Wednesday, December 29, 2010

After Ten Years

The glimpse of the pace of development (?) of Ziro can be seen in the Google Earth, which has a high resolution now. The picture in the Google Earth now is that of November 2000.

Lots more greenery in Hapoli township. Characteristic tall Eucalyptus trees on the road leading to the District Hospital can be seen. So too in the road near the General Ground. No more now. Most of the empty green spaces between the government quarters and along the roads are now occupied by concrete buildings. Moving away from the Hapoli township, Biirii is still agricultural land - lyapyos and yorlus. It is now an upcoming affluent village. Mythical Tadu Dobi is still a romantic big space covered with green grass. No longer now. Salalya, where a college is located now, is still the community grazing ground. In the Google Earth picture below, the small red circle shows where a lodge stands and the big circle shows the Vivekananda Kendriya Vidyalaya now. Old Ziro is still lot more empty. There are no buildings in the midst of paddy fields.

Ten years. Does not sound long, but lots seem to have happened. One wonders what picture of Ziro we'll have after ten years from today.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dutta Papii

Dutta Papii must have been the most remarkable landmark after Kure in the pre-independent Ziro. It was the site where temporary tents were thrown up and later a proper camp established by the administrators like Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf and Ursula Graham Bower.

Valuable anthropological notes, which later became famous books must have been scribbled here. Many disputes must have been settled here.

The site today lay neglected but retains the charm which must have attracted the British administrators. Today, this is one of the very few open spaces where green grass grow which once used to be the hallmark of Ziro.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Division for Talle

Talle Wildlife Sanctuary is known for its unique vegetation and diverse wildlife species. The first picture of clouded leopard in mainland Asia was taken here in the late nineties by a team under the aegis of Future Generations and subsequently published in the September 2000 issue of the prestigious National Geographic magazine.

The sanctuary has hitherto been manned by a Range Officer with few field staff. The Range Officer reported to the Chief Wildlife Warden, Naharlagun.

In a significant decision in the meeting of the State Wildlife Advisory Board today in the Chief Minister's Conference Hall under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister, Dorjee Khandu, the board approved the creation of a new Talle Wildlife Sanctuary Division with its headquarter at Maniployang. This will not cost anything extra to the state exchequer as the entire staff is to be manned by the now defunct Lohit Wasteland Division (based in Namsai), which is being closed down.

It is expected that wildlife protection activity, not only within the sanctuary but in the periphery as well will be improved with this development.

It may be mentioned that numerous wildlife species have been photographed (most of them for the first time) in a project recently being carried out in the sanctuary. Among them is this beautiful animal (mainland serrow) locally called kiidi siibi.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

After the Harvest

Green has gone. Cattle have been allowed to roam the agricultural fields. A cow here surveys if anything has been left for her.

After the hullabaloo of harvest months, it is quite again in the vast spans of fields in the Ziro valley. This used to be time for young people to go around in groups to catch rats. It is a rare sight now. They have other means of entertainment. It was also time to enjoy bull fightings after instigating two competitors. No longer now. What has remained now is the beginning of preparation for the Myoko festival. Most clans have done with bidiñ laniñ and getting ready to bring babos.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tentalizing Tracks

The agricultural fields at Ziro and the forests around them are well known. Less known are the innumerable tracks leading to these fields and the forests.

These tracks are constructed and maintained by the communities themselves. Complete with nyatus - resting places and places to sharpen one's ilyos - swords, it is sheer pleasure even just to walk in any of these tracks.

Sadly, many of these tracks - more important ones - are giving way to badly maintained fair-weather roads. It would be worthwhile to keep some of the original tracks to remind us of the original Ziro in the future.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Leisure at Ziro

A decade back, when the talk was going on to donate the historical Tadu Dobi to establish a school, I suggested that the place be developed into a public park instead. There was no taker.

The Apatanis did not have much sense of leisure. It has been all work. It is unusual, therefore, when a little known organization, run by a lone woman, started a fish pond, where people could spend some time angling, some years back. The place in Sululya in Old Ziro has now been developed into a beautiful spot. A house in the middle of the pond is planned to be turned into a lodge. With the addition of two boats now, children can enjoy boating as well.

Now called Mother's Home, because it supports children who have no mothers to love and care for them, the place is being turned into a center of multiple activities.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dree Nyibu

These are the people who keep the world going, propitiating the God of Abundance for a bumper crop every year.

They are the Dree Nyibus from different Apatani villages. They made Dree 2010 at Ziro happen this year. May their tribe thrive!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tayiñ Lañpii - Leprosy Isolation Settlement

Leprosy has always tormented humans and has been feared and misunderstood. The disease has been considered a curse and a punishment from God. Leprosy patients, therefore, have been stigmatized and shunned. Leprosy isolation settlements had, thus, sprouted throughout the world.

Tayiñ Lañpii in the grazing grounds of Reru village was such an isolation settlement catering to leprosy patients in the area.

The name Tayiñ Lañpii itself inspired awe and mystery in the past. It still do to some extent. A pile of huge rocks, forming innumerable interconnecting caves. It was scary exploring the caves when I visited the place some thirty years back. This is a view from inside the main lañpii.

The Tayiñ Lañpii area now forms the vague boundary of two bamboo gardens. The stones and the caves still retain the feeling of grandeur they give to the explorers.

Apart from its historical significance as the only known isolation settlement for leprosy patients in the area, Tayiñ Lañpii is unique in itself. Welcome and explore it!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Kiwi Hill

As the traditional agriculture struggles to survive, various commercial farmings have been started at Ziro these days. One of them is kiwifruit, introduced a few years back. Not that the fruit is entirely new; its wild variety has been savored by the local people as long as they can remember.

The picture above is one of the many fairly large scale cultivations started at Ziro. This is located at Tajang Myolyañ, just two kilometers ahead of Pine Grove.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dree Story - 2: Sustaining Agriculture

Life was good. Abotani had good harvests every year from his aji at Liiha Poñtañ.

One year, however, Abotani noted that the yield had decreased. It decreased further the next year. As usual, Abotani turned to Aba Liibo and Ane Donii for advice.

Aba Liibo and Ane Donii examined the field. Their faces became gloomy.

“What’s the matter, my Lord?” Abotani asked with a worried expression.

“Dree is eating up your crops,” they said. “That is why your harvest is low.”

“Who is this Dree?” Abotani asked, perplexed.

“This is Dree,” Aba Liibo said, pointing to a tiny pest nibbling away at a paddy sapling.

“And this too,” said Ane Donii, picking up a worm which was eating the root of another sapling.

“Dree, in the form of these pests, insects and worms are destroying your crops,” they told.

“What should I do now?” asked Abotani looking up at Aba Liibo and Ane Donii with hope.

“Alas! We have no clue,” they said, sadly.

Abotani could not sleep that night. As soon as he heard the first crow of the cocks, he went to Anii Niinii and Punu Ninii.

“What brings you here, Tani?” they asked.

“I have been working very hard,” Abotani said. “But Dree is eating up the fruits of my labor. I have come here to seek your wise counsel.”

“Ah! Dree!!” they cried. “You need to propitiate Dree.”

Abotani started thinking quickly, “Who can help me propitiate Dree?”

He then remembered Changu Mitu (Poñkha Sah) and Dogu Misi (Pongu Mitu). “There is no greater priest than they,” he told himself. With hope flickering, he approached Changu Mitu and Dogu Misi.

“Dree has been eating my crops,” Abotani told the priests. “Anii Niinii and Punu Niinii have advised me to propitiate Him. Pray, help me.”

“Why not, son,” said the priests. “We will be happy to help mankind.”

So, Changu Mitu and Dogu Misi set working. First they collected a cup each of rice or millet from each household as Dree myiihii. Then they constructed the Dree pogyañ (altar) at Liiha Poñtañ. With offerings of hens and eggs, they then called upon Danyi-Piilo, Sii-Myoro, Siipiñ-Myome, Siitêr-Korlañ and Harnyañ-Pubyañ to prevent Dree from destroying the crops.

This was the first Dree! Thus the cultivation of food to feed mankind was sustained.

Welcome to Dree festival being celebrated by the descendants of Abotani every year!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dree Story - 1: the Beginning of Agriculture

Abotani was tired. It had been a long day. He did not get much food today, though he had trekked through several hills. He had to forage for food everyday. He had to survive.

Lying down beside the fire, an idea struck Abotani, “I could plant the seeds of the food at one place. I won’t, then, have to go from place to place.”

As the cocks crew early next morning, he took this idea to Aba Liibo and Ane Donii. “A brilliant idea, Tani,” they cried. “Go to Jilyu Myogyañ (Jilyu Myodi) and Tolyo Siipêr (Yomo Barañ). Sow the seeds there. They shall be your aji (agricultural fields).”

“Where would I get the seeds?” Abotani asked.

“Ah, we will find out who can give you the seeds,” Aba Liibo and Ane Donii said.

Help was forthcoming. Hintii and Hirii offered to provide seeds for the primary food items. So, Abotani got seeds of emo (rice), sarse (millet), taku (cucumber) and tanyi (corn) from them.

“These seeds are pure,” they told. “They will yield pure food. They will sustain you in good times and bad times.”

Aha Riñtii brought the seeds of other food items like tape (pumpkin), peruñ (bean), inge (taro) and so on. Abotani did not consider them pure but sowed them to supplement his diet.

Cultivation was thus started in Jilyu Myogyañ and Tolyo Siipêr. Life became more comfortable for Abotani. After some years, however, the yield decreased. Abotani was worried. He consulted Aba Liibo and Ane Donii again, “I have been working hard in the fields, but the land is not kind to me. What could be the reason?”

Aba Liibo and Ane Donii examined the soil and said, “Aha! These fields have lost their fetility.”

“Is there nothing I can do?” Abotani asked.

“Yes, you can, Tani,” they said. “Some distance from here is a place named Liiha Poñtañ. Go ye there and cultivate.”

So, Abotani shifted to Liiha Poñtañ and made it his agricultural field.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Monsoon is here again.

When the paddy crops start growing, it used to be time for different varieties of goñchi (dragonflies) to flitter around. The beautiful lañchañ goñchi, agile byago takho, proud yaju piikho and the king of all, the magnificent apañ kemañ. There was then the itu pumiñ, the smallest of all but so light-footed that it was a big challenge to catch any of them, and the dui goñchi with its characteristic black stripe. Jijiñ tayiñ - hordes of them: a swipe of bamboo stick would bring down a dozen of them. Apart from occasional byago takho, none of them can be seen today at Ziro. Some groups of jijiñ tayiñ can still be seen, but they are so much higher up than I can recall.

These days, there are lots of plums. Truckloads of them are being taken down to Itanagar as there is no market at Ziro. It is time somebody start some productive project to tap all such local resources here.

As any monsoon, it is wet. Since the roads are better everywhere, it is pleasant, though.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tiipe - the Body Art

Tiirii tiipe pa pa
Yapiñ tiipe pa pa
Nyachu piñpu pa pa
Goñpii tiipe pa pa
Pakii giilyu, giilyu, giilyu

The Apatani children used to grow up with the playful voices of their mothers singing this rhyme while mockingly putting tattoo (tiipe) on the face of the child, starting from the forehead (tiirii), nose (yapiñ) and the chin (goñpii) with her finger. Finally, she would tickle the child's chest making her laugh gleefully.

Apart from yapiñ and yaru hullo, tiipe is another form of body arts, practiced by the Apatanis. It was a painful and bloody process as the soot had to be stuck into the skin with thorns. Some children have said to have looked forward to the occasion when their face will be tattooed, but most understandably dreaded it.

Tiipe is becoming history now, but will always remain a characteristic features of the Apatanis.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pine and Rhododendron

Dreams and shadows. Mirror images.

While climbing the gentle slopes of North Mountain in Pendleton County (West Virginia) today, I felt like I am still trekking in the Talle Valley photographing sugar pines and rhododendrons as I was doing last month. It is yellow pine here, though.

And pink rhododendrons!

In any corner of the world, Ziro never cease to haunt me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Got the Message?

A concrete tablet I found somewhere at Ziro.

It is the message that matters more!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Flowers like Neha apu and sanji apu have always played major roles in the lives of the Apatani people. Love for beauty, and so for flower, seems to be growing. Floriculture has made an entrance at Ziro.

The one shown in the picture is located in the Bamiñ Rañtii between Hapoli and Old Ziro. Good collection of various ornamental flowers - almost all pot flowers. I could not see any cut flower, cut foliage, seed bulb, rooted cuttings, and so on which are parts of floriculture. Good collection for a beginning, though.

Stop by and visit the Diilyang Diibyu Welfare Society, running the establishment.

Monday, April 26, 2010


The Apatanis have always practiced multicropping in their paddy fields. Bulyu, tasiñ, ngiiyi amii and chunyi have always been harvested. These can be said to be the harbinger of the present day paddy-cum-pisciculture.

The practice got a major boost with the establishment of the Regional High Altitude Fish Seed Farm at Tarin near Ziro.

Till recently this picturesque site was the most popular picnic spot every new year. This trend, happily, has been checked to a large extent now. And other better sites are replacing it. Yet, it retains its freshness and continues to attract visitors from far and near even today.

This farm is said to be one of the very few of its kind anywhere in the world. Fish seeds are cultivated here and sold to the farmers at subsidized rates. At the same time, it is a demonstration site where bigger fishes too are raised.

The farm staff are now getting ready to prepare enough seeds for the farmers this season. Welcome to Tarin.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bamboos of Talle

Hiibiñ: Largest of the species in the area, but smaller than the Apatani bamboos at Ziro. Size of bije binyi. Larger ones can be flattened into yamyo, but not strong enough as poles.

Yana: Smallest one. Most abundant. Makes trekking very difficult as it 'creeps' on the ground.

Tader: Strongest. Its shoots are sprouting up now. As tasty as those of the Apatani bamboos at Ziro.

These are the bamboo species found in Talle Valley.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Valley of Talle

Its green all around now. There are splashes of red and white on the green canvas. Rhododendrons. It is too early for the yellow ones and blue ones. They will bloom by next month, may be. This is Talle Valley again.

It is a pleasure to see and taste the talle after which the place is named. The leaves are broader than the talle found at Ziro. Taste is similar but milder. The plant is said to grow as tall as two feet.

The valley was once said to be full of these fresh plants. Not so now, sadly. No longer a valley of talle. I could find only some patches covered with talle. I advised the wildlife staffs to plant them in more places. Looking ahead with hope!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Neha Apu

When a mother is getting ready to leave for the fields, the child cries, insisting that she wants to go with her. "The field is very far, my child," the mother cajoles. "Play at home and I will get neha apu for you."

Just as the fathers brought Sanji apu from the jungle, the mothers brought neha apu from the fields. The flower was used for making bagañ rinyo used to decorate one's ears.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Midiñ - Green Beds

The seed beds - midiñs - are turning from black to yellow to green these days at Ziro.

It won't be long when the growing paddy plants will be taller and ready to be transplanted in the fields. In the meantime, the fields are filled with water and getting ready for the next season of agriculture.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Springtime Again!

It is springtime again at Ziro. Takuñ apu, señbo apu and piita apu are doing wonders again. Red, white and pink.

It is time to rejoice with nature.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Advent of Myoko

It is not fog. It is not due to impending rain. It is an indicator that the Myoko festival is not far. Murpa sai, the characteristic hazy look in the horizon is so unique at Ziro.

No wonder it is unique, as Myoko is unique at Ziro. Unlike other festivals like Dree which is celebrated all over the country, Myoko can be celebrated only at Ziro. Murpa sai, along with takuñ apu and señbo apu, is one of the nature's way of signalling that Myoko Pillo is here.

Oh yes, Myoko Piilo is here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Meder Nello

Last few years have seen a renaissance of indigenous faith all over Arunachal Pradesh. In the central belt of the state, also called the Tani belt, inhabited by the tribes following the Danyi-Piilo or Donyi Polo, a number of prayer houses called Meder Nello or Nyedar Namlo are being constructed. This is one such in Tajang village at Ziro.

Though not appreciated by all, these Meder Nellos are attracting curious visitors. It has the potential to be developed into institutions for preserving and show-casing the indigenous culture and traditions of the tribal people.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Community-based Ecotourism

Ziro is a uniquely beautiful place. Just an hour's drive down the serpentine road towards south, one can feel the difference in temperature. Same is the fact for driving northwards and westwards. Only the Talley Valley in the east is at an higher altitude than Ziro.

Because of its altitude, Ziro has a unique vegetation - pine trees, carefully tended bamboo gardens. And permanent wet rice cultivation along with fish. The colorful culture and traditions of the Apatanis add charm to the place.

Though Ziro has all the features of a hill station with additional offers to culture and nature tourists, its promotion has remained much to be desired. A few tourists that come to the place are passers-by, taking the circuit of Itanagar-Ziro-Daporijo-Aalo-Pasighat/Likabai route. The communities has remained passive onlookers while a handful make a few bucks.

A project to promote community based ecotourism has recently been started at Ziro. The project plans to encourage village home-stays, train local tour guides and recommend trekking trails around Ziro.

Watch out this space for more on this.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Old Glory

I came across these old photographs taken during 1971.
This is that of a group of Adi girls in the Higher Secondary School. The building looks much better than it is now.

The other one is also some Adi girls and other artists from other parts of the country in some village. It is difficult to make out just from a few houses.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


The Pange river is known for its abundance of fishes. That apart, It is today the seats of the forest range officers - both wildlife (of Talle Wildlife Sanctuary) and territorial (Hapoli Forest Division). Pange is located at a small valley formed by the Pange river and is 7 kilometers from Manii Polyang. A fair-weather road connects it to Hapoli.

It is more fun trekking to the Pange camp than to drive. One can see different varieties of birds and listen to their calls. By the roadsides are colorful wildflowers, wild fruits and different species of trees - big and small. It is sheer pleasure to walk on the rustling dry leaves fallen on the ground and occasional short-cuts. Once one reaches the camp, an easy walk of two hours is amply rewarded.

The Pange river meanders down by the bushes on both banks and over slippery stones. One can sit on the bank for hours together enjoying the cold breeze, watching the water struggling through the rocks and occasionally spying some fishes in the deeper water.

Welcome to Pange.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Supyu Yalañ

When Pengu Miilyobo fell, the various parts of his body were scattered all over the Ziro valley. I had a chance to visit again the place where his head and chest lie.

This monolith, believed to be the head of the mighty Pengu Miilyobo, is commonly known as the Supyu Yalañ. Much water has gone down the Supyu Kiile which quietly flows beside this stone, but it has not changed as far as I can remember. It used to be an important landmark on the way to far away fields like the Layonii or hillocks like Puntii. It still is.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Helipad at Talley Valley

First there were plans to establish the summer capital of Arunachal Pradesh. Then an attempt to build a helipad. Talley Valley has weaved many dreams, all unrealized till today. In fact, the plan to establish the summer capital, more than twenty years back, was carried out in real earnest. The road was built during that time, and it was actually the only time vehicles reached the valley. Some people were selected and encouraged to settle down in the valley, though all of them came back to Ziro one by one. The sites where their houses had once been and where they tried cultivation can still be seen in Talley Valley.

Some ten years back again, works were carried out to construct a helipad in Talley Valley. What remains today is a patch of clearing and stacks of stones. Bamboos have started closing on in the patch from the surrounding areas. Saplings of sugar pine (niiri piisa) have started sprouting up as well. It will not be long when this clearing will be engulfed in the wilderness.

Oh, yes, good for the animals!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Muruñ Piilo

Subu and Muruñ are two occasions which are perfect examples of the people turning a crisis into an opportunity. One may have these occasions as any other ritual to propitiate the God, but they are always observed with an air of festivity. Other reason for performing these rituals, especially by a person who has done well in the society, may be a kind of thanks giving.

The main features of these festivals are supuñ-niiñ, mithun sacrifice, penii (in case of Muruñ) and hiirii khaniiñ. Supuñ-niiñ has become an occasion to display one's ornaments, dresses and handicrafts mostly by the female members of the family. The young people gets a chance to test their agility and strength during Mithun sacrifice. Penii is the climax when everybody goes in a procession around the world (supuñ paker) of the Apatanis. People can be seen dressing up themselves any way they like. A kind of fashion show.

For whatever reason and in whatever way these festivals are observed, they are great occasions to preserve and promote the Apatani culture and practices.