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Arunachal Pradesh Travel Tips

5.0 stars

Insider advice for your Arunachal Pradesh vacation


krishnag
Behind the Bamboo Curtain 5 stars
After I returned to Delhi, I read disturbing reports in the papers about China claiming quite categorically that Arunachal is not a part of India. How long will this debate go on? Arunachal Pradesh is close to Tibet across the border. The Dalai Lama had crossed into India across the Himalayas. He passed through Tawang which also has one of the oldest monasteries in India. There have been several occasions when the Chinese have displayed aggression over the boundary lines between India and China. While these disputes carry on, changes are sweeping across the people. They are losing their tribal way of life. There is a steady influx of people from this state into Delhi. They work as waiters and stewards in the restaurants.

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krishnag
Behind the Bamboo Culture 5 stars
A similar sentiment is obvious the next day when I step inside a local “dhaba”(wayside restaurant) to eat. I am informed that I am welcome to eat “their” food; however that “Indian” food is also available! Thus the divide between “them” and India is palpable. Anyway, “their” food, I discover is refreshingly different. Local vegetables and chicken are boiled together to make a delicate broth, laced with earthy bamboo shoots and spiked with red hot chillies. It comes in a pretty Chinese soup bowl smuggled across the border, but the plastic spoon they provide with it almost melts into the broth.

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krishnag
Behind the Bamboo Culture 5 stars
In Itanagar I run into this interesting man of the Nishi tribe. He is wearing western clothes. However he has not abandoned his headgear, a woven bamboo basket-hat adorned with a hornbill beak and a woven belt slung across his midriff carrying a dagger. He stops by, intrigued by my camera that looks much more techno perched on a stand than hung from the shoulder. The man introduces himself as Kamayache and asks me if he can see himself in the camera. I step aside and ask him to look through the lens. He turns around dissatisfied. He tells me that he is in charge of road construction, he makes a sweeping gesture across the green hills indicating that he is the chief of all that meets the eye. I tell him that I come from Delhi. “India?”,he asks.
He seems to think that is a foreign land. I point out that we both belong to India. Indian, I demonstrate by placing my hand on my chest and then on his in turn. Kamayache remonstrates with his hands, “I Nishi man.” As far he is concerned he belongs to his Nishi society, the bigger Indian identity holds no relevance for him.


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krishnag
Behind the Bamboo Culture 5 stars
Mijo is twenty-six years old; clad in Levi jeans he does not appear to be different from his counterparts in Delhi; only the three tattoed dots on his chin give his Apa-tani identity away.
Mijo has moved away from his tribal moorings. He runs a tourist agency operating from Bomdila, a small township. His clients are Europeans, French and Belgian mostly.In his office room in the busy marketplace, he has a Pcwhich he uses to communicate with his overseas clients over the internet. His partner Wange, belongs to a different tribe, the Monpas, a gentle, peaceloving people.They practice Buddhism with a few loose animistic rites lingering. Dalai Lama, fleeing Chinese aggression crossed over to India in 1959 across the Ind-Tibetan border in Arunachal Pradeshand passed by the Tawang Monastery.Two years later 1500 Tibetans followed him into exile across the Himalayas. As I approached the Tawang Moanastery, tall poles bearing fluttering prayer flags became common. At Places I passed chortens and Mani. The Tawang Monastery is faintly reminiscent of a mediaeval town. The lamas lead an austere life of meditation and learning. Although most of their life they remain secluded in the Monastery, some lamas do grace social occasions like birth death and weddings and often perform rituals at them thus guiding the laity to be God-fearing and righteous.


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krishnag
Behind the Bamboo Culture 5 stars
In the evening I was inside an Apa-tani hut, sitting and listening to the village priest. The wizened priest’s face caught the warm glow of the fire lighted at the hearth . Hunks of meat were left to dry on the rectangular bamboo frame atop the fire, the frames blackened and scented with age-old aromas of cooking. This was a long house that several families occupied. Each of the priest’s married sons owned an individual hearth at regular intervals along the length of the corridor like room. There was only bamboo and wood all around. The priest narrated how he cured ill people and arranged marriages for them. His thin face was creased with age but his eyes were sharp as they darted across our eager faces. Miji Tacho, a friend and my guide translated the narration for me. “ A chicken is sacrificed and the liver taken out at the prospective groom’s place which is then carried to the prospective bride’s place and the two livers placed side by side and studied for the right signs.”
“And what are these signs?” I enquire.
The reply was only an enigmatic smile on the priest’s face.
O.K so that’s his trade secret.
“What if the bride does not agree to the proposal?” Mijo found this amusing. He passed on the question. The enigma on the priest’s face deepened.
“Mijo, would you go for this method to choose your bride?” I ask Mijo discreetly when we are outside. Mijo shakes his head. “I am not sure.”


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krishnag
Behind the Bamboo Culture 5 stars
What all the different tribes share is a belief in spirits; these spirits are often believed to be mischievous, sometimes downright nasty and therefore they have to be placated. Each house is equipped with spirit-chasers specific to that tribe. In addition they have to be appeased with bribes of food and drink. Clear indicators of the fact that the dominant religion of the place is Donypolism. Running parallel with ths animistic religion is Budhhism or Christianity that have managed to make inroads into these areas. The form of these two religions practiced here is very different though. There are small churches catering to the needs of the Christian laity.

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krishnag
Behind the Bamboo Culture 5 stars
I headed straight for Ziro located in the north-west of the state. The roads though narrow were well maintained. We passed through some breathtakingly lush tropical forests before the gentle hillsides gave way to a clearing studded with acres of water-logged paddy fields fringed with clusters of bamboo huts on stilts. I checked into the Guest House which is a modest brick and mortar affair devoid of any architectural pretensions. In fact in most of Arunachal, there are hardly any architectural marvels to pay homage to. Traces of a “past”, colonial or otherwise are missing. This is not surprising; although formally a part of British India, it had been loosely administered as a part of the north east frontier agency of Assam and largely forgotten. These predominantly tribal areas posed little problem to the British administration, the internecine tribal feuds never threatened to overflow into mainstream politics. The area remained almost completely cut off from outside influence and the culture that flourished here was exclusively tribal and this fact is palpable all over Arunachal. Tribal societies have been more egalitarian and there has been no penchant to leave behind monuments to mark the glory of proud monarchs.

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krishnag
Behind the Bamboo Culture 5 stars
The state of Arunachal Pradesh has a rich diversity of tribal people. These people of owed allegiance to the particular tribe they belonged to. Were they even aware of a larger identity, that of being an Indian? This was the question in my mind as I set out to explore this young state of “The Dawnlit Mountains”. There is a certain amount of bureaucracy that cannot be avoided. I needed an inner line permit before I was allowed entry into the state from Assam at Bhalukpong. The recent insurgency in Assam has somewhat thwarted government efforts to develop tourism and bring in investors in this young state of Arunachal Pradesh.

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krishnag
Behind the Bamboo Curtain 5 stars
The North-east was never officially curtained off from the rest of India. Nevertheless a veil always existed shrouding its misty mountains. When I was in college two of my classmates were from the North-East. In the way they talked, dressed and kept to themselves, they came through virtually as foreigners. We had very little occasion to learn about their culture from them other than to admire their bright coloured woven dresses and chunky, wooden jewellery; our image of them grew out of television programmes, those ineluctable “tribal dance/culture shows that the media those days engaged in a government endeavour to integrate the country’s diverse populace. This was in the late seventies when Indian Nationalism was a major issue and Globalization only a concept in the minds of economists. Growing up in Delhi as I was the belief in one ‘united India’ was strongly entrenched in me. However the people of N.E. stayed aloof. They were used to being ignored.

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