In photos: The green valleys of Arunachal

Deepti Asthana | Updated on April 05, 2019

The many different tribes of Arunachal Pradesh continue to live in harmony with their stunning natural surroundings

Travelling in the mountains can be backbreaking, but all the pain was forgotten once I reached Tawang valley in Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal — covered with impenetrable rainforests — is a natural wonder. It is home to endemic birds and animal species and an umpteen number of lakes, but that’s not all. There are 26 major tribes in Arunachal who still live in harmony with nature, preserving their culture in a fast-changing world.

Around 13 per cent of the population is Buddhist, a direct influence of its neighbours — Tibet, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. Tibetan Buddhism has the greatest influence on the Dirang Monpa tribes. Most of Arunachal’s Buddhist population resides in Tawang, in the West Kameng region. These remote areas are close to Tibet near the Myanmar border. The people practise both jhum (shifting cultivation) and settled cultivation, and domesticate yaks, cows, sheep and pigs. The cattle and yak are reared for milk and meat.

The Apatani tribe, known for their facial tattoos and gigantic nose pins, is arguably the most advertised in the state. With changing times, the younger generation no longer adopts these practices. The tribe is equally well-known for its production of fish from paddy fields.

I was fortunate to spend an extended period of time in the hut of an Adi Minyong, a warrior tribe, in Boleng. A typical Adi house is made of bamboo, and raised on stilts. Every part of the Adi house has a specific name and a unique function. Since they live in areas with inhospitable climate, their houses are made to withstand the fury of nature. They usually have space on the ground floor for pigs, which are fed on human waste — talk of zero waste! The one skill the Adis have mastered above all is the building of bamboo bridges.

Crossing one of these bridges over the gushing Siang river is thrilling, but my hands were nevertheless shaking as I attempted to photograph a family that was trying to cross over.

Deepti Asthana is a Mumbai-based photojournalist


Published on March 29, 2019

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