Entry formalities to Arunachal relaxed

Foreign tourists, who thought twice before putting Arunachal Pradesh in their itinerary owing to strict ‘entry formalities’ has a reason to reconsider their itinerary now; for PAP (Protected Area Permit) has been relaxed by the Central government. Now, the restriction of minimum of four persons in a group has been relaxed to two (wherein the two may or may not be a married couple) and the maximum number of days of stay in the state has been upped from 10 to 30. This relaxation also applies to a foreigner who has been married to an Arunachalee and visiting the state on tourist visa.

Also, the Union Government has approved opening up of four new tourist circuits and extension of one existing circuit. With this approval, the state has now total of 11 tourist circuits (see below) and for the first time tourists have been given access to the remote border towns like Tuting and Mechuka.

1. Aalo-Mechuka -New Circuit

2. Daporijo-Nacho via Taliha and Sayum -New Circuit

3. Ziro-Palin-Nyapin-Sangram-Koloriang -New Circuit

4. Doimukh-Sagalee-Pakke Kesang-Seppa-New Circuit

5. Tezpur-Bhalukpong-Bomdila-Tawang-Exisitng Circuit

6. Tinsukia-Tezu-Parasuramkund-Existing Circuit

7. Margherita-Miao-Namdapha-Existing Circuit

8. Itanagar-Ziro-Daporijo-Along-Pasighat-Existing Circuit

9. Roing-Mayudia-Anini-Exisiting Circuit

10. Pasighat-Jengging-Yingkiong ( Extended upto Tuting)-Extension to existing Circuit

11. Tezpur-Seijosa (Pakhui)-Bhalukpong-Tipi-Existing Circuit

Myoko-A Perspective

-by Roto Chobin

Being an essential festival of Apatani community, the Myoko is perhaps one of the most protracted and intricate festival in the world, wherein entire Apatanis take some part in the festivities while the substantial role are played by the host of Myoko, and which induce one to question and contemplate, extol and assess its significance relating to the present day.

The preparation for Myoko begins as early as November – starting with hunting of bi ding (monkey). And the activities goes on until the Empii Koniin ceremony is performed to signify the end of the festival where the priest give a final offering of roasted ‘eared rice’ to deity near the doorstep of both front and backdoor, and which usually happen in the second week of April month. From the groundwork to the end of the Myoko festival, it takes almost six months.

Another aspect of Myoko is that it comprises of so many complex rituals that makes it awfully intricate and very difficult to practice it. For instance, a person who goes out to hunt biding need to take a particular care when shooting a monkey because … not to sacrifice a biding of particular species would be sacrilegious to Siiki. At the time of Siiro Cheniin, every male member has to put up a twig of cane leaves at Nago (shrine). With cane becoming rare, you never know when the ritual will become nullified. And Pigyan Huniin ceremony tests the degree of one’s physical strength and endurance – seizing of pigs and swine from pigsty, taking it to Yugyang (altar) and bringing it back to a house for sacrifice. Subsequently, the swine are killed and delicately prepared to be given away to uncles and great uncles. And preparation or to be precise separation of chest from bacon requires a hand of high skill because recipient may turn down the offer to accept it if found any slip-up. Phew! One of the nasty part is when we grab the swine by its leg so that it could stay still whilst the eldest male member of a clan is plucking off the heart and when we clean down the coating of hair from swine by burning and scraping out the hair with steel tumbler as soon as it is taken down from a bonfire.

Throughout the ceremonial processes of Myoko, loads of unfamiliar things (no doubt, it may be relatively recognizable for some but for inexperience individual it could be a headache) like Sama Anii, Kiira Anii (leaves) et al are used to make Agyang (altar). Moreover, to make things such as byodung, chukha, roobing, etc. to adorn the Agyang calls for great dexterity and fortitude. Furthermore, to look bluntly at Babo (ritual pole) may not seem that it involves effort in any way. On the contrary, it stipulates teamwork as each clan has to select a high and straight tree for babo that are fell and brought at the village by dragging, then erecting it. In a way, it does seem futile to fell a huge tree and erecting it seeing that boha behniin (acrobatic feats) is no longer perform on it and also that huge babo can give away to undersized and manageable babo without being blasphemous to custom. Paradoxically, activities are going in opposite direction.

O Tante La, in fact this is the occasion when guests usually visit the house of the Myoko host and the guests are served with O (rice beer), Tapyo (black salt) and Kaji (meat). In compliance with other ritual this occasion continues for a period of two and a half days – beginning just after Sama Piniin (first day) till Taper Liila Siiro Cheniin (third day of Myoko) – which seem fair enough. But rules are rules, made to be bent and broken. Thus, nowadays, the host could still be seen throwing a Myoko party till the wee hours even after the Pigyan Huniin ceremony was concluded. In such parties, one may notice that both the guests and host will not hesitate to belt out series of Bollywood numbers. Sadly, Bollywood numbers is slowly replacing Ayu (rhythmic folklore handed down from the past).

In terms of money and material spent during this festival, I dare say, goes beyond what is necessary. Over the last few years, the operating cost of Myoko has hemorrhaged. And the respite from this outflow of money and material is not on the horizon. Besides, the people tend to spend more money during this time, possibly, to impress – encouraging others to follow suit. The Yalang or Ala Rita Naniin (portion of beef given to a booniin ajing) is turning out to be bigger and bigger in size. As a result, a whole lot of beef in addition to poultry, pork and cartons of egg is not sufficient enough to last long until the end of Myoko month. If luck favors, the foot and mouth disease of cattle and bird flu at this crucial time will play havoc to entire plan – creating an environment of scarcity and pushing the price of basic items beyond affordable and what’s more the cost of firewood and rice have yet to be added to the gross expenditure. Under such circumstances, to have a second thought about Myoko is apparently justifiable.

Regardless of the fact, the significance and contribution of Myoko principally in renewing ties with friends and relatives and binding the community in a collective unit cannot be neglected. However, the question remains: Will the essence of Myoko last? What if the poor people cannot afford to celebrate it? With the augmentation in the gap between rich and poor, the Myoko is bound to lose its vitality in course of time. So, with due respect to Myoko, amendment in certain custom is inevitable. For instance, the quantity of Yalang could be reduced to a large extent, which is a give-away to booniin ajing. And bestowing other gifts like a packet of tea leaves and milk powder, sugar, etc. to booniin ajing should be altogether stopped. Furthermore, many a thing could be shunned that is not absolutely mandatory during Myoko. To sum up, a public debate need to be conducted to form a consensus to amend in some of our recent habit if not amended, it is sure to do more harm than good in near future. Moreover, it is not that the Myoko never have borne the brunt of reformation. In olden times, the Myoko used to be celebrated in a joint way. Later it was converted into triennial event. Again, in the early eighties, the Apatani Youth Association (AYA) decided to fix the date of inaugural day of Myoko on 20th of March month. As to people’s occasional discu
ssion about holding the festival once in a five year by dividing Talyang-Hao, Niichi-Niitii and Tinii-Diibo into five groups. That, in my opinion, seems fairly reasonable if it could be implemented.

Suppose the expenditure in Myoko keeps escalating and the people remains obstinate about relaxation in certain formal procedure, another horde of people would not hesitate to turn to Hinduism, Christianity and Meder Nello as the tendency of escapism in people is greater than the will to fight to the finish. Besides, the missionaries of all denominations at all times are ready to pounce and put a shackle on them. Eventually, there will be neither Lapang nor Babo; only the flag of Meder Nello, Hindu and Christian will stay.

Photo Feature: Untamed Boondocks (Wild Flowers of Arunachal Pradesh)

Arif mailed me these wonderful collection of wild flowers found in Arunachal Pradesh, some of which has been identified and some not yet. I am sharing the snaps below. Try to identify these wild flowers and post their names . Hmmm..quite a challenge, huh!

[Flower 1]

[Flower 2]

[Flower 3]

[Flower 4]

[Flower 5]

[Flower 6]

[Flower 7]

[Flower 8]

[Flower 9]

Have you been able to identify them? No!…Well, here is a clue. Arif says many of the above flowers are quite common in other parts of India…Did it ring any bell? Still, no!…. Now, don’t ask me if I know their names for I am as clueless as you are.;-)

Relevance of Myoko in Modern Days

-By G. Tallo

Myoko, regarded as the festival of friendship by many, embodies the cultural life of the Apatanis. Babo, Lapang, Nago, Biiniin-ajin, Miji-migun, Biisi-ayu etc, which are inseparable part of Myoko are the cultural heritage of the Apatanis. In many ways, Myoko is more than just the festival of friendship. It is the occasion when the Apatanis strengthen the bond of Biiniin-ajin, the heritable friends, by exclusively inviting them for feast (ajin-gyoniin ceremony) and offering them gifts in form of meat and millet beer; rejuvenate matrimonial and kinship relations by sharing meat of the pig, sacrificed during the festival; maintain their relationship with the forests and the cultivated lands by making some offerings to them, which are known as more-eha and aji-eha, respectively; and invite their ancestors and deities, from the world of spirits, and make offerings to them through various rituals. In fact, all facets of the cultural life of the Apatanis are reflected in Myoko.

I reckon we maintain and preserve our cultural identity so long as we celebrate Myoko.

However, all is not well with the way we celebrate Myoko. “It is too time consuming, cumbersome and expensive.” This is the talk of the day. In this modern day, when people are racing against time, should we devote more than a month time to celebrate a festival, is a big question. Apart from the wastage of time and the amount of labour put in the celebration, we spend minimum of Rs. 20,000 per household during the festival. This is making the celebration of Myoko unaffordable to more and more households.

Besides, the festival is male oriented and female members of family do not enjoy the festivity much. Their friends from other villages do not visit them as male counterparts do. There is hardly any event in the festival where unmarried girls take part. They just perform a dull chore of helping their mother in preparation of foods and drinks and serving them to guests – days and nights together. Thus, female members of family, particularly the school and the college-going girls, are not looking forward to Myoko.

C.V.F Haimendorf observed that the Myoko was the cohesive force, which bound the people of the different villages of the Ziro Valley, in olden days. It was true to some extent. Thanks to the institution of biiniin-ajin and the elaborate system of kinship relation, maintained through the celebration of Myoko. Those days the mode of celebration of Myoko suited the lifestyle of the people of the valley. We used to celebrate it with the kind fervour and enthusiasm, which we seldom see nowadays. May be it is because of this: until 1980s, even as some communities of the state were swept away by the charm of Christianity, we stood firmly rooted to our traditional culture and took pride in it. Now, it is not to be. Things have changed. Lot of transformations has taken place in the valley since, but we are too reluctant to change the mode of celebration of Myoko with the changing times. The younger generations of today no longer take interest in Myoko. They find it unattractive and outdated: so do they find our culture. Even some old folks find the celebration of Myoko as burdensome. Consequently, alien cultures and faiths are finally making inroad into our society.

Nevertheless, Myoko has all the ingredients to regain its old glory and bring back the lost brethren to its fold: only it needs to wear a modern look. What should be the modern Myoko like? It should be affordable to all. It should be the festival of young and old, men and women, and boys and girls alike. It should be the one whose celebration does not last more than a week. And it should be the one every single Apatanis look forward to.

The day when Myoko is eagerly awaited each year by every single Apatanis, our culture and identity would be in safe custody. It is to be seen here if we are ready for the change or we prefer to embrace alien culture and faith.

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Ever since I stopped allowing anonymous comments on my blog following allegation on me, I’ve been asked by my friends and readers of AD alike to review my decision on blocking anonymous comments. Now, I’m in a fix.

Should I allow anonymous comments in my posts and risk personal attack on me again? Would I be able to ignore the comments that is not to my taste?

Well, I need your help here. Should I or shouldn’t I re-allow anonymous commenting in my blog?

Pour in your views through comments (for those having Google/Blogger or Open ID) and through your votes (who want to share their views anonymously) in AD Poll at sidebar. Poll closes 19th of May.

Update:

For those without Google or Blogger or Open ID and those who want to comment anonymously can make use of ‘other’ option in the Arunachal Diary Poll to put in their comments/views on whether I should or shouldn’t enable anonymous commenting ;-)

Myoko Celebration of Apatani’s-A Photo Feature

Ah! This post was long due. I remember promising one of my reader (I guess it was Richo, if I remember well) to do a photo feature on Myoko as soon as it comes to an end on 19th of April, summarizing the event in a chronological order; but for the backlogs at my work, which I had to clear before I could sit on the net to resume my regular blogging. Nevertheless, I guess, it is better late than never..eh! A nice excuse;-). Well, before writing anything farther, let me warn you that this post is rather long. So, if you don’t feel like going through the post, you are always welcome to skip the post and scroll down to the photos of the event that I have posted below..down under..

My Experience of Myoko

Before this Myoko, I was of the opinion, like any other neo-Apatani, that the Myoko celebration is a sheer waste of money and time where ’O’-the local rice beer flowed like water and meat consumed without a limit. However, after having observed the celebration and rituals very closely and being part of the celebration this Myoko, my perception and outlook towards Myoko has totally been transformed. Although, still I feel that there is this huge involvement of money (I had to shell out around 30k for the celebration) and time; I do know now that Myoko is a celebration where you renew your relationships, share camaraderie and pay homage to the ancestors and nature who has given you life and means of sustenance. In fact, to put in other words, Myoko is a celebration which encompasses every fabric of the Apatani society. Well, here I must add that the above outlook on Myoko is mine alone and in no way am I trying to counter those who feels that Myoko is a ‘foolishness’-may be from their point of view they are right.

The other thing that attracted my attention this Myoko was the equal numbers of flags with symbol of ‘Sun’ fluttering along with the ‘Babo’s’. It made me wonder, if it is the reflection of people turning towards ‘Donyi-Poloism’ or Hinduism?

[Babo v/s Flag]

How Myoko Celebration came into being? – A bit of Mythology

As one of the mythology suggests-Abotani, the father of the mankind, by virtue of blessings from the ’supreme power’ had become so powerful that he became menace to everyone right from his brothers Kirii and Kilo to his father-in-law Siiki to other living beings and this growth in power even threatened the existence of ’supreme power’. Lest Abotani eliminated him, the supreme power conspired to eliminate Abotani. So, the supreme power tricked him into climbing a log and suspended him in the air over the log to die.

Dolyang Chanyang’-the first female Nyibu (priest) of Apatani and sister of Abotani couldn’t see her brother suspended to die, requested the supreme power to spare him. After lots of persuasion, the supreme power finally agreed to spare Abotani’s life on the condition that some power given to him, by virtue of which Abotani had become so powerful, be taken back. The mythology suggests that Abotani had three eyes and spikes at his ankle. By virtue of the third eye Abotani could foresee the future and the spikes at his ankle made him very powerful. As the condition for sparing Abotani’s life, the supreme power took back the third eye and the spikes rendering Abotani less powerful. It is said that since then, on the advice of Dolyang Chanyang, Abotani started observing Myoko in order to appease the supreme power.


The other mythology suggests that Abotani, as intelligent and cunning as he was, always out witted his father-in-law Siiki and tried to reign supremacy over his father-in-law, his brothers Kiiri and Kilo, other creatures etc. Tired of Abotani’s supremacy, they conspired to eliminate Abotani of which Dolyang Chanyang came to know about. She suggested Abotani to observe Myoko as a reconciliatory measure and to invite Siiki for the celebration, which being father-in-law, Siiki would not be able to turn down. Since then, it is said that Myoko is being observed by the Apatani’s.

Myoko-A Photo Feature

Prior to the advent of calendars’, people knew it’s time for Myoko celebration when the takung (peach) starts flowering.

[Takung Apu]

Myoko begins 20th of March every year with group of villages taking their turn to observe it and it is declared open with a ritual called Sama Piniing where wooden logs equaling the number of households in a clan are piled up at the residence of yugyang ato i.e., the owner of yugyang-a sacred place.

[Sama]

These logs are used at the ceremonial end of Myoko to roast rice [with or without husk] in a closing ritual called Empii Koniin.

After Sama Piniin ritual, for 3 days guests from non-performing villages are invited for a bout of rice beer and food. At the end of 3rd day, Siiki is invoked in a ritual called Siiro Cheniin or Tapiir Liniin, where tapiir[cane] leaves are put at Nago.

[Priest invoking Siiki]

[Nago]

[Nago with Tapeiir leaves]
[Old man watching Siiro Cheniin]

Siiro Cheniin is followed by a ritual called pigyang huniin, where pigs are sacrificed. Prior to sacrifice, the pigs are brought to yugyang for purification by nyibu (priest) after which it is brought to respective homes for sacrificing. This particular ritual enticed me for this is the ritual where you get chance to get a glimpse of the new brides Nyahii (daughter-in-laws) in a clan, for the brides Nyahii’s attired in beautiful traditional dress and ornaments come to yugyang to offer their offerings.

[Bride's Nyahii with their offerings]

Just after this ritual, the next two days are reserved for Buniing Ajing (A friendship relationship passed down from generation to generation), where you invite them and exchange gifts. Thereafter, Danyi tunii ritual-erection of Danyi (Sun) altar at yugyang and lapang (community platform) is performed followed by ude tiniing –purification of house by offering to the deities of the house. When all the houses has been purified, Khelo (nii) ritual is performed which basically signifies bidding adieu to the spirits-the Siiki, Kirii, Kilo, the ancestors etc., This ritual is marked by putting takho around the dwelling place, lapang, babo, yugyang, etc.

[Sho-the lower jaw of pig being lined at Yugyang Ato's house during Khelo (nii) ritual]

[Takho around Nago and Pamung Agyang]

Early the next morning, people go for offering to bamboo groves, clan owned forest, paddy fields etc., and for catching ngilyang ngiyi, after taking of which you can break the restriction on eating of fish during the celebration.

[Ngilyang Ngiiyi]

[The Bamboo Grove]

[The offering]

And finally, the month long celebration came to an end with Empii Koniin, where roasted rice is taken to break all the restrictions on food habits that had been imposed during the Myoko.