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People and Culture

Three Cultural Groups


Broadly the people may be divided into three cultural groups on the basis of their socio-religious affinities. The Monpas and Sherdukpens of Tawang and West Kameng districts follow the lamaistic tradition of Mahayana Buddhism. Noted for their religious fervour, the villages of these communities have richly decorated Buddhist temples, locally called 'Gompas'. Though largely agriculturists practising terrace cultivation, many of these people are also pastoral and breed herds of yak and mountains sheep. Culturally similar to them are Membas and Khambas who live in the high mountains along the northern borders. Khamptis and Singphos inhabiting the eastern part of the State are Buddhists of Hinayana sect. They are said to have migrated from Thailand and Burma long ago and still using ancient scripts derived from their original homeland.

The second group of the people are Adis, Akas, Apatanis, Bangnis, Nishis, Mishmis, Mijis, Thongsas etc., who worship Sun and Moon God namely, Donyi-Polo and Abo-Tani, the original ancestors for most of these tribes. Their religious rituals, largely coincide with phases of agricultural cycles. They invoke nature deities and make animal scarifices. They traditionally practice jhumming or shifting cultivation. Adis and Apatanis extensively practice wet rice cultivation and have a considerable agricultural economy. Apatanis are also famous for their paddy-cum-pisciculture. They are specialised over centuries in harvesting two crops of fish along with each crop of the paddy.

The third group comprises Noctes and Wanchos,adjoining Nagaland in the Tirap District. These are hardy people known for their strictly structured village society in which hereditary village chief still plays a vital role. The Noctes also practise elementary form of Vaishnavism.

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