Apatani Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh


The Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh are one of the unique and interesting tribes of India. They are concentrated in the Ziro Valley of the Lower Subansiri district, which is about 105 km from the state capital Itanagar. The tribe is known for their distinctive customs, traditions, and way of life, which make them stand out from other tribes in the region.

Origin and History of the Apatani Tribe

The origin of the Apatanis is shrouded in mystery. According to folklore, the tribe originated from a supernatural being called Abotani. However, there is no archaeological or scientific evidence to support this claim. The Apatani tribe is believed to have migrated to the Ziro Valley from Tibet over 5000 years ago. The tribe settled in the valley and began cultivating rice, which is their staple food.

Culture and Traditions


The Apatanis are known for their unique culture and traditions, which have remained unchanged for centuries. One of the most distinctive features of their culture is their facial tattoos. Apatani women traditionally used to get tattoos on their faces in a bid to make themselves less attractive to other tribes. However, this practice has now been discontinued, and very few Apatani women now have facial tattoos.

Another unique aspect of Apatani culture is their method of agriculture. The Apatani tribe practices a unique form of rice cultivation called paddy cum fish culture. This involves growing rice in the same field as fish, which provides natural fertilizer for the rice plants. The fish also help control pests and weeds in the rice fields, making it an eco-friendly and sustainable form of agriculture.

An Apatani Old lady in Ziro valley of Arunachal Pradesh

The Apatanis are also known for their traditional dress, which is colorful and eye-catching. The men wear a long-sleeved shirt called a gyadi and a loincloth called a nyibu. The women wear a skirt called a hapa and a blouse called a yoksa. They also adorn themselves with jewelry made of beads and shells.

Religion and Beliefs

The Apatanis practice a unique form of animism, which involves worshipping natural objects like mountains, rivers, and trees. They believe that every object in nature has a spirit and that these spirits can be appeased through offerings and rituals. The tribe also believes in the existence of supernatural beings like witches and demons, who can cause harm to humans if not appeased.

The Apatanis also practice ancestor worship. They believe that their ancestors continue to exist in the spirit world and can influence the lives of the living. The tribe performs elaborate rituals and offerings to appease their ancestors and seek their blessings.

Tourism and Conservation

Ziro Music Festival
Courtesy: Flickr | Creator: @atokina

The Apatanis have become a popular tourist destination in recent years due to their unique culture and traditions. Tourists can visit the Ziro Valley and witness the Apatani way of life firsthand. They have also been successful in conserving their environment and preserving their traditional way of life. The tribe has banned hunting and fishing in the valley and has also implemented strict regulations on the use of pesticides and fertilizers in their agriculture.

Ziro Festival of Music is an annual music festival held in the Ziro Valley of Arunachal Pradesh, India. It was first held in 2012 and has since become a popular event that attracts music lovers from all over the country. The festival has gained a reputation for its focus on sustainability and eco-friendliness. The Ziro Festival of Music has helped to put the Ziro Valley on the map as a cultural and tourism destination.

Apatani Cultural Landscape

The Apatani Cultural Landscape was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2014, in recognition of its unique cultural and ecological significance. The inscription has helped to raise awareness of the need to protect and preserve this important cultural landscape for future generations.

The Apatanis have created a system of agricultural practices that is adapted to the hilly terrain of the valley. The landscape is characterized by a series of terraced fields that are irrigated by a complex system of bamboo pipes and channels. The fields are used to grow rice, millet, maize, and other crops.

Apatani Cultural Landscape Overview e1674992100447
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons | Creator: Vishnu P

The Apatani Cultural Landscape also includes a number of villages that are built in a traditional style. The houses are constructed from bamboo and thatch and are raised off the ground on stilts. The villages are arranged in a circular pattern, with a central plaza where community events take place.

The Apatani people have a rich cultural heritage, with a unique language, music, and dance traditions. They have also developed a system of land ownership that is based on communal ownership, with each family having a share in the land.

The Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh are a unique and fascinating tribe with a rich cultural heritage. Their facial tattoos, paddy cum fish agriculture, and animistic beliefs make them stand out from other tribes in the region. The tribe has successfully managed to conserve their environment and preserve their traditional way of life, making them a model for sustainable development. The Apatanis are a testament to the rich cultural diversity of India and serve as an inspiration for others to preserve their cultural heritage.

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