadly, seems to be disappearing as clay pots are being replaced by readymade utensils available in the market. We met a not-so elderly woman who recalls seeing clay pots being prepared in the past and nostalgically tried her hand at it. Obviously, the result was not so satisfactory as is evident from the pictures below. One pot is an old one and the other is the one moulded recently.

It is said that the food inside the clay pot loses little of its moisture as it is surrounded by steam, creating a tender and tasty dish. As water evaporates, the dish is not burnt so long as the pot is not allowed to heat until it is completely dry. And unlike boiling, nutrients are not leached out into the water.

The sacred blood of the pigs was, till recently, boiled in clay pots only, but this practice also is being paced out now. One wonders whether the present and future generations of our people will ever miss food cooked in clay pots.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Manure for Plenty

The agricultural production in the Ziro valley is known to be one of the highest when calculated on per square area basis. It is because of the enormous labor inputs plus indigenous techniques of preserving the fertility of the soil. This is one of the techniques - paddy husks spread over the field after the harvest.

Sadly, and contrary to what I have been believing, more numbers of farmers are said to be using chemical fertilizers these days. Looking for short term benefits may result in long term destruction of the soil preserved for decades now.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dream Weavers

Candidates for 16-Yachuli Assembly Constituency: Likha Saaya (INC), Jotam Toko Takam (PPA), Nikh Kamin (AITC):

And the winner is -

Likha Saaya with the Returning Officer and General Observer.

Candidates for 17-Ziro Hapoli Assembly Constituency: Kuru Tai (BJP), Padi Richo (INC), Subu Koyang (NCP), Nani Ribia (AITC):

And the winner is -

Padi Richo with the Returning Officer and General Observer.

Friday, October 16, 2009

EVM Tampering

History of sorts was created on October 13, 2009 when repolling was ordered in two polling stations at Ziro Assembly election. This is so unexpected of the people of Ziro who are known to be honest and peace-loving. I don't recall a single occasion when there was a repoll in Ziro-Hapoli constituency. It is shameful.

A sticker, exactly similar to the original one with the names of the candidates and the party symbols was printed and pasted over the EVM. The orders of the BJP and TMC candidates on the EVM was exchanged while those of the INC and NCP was exchanged. This manipulation does not seem to benefit either the INC or the TMC candidates who are considered the two strongest ones. Is it a case of an attempted cheating of the electronic machine by a candidate or just a mischief by a prankster? Whatever is the answer, it has cost the government dearly and caused lots of hardships to the voters. Especially this time of the year - the entii pillo.

On the other hand, this single incident exposes one of the hitherto overlooked drawbacks of the much acclaimed electronic voting machine (EVM) introduced in India recently. Possibilities of tampering the EVM has been discussed in many forums, but no one had anticipated this seemingly simple one. One more agenda has been added to the training curriculum for the polling officers in the next election.

People are now talking about the 'brains' of the Apatanis. Well, I like to take that as a compliment. At the same time, I like to take that as a challenge - the challenge to show the right direction to young people with such 'brains', as they can either be used or misused.

I dream that we use them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

First Batch of Students from Ziro

The non-tribal people -halyañs - represented power. The Apatanis had learnt their lessons in several incidents, notably Kure Chambyo. While the nightmare of these incidents were still haunting the people, the government had initiated the process of bringing in education in the Ziro valley. Naturally, the teachers were looked at with suspicion and fear. They, however, cajoled several of the parents to send their children to school.

It was unimaginable to send a girl-child to school those days. And the better to do people refused to send their children to school as they had more important jobs at home like helping in agricultural fields and in the jungles. The poorer people were usually persuaded to educate their children.

The first several batches of students persisted due to their sheer determination. The neighbors looked down upon them as good-for-nothing lazy boys who avoided works and went to school. Most parents constantly tried to pressurize them to drop out. In order to keep their parent happy, they had to get up early in the morning, get a bundle of firewood and then go to school. After returning from the school again, they either brought more bundles of firewood or joined in the agricultural works. There are several instances when a boy lied to his parent that he is going to the jungle to fetch firewood, then attend the classes and return home with a bundle of firewood.

The children in this video, our abañs, beat the way for the rising sun.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Harvesting Time

On the instigation of Tini Rungya, Abotani had married her and divorced his virtuous wife, Diilyañ Diibyu. As the years went by, Tiini Rungya showed her true colors and ruined Abotani. A day came when not a morsel of grain was left.

Abotani realized his mistake, divorced Tini Rungya and tried to woe Diilyañ Diibyu back. Ayo Diilyañ Diibyu would not listen. Abotani begged for some food. No mercy.

He had to survive. Humankind had to survive. He had to get some food somehow.

"Go to Diilyañ Diibyu's house," Abotani told his dog. "She must be drying paddy on the piipiñ. Roll on it and come back running fast."

The faithful dog did as he was told. However, Diilyañ Diibyu saw Tani's dog and immediately knew his trick. She caught hold of the dog, cleaned all the paddy crops sticking to his hair and sent the dog back, "Now you can go back to Tani."

When the dog returned Tani was disappointed. As he petted the dog, however, he noticed a morsel of grain in each of the small pocket that all dogs have on their ears. Now, he had to multiply these grains to feed mankind.

The first year, Tani sowed the grain in the hearth - ugu. Next, he sowed them in the space around the urinal - si sita. Thus as the years went by, he had enough grains to be sown in the seed bed - midiñ.

It is entii piilo now. Time for harvesting paddy that our ancestor had propagated all around. This is one of the two seasons when the Apatanis cannot wait for anything. The other is the transplantation time of the paddy saplings.

The dog being the one who brought grains to us, the Apatanis never beat them during harvesting time.

Entii piilo is also the time for entii patañs to get together. A patañ usually consists of ten members - five male and five female. It is because it takes around two weeks to complete the harvesting of paddy.

It is a time to rejoice - reaping the fruits of the year-long labor.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

First College at Ziro

Ziro is today known for the numbers of good quality private schools. What was lacking was an institute for higher education. In spite of being one of the oldest district headquarters in Arunachal Pradesh, there was no sight of such an institute. All these changed, however, when the picturesque Salalya was donated to the Claretian Missionaries to establish a college in 2003. The St. Claret College, Ziro came into existence.

A pleasant road now leads to the sprawling college campus. One goes through the Laji Bogya where the Bulla Middle School, one of the oldest schools in the entire area is located. With the Kalung Rantii on the right and mythical Dogiñ Nanii on the left, one can see magestic pine trees and picture post-card like landscapes all along.

The neatly maintained college in the cradle of nature is worth a visit.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Oldest Lapañ

When the Apatanis migrated to the present valley in an unknown past, they are said to have planted the Rantii Piisa that we can see in the Hari Rantii and constructed the first lapañ which is famous today as the Dokañ Lapañ. This lapañ is considered the oldest one in the Apatani valley and is maintained by the Mudo halu of Hari village.

It is a pity, however, that the construction of the lapañ has been modified using iron pipes and concrete posts these days. This could, otherwise, be the right one to be designated the heritage lapang. It is still a significant landmark at Ziro because of the history and mythology associated with it. Welcome to Hari village.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

After 64 Years

1945 (a still from Haimendorf's film). An agricultural field and an irrigation channel.

2009. The same agricultural field and the irrigation channel.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


If ever the devil is after you, no worry. Get into the nearest nago you find. You are safe.

Nagos are one of the most important structures in the Apatani villages. They are the places where the Siiki is tempted to the country of the man to participate in the Myoko festival. It is also the place where other serious rituals like the ropis are observed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gold Everywhere

Entii Piilo is coming. The whole landscape of Ziro is turning into gold. Harvesting of paddy has started in places.

Countless shades of green, gold and yellow. It is a real feast to the eyes. Bountiful nature.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Trekking though Western Ring Road

As we come out of the Hija village, the green of the Apatani rice paddy greet us as usual. This road used to be a narrow track just some years back.

We meet these young fishermen as we step on the beginning of the Western Ring Road from Neñchañlyañ. The newly carpeted road amidst paddy fields gives an unusually pleasant sight.

Keiñlya used to be an isolated village with hardly two or three houses. With excellent road connection now, it is developing into another beautiful village.

A pine plantation. A signboard warning the hunters. These are the traditional practices the Apatanis are known for.

The 'ring' road beyond Keiñlya village.

We walk on enjoying the nature we miss in our everyday life. Wui tanyi, siitii byako, tare, different varieties of ferns, a giant mushroom.

Even a man-made structure like a stack of firewood is enjoyable. Especially so, when it is followed by an impromptu jungle lunch.

Too soon, we come out to the other end of the ring road towards Supyu.

We pleasantly discover a giirii in one of the aji agers. As we look further, lots of giiriis. Good sign, I think. Some hope. I recall the those times when every boy in the village used to walk the aji lenda trapping pai piitas. I thought this is already a thing of the past. These giiriis indicate that there still are some pai piitas around.

Welcome to another great trekking route in the Ziro valley!