Saturday, June 4, 2016

Why did Apatanis practiced TATTOOING and NOSE-PLUGS (TIIPEY-YAPING)?

Why did Apatanis practiced TATTOOING and NOSE-PLUGS (TIIPEY-YAPING)?
Whenever such question is asked to anyone of us being an Apatani, it could be difficult to answer it instantly. The absence of any written record makes it more difficult for us to give the actual reason for the practice of tattoing and nose-plugs and moreover the exact reason is unknown to us. There are many myths related to this practice as followed:
MYTH 1- To mislead the GHOSTs of enemies those killed in inter villages or inter tribe wars.
Some elders narrated that in olden days, there used to be CHAMBYO (war) within villages of our community or sometime with other communities and many people were killed. It was believed that the GHOSTs of those who were killed used to haunt and disturb the villagers-particularly girls and women. It is also believed that our NYIBU (Priests) have a supernatural power to identify such ghosts and they encouraged family members of affected people to mark their faces with chinyu/charcoals to create confusion in identifications. This way the practice of permanent marking of faces with TATTOOS might have started.
Note: Being educated and exposed to modernized world, many of us may not believe this myth and rather call it a superstitious belief.
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MYTH 2- To avoid being kidnapped by the neighboring tribes
a) Some older folks says that they heard about existence of some sub group of Tanii in the vicinity of Ziro by name TANII TARI-e or simply ZIRO TANII. They were recorded as notorious raiders- who used to kidnap beautiful Tanii woman. Thus, to avoid being kidnapped, our Tanii girls/women started practicing tattooing to make themselves look uniform and unattractive.
b) Some other middle aged TANIIs (who are educated) believe that this tale must have been started by the early batches of our TANII educated group. During their early school days, when they were asked by teachers or students from other communities regarding the reason for tattooing one’s face-they replied the same answer and it was believed and the tale continued. This could have happened due to language barrier at that time.
Note: i) who was that sub-group? Till date there is no clear evidence about their existence.
ii) One may note that both TANII men and women had tattooed faces and ear plugs those days.
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MYTH 3-Mythological beliefs
This is a verse of Ami Niido from YORDA AYU –which is specially held during MURUNG festival. YORDA AYU is a form of MIJI-MIGUN dated from IIPYO-LEMBA and MUDO-LEMBA.
Kui kuli mi bije senyo la,
Kui kupe mi tiipe lenyo la,
Kui kuting mi ruting hugila,
Kuji pu mi byigo kuji pa,
Kusang pu mi pingang kussang pa,
Popi popa mi dimang dimpa pa,
Byundo Tabyung mi nyinding pa,
Radotiira mi map pa hempo la,
Talu myopu mi pyunyo la,
Talo myokha mi khenyo la.
Mudo Amyo poro ho,
Jindo Tajing mi pamung murii do,hetea terii do.
(shared by Mr. DANI TASSER in whatsapp group).
Here “Kui kupe mi tiipe lenyo la” reveals that TIIPE (Tattoo) was practiced by TANIIs from time immemorial.
This excerpt taken from “Silver Jubilee Dree Souvenir, 2000” give details about Mythological beliefs on practice of tattooing amongst Apatani. The softcopy version was provided by Respected Mr. GYATI RANA.
By Prof. PURA TADO, Dept. of Political Science Arunachal University, Now Rajiv Gandhi University.
Once upon a time there was a very beautiful lady called Ami Niidon Biinyi. She was very beautiful and was expert in all trades which a lady was expected to know. She was waiting for someone to propose her for marriage. Unfortunately for her, time passed by and no one came forward to propose her. She was growing older day by day yet no one was ready to marry her. Along with her growing age she would lose her capacity to be a mother. This thought made her sleepless and made her older. She could not bear her predicament anymore and one day decided to ask God to solve her problem. Accordingly she asked God to tell her ways by which she could regain her lost youth and beautiful once again so she could attract somebody to marry her. “In order to regain your youth and beauty and capacity to be mother, you must tattoo your face and to have lot of poultry and cattle to support you, you must wear Nose plug (Yaping hulo), Ear plug (Yaru Hukho) and rutting yarang (Large flat brass ring)” God told and advice her.
As per direction of the God, Ami Niido Biinyi tattooed her face, put on nose plugs, wore Ruting Yarang, Lo!! And behold she became very young again and very beautiful to look at. Her beauty attracted Miido Jindo Tajing towards her and he proposed to marry Ami niido Biinyi. She accepted the marriage proposal of Jindo Tazing and they married and lived happily ever. Their marriage results in birth of Khalos. They also had lot of poultry and cattle. The Birds and animals in the jungle were their poultry and cattle.When Pinsang Gyut, one among the Khalos, was born he saw some design on the pine Tree. He wanted these design to be with him and copied it from Pine Tree. Thus Apatani/ Tanii copied Tattoing from Pinsang Gyut and the tattooing became part of Tanii culture. However, the culture of tattooing themselves among Apa Taniis have been given up completely since last twenty five years years back. Along with it culture of wearing ear, nose plug and Ruting Yarang has also disappeared.
From the above mythological story we find that tattooing was adopted by Ami Niido Biinyi in order to restore her youth, beauty and fertility. As a result of tattooing herself she regained her beauty, youth and become mother of all the khalos. Khalos are clans inhabiting various areas in the Earth. The Apatani being small in number compared to other communities surrounding them even to-day must have been very less in number in ancient time. Their strong urge to increase their population for self preservation must have made them copy the tattooing of Ami Niido Biinyi to be fertile fecund as her .In Order to support the increased population and their needs, one needs more livestock’s indeed. To achieves this goal wearing of big nose plugs and Ruting Yarang was encouraged amongst the ladies of Apatani. And it is logical, household economy in Apatani communication is managed by the ladies.
The designs of the tattoos have been copied by the Pinsang Gyute from Pine tree. Pine Tree are plenty in the Tanii Land – Ziro. Indeed, there are designs to be found in a pine Tree both externally as well as internally. Moreover, in Festivals related to fertility and prosperity like Murung, Subu and Myoko, Pine wood alone is used in ritual even to-day.
Thus, this mythological story throws light on some aspects of the Apatani culture and life. It also leads us to some aspect of Apatani/Tanii history and ambience surrounding it in ancient time. In short, the Apatani used tattoos, ear and nose plugs and Ruting Yarang to buttress their psychological needs to face the inhospitable environments surrounding them in early days. And indeed, it has done well in overcoming adverse environment and survives till date.
Note: This article is based on an interview the author had with Sri Takhe Piilo, a priest from Hangu (or Hong) on 11th May 1998. The inferences are that of author.
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These are the three myths that I came across on Apatani tiipe-yaping (tattooing and nose-plugs) and I m sure more myths must be existing on this regard. According to my personal understanding on the history of tattooing and nose-plugs practice amongst Apatani community of the past years, I found MYTH No. 3 as a most appropriate one. In previous posts on Tiipe-Yaping, I found many curious youngsters who wanted to know the actual reason behind it. Many of them commented that they heard only about the MYTH no. 2.(a). Thus, I feel it’s very important for us to share our knowledge on Tattooing to younger generations. The other remaining myths can’t be as much true as one told by our POPI-SARMIN i.e. MIJI-MIGUN teller like NYIBU, because MIJI-MIGUNG is the only transcendent knowledge that we have from our forefathers in a form of ORAL folktales/folklores (i.e. Biisi, Ayu, Bari etc.).
To conclude this post, I personally feel that tattooing and nose plugs were practiced for the purpose of BEAUTIFICATION, FERTILITY and mark of arrival of PUBERTY.
Lastly, let me also share one real life experience shared by one of the popular Apatani Police personnel .He shared that during his job interview, he was asked for the reason behind tattooing amongst Apatani women. He says, he answered the MYTH No. 2(a) as the reason. Very lately he realises about existing of mythological beliefs on the same and he wasn't aware of it by then. Such questions will be asked to anyone of us (Tanii) time and again.

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