Saturday, May 31, 2008

Let us save Tanii

This is another attempt of video making for our blog. Never mind, my voice/content of this video may not be very clear or relevant to this blog.....even though...LEt Us sAvE TaNIi.

***Note for non-tanii visitors of this blog: I will try to make better videos in future with english subtitle, at the moment I am running out of time being busy with my present occupation.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Apatani Proverb of the day-3


Meaning: Diiri biila diiche giidu. Diigii kobii later lyilo biidu.

Connotation: Miyu hela yahii, diiri biila tare haya-mokha yashi bomi diiche giidu. Diigi-diisi kobii later lilo biisu du. Henii hengya siidu, binii bigya siidu.

English Version: Wise men, though poor, thus exemplarily exhibit their wisdom: one buys corn and seldom eats alone, but shares with the other who's poorer; while the other does not devour but saves, and sows in the field to prosper.

Meaning of Apatani words:
Diiri=saving for future (Specially food grains)
Diigii/Diiche=sharing food with others

Source:Nitin-Hormin by Kalung challa

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Gender marking in Tanii

In Tanii a in most Tibeto-Burman languages there is no gender inflection for nouns as there is, for example, in hindi. There are, however, a series of compounds denoting gender for animal species, all formed the same way : a gender marking suffix is added to the reduplicated root of the generic name

reduplicated root
gender suffix

aki-kibo = male dog

The Tanii gender suffixes are -bo,or -po, for males, -nii for females, and -chu for infants (juveniles, babies). Nii may derive from anii, 'mother'.

aki-kibo = male dog, or simply => kibo
aki-kinii = female dog (bitch), or simply => kinii
aki-kichu = puppy, or simply => kichu

In kibo, kinii, kichu, ki identifies the type of animal (dog), whereas -bo, -nii and -chu specify the gender (male, female, infant). This construction is very much similar to the one used for counting objects (see previous post). Gender differentiation is not marked for all animals, but it is the case for the most prominent species :


male dog
ami atu
alyi atu
mithun bull
mithun cow
subu atu
mithun calf
sii atu
male monkey
female monkey
siibi atu
baby/ juvenile monkey
male deer, hart, stag
female, deer, doe
siidin atu
deer calf

Note the irregularity of menii for sow (female pig). Suffixation with -chu is not possible for every generic name; more often, juveniles or babies are identified by adjunction of the adjective atu, meaning 'small'.

Gender distinction for humans, especially among kin categories, is normally unmarked. Children only are differentiated between sons and daughters by the addition of milobo (male) and nyimii (female) respectively to the generic word (iinga) :

=> iinga milobo (boy)
iinga (child)
=> iinga nyimii (girl)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Myoko : the division of pig's meat

For those who take an active part in Myoko and who can afford it, the sacrifice of a pig is a major event of the festivities. Not only because of the economical value of the animal, but also because the distribution of the meat - which is mostly given away and not comsumed by the performer, reinforces essential bonds of mutual assistance created by consanguinity, marriage or the establishment of ceremonial friendship. This intricate system of reciprocity manifested by the rules regulating the sharing of meat from slaughtered big animals (pigs, mithuns and cows) appears to be unique to the Apatanis.

In this post, I will describe first how the meat from the pig sacrificed for Myoko is divided. The way every portion is subsequently distributed among relatives and ceremonial friends will be explained later. I'm thankful to Arunachal Diary team for having provided some of the pictures displayed below, and also for having helped me to draw the sketch of the pig.

Meat cutting process mainly consists of extracting specific portions known as so, lyila, arna, aso, arbi, gimbyo, lyiho which, along with the main internal organs, will constitute the basic elements of the distribution.

Here are the main steps, in chronological order :

2. A central strip is cut off from the belly skin. This part is called arna.

After internal organs have been removed,
the pig is roasted and cleared from its body hair
by scratching of the skin with a blade, then washed.
Legs (lyila) are cut off first, then the head from
which the portion (so) including the lower jaw
and tongue is extracted.

4. The rectangular piece of bacon which
is obtained is divided lengthwise into
2 equal parts.

The remaining skin and fat is separated
from the thoracic cage and backbone

6. The backone is then cut into 2 parts. The splitting point is located just between the 2 lowest ribs.

Each part is further dived into 2 parts
lengthwise. Four pieces of bacon are
thus obtained, called aso.

The back part including the lowest rib is called arbi.

7. A transversal oblique cut is made in the other portion,
in order to extract the front part of the thoracic cage,
plus a strip of skin and fat that remains attached to it.
This particular portion is called gimbyo.

Kidneys and surrounding fat
makes up a portion known as lyiho

after removal

The upper part of the hind-leg will be the only portion eventually retained by the performer...

Once the meat has been cut, the various parts can be first left to dry in the sun on the verandah, suspended on the outer walls of the house. Later they are stored in the cellar (reke), where they start being smoked, waiting to be taken away by relatives who will come to the performer's home and claim their due share.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Apatani textile techniques 3 - Clothes

After having seen the techniques of production of yarns and tissues, it's time to introduce the products themselves, i.e. Tanii typical textiles. In olden days the Taniis had gained a local reputation for producing clothes of particularly good quality and elaborate patterns. According to anthropologist F├╝rer-Haimendorf Tanii shawls such as jig-jiro and jilan fetched good prices among their neighbours and were bartered, directly or undirectly, as far as the Upper Panior, the Khru Valley or the Upper Kamla areas (1980 : 61).
Two or three generations back, all garments used to be woven on the looms at home. But nowadays most -if not all- of the handloom products consists of ceremonial dresses only. And except for priestly attire, even these ceremonial items can now be bought from private shops or government emporiums. That is to say that the craft of weaving is being gradually forgotten, although many ladies are still preserving it to date.

Colors dominating the weaves are dark-blue, orange-yellow, blue and red. In particular, red (either flame-red or dark-red) is the dominant color of several female ceremonial garments. In the past colours were obtained using various plant dyes from species such as tamin (Rubia cordifolia; red-orange color) and sankhii (Eurya acuminata var. euprista; brownish-yellow color). Indigo blue, which constitutes the dominant colour of male ceremonial garments, was obtained from a plant called yango, but I was unable to identify the botanical name of this species. Because the process of colouring was long and tedious, today all organic dyes have given way to synthetic ones. However the change from hand-spun and hand-dyed thread used in weavings to factory produced thread and synthetic dyes has modified the look -and perhaps also the quality- of the fabric. Not only are the colors obviously synthetic, being overly bright, but the thread is thinner and breaks more easily.

In olden days the range of handloom production for a daily use was limited for both men and women. Most of the garments were produced in various shades of the same basic beige or whitish color. Men invariably wore a thick short sleeves cotton jacket (jikhe tarii) and a loincloth (sarbe). Women wore a similar jacket (kente tarii), and a wrap-around black and white skirt (kente abi). In addition, both males and females used to wrap themselves into coarse cotton shawls (kente pulye, kente taser) designed with formal arrangement of yellow and blue lines and bands. During the coldest months of the year they also covered their body with thick home-made woolen coats (tongo). Wool has never been produced by Taniis but was bartered or bought from outside. Another popular coat (jilya pulye) of different shades was made out of coarse silk also obtained from outside.

kente pulye

Kente tarii
and kente abi
(Photo sources : Verrier Elwin, Smithsonian Institute)

Jilya pulye can be folded into two and wrapped around the body (left), or two ends diagonally tied across one shoulder (right). The middle portion of the cloth can be held tight to the body by means of a belt.

jilya pulye

As one can expect, shirts and skirts for festive or ritual occasions bear more intricate patterns and are more colourful.

Ladies garments

shirts/jackets :
  • supun tarii : a sleeveless fringe white shirt richly decorated
  • tipya tarii
  • niiji abi : a red and white cotton skirt
  • bilan abi : a 3-vertical band (white, red and blue) cotton skirt
  • niihu abi : a 3-vertical band (white, red and blue) cotton skirt with strip design called abi hete.
  • chinyu abi : a 2- vertical band (black and white) cotton skirt used by older people, especially during Dree celebrations.
  • bisiir abi : a black and white cotton skirt
  • bisi-bilyi : a red skirt reserved for ceremonial occasions
  • piisa lenda (literally 'pine-road') : a below the knee length red and blue skirt, highly decorated, traditionally associated with young and unmarried girls.
supun tarii

bilan abi

piisa lenda. Zigzag motifs
represent 'pine roads'.
(Photo source : Ahinsajain's
gallery on Flickr)

chinyu abi (Photo source : Ahinsajain's gallery on Flickr)

Ceremonial dress worn by both males and females

- pyamin pulye : a fringe cotton shawl
worn on ritual or important occasions. This cloth is traditionally given to the new groom during the engagement ceremony (mabo-inchi)

pyamin pulye
(Photo source : Ahinsajain's
gallery on Flickr)

Ceremonial costume of nyibus
  • abyo : piece of woven cloth covering the head of the priest.
  • jikhe tarii : cotton jacket richly decorated with indigo motifs, mostly of losenge shape, with fringes at the bottom.
  • jig-jiro : a simple dark-blue fringe shawl with yellow stripes, especially worn during Myoko and Murung.
  • jilan pulye : a fringed shawl with intricated motifs, the most expensive piece of the ceremonial priestly attire. Jilan is required in most important rituals performed at the time of Myoko, Murung and Subu tanii.

jikhe tarii

(Photo source : ignca)

Jig-jiro (left) and jilyan pulye (right) (Photo source : Ahinsajain's gallery on Flickr)

Jig-jiro, jilan, etc. are also used by the general public during collective ceremonies such as penii, mida, subu tanii, murung, supung, etc. Modern versions of jilan, mostly without motifs, are now manufactured and sold for that purpose. But decorated jilan are not used in daily life, they are spared only for important occasions. Decorated jilan bear specific and codified patterns, especially losenges, but also double spirals which are typical of this cloth:

A closer view of jilan pulye motifs (Photo source : Ahinsajain's gallery on Flickr)

Commercial versions, which are woven on a different type of loom (see previous post), often replicate these motifs in a simpler form. Compare for example the double spiral motifs above and below :


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Apatani traditional textile techniques 2 - Weaving technique

In a previous post, the traditional process of cotton spinning has been presented, by which raw cotton is spun into threads. Once the yarn is made and dyed, it is ready for being woven on the loom. Weaving is done only by women, on a back-strap tension loom.
A Tanii weaver in 1954
(Photo source : Verrier Elwin's digitalized collection, Smithonian Institute)

The equipment (lobu-lome) is a simple collection of bamboo and wood sticks. Once a warp is set up and the various pieces placed on it, this framework (chiichin) occupies little space and can be tied to any fixed structure inside or outside the house. Each element bears a name :

1/ ako potin =>
2/ unidentified =>

3/ lome =>

4/ lobu =>
5/niiyi =>

6/ pintu nanii =>
7/ lokho =>

8/ tapii =>

9/ akan potin =>

  • The warp is formed by stretching cotton yarns tautly between 2 parallel bamboos or sticks (potin). The warp is passed over the upper bamboo (ayo potin) of the loom, then down underneath it again, and under and over the lower end, and then up over and under the lower bamboo (akan potin). This process of winding the warp on to the loom is continued until a sufficient number of threads is secured. For outlining the size of the framework, which depends on the cloth to be woven, a special rope (chiichin niipa) is used and later removed.
  • The upper end is fastened to any suitable horizontal structure (usually some element of the verandah railings or some bamboo attached to the outer wall of the house). The lower end (akan potin) is held firm by a hide strap (chiichin se) that goes around the weaver’s waist.
  • A light and smooth bamboo (lobu) separates the upper and lower warp. Above and below this element various sticks (lome, pintu nanii, niiyi) are inserted between the warp threads to prevent their slackening. They may also serve other specific purposes which I could not clearly identify. In particular, extra threads can be attached to niiyi.
Click to enlarge

  • The weft, i.e. the yarn running perpendicular to the warp, is threaded through the warp using a bamboo tube shuttle (lokho) on which the weft thread is wound. A round stick (gochi nanii) attached to the lower end of the warp serves as a support to roll the woven part of the cloth which otherwise would become loose.

A Tanii weaver in the 90's, weaving a jilan shawl (jilan pulye)
(Photo source : Ailenla project virtual museum,

During the weaving process the weaver sits on the ground with her legs staight with and her feet pressing on a firm support. She leans against the belt to keep the necessary strain, while the lower end (or breast-rod) rests on her thighs. The shuttle is passed over and under the warp threads by pushing and pulling, and the yarn is pressed against the previously woven portion with a smooth piece of wood called tapii.

Nowadays, shawls that are sold in private shops or government emporiums are made on other types of looms such as the one below :

Courtesy : Ph. Ramirez, CNRS

(Thanks to Tallo Gyati and NPR for their information on this topic)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Apatani clans and their distribution

How many clans are to be found among the Apatanis, and where are their members ?

Below is the distribution of clans on Ziro plateau as given by the latest Census data (Hapoli town is not taken into account here). The largest clans of one given village (in terms of population size) appear in bold. For the sake of convenience, those represented locally by less than 10 members are not mentioned. However I hope everyone will be able to find his/her own clan in corresponding locality... Please correct my mistakes, if any.


  • Bamin : Bamin, Hano, Racho, Tilling, Tamo
  • Michi : Dilang, Dule, Michi, Taniyang
  • Bree : Bamin, Buru, Ligang, Mudang, Tage, Tamo
  • Reru : Duyu, Habung, Khoda, Kuru, Nani, Nenkar, Padi
  • Kalung : Kalung, Lod, Mom, Nako, Subu, Tailang,
  • Tajang : Mihin, Millo, Misso, Ngilyang, Radhe, Rubu, Tage

DUTTA : Chiging, Koj, Mobia, Yachang

HARI : Doging, Dusu, Gyati, Hage, Landi, Narang, Nending, Tadu, Tasso

HIJA : Dani, Dimper, Haj, Hidu, Kime, Kago, Miri, Nada, Nending, Nenko, Pullo, Pura, Pyagang, Taku, Taro, Taru

HONG : Budhi, Bullo, Bulyu, Hibu, Kago, Kani, Mudang, Nami, Narang, Neha, Padu, Punyo, Tabing, Tallo, Tapi, Tilling, Takhe, Tinyo

LEMPIA : Barme, Mihin, Millo, Misso, Nani, Ngilyang, Radhe, Rubu, Tage

MALIONG : Mihin, Millo, Rubu, Tage

MANI POLYANG : Bullo, Bullyu, Hibu, Hoj, Narang, Punyo, Takhe, Tallo,

MUDANG-TAGE : Buru, Ligang, Liagi, Mudang, Tadu, Tage

OLD ZIRO : Chiging, Dani, Duyu, Habung, Hage, Haj, Kago, Kalung, Khoda, Koj, Kuru, Lod, Mobya, Mihin, Millo, Mobya, Mom, Nako, Nani, Nending, Ngilyang, Padi, Puna, Pura, Rubu, Subu, Tailyang, Tage, Taku, Taro, Taru, Yachang

SIRO : Budhi, Bullo, Hibu, Kago, Kani, Kuru, Mudang, Narang, Punyo, Radhe, Tabing, Takhe, Tallo, Tapi, Tilling