Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Of Nose Plugs and Tattoo of the Apatanis

Ami Nwdo Bwnyi was the most beautiful woman of her time. She was also the most virtuous and skillful. She excelled in the art of weaving and making intricate designs; she was expert in cultivation and other household works. So immersed was she in her daily works that she did not have time to enjoy life.
One fine morning, she suddenly realized that all her friends have been married off and she is getting past her age for marriage. She got worried and decided to consult the God for advice.
“I have lived a virtuous life and have been a good daughter to my parent and a good sister to my brothers. But alas! I have remained unmarried while all my friends are enjoying their conjugal life,” Ami Nwdo Bwnyi said. “I wish to get married too and lead a normal life of a woman. But I am getting old and my beauty is deserting me. Pray, my God, advise me.”
“Your life will not go in vain,” the God said. “You will get the best husband on earth.”
“I am getting old and no longer pretty,” Ami Nwdo Bwnyi asked sadly. “Who will marry me now?” 
“I will tell you the secret of remaining ever youthful,” God said. “Twpe on your face, hulo on your nose and huxo with rutiñ yarañ on your ear will keep your beauty and youth for ever.”
Ami Nwdo Bwnyi got her nose and ear lobes pierced and put on yapiñ hulo and yaru huxo. She further decorated her ears with rutiñ yarañ. She then tattooed her face, the design of which was copied from that found in the pine trees.

One day, a young man saw Ami Nwdo Bwnyi and fell in love with her. He was Mwdo Jiñdo Tajiñ. He asked the beautiful woman with twpe and yapiñ to marry him.

Ami Nwdo Bwnyi and Mwdo Jiñdo Tajiñ got married. They gave birth to various xalos – the races of the world. They were able to raise lots of livestock’s which are the birds and wild animals that we see today. Pine trees, which inspired the facial tattoo design is considered sacred by the Apatanis.

So, it was after the mother of all xalos that the Apatanis came to tattoo their faces and put on nose plugs to beautify themselves. In the olden days, more prominent the twpe (tattoo) and bigger the size of the yapiñ hulo (nose plug), more beautiful a woman looked. The more prominent the twpe and bigger the pwdiñ (hair knot), more handsome a man was considered.

Twpe and yapiñ are no longer practiced today and will become things of the past. However, they will remain the characteristic features of the Apatanis forever.

(Adapted from here)

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