Monday, January 21, 2013

Apatani Settlement at Talle Valley

The migration story of the Apatanis unequivocally points to the fact that they had settled down in Talle Valley before shifting base to their present habitat at Ziro valley. A team of archaeologists, in fact, had an extensive survey of Talle valley looking for any evidence of human settlement with not much success. This is understandable as the tribe had not used any materials of metal or of stone that usually leave evidences. Since the archaeologists usually look for such remains, they could not find any. What they missed, however, was the most striking evidence of Apatani settlement any visitor to the valley can see even to this day. What is that evidence? We'll find out in a while.

I always thought that blue pine at Ziro is native to the place. I believed that till some years back when I was bringing a friend working with UNDP to Ziro and during the course of our discussion, I told him that blue pine is endemic to Ziro.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “Overall vegetation here and the geographical location of Ziro indicate that blue pine is exotic.” He explained that blue pine had been brought from somewhere else and planted here.

I tried to argue against it, but he was so sure about his theory that I had to revise my own belief. I recalled then that the migration story of the Apatanis also tells of the tribe coming to the valley with seeds of pine (pwsa), bamboo (bije) and mustard (giyañ). It was clear, then, that Ziro valley was once home to broad-leaved evergreen forests and that blue pine that dominate the landscape today, was planted by the Apatanis when they settled down here.

The visitors to Talle Valley are surprised at the vegetation pattern there – broad-leaved trees in the higher reaches while coniferous forests of pine and fir dominate the valley. This is the reverse of the expected pattern. The scientists find themselves at a loss to explain what they call a unique phenomenon. It is not unique, though: this pattern is found in at least one other place.

The same so-called reverse vegetation pattern is seen at Ziro valley which very few people may have noticed. Coniferous vegetation, mainly of blue pine, dominate the valley while the surrounding hills are covered with broad-leaved trees.  This pattern is because the Apatanis planted the blue pine in the valley while broad-leaved trees are native to the area and has remained in the hills.

It is not difficult to understand now that the reverse vegetation pattern at Talle Valley also is result of similar works. When the Apatanis settled down in Talle valley, they planted psuga pine and fir in the valley while the original broad-leaved vegetation in the hills around the valley has remained intact. This, then, is the most striking and strong evidence to scientifically support the Apatani migration story that they had lived in Talle valley for a very long time before they shifted to Ziro valley.