22.12.12

Tribal jewelry and adornments of Arunachal Pradesh

Apatani woman

There are around twenty major tribes and many sub tribes in Arunachal Pradesh, India, and so it is no wonder that there is a big variety of tribal jewelries in this region. Anyway, you can notice some similar elements: practically in all tribes women wear numerous necklaces, bangles and belts. Headbands too are rather common.
Multicoloured strings of glass or stone beads are most favouvered but in southeast Arunachal Pradesh beads of agate stone, brass, and silver are also used. Such necklaces adorn the necks not only of women but sometimes of men as well. Every bead has its own value according to its colour and lustre. Usually they are worn in numerous quantity.

Detail of Adi Minyong woman's adornment

The Adi (Dafla, Minyong, Abor, Galong) women wear a distinctive locally made ornament benyop - the belt on which series of three, five, seven or nine brass discs are strung on a cane, screwpine fiber or leather cord. The largest disc, its spiral motif represents the wheel of life, is placed at the centre, the others arranged in graduated sizes. This ornament is worn by girls and women until the birth of their first child. The origin of the benyop is explained in a local myth. A male deity fell in love with a mortal woman. Whenever they made love he gave her a benyop disc. When a child was born she removed the disc girdle.
Belts decorated with natural stones or with cowries can be also found in some tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.

Adi Galo woman

Adi Galo woman wearing headband and trumpet-like earrings

Brass bangles are common and three to eight of them with increasing size from wrist to elbow are worn. On their feet women generally wear cane anklets. Necklaces made of coins are also much favoured by the Adi women.
Adi shell necklaces aisheri are regarded sacred and more valuable than other ornaments because they are handed down from mother to daughter through many generations.


Adi Padam women wearing coin necklaces and Tibetan-style amulet boxes.

Wealthy Aka women wear a silver fillet-headdress lencchi consisting of a large, central, repousse-ornamented disc to which a series of link chains are attached, forming a broad, crown-like band that encircles the head. Those that are not wealthy have a simple delicate silver chain around their heads. A pair of huge trumpet-shaped silver earrings gichli are worn in the stretched earlobe holes, several necklaces of coloured beads around the neck and massive bangles on their wrists.

Adi Pailibo women


and their impressive belts

The most striking feature of the Apatani women is the way they adorn their noses - they insert wooden plugs into their nostrils. Small pegs are put in when they are little girls, and as they grow up, the size of the pegs are increased until they are about 2-3 centimeters across. The custom has been explained as an attempt to make Apatani women look ugly so that they would not be taken as slaves by the nearby Nyishi tribe. However it is more probably that the purpose is to imitate the nostrils of a wild animal.

Miji woman

and Miji man

The Nyishi women wear multicoloured bead necklaces, brass chains and metal bells, and adorn their wrists with heavy bracelets. The earlobes are extended by inserting bamboo plugs in infancy, which are substituted by huge brass or silver rings when the girls grow up, stretching the earlobes to the shoulders.
The Khowa women adorn their hairstyle with strings of beads with cowries at ends.

The Khowa woman wearing Tibetan-style amulet boxes

Hairstyle of the Khowa woman

The Khowa woman wearing bangles with turquoise and coral stones

The men of Arunachal Pradesh have an impressive headdresses. The form and decorative elements vary but the basic structure is similar. These helmets-like hats are so closely woven from reed fiber that they are completely waterproof, as well as resistant to blows and thrusts from weapons. They may be decorated with birds' feathers, wild boar's teeth, black bear's fur and with hornbill's beak that is dyed red.
The men of this state also like to adorn themselves with bracelets and waistbands decorated with coins or stones. Ivory and animal bones are also used for creating pendants and necklaces. Sometimes on their chest they may wear the lower jaw of a leopard, a highly prestigious trophy.

Adi Karko man wearing a hat, beads necklaces and a leopard's jaw

Adi Minyong man

The Bangni man in a hat decorated with a peacock feather and a hornbill beak

The men and women of the Idu Mishmis wear necklaces of various kinds of beads. The most common necklace is arulaya, which consists of forty to sixty white beads strung together. Another kind of necklace is lekapon made of small white beads in twenty strands.

All the photos in this post by the courtesy of Frans Devriese

Related posts Tribal jewelry of Rajasthan
Tribal jewelry of Himachal Pradesh

3 comments:

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