Arunachal Pradesh is a state of distinct culture and is amongst the most gorgeous places in India. There are a plethora of tribes that inhabit the state making it quite colourful with its diverse culture and traditions. One can rightly call Arunachal Pradesh one of the best places for cultural holidays in India. The festival seasons are simply the best time to visit this culturally rich state as one has the opportunity to learn more about the diversity. There are many agricultural, religious and socio-cultural festivals where people dance, sing, pray, pay gratitude and make merry as a community. These festivities indeed add to the reason why one should visit Arunachal Pradesh.
Let us here learn about some of the most popular festivals celebrated in the state:
Siang River Festival
The Siang River Festival is held to celebrate the communal harmony in Arunachal Pradesh. Earlier this festival was celebrated in the form of Brahmaputra Darshan Festival in Tezu and Pasighat but since the year 2005, the festival is celebrated as Siang River Festival in places like Tuting, Yingkiong and Pasighat in the month of December each year. It is one of the most popular festivals in Arunachal Pradesh and is an attempt to promote eco-tourism and offer a lot of adventure and fun activities like elephant race, traditional boat race, Didi – the mock war game of Mishmis, River rafting, Food Festivals, Folk dances, Cultural Shows, Hot air balloon & Para gliding and Exhibition of local model house. Apart from this an exhibition of handloom and handicrafts by the different districts is also held.
Pangsau Pass Winter Festival
Pangsau-Pass-Winter-Festival This is a modern day winter festival which started in the year 2007 and since then has been gaining a lot of popularity in the state. This festival is celebrated in Nampong which is situated in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Pangsua Pass Winter Festival (PPWF) is a three-day fest that takes place in the month of January each year. At this festival, the people of Arunchal Pradesh celebrate their extravagant ethnicity and perform folk dances and sing folk songs. Also, handicraft and handloom articles from different parts of the state are put up for exhibition. Along with displaying the variety of culture and tradition of Arunachal, PPWF offers a platform for the neighbouring country of Myanmar to exhibit its culture as well. The festival conjoins the tribes of both North East and Myanmar and gives them the opportunity to showcase their culture and traditions to each other.
Ziro Festival of Music
This festival is Arunachal’s own version of the Sunburn Festival. Ziro Festival of Music is the biggest outdoor music festival in the state and is the most happening event in Arunachal Pradesh as well. Music lovers from all over the state and the North East region gather at Ziro, where this festival takes place. It is a four-day festival where the music lovers enjoy the performances of international and domestic music artists. Folk acts from all across the North East are also organized; therefore it is a good opportunity to learn about the different cultures here. People make merry and spend four unforgettable days at the Ziro Festival of Music.
Related: Tribal Home Style in Arunachal
An agriculture festival, Solung is celebrated in the month of monsoon (July /August). This 10 days festival is amongst the most famous festivals in North East India, especially celebrated by the Adi community in West Siang district, East Siang district, Lower Dibang Valley district, Upper Dibang Valley district and Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The date for the festival is different each year and is decided by Kebang or the village council keeping the convenience of the villagers in mind and once the date is fixed the preparation of the local beer Apong starts. On the first day, the Indian Bison along with pigs are slaughtered in the early hours of the morning. On the second day, 1/3rd of the meat is distributed among the relatives; also a grand dinner feast is arranged for neighbours, women and children. On the fourth day of the festival which is also called the Oinnyad, one of family member goes to the field and sacrifices a fowl especially for ‘Kine Nane’. On the seventh day or Ekob, men assemble at the village dormitory known as ‘Mosup’ to make bows and arrows, which are then fastened on the doors of every house in the village. On the tenth and final day of the festival, village people uproot the weak plants of paddy that get spoiled by worms and insects and this process is known as Irni. This act is done in the hope that ‘Kine Nane’ (the Goddess) will drive away the worms and insects out of the fields.
Related: Solung Festival of Adi Tribe
Nyokum is the festival of the Nyishi tribe and is celebrated for the harmony and prosperity of the people. Nyokum is celebrated on the 28th of February every year in East Kemang district, Lower Subansiri district, Kurung Kummey district and Papumpar district. The term Nyokum came from two words from the native dialect and can be broken as Nyok meaning Land and Kum meaning People. It is a 2-day festival in which the Nyishi tribe enjoys singing, dancing and gathering up. Men and women hold hands and form a circle to perform a traditional dance. The major rituals are performed by the high priest and prayers are offered to the spirits to bring tranquility and prosperity to each household.
Related: Oriah Festival of Wancho Tribe
It is the festival of the Monpa tribe in Arunachal Pradesh and is celebrated to welcome a new year. Monpa is the dominating tribe of Tawang and West Kemang district; therefore one can consider Lossar as one of the major festivals here. Tawang is amongst the most popular tourist attractions in North East India and visiting it during the festival is indeed the ideal time. The festival falls usually in the month of February or in early March and lasts for about 8 to 15 days during which homes are cleaned, prayers are offered, religious flags are hoisted atop each house, holy scriptures are read and lamps with butter are lit in all the houses. The local deity is also worshipped by the Monpas for the welfare of the society and the people. Losar is also the time to relish the taste of local made drinks and savour the traditional cuisine.
Celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm, Dree Festival is a crucial part of the Apatani tribe of Lower Subansiri district. Ziro is the ideal place to see the celebration of Dree. During the festival people offer sacrifice of fowls, eggs and animals to the Gods and pray to the deities of Tamu, Metii, Danyi and Harniang. Prayers are offered to God Tami so that he protects the plants from harmful pests and insects. Metii is worshipped for controlling of famine and epidemics. Danyi, on the other hand is offered prayer for the protection and prosperity of mankind. God Harniang is worshipped for ensuring the fertility of soil and preventing the paddy plants from getting dried. During the fest a local beer called Apong is prepared by each house. The venue for the worship is decided by the high priest (Nyibu), which is often a placed near the paddy fields.
This festival is the way to offer gratitude for successful harvest of the crops. It is a 3 days festival that is celebrated by the Hill-Miris in the Upper Subansiri and Lower Subansiri district in the month of February (4 – 6 Feb). Boori Boot means to get together irrespective of caste, creed, age and sex to celebrate the arrival of spring. Another aspect of this festival is that people pray to the spirit of Boori Boot so that it blesses them with prosperity and frees them from diseases. People from all over Arunachal Pradesh come to Upper and Lower Subansiri districts to be a part of this festival and and zealously participate in all the activities organized during the fest. The high priest who is known as Nibu’ performs the rituals and conducts the sacrifice on behalf of the people.
Loku is the main festival of the Nocte Tribe of Tirap district and is celebrated to bid farwell to the winter. The term Loku came from two words from the local dialect – Lofe, which means to drive out and Rangku, which means the season. Loku or Chalo Loku is celebrated in the month of February and is considered an agriculture festival. The date of festival is decided by the elders and is according to the days of the waxing moon. It is a 3 days festival which starts with a day called Phamlamja; on this day animals like pigs and buffaloes are slaughtered for meat and the village people engage in preparations for the next day. Also people check their traditional costumes, which would be worn during the celebrations. The second day of the festival is known as Chamkatja and on this day the Noctes enable the male members of the family to become full-fledged members of the Paang (decision-making committee). It is in fact mandatory that each household performs a ritual called Chamkat for each of its male member who has attained adolescence on the day of Chamkatja. The third and final day is called Thanlangja, and on this day villagers, irrespective of sex, age or social status participate in folk dances. The dances are performed at the house of the Chief and in the premises of the Paang. The families who have observed Chamkat invite the dancers to perform at their houses and in return offer food and drinks to the participants. Thanlangja is also a day for the people to visit their relatives and friends.
This is one of the most important religious festivals in Arunachal Pradesh and is celebrated on 14th February each year. It is mainly celebrated by the Khampti tribe of Lohit district; however, it is celebrated in entire Arunachal Pradesh. Sanken or Sangken is a three-day festival in which people bathe the idol of Buddha. The festival also marks the beginning of the New Year. On the first day of the festival prayers are offered for the well-being of all by beating of drums and gongs. During the entire festival, people abstain from killing animals, taking intoxicating drinks and indulgence in illicit sexual activities. People also refrain from all forms of manual work, gambling and even cutting trees. After ritual bathing of the images of Buddha and holy shrines, people sprinkle clean water on each other and exchange greetings.On the final day, the idol of Lord Buddha is installed back in the main temple and a community feast is organized.
Other Festivals in Arunachal Pradesh
Along with these above mentioned festivals, there are many other festivals that the people of Arunachal Pradesh celebrate throughout the year. These festivals also revolve around the successful harvest seasons, religious beliefs and socio-cultural norms. Khan, Gomkum Gompa, Si Donyi, Mopin, Aran, Tamaldu, Shapawng Yawng Manau Poi, Reh, Oriah and Mol are other festivals celebrated in Arunachal with equal zeal and enthusiasm.